Monday, February 7, 2011

The colors of intolerance

The colors of intolerance

Taseer’s murder deepens fears of Pakistani Christians

Taseer’s murder deepens fears of Pakistani Christians

Taseer’s murder deepens fears of Pakistani Christians
January 10, 2011 (4 weeks ago)

Taseer's death — and the lionising of his killer — have struck more fear than ever in the mostly Catholic and Protestant Christian community accounting for about two per cent of the population of 170 million. — Photo by AP

ITTANWALI: To understand why Pakistani Christians feel so threatened by growing religious extremism in their country, speak to the uniformed police guard at the jail where a Christian woman is on death row, accused of blasphemy.

Aasia Bibi was sentenced to hang in November for insulting the Prophet Mohammad, under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws. Last week, an outspoken liberal politician was killed by his own bodyguard for campaigning for her release.

The assassin has since been hailed as a hero by many in this Muslim majority country where a harsh, often unforgiving, brand of Islam is growing in strength.

Prison guard Ansaar Jameel, at the Sheikhpura prison where Bibi is held, summed up widespread sentiment after the killing of Punjab province governor Salman Taseer: “What happened was justified.”

Taseer’s death — and the lionising of his killer — have struck more fear than ever in the mostly Catholic and Protestant Christian community accounting for about two per cent of the population of 170 million.

The self-confessed assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, has been showered with rose petals after court appearances. Hundreds of lawyers have offered to defend him for free.

These are troubling signals that religious extremism has permeated much of Pakistan.

“If a bodyguard can kill a governor, a high profile person, a famous person here in Pakistan, the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, what can happen to me?,” asked Christian activist Shahzad Kamran, who provides moral, legal and financial support for people convicted of violating the blasphemy laws.

Kamran has stopped visiting Bibi in jail for fear of his life. “Anybody, anybody can kill me with the same allegation as Salman Taseer was confronting,” he said.

Villagers issue their own verdict

Pakistan’s modern Christians are the children of Hindus or Muslims converted by missionaries who came to the Indian subcontinent some 250 years ago.

Christians and Muslims generally live in harmony, but many say they are treat as second-class citizens and feel insecure for several reasons, including the blasphemy laws and sporadic militant attacks on churches.

Under the laws, anyone convicted of speaking ill of Islam or the Prophet Mohammad faces life imprisonment or the death penalty. Bodyguard Qadri and his supporters accused Taseer of being a blasphemer, simply because he spoke against the laws.

While Muslims are charged with blasphemy in more than 50 per cent of cases, human rights activists say the legislation is often used to persecute minorities, or settle personal scores — as Aasia Bibi claims happened to her.

Fury at Bibi in her village, Ittanwali, seems based on hearsay that she confessed to insulting Islam. The only thing that’s clear is her troubles began with a dispute with fellow women farmhands who later accused her of blasphemy.

“If she returned I would beat her to death with anything I could get my hands on,” said Inayatullah, a 65-year-old man with fiery green eyes and a white beard. A group of people gathered around him, including a 14-year-old boy, agreed she should die.

Bibi and her family are the only Christians in the Ittanwali, a village of mud huts surrounded by sugarcane fields and orange orchards. Families burn cow dung for fuel and the place is mired in poverty and is a microcosm of the social and economic neglect that make Pakistan unstable.

Poor services discredit the government, which is deeply unpopular, and make people more susceptible to the preaching of the hardline clerics. Countrywide illiteracy rates of over 50 per cent mean these extremists wield huge power over the people.

Sitting inside the mudbrick walls of the family’s housing compound where goats graze, Bibi’s sister-in-law Farhad says clerics began announcing that “Christians are dogs” after Bibi’s arrest. So far, their Muslim neighbours have not created any problems, but that could change given the charged atmosphere after Taseer’s death.

Either way, she says the family is trapped.

“Where can we run away to? Where can we flee? We have left it all to his (God’s) mercy. He will do whatever is best for us,” said Farhad.

With the assassination of the governor, Christians know they have lost a rare defender.

Inside Lahore’s grand Sacred Heart cathedral, the archbishop of the eastern city, Lawrence Saldanha, asked worshipers at Sunday mass to pray for Taseer’s soul and asked God to give Christians the strength to practice their faith.

He told Reuters that Pakistan’s political leadership pandered to influential religious parties for support in the deeply conservative country, a common accusation.

