Wednesday, August 09, 2017

American rulers, their wars and the god


Nasir Khan, August 9, 2017

We were told by the US president George W. Bush that god had assented to his invading Iraq in in 2003, a war in which the American invaders killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and destroyed Iraq, plundered its wealth and its historical heritage. 

 Now the preachers of the same god (a Christian and Judaic god!) are saying that their god has nothing against it if president Trump uses nuclear weapons to destroy North Korea! 

This miraculous intercession would justify a nuclear war on North Korea and at the same time save the presidency of Trump for any political problems he has faced since taking office this year. 

It may surprise even some Christian and Jewish 'believers' that this 'god' works hand in hand with American warmongers and their imperialist rulers.


This also shows how the clerics and preachers willingly misuse their authority and exploit religions and 'god' for the sake of furthering the antihuman policies of the ruling elite and their powerful military-industrial complex. It is all for power, domination and profit-making, nothing else!



"God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un."
huffingtonpost.com

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Making America great again


Nasir Khan, July 16, 2017

A lot of stories about Donald Trump's lascivious ventures, adventures and fantasies are still being tossed around. It seems he had little control over his sexual thoughts and inclinations!

In my respectful opinion of the man and his great potential as a political game changer, he should even at this late stage in his life be handed over to a voodoo expert to castrate him with some magic spell without causing him any physical or mental harm. The world may recover from any physical disorientation of the big hope, but the incurring of any mental damage to the man is unthinkable for all of us. I would like to emphasise that this is a serious suggestion from a friend, not something damaging from any sordid enemy of the president. In fact, that may save him from any further lurid stories in the media and the embarrassment they cause him and his near ones. 

Oh, for God's sake, don't blame him for everything! That's how the good Lord made him, and that should end the story if you are believers in the meticulous work of the Lord!
In any case, if he opts to go through this ritual and lets the voodoo expert expunge him of his unsavoury peccadilloes, then he will have the time and plenty of resources at hand to make America great again, as his avowed objective. Yes, America first, and making America great again! 

After having accomplished his historic tasks, who knows, he may, God willing, turn his attention to Mexico, and say: Now is the time to make Mexico great again! When he does that, and if I am still around, I will muster the support of as many Mexicans and gringoes I can to show my solidarity with him and his noble mission.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How fanatics distort the essence of religion


Nasir Khan, July 13, 2017

Religion is one thing, the followers of a religion is another thing. The difference between the two is important, and they should not be equated as one and the same in this age when much harm is still being done in the name and under the cover of religions.

What some (not all) followers of a religion do or may do in the name of their religion can be much different from the teachings of that religion. They are the people who transform their religions. Sensible people make something good and noble out of the basic teachings of their religions, but brainwashed and indoctrinated fanatics concentrate only on the negative and destructive sides they create in disfiguring their religions. For their nefarious activities, both religions and their good followers also get a bad name.

However, I am not discussing how religions arise or what roles they play in class societies. What I say has more to do with some practical aspects of religions that we face in different parts of the world. Whether religions have/had an independent base in society or not is a theoretical and academic issue, which is not the theme of this short article.

There are billions of people who believe in and practise organised religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, etc. etc. without harming each other or causing harm to others. They follow the rites and rituals of their respective religions and follow the age-old traditions attached to their religions. 

In a multi-religious and multi-ethnic world we live in, we have to accept other people's right to their faith, religion and world outlook, including the views of the non-religious people. We cannot force others to believe what we believe as being the only Truth. In reality, to persist in doing so as some do is a crime against human beings, a violation of the rule of law and all norms of civilised behaviour. We have to stand against all barbarian fanatics and reject what they do or stand for. 

At the same time we should bear in mind that only a small number of people from some religions, and I emphasise their small numbers, who resort to violence in the name of religions and thus misuse their religions. For instance, in a country like Pakistan that has a population of about 190 million people, of whom 97% are Muslims, how many Muslims resort to religious violence and kill people in the name of Islam? Their numbers are small but they are able to terrorise the whole country and its peaceful people. 

So is the case with some militant Burmese Buddhists who have targeted Muslims, especially the Rohingya, and also in Sri Lanka where some Buddhists have used violence against Muslims. As a humanist and a student of the history of religions, I find the malpractices of religious violence also as a grave infringement of basic religious consciousness, which largely seeks the welfare and improvement of human beings, not their destruction.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

The electoral success of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom


Nasir Khan, June 10, 2017

All credit for the recent electoral gains in the United Kingdom goes to the election campaigners, party activists, left-wing writers and bloggers, ordinary members, including the students and old-age pensioners, and the leaders of the Labour Party for their hard work to achieve such surprising results.

The role Jeremy Corby played in the election and his focus on issues that matter most to the electorate as the leader of the Labour Party is a lesson in modern politics how a dedicated leader can inspire confidence and point to a better future for all. Despite being maligned from the Tories and also from many labour leaders, he refused to be sidetracked and continued to highlight the political and social issues in a magnanimous way. The traditional right-wingers in the party, Blair and Blairites, attacked him for not being ‘charismatic’ and ‘strong’. 

But what such people ignored was the simple fact that politics is not merely an arena where only the people with rhetorical methods can mesmerise people and then leave them at the mercy of the anti-working class elite, but rather to speak the language of the people and then stand for their interests in a dedicated way. In many ways, Jeremy Corbyn has surprised his foes and detractors. He showed that in politics, adherence to the principles of honesty and truth are not demerits, but noble avenues that can lead to desired results in a meaningful way. However, this does go against the normal understanding of politics as a game of false promises and stage-managed show for playing with a gullible majority of the ordinary people and then forgetting them when the phoney leaders have achieved their political leverage.

On this occasion, I extend my congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues for their political work and the results they have produced. The foundation of the Labour Party was to protect the interests of the working class people in a society where political power and influence were reserved only for the elitists, not the ordinary people. Therein lie the roots of the Labour Party, not a party to tow the line of ruling-class establishment, but rather a party of the working class people. The present successes have revived the faith of many socialists and working class people that a just and fair political course is possible in the United Kingdom.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Modern democratic states have no business with religion



Nasir Khan

“If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody's personal concern!”

― Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

These are the words of a wise leader of Indian freedom movement, who was an inspiration to millions of people in the world for his message of non-violence and love for truth.
It is important for us to remember that Gandhi was not an atheist or agnostic. He was a devoted Hindu and a believer in God like Muslim, Christian, Zoroastrian, Baha’i, Sikh and Jewish believers. However, for him the religion of an individual was a personal matter. No one should impose a religion or a belief on others. It was not for the State to tell people which religion to follow or which god to believe in (there are different views about god in many religions and his attributes, etc.). In the middle ages, State and Church in European countries were united. But that changed. The secularisation process became the norm and new ways of looking at the roles of state and religions became widely accepted.

Secularism is rooted in the political idea that state and religion have two different spheres and roles. They should remain separate and we should not allow anyone to mix them. People should follow whatever religions they want to follow without the interference of the state. As a result, there is no more religious coercion from the state or public bodies/institutions of the people. People have freedom of religion, freedom to practise any religion, freedom to convert to any other religion if any choose to do so, freedom to leave or reject religion and accept agnosticism, atheism, humanism or any other viewpoint. In democratic countries and their civil societies, these freedoms are essential ingredients of a civilised existence.

Unluckily, such views have had much opposition in traditional, conservative societies. For example, in my country of origin, Pakistan ('Land of the Pure'!), Muslim clerics and political manipulators have distorted the meaning of secularism. According to their version, which most Pakistanis accept, it means rejection of Islam and Allah! It is anti-Islam and a threat to Islam and Pakistan!

Briefly, to attribute such things to secularism is totally wrong and pernicious. But the vested interests that played with the religious susceptibilities of the people for so long, and so successfully, will continue their exploitation. As I see it, our hope is that only progressive and democratic people can combat the reactionary forces and their toxic indoctrination. No doubt, the task is difficult. But our friends and comrades are doing what they can, both within and outside Pakistan.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Glad tidings to all believers

Nasir Khan, June 7, 2017

“Sacrificing the earth for paradise is giving up the substance for the shadow.”


— French writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

Many people are more concerned with the afterlife than this life. Who can blame them? In any case, when we see how the vast majority of human beings exists and suffers an existence on the earth, we can understand why they desire to have the comfort and grand living in the paradise or the kingdom of heaven, as some call it. Not only for some dismal few years or decades as we have in our worldly existence, but also visualising the rosy prospects of an eternal life somewhere up there where we will have everything we can think of in abundance and without any price-tags!


Those interested in carnal and sensual pleasures will be given to their hearts' content, possibly much more then they need. There is no shortage of anything up there. All one will have to do is to say: I desire this delightful object or that pure creature! Soon the desired object or the lovely creature will appear in the blink of an eye.

It is all ready and waiting for us. The only thing we have to do is to wait a bit longer, be patient, and all will be ours. But we should also keep in mind that to get there we may have to do some hard work first that would appease the heavenly powers. This may include obligatory self-mortification and rigorous rituals to cleans our physical body wih a view to purify our souls, thus making us worthy of the upward journey and the heavenly rewards.

Thanks to our great visionary sages, teachers and preachers for having provided us detailed information about all this. I envy their wisdom and their concern for human beings.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Terrorist attack on London Bridge on June 3, 2017



– Nasir Khan, June 4, 2017

Whatever reasons and political grievances any followers of Islamist ideology may have, their latest attack on innocent people on London Bridge was an act of indiscriminate killing of innocent people. If the facts are as reported in the media, and no false flags are involved, then I condemn this barbarous act of terrorism as a private citizen living in Norway, a peaceful, democratic and secular country. 

The role played by western imperialists, especially the US, Britain, and their allies, in starting destructive wars of aggression in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, etc. etc. in which millions of people, mostly Muslims, were killed and maimed, their cities and homes destroyed, were enormous crimes against humanity in recent history, for which there was no justification under international law.

Meanwhile, it is important to keep in mind that such crimes of genocide were committed by the governments of these countries, and not by ordinary citizens of any of these countries. There lies an essential difference between what the governments do and what private individuals do. 

For instance, what George W. Bush and Tony Blair did that led to the genocidal wars and large-scale destructions of the targeted countries had nothing to do with the ordinary citizens of the United States or Britain. Ordinary pedestrians walking on London Bridge were not and are not responsible for the actions of people like former prime minister Tony Blair, or former president G.W. Bush.

In the hands of religious zealots and fanatics a religion and its teachings can easily be transformed into an instrument of terror and oppression. This happened in the last two thousand years, but historical evidence points to much earlier times also. Let’s take only the Middle East region. Here some major world religions arose and some of them are still with us. The histories of all monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are replete with examples of heinous crimes against innocent people under the guise of religion. 

That happened during the wars of religions and inter-religious conflicts; such things are still happening in many parts of the world. It is true that such conflicts may also have deep socioeconomic and political causes. But the killing of ordinary people under one pretext or another does not mitigate the gravity of terrorist crimes and madness.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Instability and chaos in the Middle East are the axis of US-Israeli power politics


Nasir Khan, May 23, 2017

All those who are interested in understanding the quagmire of war, violence, the victimisation of Palestinians by Israel, rampant abuse of human rights, etc., in which the whole region of the Middle East is enmeshed will readily appreciate the soundness of the views of President Rouhani. What he says is reasonable and factual.

However, political observers know fully well that the main catalysts of instability, war, violence and terror in the region have been the U.S. imperialists and the Zionist rulers of Israel. If there was stability in the region, then the foundation stones of their militaristic domination and their power politics in the region will come under threat. In such a scenario, Arab reactionary regimes, such as the House of Saud, will no longer be able to serve the US-Israeli power games. That also means the two allies are duty-bound to negate or neutralise any attempts or prospects for any positive change in the region because that will be detrimental to their long-term strategies and political manipulation.

