7, January, 2011
‘If someone dishonors Islam in front of me, I will shoot him dead!’ Those are the reported remarks of Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik at a press conference.
He was speaking after the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who had championed the rights of Aasia Bibi and denounced the blasphemy charges against her as ‘trumped up’. The Christian convert is facing execution because of what she was alleged to have said during a row over drinking water when her neighbours called her impure. They were not present days later when the charge with its mandatory death penalty was laid. Nor could her alleged words be repeated in court as that would be considered as repeating the blasphemy! She is currently awaiting an appeal court hearing.
The Governor was shot 25 times by his own security guard, whose action has been acclaimed by large, noisy sections of the nation and militant religious leaders. He was showered with rose petals and garlands.
A quasi-majority of the country expressed approval of the murder of Governor Taseer and for anyone else who expressed similar opinions of religious freedom. Are they acting out of ignorance (and wanting to stay ignorant) or out of fear that the basis of the State will be overturned by free discussions, or fear that they too might end up murdered?
What is extraordinary is that Pakistani Interior Minister’s remarks — extreme as they are — were seen as an attempt to allay the violent wrath and murderous incitement of members of the religious groups. They were upset at the state funeral given to Governor Taseer. This ‘moderate’ face is extremely dangerous both inside and outside Pakistan.
In 2009 eight Christians were killed in the town of Gojra in Punjab following unsubstantiated allegations that a Christian had desecrated the Koran. Last year more than 80 members of the minority Ahmadi sect of Islam were killed in two mosques in Lahore. The small Hindu population is scared by the abduction, forced marriage and compulsory islamization of its infant daughters.
These events raise the most serious questions for Europe. What is the difference with an individual and the West as a whole that lies ‘in front‘ of the Pakistani government? How does the minister distinguish between an Ahmadi or a Christian who expresses dissent at religious autocracy and wholesale murder?
The murderers were their own judge, jury and executioner. Minister Malik’s opinion reinforces this. That is the way of anarchy. It will only be resolved, as Islamic history shows, when the strongest sectarian power wins.
Europe has rejected that concept of power politics, the rule of the fist whether religious, political, ideological or racist. It has managed to create the longest peace in the more than two thousand year history of Europe, thanks to the Community method.
In past centuries many parts of Europe were conquered by Islam. They rejected it. They preferred freedom of thought. They did not like forced conversion. They did not want to be considered second-class citizens or dhimmis, if they retained their faith in the God of the Bible.
Supranational democracy is based on Judeo-Christian principles where everyone is treated equally. That applies to Christian and non-Christians, one law for both home-born and the visitor, Ex 12:49.
Schuman warned about the dangers of confounding the separation of the religious domain with the political.
A theocracy does not recognise the principle of separation of the two powers. It imposes on religious thought responsibilities which do not belong to it. Under such a regime the political differences risk degenerating into religious fanaticism; holy war is the most frightening expression of a bloody exploitation of religious feeling.
For the West today, which on the whole still agrees that Islam does not present a way of enlightenment, science and truth, the logical conclusion of the minister’s policy is that anyone who stands before his eyes or that of his government and who disagrees with his religious conviction (and maybe does not even know it) may be freely assassinated by that minister or that government.
The remark comes from a nuclear-armed State. The government’s policy in the past was to encourage nuclear proliferation to Islamic States. Its bomb-maker, Abdul Qadeer (A Q) Khan, loaded with the nation’s highest honours, actively sought nuclear proliferation for ideological reasons.
Foreign policy should be based on open and publicly debated reciprocity. This need for open debate is especially important in the democracies. How should the West react to Islamic States or those where religious sectarians run rampant and who criticize Christians and who dishonour Christianity, Judaism, deny the Holocaust, the Bible and Western civilization?
Both the European Union and North American States of USA and Canada are founded on the principle of free speech, the right to choose and freedom of religion. Also a main European fundamental right is the ability to freely change one’s religion. All that requires an intensive debate on religious values. No incitement to violence can be made to forbid this discussion. It requires an atmosphere of tolerance and open discussion for all its citizens. The Community system allows religious tolerance because it is based on a supranational democratic system.
Certain conditions are necessary if East and West can live together in peace. If the West looks eye to eye with the Islamic East, tolerance must exist on both sides. Mutual respect is required. Reciprocity of tolerance is vital for being interactive parts of a global society.
Today this is even more vital as trade depends on open borders and the prevention of terrorism. A major part of world trade is the information economy, newspapers, books and the Internet. While the web is filled with poisonous Jihadist sites and blogs (especially for those who know Arabic and other languages), it also provides free access to alternative religious views and facts.
Is this what Islamic sectarians fear as much as do all autocratic governments? Information can be more explosive than terrorist bombs. The human soul has an unquenchable thirst for freedom. Sectarians can do nothing against it, whether by mobs, fire or the sword. The problem of conversions and religious tolerance will not go away but only become more prominent in the coming years. The drive of information technology is also an unstoppable force.
Tolerance was declared to be a part of the Pakistani State Constitution by its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his first speech as president on 11 August 1947 to the Constituent Assembly.
‘The first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State,‘ he said. The angularities between different religions and Moslem sects such as Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on will vanish under law. ‘You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.’
Some later leaders tried to make Pakistan a different type of State where death is the penalty for disagreeing with their version of Islam. This change is a vastly more dangerous move in a nuclear-armed State.
In 1947 days after Jinnah’s speech, up to a million died in the disputes between Hindus and Moslems during the bloody days of partition and the separate independence of India and Pakistan.
Those people were killed by individuals and mobs. Today, the whole world could be set afire by acts of intolerance and nuclear war.David Heilbron Price
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