“They try to get into politics by using religion in the wrong way, (a) very narrow interpretation of Islam,” he told Reuters.

That policy is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The deeply unpopular government needs all the support it can get. Frustrations are growing over rising inflation, power cuts and suicide bombings staged by Taliban militants.

Pakistan’s Christians can only hope Taseer’s killing will not encourage more violence against them.

In 2009, 40 houses and a church were set ablaze by a mob of 1,000 Muslims in the town of Gojra, Punjab. At least seven Christians were burned to death. The attacks were triggered by reports of the desecration of the Quran.

Back in Ittanwali, cleric Maqsood Ahmed Masoomi suggested that if anyone in the village commits blasphemy, they may not make it to the courtroom.

“They should be killed on the spot,” he said.

The forgotten prayers of a people

The forgotten prayers of a people

The forgotten prayers of a people
By Sadef A. Kully
January 5, 2011

A Hindu woman arranges earthern lamps near to Hindu Goddesses to celebrate ‘Diwali’ the festival of lights, at her home in Lahore, Pakistan on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009. Hindus living in Pakistan are celebrating Diwali where people decorate their homes with light. – AP Photo

KARACHI: The legend is almost as old as the Indus River, Lord Shiva and his consort Sati, daughter of King Dakhsha, were vexed by Sati’s father for not inviting them for a ceremony. Sati went to the ceremony uninvited and in return was ignored. She was hurt by the behavior that she sacrificed herself in the fires and was burnt alive. Upon hearing the fate of his love, Lord Shiva went mad and began chaos on earth.

In order to help Lord Shiva deal with his grief, Lord Vishnu cut Sati’s body in 12 pieces and scattered them across the earth where her head fell upon Hingol. Wherever the pieces of Sati’s body fell became Shakti Peethas, holy places of cosmic power, for all gods and worshippers.

Hingol is not a legend – as a matter of fact – today it is known as Hingol National Park and lies almost 170 km outside of Karachi in Balochistan. Sati’s head fell by Hinglaj Matajee Temple located inside a natural cave of a hill which is a holy pilgrimage site for the 2.5 million Hindus in Pakistan, although many feel the numbers have doubled in the last decade, and more than 90 per cent of them live in the Sindh province.

Hindus are the third religious group, after Muslim and Christians, and Hinduism is considered the indigenous religion of the sub-continent by local and international historians, which is not far from the truth.

There are over 40 Hindu temples across Pakistan, and in Sindh alone there are almost 30 temples in Karachi and interior Sindh.

Many Hindu families are indigenous to the land and some claim to have been for centuries. Over the centuries, empire after empire, some families facing persecution converted to Islam but others have remained Hindus.

“The Hindu community is not protected here,” said Dr. Raj Motwani, a general physician who sits as the Vice President for Shree Ratneshwar Mahadev Welfare Shewa Mandly, a committee for the Hindu community in Karachi. “I remember that Lee Market, Bolton Market, Nagam Colony, and Food Street belonged to Hindu families that lived there for decades before Pakistan’s existence.”

“We never left this land – people migrated here,” he said. “We are still here – fighting for what we deserve as humans.”

During the 1947 partition, almost 15 million Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims left Pakistan for India and vice versa but some families stayed behind because they considered the land in Pakistan their home. More than half a million people died during the migration.

“Everyone knows the truth, but we cannot speak it out loud,” he said. “The minute that we speak up – we are automatically accused of being part of an enemy intelligence agency and we can get questioned without any legal support.”

Most Hindus families come from lower class backgrounds and those that live in rural areas like interior Sindh are forced into bonded labour by influential landlords. In the past few years, kidnappings have increased among the Hindus, for ransom and women, who are kidnapped and then convert to Islam, have been reported but with no real legal repercussions from the local government.

“The Hindu community is not protected here,” repeated Dr. Motwani. “The converting is explainable; once a girl is kidnapped the men have their way with her and she knows that she won’t be accepted back into her community so she converts and becomes a servant- girl for the men or the family that kidnapped her – tragic but the culture in interior Sindh is traditional, especially when it comes to women.”

The constitution clearly states that religious minorities have many rights and freedom however in the political system Hindus, Christians and Sikhs are still treated as second-class citizens.

After General Pervez Musharraf took power, he wanted to remove the separate electorate system put in place by the former dictator General Ziaul-Haq.