As a consequence, they will keep the status quo at any cost, and not let any developments they perceive as challenging their imperial interests in any way. To accuse Iran of ambitions to dominate the Middle East politically is merely a ruse to keep their imperial diktat.

The question of stability will remain a distant dream. The overt and covert fanning of the Sunni-Shia conflict between Arab countries and Iran by the two powerful powers, the US and Israel, to further their hegemonic goals seems to have gained the upper hand. Where will that lead to is not difficult to foresee.

-----------------
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-rouhani-idUSKBN18I1M9

Rouhani says regional stability impossible without Iran




Iranian president Hassan Rouhani gestures during a news conference in Tehran, Iran, May 22, 2017. TIMA via REUTERS


By Parisa Hafezi and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin | DUBAI/LONDON
 
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday stability could not be achieved in the Middle East without Tehran's help, responding to criticism of the Islamic Republic from U.S. President Donald Trump who is visiting the region.
Trump called for a U.S. alliance with Muslim countries on Sunday aimed at fighting terrorism, singling out Iran as a major source of funding and support for militants in the Arab world.


Rouhani, a pragmatist who won last week's presidential election, hit back hard by dismissing the summit as a "ceremonial (event) that had no political value and will bear no results".

"Who can say regional stability can be restored without Iran? Who can say the region will experience total stability without Iran?" he said at a news conference.

At a weekend summit in Riyadh, Trump accused Iran of funding and arming "terrorists, militias and other extremist groups" in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and backing President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war.

Rouhani, who fronted Tehran's deal with six major powers in 2015 to curb Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions, said the U.S. administration lacked knowledge about the Middle East.

"Americans resorted to many different methods against Iran but failed in all ... We are waiting for the new U.S. administration to find stability and continuity in its policies,” Rouhani said.

"The problem is that the Americans do not know our region and those who advise U.S. officials are misleading them."

Rouhani said Iran was the vital force behind the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and repeated Iran's official stance that the United States and Saudi Arabia are funding "terrorism" in the Middle East.

"Who fought against the terrorists? It was Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Russia. But who funded the terrorists? Those who fund terrorists cannot claim they are fighting against them,” he said.

Tehran and Riyadh are involved in proxy wars across the region, backing opposite sides in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.

FRAGILE DIPLOMACY

Already fragile diplomatic and trade ties between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite-dominated Iran were severed last year, after Saudi Arabia executed a Shi'ite cleric and as a result protesters ransacked the Saudi embassy in Iran.


"Buying arms or building weapons won't make a country powerful. Military power is only a part of strength and we are fully aware of that. But the foundation of power is national strength and this only happens through elections," Rouhani said.

"Maybe it will help if Saudi leaders let their people to decide over their country's fate by casting their vote ... It will make them (rulers) stronger."

He said Iran welcomed better relations with its regional neighbors and pledged to fulfill his campaign promises of opening Iran to the world and delivering freedoms to the Iranian people.

"The Iranian people voted for moderation as they know a prosperous economy and jobs can only happen through investment, and investment through freedom and interaction with the world," he said.
Rouhani's efforts to open up Iran to less hostile relations with the West still have to be couched in the rhetoric of anti-Americanism that has been a pillar of Iranian rule since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Iran's most powerful authority - Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - has ruled out normalization of ties with the United States.

Iran's economy has slowly recovered since the lifting of sanctions last year but deals with Western investors are few and far between as foreign investors are cautious about trading with or investing in Iran, fearing penalties from remaining unilateral U.S. sanctions.

Washington last week imposed new sanctions on Iran, over its ballistic missile program.
"The Iranian nation has decided to be powerful. Our missiles are for peace and for defense ... American officials should know that whenever we need to technically test a missile, we will do so and will not wait for their permission," Rouhani said, repeating Iran's commonly expressed stance on the program.

"America's dream on ending Iran's missile program will never come true."
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Terrorist bloodbath in Manchester


Nasir Khan, May 23, 2017

Last night a terrorist struck innocent people who were enjoying a concert in Manchester. The number of people this bomber killed and injured by his explosive device is yet another big tragedy written in blood and destruction that we see from time to time. The victims are always innocent people.

I am not able to find words to express my abhorrence at this callous and senseless act of barbarity. But one thing is clear. Such people are not in short supply. Their mentors can always exploit them to commit such crimes. Unfortunately, such vicious acts of killings and mass terror are motivated by hatred, false convictions and ghoulish indoctrination.

First, indoctrinated people can commit any crime without questioning their actions. Secondly, when a cult of violence and ignorance is raised up as sacrosanct then its manipulated followers have no difficulty in pointing to a 'higher cause' for their antihuman actions.

Our sympathies go to the victims of this carnage, their relatives and the traumatised people of Manchester.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

How gods came in human history

Nasir Khan

Humans created god by attributing many of their own qualities unto an imaginary 'being'. But they also gave him a bit more than what they themselves were: they made him all-powerful and all-knowing! So are the fictional places that human beings created in their grand fantasies called Paradise, Hell and the Kingdom of God! But they did not create one god; they created hundreds and thousands of gods and goddesses in many old cultures and societies.

But in the early history of humankind, the forces of nature, like thunder, storms, rain, etc., overawed humans. They were not able to explain these powerful and frightening forces of nature that affected them. As a result, they started to do whatever they could to placate them by making occasional sacrifices to them and entreating them for mercy and kindness.


The idea of deities came much later when they developed anthropomorphic ideas relating to deities they came to believe in that were distinct from the earlier worship of the forces of nature.


Since then, the story of gods in various forms and shapes had become a dominant factor in their lives. The movement from the plurality of deities to smaller numbers was gradual. In some cultures, there was further reduction in such numbers, coming down to three, two or only one. They are all part of the history of the evolution of the notions of powerful supernatural or divine beings.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Modernity in European history


  Nasir Khan, May 5, 2017

“The point of modernity is to live a life without illusions while not becoming disillusioned.”

