Monday, January 10, 2011

Those who love blasphemy laws

Blasphemy is not a protector of religious freedom, as the UN maintains, but its mortal enemy


Nick Cohen, The Observer,  Jan 9, 2011

If the circumstances were not so hideous, the successful attempt by Pakistan to persuade the UN Human Rights Council to condemn blasphemers who defame religion would have been a black comedy. Every word its diplomats used in 2009 to protest against Islamophobia turned out to be a precise description of the prejudices the Pakistani state was appeasing at home.

They told the UN it must approve a universal blasphemy law to protect religious minorities from “intolerance, discrimination and acts of violence”. If they were not the hypocrites they appeared, but honourable men, who wanted to help all minorities and not only Muslims, they must now accept that Salmaan Taseer was butchered for protecting Pakistan’s religious minorities from its own blasphemy law.

Taseer did not go so far as to assert that the Qur’an, like the Talmud and the Bible, was the work of men, not God, or criticise the teachings of Muhammad. His crime was to stand up against the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries, a subject that the media of the supposedly warmongering, culturally imperialist “crusaders” of the west barely mention for fear of causing “offence”. He denounced the treatment of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five. She had argued with Muslim women who refused to drink water she had carried because she was impure and therefore the drink she carried was contaminated. They told the local cleric she had taken Muhammad’s name in vain.

That was enough for the judge to order that she be hanged by the neck until she was dead. Not much respect shown for her minority rights, then. Nor for the rights of Salmaan Taseer, whose last sight on earth was of Constable Mumtaz Qadri firing 26 bullets into his body, while other members of his bodyguard stood by and let him do it.

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