The separate electorate system limited non-Muslims to only vote for candidates from their own religion – the government had a reserved number of seats for minorities in the provincial and national assemblies.

General Musharraf and many others felt that it limited Muslim candidates from reaching out to minority groups to solve the major problem in their communities. He was thwarted in his efforts and many minorities felt that the removal of the policy would not have made a difference in their communities.

“I have friends of all faiths in Pakistan – friendships made up of decades,” mentioned Dr. Motwani. “But that is not the problem – the system is the problem; a small example, the Hindu Gymkhana has finally been given back to us after so many years spent in court yet the management is Muslim and we still do not have a safe place to congregate and celebrate our holidays. Who do I go to for help? a MPA or an MNA – not possible.”

Since the recent attack on the Shah Ghazi Shrine, the security at mandirs across Karachi has tightened but it has not stopped Hindu worshippers from making their offerings to their gods and goddesses who wait patiently for their prayers of better days ahead.

Will there be mass protests?

Will there be mass protests?

Will there be mass protests?
From the Newspaper
(20 hours ago) Today

EVEN as bullets and batons flashed across Cairo’s Tahrir Square, many wondered what it would take for a popular uprising to sweep Pakistan.

MQM chief Altaf Hussain once again invited the army to support a peaceful people’s revolution; leftist organisations revived rallying cries; and the blogosphere speculated whether Raymond Davis’s killing of two Pakistanis would trigger mass protests.

Expectations became so intense that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was forced to defend his government and remind the world that Pakistan is not Egypt or Tunisia.

That may be so, but it is tempting to draw parallels. Like Egypt, Pakistan is home to a young, underemployed, media-addicted population well poised to take to the streets. A recent New York Times article offers a laundry list of reasons why Pakistanis should protest: the economy is teetering, food inflation is soaring, fuel shortages are rife, and the unemployment rate is up to 34 per cent. Add to that religious fervour, rabid anti-Americanism and rampant corruption and you’ve got a veritable Molotov cocktail. Despite these echoes, it seems unlikely that Pakistanis will mimic their Egyptian counterparts.

This is primarily because our social fabric is too frayed to hold us together. Our society increasingly emphasises difference rather than celebrates similarity. Decades of manipulative politicking under military regimes have fractured civil society and factionalised politics — we will always see ourselves through an ethnic, sectarian or socio-economic lens before we see ourselves as Pakistani. The rhetoric of our politics, education and sermonising is primed for exclusion, for shunning those who do not comply with our worldview as ‘others’, ‘foreign agents’, ‘blasphemers’, or worse.

But collective action is necessarily inclusive. Before we can take to the streets, we have to shelve mutual suspicions and agree on something — or someone — worth fighting for. In 2007, the person of the Supreme Court chief justice and the principle of an independent judiciary gave us reason to unite for change. But as Salman Taseer’s assassination revealed, much has changed since then. In a society that tolerates intolerance and rewards vigilantism, Pakistanis will find peaceful consensus of the sort seen in Cairo impossible to muster.

Moreover, it is challenging to have the courage of your convictions in a culture of patronage politics. Success and survival in Pakistan depend on who you know, not what you are able to do. Given the country’s history of tumultuous politics and takeovers, it is impossible to know who might one day be in a position to offer you opportunity, clemency, electricity or anything else you might need. Knowing this, many Pakistanis may be unwilling to take bold actions that could upset the person who will unpredictably hold power in the future.

Cynicism and fatalism also run deep in the Pakistani psyche, quelling the revolutionary spirit. The agonisingly cyclical nature of our politics, the perpetual seesaw between civil and military, always returning to square one — these phenomena have tainted the public’s belief in change. By now, Pakistanis know that while the fa├žade might change, the facts remain the same.

There is, of course, one antidote to Pakistani cynicism, and that is charismatic leadership. Years of authoritarian rule have ensured that we suffer from a saviour complex. We lie in wait for that one person who has all the answers. As Abbas Zaidi recently blogged for Newsline, “Pakistanis are essentially tamashbeen, spectacle-loving people — and we will cheer on with gusto anyone who does our dirty work, while we sit and watch.”