― Italian Marxist thinker and politician Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937)

Modernity means many things to different people. But in learned discourse, it refers to the collective body of particular socio-cultural norms and attitudes that emerged when the medieval period in European history gave way to new thinking. Prior to modernity, scholasticism of the middle ages covered all aspects of socio-political life. Religion was the pivotal force that controlled the social and political thinking of the people as well as moulded political structures and power relations.

The Church hierarchy interpreted and enforced socio-cultural norms. Even monarchs, barons and landed aristocrats had to accept the directives of the Church in matters that seemed to have little or nothing to do with religion. In simple words, the Church was at the apex of the societal pyramid.

Then the scene started to change. At grave risks, some thinkers and public-spirited people started to question matters relating to the principles of absolutism, divine rights of kings, the power of the Church, even the old sacrosanct doctrines and dogmas that were once only under the domain of the clerics. Now people began to question the rationale of age-old norms and customs. This was something that was strictly forbidden in the middle ages.

We should keep in mind that the process of change was gradual but it had pointed to a new direction in social and political thinking and practice. The powers of omnipotent deity were questioned and some thinkers rejected all notions of any supernatural beings. Such ideas have made meaningful inroads in Europe. More people are rejecting old traditional modes of thought and dogmas.

The roles of many philosophers from the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries onwards have been instrumental in exploring new ideas to meet the needs of the times.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

What public praise for a philosopher’s ideas can lead to

Nasir Khan, May 3, 2017

“I never desired to please the rabble. What pleased them, I did not learn; and what I knew was far removed from their understanding.”

— Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 BC – 271 BC)

Epicurus was a renowned philosopher and he certainly was aware of the worth of his ideas. In a simple and subtle way, he has also touched our profound longings to be appreciated by others for our mental and intellectual prowess and skills. Some may call it a human trait, some sceptics may call it a human weakness. Let us see what the public approval of one’s ideas, especially those of a philosopher, in reality amount to: That ideas are framed and presented in such a way that they will appeal to the feelings of the maximum number of ordinary people, who, in return, will heap praise on some ‘clever’ guy!

Can a philosopher or thinking person really expect to validate his ideas with the help of popular applause and praise? Epicurus reply was in the negative. So is mine, after having seen how things work in our times!

In fact, the shoddy tricks played on the unwary and simple people (simple people never think they are simple!) are a form of manipulation. In extreme cases that has led to personality cults, from the olden times to the present times, with disastrous consequences. We are still reaping the toxic fruits of our gullibility as common people because those personality cults are still shaping our history. The dead of the ancient and past history still rule us from their graves. We never question them or their motives. We simply idolise them and sing their praises!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Direct and indirect responsibility for violence in the name of religion

 Nasir Khan, April 26, 2017

Some much-needed words of wisdom, especially for Pakistani Muslims: 

Not all Muslims become involved in acts of violence. Yet all might be held culpable. This is because that section of Muslim--in fact, the majority--who are not personally involved, neither disown those members of their community who are engaged in violence, nor even condemn them. In such a case, according to the Islamic Shariah itself, if the involved Muslims are directly responsible, the uninvolved Muslims are also indirectly responsible. (p. 91)
― Famous Indian Islamic scholar and peace activist Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (b: 1925), The True Jihad: The Concept of Peace, Tolerance and Non Violence in Islam
---------------

Even thought Maulana Wahiduddin Khan addresses only Muslims, but what he says can also be applied to Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, etc. Just like Muslims, when some people from other religious community or denomination commit violent crimes for their religion, their religious dogmas and victimise the followers of any other faith under some flimsy pretext, the vast majority of the people of that religious community remains neutral and indifferent as if nothing had happened. This state of affairs dehumanises all. 

As a result, a phoney nationalist or religious fanatic may feel proud for his violent crime or even a violent murder for the sake of his community or co-religionists! The lack of response to condemn and stand against such crimes and criminals by the vast majority only encourages such people.

Let's keep in mind that, in 2003, former US president George W Bush attacked Iraq without any just cause or excuse. But he tried to justify his genocidal war of aggression by claiming to have sought God's guidance. He received the message from God; God told him to go ahead and invade Iraq! 

G W Bush was and is a Christian. His criminal war of aggression led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the destruction of Iraq. But he did all that to comply with the commands of God! And many people believe him. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Unity of Pakistani State and Islamism

Religious minorities under constant threat in Pakistan


  Nasir Khan, April 24, 2017

The Pakistani state, its educational and judicial institutions that are deeply influenced by a flimsy religiosity and phoney piety present some ghoulish contradictions for any modern democratic state. How can we combine theocracy with democracy and call it the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? This spectacle continues to defy any clear understanding of the underlying assumptions for a modern democratic state.

The way the new ruling elites of Pakistan brought in Islam arbitrarily as a sectarian force in a multi-religious country has bedevilled the social fabric of Pakistan. It all happened after the death of its strong secularist leader Mr. Jinnah in 1948 in the newly-established state of Pakistan that had come into existence as a result of the partition of India in 1947. When he was no longer there to guide the policies or the future direction the country was to take, some rigid orthodox Muslim leaders and manipulators of Islam came to the fore for political power and became major political actors. Had Mr. Jinnah lived a few years more, then he would have laid the foundations of a modern democratic state, where every religious community was free to practise its faith without the intervention of state or any coercive policies to advance the interests of any one section of Muslims.

After Mr. Jinnah’s death, the gradual process of exploitation of Islam became a standard practice. Political and religious leaders played with the sensitivities of a gullible and largely illiterate population in the name of Islam. The big drive to misuse Islam was helped by indoctrination in religious schools, called madrassas, and mosques as well as in ordinary schools and institutions of education where the teaching of Islamic dogmas has been part of official policy. The syllabuses for the younger generation starting from the elementary schools to the universities are made with a view to bringing in religion in every possible way. We see that happening even in books on physics, biology and botany, etc. that start with some quotation from the Qur’an or a saying of the Prophet.

As a result, such formal instilling of dogmas became quite common and the country became a centre of religious intolerance, sectarianism and vicious victimisation of religious minorities and sects. For the militant Islamists and fanatic fundamentalists the field was open to resort to violence, coercion and intimidation on socially and politically marginalsed religious minorities.

