Taseer’s Real Killers: Two Extremist Pakistani Minorities

Posted by Ahmed Quraishi on Jan 24th, 2011

Taseer’s Real Killers: Two Extremist Pakistani Minorities

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Taseer’s Real Killers: Two Extremist Pakistani Minorities

The blasphemy law is not an issue between Pakistani Christians and Muslims. It is an issue between westernized extremists and religious extremists. Both are wrong, and both are holding Pakistan hostage. Andboth need to be restrained.

AHMED QURAISHI | Monday | 24 January 2011 | The News International

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—Salmaan Taseer was a good Pakistani, a self-made businessman who did not use his politics to create illegal wealth or stash it abroad like most other politicians. He revolutionized telecommunications, introducing wireless telephony, Internet and cable television to Pakistan. In college in Britain, as Ambassador Zafar Hilaly recalled on this page, Mr. Taseer read the Quran.

A week before his murder, he accused India of involvement in terrorism in Balochistan and defended Pakistan’s moral support to Kashmiris. The day he died, he was wearing a chain around his neck with Ayat-ul Kursi, one of the most inspirational verses from the Holy Quran. Despite being a liberal, he was not a ‘westernized extremist’ and never indulged in attacks against religious Pakistanis throughout his political career. He criticized a law written by legislators and lawyers, but did not question Islam’s death penalty for proven blasphemy. Showing support to a poor Pakistani Christian woman with young children who was not an intentional blasphemer was a humanitarian act, and very Islamic. He certainly was not a blasphemer.

Pakistan must prevent three different parties from hijacking the debate over the anti-blasphemy law and over Mr. Taseer’s murder. One is our own religious extremists. Two is our own westernized liberal extremists. And the third party is foreign governments and media whose statements complicate the internal debate instead of resolving it.

Unfortunately, there is no credible face in the Pakistani government that could step forward and put the issue in perspective. The anti-blasphemy law is not directed at Pakistani Christians. The anti-blasphemy law traps more Muslims in its net than Christians, as the recent case of a conviction of a mosque imam and his son indicates. This does not mean the law should not be amended or repealed. It must be either amended or repealed because it is being abused. For example, the 45-year-old mosque imam and his 20-year-old son were convicted for life this month because they dared remove a poster on their shop window advertising a religious event that contained Quranic verses. It is ridiculous. What mosque imam would commit blasphemy?

The real problem over the law is between an extremist westernized minority of Pakistanis, who ridicule religion, and between another extremist religious minority, that takes religion to extreme. The extremist westernized minority wants no religion at all and keeps talking about European secularism, which is misplaced in Pakistan. This provokes the religious extremist minority into paranoia and pushes them to extremes, as in the case of the 26-year-old bodyguard who murdered Governor Taseer. Caught between the two extremes are the majority of moderate, peaceful Pakistanis.

The US and other western governments make matters worse by openly siding with the extremist westernized minority in Pakistan, provoking reaction. Also, some of the foreign support is self-interested. Some of the foreign governments are using Mr. Taseer’s murder and the impassioned debate over the law to revive the falling legitimacy of the war in Afghanistan. Linking our internal debate with a disastrous foreign war is dangerous. Our debate over the law is similar to the US debate over abortion at one time that sharply divided the American public opinion and led to some violence. Outsiders must not be allowed to interfere in this debate.

The impression that foreign support is behind Sherry Rehman’s motion against the anti-blasphemy law provoked the other extreme. And her move to remove capital punishment for blasphemy is inconsistent with Islamic injunctions. It is an extremist position that does not appreciate and understand the religious sympathies of most Pakistanis which are legitimate and require no apologies.