The most remarkable thing about the throngs in Tahrir Square is that they don’t know what comes next. They’re not marching to install a new leader in Hosni Mubarak’s place; they’re simply marching for the right to choose who should rule, and within what parameters. Such open-ended protest is anathema to Pakistanis. We will only storm the streets when someone convinces us that they can fix our problems. The current system of dynastic politics that only offers the usual suspects and their progeny as alternatives suggests that a new personality to spur protests will be hard to come by.

Understandably, these social factors have renewed concerns about an Iran-style Islamic revolution in Pakistan. Mullahs could offer what is currently lacking: a fresh perspective, new leaders, and the all-encompassing panacea of Islam to help us transcend differences. But Pakistan’s pulpits are as polarised as its political circles — consider the recent case in Muzaffargarh where Deobandi-Barelvi tensions led to an imam being charged with blasphemy. Religious rhetoric will certainly facilitate cleaving, rather than the social cohesion that collective action demands.

Pragmatic considerations also limit Pakistan’s capacity for mass protest. A citizenry that contended with more than 50 suicide bombings last year will feel circumspect about taking to the streets. Protesters derive courage from safety in numbers, but terrorism has led us to fear crowds.

Pakistan is also highly weaponised and protesters are likely to carry arms, unlike Egyptians who relied on prayer and calls for peace to fend off security agencies and Mubarak’s supporters. This reality would likely lead to a more prompt and brutal state response to any mass movement in Pakistan, and could also spark secondary conflicts among protesters.

Still, there is little cause for government complacency. Overnight, the pervasive media could make today’s non-entity tomorrow’s protest leader.

Rapid urbanisation — half of all Pakistanis will be city based by 2030 — will also exacerbate conditions that foment unrest: poverty, joblessness, proximity and access to information flows. As long systemic problems are not addressed, Karachi, or Multan, or Peshawar could be the new Cairo.

Until then, instead of the scent of jasmine, we will have to make do with the stench of sociopolitical rot.

The writer is the Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, DC.

The radicalisation process

The radicalisation process

The radicalisation process
From the Newspaper
By M. Zaidi
(20 hours ago) Today

MUCH has been written about radicalisation in Pakistan without emphasis on the conceptual grounding of what radicalisation really is. The Oxford dictionary, till 2006, did not provide a definition of `radicalisation`, `radicalism`, or even `radicalise`, which clearly shows the recent evolution of the term.

It does, however, list these terms as derivatives of `radical`, which means to relate to or affect the fundamental nature of something, or advocate thorough complete political or social reform which may be politically extreme. As is evident, these terms do not necessarily have negative connotations which are associated with the term today. However, negative connotations arise from the threat of extremism, labelled as radicalisation, which is usually defined as a process whereby an originally moderate individuals or groups of individuals become progressively more extreme in their thinking — and possibly their behaviour — over time.

This process is often associated with youth, adversity, alienation, social exclusion, poverty or the perception of injustice to self or others. The terms `radicalisation` and `Talibanisation` are being employed to refer to the increasing tendency to use a peculiar brand of religion as the justification for conquest and control over territory, populations and resources, and the establishment of specific forms of judicial and social systems by the use of force.

Some analysts like American author and counter-terrorism practitioner Marc Sageman reject the notion that radicalisation can aptly be described in terms of a fixed sequence of stages, while others view terrorism as the final stop along a path of radicalisation characterised by a fairly orderly series of stages.

A four-stage model has been proposed. This includes pre-radicalisation, self-identification, indoctrination and extremism stages, respectively. According to this model, in the pre-radicalisation stage the individual lives an ordinary life and has not yet accepted the radical ideology that will later provide the motivation for becoming an extremist. In the self-identification stage, the individual begins to explore that ideology and that change tends to be triggered by a cognitive opening, or crisis, which shakes one`s certitude in previously held beliefs.

In the indoctrination stage, adherence to a radical worldview is intensified, usually with support from likeminded group members under the direction of an ideological leader. Finally, in the extremism stage, individuals willingly accept their duties and commit to carrying out assigned acts of terrorism, or adhering rigidly to extremist views. Stage models essentially represent radicalisation as key transition points along a time course, leading from the normal life of individuals to their adherence to extremist ideologies or paradigms.

Such models, however, leave much to explain in terms of the psychological, organisational and social processes and drivers that lead people into the radicalisation process in the first place, and then reinforce their continued radicalisation to the point of committing acts of terrorism.