The lynching of Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old journalism student in Pakistan on 13 April 2017 shows the problem ordinary people of Pakistan face at the hands of Islamists, who are willing do anything to stop any voice they consider goes against their ideologies and sectarian theologies. In Pakistan, Muslim extremists have killed innocent people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, over the years. The murders of innocent people on concocted charges of blasphemy and sectarian violence continue to cause much insecurity and fear among all sections of the population.

The misguided killers of innocent people also think that what they do is to safeguard the sanctity of God and the honour of the Prophet. However, it is a total prevarication because in Pakistan where there are 97% people Muslims, God and the Prophet have never been under any threat. They are safe, secure and beyond any threat to their power or status. Any false accusations against innocent people and then killing them or targeting them cannot be justified merely because some ignorant and muddle-headed people thought what they were doing was some good work on behalf of God or the Prophet. In fact, such people are not operating in a vacuum. 

The blasphemy laws of Pakistan are a fertile ground for such killers and other violent criminals to use as tools to advance their reign of terror. Consequently, both the State and Islamists are upholders of the blasphemy stick for destructive purposes. Religious minorities have to bear the brunt of the violence and terror because of such unjust and primitive laws that are fully exploited by the Islamists and other sections of the Muslim population whimsically, very often to settle some private conflicts or petty quarrels.

There are numerous cases when ordinary people from the Muslim community have falsely accused the members of a religious minority for blasphemy. A few years ago, two Christian labourers, a married couple, were thrown in a burning brick kiln after they were falsely accused to have insulted the Holy Qur’an. A local mullah and his congregation appeared on the scene and helped the kiln workers to break the bones of the man before throwing him and his wife in the kiln, where they died in the most frightening way. Similarly, there is he case of Asia Bibi, a married Christian woman who was falsely accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death. She is still languishing in jail. When the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer spoke against the unjust imprisonment of Asia Bibi and opposed the blasphemy laws, he was gunned down in 2011 by his bodyguard, an fanatic Islamist. Another person, who spoke on behalf of Asia Bibi was Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, who was minorities minister in the central government. He was killed in 2010.

Religious minorities in Pakistan are at the mercy of the majority and extremely vulnerable because of the Muslim extremists. In an atmosphere of rampant religious discrimination and bigotry, it is quite common for ordinary Muslims to view non-Muslims as infidels (kafirs). The mullahs, preachers and Islamists have instilled such beliefs in the people. The next step in this innate assertion of the superiority of Islam as the only true religion is to bring non-Muslims to Islam. As a result every ignorant Muslim feels qualified to assert the uniqueness of Islam and its fundamentals. What sort of Islam the people indoctrinated in religious schools (madrassas) and other educational insitution can preach is not difficult to imagine for an impartial, educated person.

In Pakistan it is so easy for anyone to accuse another person of having insulted God, the Prophet or Islam and thus entangle any innocent person in the blasphemy laws where the punishments is death. These situations of framing the innocent people in cases that lead to the most cruel penalties brings to mind the tortures inflicted on the witches in the Middle Ages in Europe. For the outside world, the so-called blasphemy laws of Pakistan may appear ridiculous, absurd and insane for the present age, but those who are at the receiving end of such barbaric laws are not some imaginary creatures but ordinary human beings who become victims of institutionalised injustice in the name of Islam. No wonder, Pakistan has jailed more people on spurious allegations for blasphemy than any other country in this century.

We should pay attention to the fact that most brainwashed and indoctrinated people genuinely believe that the true voice of Islam comes from the mullahs and that the blasphemy laws of Pakistan are to protect Islam. During the countrywide demonstrations that followed the assassination of governor Salman Taseer, most people supported the blasphemy laws. Among these people were thousands of lawyers and university teachers!

In reality, Pakistani rulers had used the Islam card for their political objectives and in doing so had given a free-hand to the clerics to unleash their toxic sectarian and anti-democratic propaganda against all democratic forces and rational ideas. What this leads to is before our eyes. Any Muslim can take the law into his hands and accuse anyone of insulting God or the Prophet and feel free to kill any such falsely accused person. This is what happened in the recent case of Mashal Khan at the hands of a large crowd of Pakistani university students and others. Such misguided Pakistanis feel they are doing something worthy and noble when they kill anyone in the name of Islam. Thus Islam was transformed into a caricature by the mullahs, fanatic Islamic parties and organizations, and by the Pakistani rulers. Now, ordinary people are falling victims to the barbarity in the name of a religion.

Pakistani law is not able to defend the legal and civil rights of its citizens because it vitiates the basic norms of the freedom of conscience where people are allowed to follow and practise any religion or cult as long as any such religion or sect does not violate the laws of the land or violate the rights of other citizens. Moreover, there is no restraint upon anyone in a democratic country to convert to some other religion voluntarily or reject all religions and follow some alternative world outlooks such as atheism, agnosticism, scepticism or humanism, etc. These things happen in all democratic and civilised countries where the respect for people’s freedom of conscience is a norm.

Modern states do not force people to follow any religion or reject any religion. That’s a matter left to the individual’s choice, in which the state or public authorities do not interfere. Such ideas may seem strange to the vast majority of Pakistani Muslims, because they have experienced only discriminatory laws against some sects like the Ahmadis, who were classified as non-Muslim community in 1974. Since then, the Ahmadis have been subject to all sorts of atrocities and oppression. From the state authorities to the common man in the street, and from the from the Muslim theologians to the village mullahs, the Ahmadis are kafirs (non-believers) and they can be reviled, abused and molested with impunity by any Muslim! It was in such a milieu of intolerance, hostility and vile oppression that some right-wing Islamist students spread the false rumours about Mashal Khan to be an Ahmadi and then gathered a large crowd to lynch him in the most barbaric way.