On the other hand, Islam has blossomed for fifteen centuries without our made-in-Pakistan anti-blasphemy law, which contains procedures for trial, witnesses and conviction that are man-made and have nothing to do with religion. No one in Pakistan dares to commit blasphemy and this law creates the false impression of prevalence of blasphemy cases in our country. Most Arab and Muslim countries specify death penalty for proven blasphemy but do not have a law like ours. Leaders of religious political parties know these facts but chose to play politics and mislead gullible Pakistanis because they used this debate for popularity and recruitment.

Our overriding concern in this debate is to unite Pakistanis and stop a situation where Pakistanis go to war with each other because of two extremist minorities. We must stop anyone fanning this divide and try to bridge it with reason. Incitement to kill or to ridicule religion from either side must be sternly dealt with. We need to remind our people that a bigger travesty of our religion is to find a minister of Hajj, himself a clergyman, stealing pilgrims’ money. This debate can be redirected.

Column priginally published by The News International under the title, Taseer’s Real Killers.

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6 Responses for “Taseer’s Real Killers: Two Extremist Pakistani Minorities”

  1. tariq says:

    I have a message to those interested in paknationalists smart coup, dig a little and you will see their written objective of democracy in the image of the west.
    Essentially, the project of “democratization” implies creating the outward visible constructs of a democratic state (multi-party elections, active civil society, “independent” media, etc) and yet maintain continuity in subservience to the World Bank, IMF, multinational corporations and Western powers.

    This is what the revolution in Tunisia, Egypt etc is all about….same for Pakistan, Its more American control.

    Only Khilafah can wrest the rules of life from the kafir, to Allah.

  2. Waqar says:

    According to the book penned by his little known Indian son Aatish Taseer,

    Aatish writes about his father’s natural apathy toward religion, “my father, who drank Scotch every evening, never fasted or prayed, even ate pork, and once said, ‘It was only when I was in jail and all they gave me to read was the Koran – and I read it back to front several times – that I realized there was nothing in it for me,’ (22)
    - Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey through Islamic Lands

    Perhaps he changed?

    • Waqar, my information is that he was estranged from this son of his from an ex-wife who is Indian. I am not a great admirer of Taseer. It’s just that he always avoided taking anti-religion positions in his politica career. He never went that way like some of our other ‘fake liberals’ do. What he believed inside of him about religion and his own faith is something he will answer to Allah. As for his religious views publicly, he never talked about it. I don’t give much credence to this book of someone who is biased not only against Pakistan but also against his Pakistani father.

      • Waqar says:

        Thankyou for the reply, Ahmed.

        Having read excerpts of the book. I’m inclined to believe the book is biased (especially against Muslims and Islam in general) considering the context it was written in.

        What he believed inside of him about religion and his own faith is something he will answer to Allah


  3. Ali Bajwa says:

    I would like to ask Ahmed Qurashi could he explain what is a westernized extremist anybody who believes in the equality of all religions in the eye of the state is he to be entitled an extremist or the people who take up arms and instigates violence against anyone who does not follow their set path of religious enlightenment.

    • We know who religious extremists are, those who go to extremes not sanctioned by our Prophet PBUH.

      Now we should also know the westernized extremists, these are people who ridicule their compatriots who are religious, make fun of religion, don’t understand that to be liberal doesn’t mean that you oppose religion or oppose the right of another Pakistani to be religious. A westernized extremist is someone who can’t differentiate between opposing extremism and opposing religion, who thinks to be a liberal is to go to war with anyone who has a religious mind and heart. A westernized extremist is someone like Sherry who is right in wanting to amend or repeal the blasphemy law but she is NOT RIGHT in saying death should not be a legal pubishment for blasphemy. She not right because this penalty is part of the Islamic legal jurisprudence and part of Pakistani laws even without the blasphemy law, and so she doesn’t have the right to single-handedly decide if it’s right or wrong.

      It ok if you want to be westernized or religious, just don’t go to extremes and divide Pakistanis along religious vs. secular, etc. We have more urgent problems in this country than these ‘imported debates’. They are imported because some western writers start this debate and some of our own buy it and think that’s all what we should be debating.


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