One pertinent analysis framework would be the degree to which ideologues and instigators of extremist movements rely on `black or white` or `all or none` thinking. Another set of cognitive factors that support extremism revolve around the extremist`s social perceptions of out-group members, namely people outside one`s own social and ideological group or `in-group`.

Violence towards a group is facilitated by the thinking of its members as being justifiably excluded from the moral considerations one would apply to members of one`s own group. Perceiving a social category of others as being morally excluded can free individuals to become morally disengaged in their behavioural interactions with members of the `out-group` social category.

Notwithstanding the attention paid to radicalisation as a precursor to terrorism — perhaps even a `root cause` of terrorism and socio-political violence — it is widely agreed that although radicalisation increases the potential for such forms of violence, it does not necessitate any of them. For instance, according to a recent Global Futures Forum report, radicalisation is a process, not an end unto itself, and it does not necessarily lead to violence. Simply put, radicalisation cannot be a sufficient cause of terrorism because most radicals are not terrorists.

This may be why the term `violent radicalisation` is often encountered in discourses on terrorism. If violence were indeed necessitated by radicalisation, the qualified term would simply be redundant. Prevalent usage of terms such as violent radicalisation or militant radicalisation would thus suggest that many theorists do not view radicalisation as a sufficient cause of terrorism or other forms of violence.

There is a commonly observed tendency to conceive of radicalisation in terms solely of ideology. Religious zealotry, extremism and militancy — or whatever one prefers to call them — are often regarded as signs of backwardness, lack of education, absence of a civilised mindset and a reflection of a barbaric or savage worldview. Recourse to colonial binaries such as backward versus modern, savage versus civilised, or illiterate versus enlightened serves to obscure the issues rather than clarify them.

These categories fail as explanations since they become tautologies, i.e. they committed the act because they are barbaric, they are barbaric because they committed the act. The reliance upon psychological and ideological categories, which refer to some kind of assumed inherent proclivity among certain people to commit heinous acts, becomes essentialist.

Such explanations become redundant for they obliterate history as well as the material reality that forms part of the dynamics of radicalism. The use of overarching ideological categories seems to rely on some form of biological determinism, thereby rendering such categories deeply racist, i.e. Fata was always a radicalisation-prone area.

Instead of characterising perceived extremism and violence as some kind of inherent flaw within a particular people, religion, culture or belief system, it is more fruitful to explore the political economy of radicalisation in order to lay bare the material basis that may have generated it. It seems to be more useful to examine the conflicts between competing social classes attempting to establish their hegemony and deploying religion, or a specific form of it, to justify their position in the social and economic hierarchies.

The writer is a security analyst.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lahore Terrorist Attack on Ahmadi Mosques - Official Report part 3 of 3

alislamurdu | May 30, 2010 | 20 likes, 4 dislikes

Ahmadiyya Muslims were attacked because Government of Pakistan has given free hands to anti-Ahmadiyya groups to spread false propaganda against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at in which ignorant religious leaders issue fatwa of death and call Ahmadi Muslims as infidels. Whereas Ahmadis are true Muslims who believe in the Messiah and Mahdi and reject voilence. Mullahs have fooled the Pakistani nation to believe that Ahmadis do not believe in Khatam-e-Nabuwwat, whereas Ahmadis are the only Jama'at that believes in Khatam-e-Nabuwwat in its true sense.

People & Blogs
ahmadi ahmedi ahmadiyya ahmadiya ahmadiyyat urdu pakistan lahore islam jihad qadiani taliban geo tv dunya express

Lahore Terrorist Attack on Ahmadi Mosques - Official Report part 2 of 3

alislamurdu | May 30, 2010 | 20 likes, 4 dislikes

Ahmadiyya Muslims were attacked because Government of Pakistan has given free hands to anti-Ahmadiyya groups to spread false propaganda against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at in which ignorant religious leaders issue fatwa of death and call Ahmadi Muslims as infidels. Whereas Ahmadis are true Muslims who believe in the Messiah and Mahdi and reject voilence. Mullahs have fooled the Pakistani nation to believe that Ahmadis do not believe in Khatam-e-Nabuwwat, whereas Ahmadis are the only Jama'at that believes in Khatam-e-Nabuwwat in its true sense.

People & Blogs
ahmadi ahmedi ahmadiyya ahmadiya ahmadiyyat urdu pakistan lahore islam jihad qadiani taliban geo tv dunya express

Popular Posts


Search This Blog