If a solution is to be found to the uncontrolled disease that is afflicting Pakistan, then the solution lies in diagnosing the cause of the disease. It is no secret that the people of Pakistan have widespread institutions throughout the country where young people are drilled into religious fanaticism that has a big social impact on all sections of the population. Even the so-called ‘educated’ people who have gone or go to universities or professional institutions are not immune to the pervasive indoctrination and religious fanaticism. What the students of Mardan University did with a fellow student Mashal Khan is the latest instance of the bitter fruit that an unrestrained exploitation of Islam is producing.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Islamist terror in Europe

Nasir Khan
 
Islamist terror in Europe

It takes only one fanatic Islamist terrorist to commit brutal murders, this time in Stockholm and by doing so make all ordinary peaceful people of Islamic origin, refugees and others, suspect in the eyes of very many people. 

Luckily, the right-wing anti-Muslim organisations have not mobilised white people to attack Muslims wherever they find them. One stumbling block that has stood in their way is the stable political system and humane social values in Europe. Western democracies are based on democratic values and respect for human rights where the rule of law prevails.

But what Islamist terrorists are doing in Europe and other places is very dangerous and harmful for all. They are paving the ground for the European right-wing militant forces to see not only the Islamists, but all Muslim communities in Europe as a threat to European identity and culture. What that can lead is not too difficult to envisage. In fact, Islamist terrorists in Europe are making that possibility a reality. 

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http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39539689?SThisFB
 

Monday, April 03, 2017

The relationship of body and soul

Nasir Khan,  April 3, 2017

The question of the body and the soul relationship has a long history in the evolution of human thought in such matters. In most religious traditions and old speculative thought, the intricate relationship between the two is resolved by holding the body mortal while the soul being eternal and indestructible. As a result, the death of a person is seen only as the death of a body, but not of the soul that had temporarily lived in that body as long that body was alive.

In many religious and cultural traditions the soul is said to travel to, or is transported to, an eternal abode hereafter, while some believe that the soul of the dead returns in another living being, ranging from a human form to some animal form. Here the central idea continues to be the immortality of the soul.

Praying for the souls of the dead is common in many cultures and civilisations. Many believe this helps the souls of the deceased people to have peace and some better conditions around in the unknown world.

In the following article, Dr Dr Stephen Cave, a philosopher, offers his views that run counter to the mainstream ideas on the question of the soul.

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/13-03-20/#feature

What Science Really Says About the Soul

by Stephen Cave

Nathalie was hemorrhaging badly. She felt weak, cold, and the pain in her abdomen was excruciating. A nurse ran out to fetch the doctor, but by the time they arrived she knew she was slipping away. The doctor was shouting instructions when quite suddenly the pain stopped. She felt free—and found herself floating above the drama, looking down at the bustle of activity around her now still body.

“We’ve lost her,” she heard the doctor say, but Nathalie was already moving on and upwards, into a tunnel of light. She first felt a pang of anxiety at leaving her husband and children, but it was soon overwhelmed by a feeling of profound peace; a feeling that it would all be okay. At the end of the tunnel, a figure of pure radiance was waiting with arms wide open.

This, or something like it, is how millions imagine what it will be like to die. In 2009, over 70 percent of Americans said they believe that they, like Nathalie, have a soul that will survive the end of their body.1 That figure may well now be higher after the phenomenal success of two recent books describing vivid near death experiences: one from an innocent—the four year old Todd Burpo—the other from the opposite: a Harvard scientist and former skeptic, neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander.2 Both argue that when their brains stopped working, their souls floated off to experience a better place.

This is an attractive view and a great consolation to those who have lost loved ones or who are contemplating their own mortality. Many also believe this view to be beyond the realm of science, to concern a different dimension into which no microscope can peer. Dr. Alexander, for example, said in an interview with the New York Times, “Our spirit is not dependent on the brain or body; it is eternal, and no one has one sentence worth of hard evidence that it isn’t.”3

But he is wrong. The evidence of science, when brought together with an ancient argument, provides a very powerful case against the existence of a soul that can carry forward your essence once your body fails. The case runs like this: with modern brain-imaging technology, we can now see how specific, localized brain injuries damage or even destroy aspects of a person’s mental life. These are the sorts of dysfunctions that Oliver Sacks brought to the world in his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.4 The man of the title story was a lucid, intelligent music teacher, who had lost the ability to recognize faces and other familiar objects due to damage to his visual cortex.

Since then, countless examples of such dysfunction have been documented—to the point that every part of the mind can now be seen to fail when some part of the brain fails. The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has studied many such cases.5 He records a stroke victim, for example, who had lost any capacity for emotion; patients who lost all creativity following brain surgery; and others who lost the ability to make decisions. One man with a brain tumor lost what we might call his moral character, becoming irresponsible and disregarding of social norms. I saw something similar in my own father, who also had a brain tumor: it caused profound changes in his personality and capacities before it eventually killed him.

The crux of the challenge then is this: those who believe they have a soul that survives bodily death typically believe that this soul will enable them, like Nathalie in the story above, to see, think, feel, love, reason and do many other things fitting for a happy afterlife. But if we each have a soul that enables us to see, think and feel after the total destruction of the body, why, in the cases of dysfunction documented by neuroscientists, do these souls not enable us to see, think and feel when only a small portion of the brain is destroyed?

To make the argument clear, we can take the example of sight. If either your eyes or the optic nerves in your brain are sufficiently badly damaged, you will go blind. This tells us very clearly that the faculty of sight is dependent upon functioning eyes and optic nerves.
Yet curiously, when many people imagine their soul leaving their body, they imagine being able to see—like Nathalie, looking down on her own corpse surrounded by frantic doctors.6 They believe, therefore, that their soul can see. But if the soul can see when the entire brain and body have stopped working, why, in the case of people with damaged optic nerves, can’t it see when only part of the brain and body have stopped working? In other words, if blind people have a soul that can see, why are they blind?

So eminent a theologian as Saint Thomas Aquinas, writing 750 years ago, believed this question had no satisfactory answer.7 Without its body—without eyes, ears and nose—he thought the soul would be deprived of all senses, waiting blindly for the resurrection of the flesh to make it whole again. Aquinas concluded that the body-less soul would have only those powers that (in his view) were not dependent upon bodily organs: faculties such as reason and understanding.

But now we can see that these faculties are just as dependent upon a bodily organ—the brain—as sight is upon the eyes. Unlike in Aquinas’s day, we can now keep many people with brain damage alive and use neuroimaging to observe the correlations between that damage and their behavior. And what we observe is that the destruction of certain parts of the brain can destroy those cognitive faculties once thought to belong to the soul. So if he had had the evidence of neuroscience in front of him, we can only imagine that Aquinas himself would have concluded that these faculties also stop when the brain stops.

In fact, evidence now shows that everything the soul is supposed to be able to do—think, remember, love—fails when some relevant part of the brain fails. Even consciousness itself—otherwise there would be no general anesthetics. A syringe full of chemicals is sufficient to extinguish all awareness. For anyone who believes something like the Nathalie story—that consciousness can survive bodily death—this is an embarrassing fact. If the soul can sustain our consciousness after death, when the brain has shut down permanently, why can it not do so when the brain has shut down temporarily?

Some defenders of the soul have, of course, attempted to answer this question. They argue, for example, that the soul needs a functioning body in this world, but not in the next. One view is that the soul is like a broadcaster and the body like a receiver—something akin to a television station and a TV set. (Though as our body is also the source of our sensory input, we have to imagine the TV set also has a camera on top feeding images to the distant station.)

We know that if we damage our TV set, we get a distorted picture. And if we break the set, we get no picture at all. The naive observer would believe the program was therefore gone. But we know that it is really still being transmitted; that the real broadcaster is actually elsewhere. Similarly, the soul could still be sending its signal even though the body is no longer able to receive it.

This response sounds seductive, but helps little. First, it does not really address the main argument at all: Most believers expect their soul to be able to carry forward their mental life with or without the body; this is like saying that the TV signal sometimes needs a TV set to transform it into the picture, but once the set is kaput, can make the picture all by itself. But if it can make the picture all by itself, why does it sometimes act through an unreliable set?

Second, changes to our bodies impact on our minds in ways not at all analogous to how damage to a TV set changes its output, even if we take into account damage to the camera too. The TV analogy claims there is something that remains untouched by such damage, some independent broadcaster preserving the real program even if it is distorted by bad reception. But this is precisely what the evidence of neuroscience undermines. Whereas damage to the TV set or camera might make the signal distorted or fuzzy, damage to our brains much more profoundly alters our minds. As we noted above, such damage can even change our moral views, emotional attachments, and the way we reason.

Which suggests we are nothing like a television; but much more like, for example, a music box: the music is not coming from elsewhere, but from the workings within the box itself. When the box is damaged, the music is impaired; and if the box is entirely destroyed, then the music stops for good.

There is much about consciousness that we still do not understand. We are only beginning to decipher its mysteries, and may never fully succeed. But all the evidence we have suggests that the wonders of the mind—even near-death and out of body experiences—are the effect of neurons firing. Contrary to the beliefs of the vast majority of people on Earth, from Hindus to New Age spiritualists, consciousness depends upon the brain and shares its fate to the end. END
References
  1. What People Do and Do Not Believe In, The Harris Poll, December 15, 2009
  2. Burpo, T and Vincent, L. 2010. Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. Thomas Nelson Publishers; Alexander, Eben. 2012. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. Simon & Schuster.
  3. Kaufman, L. 2012. “Readers Join Doctor’s Journey to the Afterworld’s Gates.” The New York Times, November 25, page C1.
  4. Sacks, Oliver. 1985. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  5. Damasio, Antonio. 1994. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: Putnam Publishing.
  6. Descriptions of heaven also involve being able to see, from Dante to Heaven is For Real, cited above.
  7. Aquinas’s views on the soul can be found in his Summa Theologica and elsewhere. Particularly relevant to the question of the soul’s limited faculties are Part 1, question 77, article 8 (“Whether all the powers remain in the soul when separated from the body?”) and supplement to the Third Part, question 70, article 1 (“Whether the sensitive powers remain in the separated soul?”), in which he writes: “Now it is evident that certain operations, whereof the soul’s powers are the principles, do not belong to the soul properly speaking but to the soul as united to the body, because they are not performed except through the medium of the body—such as to see, to hear, and so forth. Hence it follows that such like powers belong to the united soul and body as their subject, but to the soul as their quickening principle, just as the form is the principle of the properties of a composite being. Some operations, however, are performed by the soul without a bodily organ—for instance to understand, to consider, to will: wherefore, since these actions are proper to the soul, the powers that are the principles thereof belong to the soul not only as their principle but also as their subject. Therefore, since so long as the proper subject remains its proper passions must also remain, and when it is corrupted they also must be corrupted, it follows that these powers which use no bodily organ for their actions must needs remain in the separated body, while those which use a bodily organ must needs be corrupted when the body is corrupted: and such are all the powers belonging to the sensitive and the vegetative soul.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Socialist philosopher and sociologist Dag Østerberg (1938-2017)

Nasir Khan, 22 March,  2017




Dag Østerberg

 

Since 1960 Dag Østerberg had the distinction of being a leading social theoretician and a resourceful intellectual in Norway, who made lasting contributions especially in sociology and social philosophy. His death on 22 February 2017 removed a uniquely talented scholar from the social and academic life of Norway, but his books that represent his critical thinking and social concerns will continue to play a role and inspire students, researchers and others.
He earned his Ph.D. degree in sociology from the University of Oslo (UiO) in 1974 for his work on Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx. From 1981 to 1991, he was a professor of sociology at UiO. For a few years he worked as an adjunct professor in music. But his passion was writing and he left such highly-coveted academic positions to concentrate on writing. The area of his authorship was extensive, covering political and social philosophy, sociology, history of ideas as well as musicology, art and classic literature. He wrote some 20 books and published numerous papers and articles on a wide range of issues in scholarly journals and periodicals.
Within the academic milieus in UiO logical positivism had gained much ground in the 1960s. Some prominent Norwegian philosophers held differing views about its role in the social sciences. Østerberg was of the view that social sciences cannot be objective in the sense the natural sciences are objective, but rather they had to be reflective and interpretive. At present, more people have come to accept this view of positivism in the age of postpositivism and postmodernism.
For most of his life, Østerberg was deeply attracted to the works of the influential French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. He had a profound understanding of Sartre’s philosophy of existentialism. He translated and published three books dealing with Sartre’s works, and also wrote an authoritative biography Jean-Paul Sartre – Philosophy, Art, Politics, Private Life, which was published in 1993.
Since he started writing, he showed he had the ability to go to the core of the complex philosophical and sociological issues by analysing and synthesising them. As an intellectual he was a social critic in the radical leftist tradition. Having imbibed much of the critical sociological thought of Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, Østerberg approached Marx well-oriented with the European philosophical and cultural tradition.
We may ask when did Østerberg turn seriously to the works of Karl Marx? This question is lucidly summed up by Professor Per Otnes, a Marxist sociologist and a fellow-colleague of Østerberg when the latter taught in the department of sociology:
“There is, however, a telling appendix to a re-edition [Essays i samfunnsteori theory, Oslo: Pax,1975, p. 28] of this text, where Østerberg states that his command of Marxism as of 1967 was less than adequate. That signals a revised approach. Up to c. 1970 he remained, not unlike Bourdieu, something of a dialectic phenomenologist, influenced by Husserl, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and others, but not yet influenced very much by Marx’s works. Sartre’s great Critique de la raison dialectique, only just out in 1960, was instrumental in bringing about the inclusion of (neo-)Marxism, to which his A Preface to Marx’s Capital (1972) testifies, summing up critically in no more than c. 60 [79] pp. Marx’s c. 2,500.” 1
Beside Sartre, Østerberg’s discussion of sociological theories included the works of Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, Pierre Bourdeau, and Karl Marx. He summarised the salient theories of such writers and offered his synthesis in his usual incisive manner.
He interpreted and defended the social and political thought of Marx. But he was not a dogmatic defender of Marx, as some Marx enthusiasts or disciples have been for more than a century. Primarily, he saw Marx as a social philosopher and an economist whose theories explored the contradictions of capitalism and showed the way to a better alternative that met the needs of the people on a wider scale. Even towards the end of his life, he continued to emphasise the importance of understanding the economic thought of Marx. This can be seen in his last book he wrote Fra Marx’ til nyere kapitalkritikk [From Marx’s to recent critique of capital] (2016).
As a writer, Østerberg’s language is clear, precise and has a natural flow. Ludwig Wittgenstein had said: What can be said at all can be said clearly. In Østerberg’s case that remark applies admirably well. Unlike some academic writers and authors who occasionally embellish their texts with some Latin terms or foreign words, he was a puritan in the use of his native language, Norwegian; he avoided the use of foreign words as far as he could. However, he had great mastery over English, German and French, but he was averse to the idea of bringing in any foreign words in his texts. He wrote mostly in Norwegian, except for one major work Metasociology: An Inquiry into the Origins and Validity of Social thought (1988). This remarkable volume shows his immense erudition and mastery of modern western social and political thought, whose reading will help English readers become acquainted with this great intellectual. Obviously, his use of his native language for most of his authorship has certainly enriched Norwegian. However, this has also limited the circulation of his books internationally because Norwegian is understood only in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
During his lifetime Østerberg had received a wide recognition in the Nordic sociology. He was regarded as a leading sociologist who contributed to the western sociological tradition. His books on sociology are popular among students and are included in the syllabuses. But he was not the type of person looking for reputation or acclaim. He was anti-hero, unassuming and followed a simple lifestyle.
Last but not least, I will mention him in a personal context. When I started research for my Ph.D. degree at UiO in 1985, he was my academic supervisor. He was the leading scholar of Marx and Marxist thought teaching as a professor of sociology at that time and I was lucky to have him supervise my work. In 1991, he graciously wrote a preface to my thesis Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings that was published in 1995. Our contact led to a lasting friendship that lasted over 30 years. The last time we met in Oslo was 2016. On that occasion he offered me a copy of his newly-published book Fra Marx’ til nyere kapitalkritikk.
References:
1. Otnes, Per, Dag Østerberg: The Dialectic of Post-Positvism, Acta Sociologica March 2006 ◆ Vol 49(1): p. 22.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

One step forward in Pakistan, but more is needed

Nasir Khan, February 18, 2017



The passing of the Hindu marriage bill was an important step in Pakistan, which is a mutti-religious country.


If common sense prevails in the ruling strata of Pakistan, they should take the next bold step and make Pakistan a Secular Democratic country, where there is no state religion, but all offices of the state are open to all irrespective of the religious identities of the citizens of Pakistan. It means a believer of any faith – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Parsi, Bahai, Ahmadi, etc. — can become the president and prime minister of Pakistan.



To start with, I would love to see a Hindu, a Sikh or a Christian being elected to the highest offices of the country. That can only happen when Pakistan becomes a secular democratic country where religion of its citizens is a private matter for the people and has nothing to do with the running of the democratic system of governement.


At the same time, I am deeply conscious of the poltical reality that the vicious effects of Islamist anti-humanism, morbid fanaticism and anti-social garbage preached through toxic clerics make the prospects of the rise of secular democracy in Pakistan a distant dream. But we have to speak up and say what is in the interest of all.


 ———–



Pakistan Senate passes landmark Hindu marriage bill



The Hindu Marriage Bill 2017, which is the first elaborate Hindu community’s personal law, was adopted by the Senate on Friday.

The bill had already been approved by the lower house or the National Assembly on September 26, 2015, and it now just needs signature of the President, a mere formality, to become a law.

Dawn News reported that the bill is widely acceptable to Hindus living in Pakistan because it relates to marriage, registration of marriage, separation and remarriage, with the minimum age of marriage set at 18 years for both boys and girls.

The bill will help Hindu women get documentary proof of their marriage.
It will be the first personal law for Pakistani Hindus, applicable in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. The Sindh province has already formulated its own Hindu Marriage Law.

The bill presented in the Senate by Law Minister Zahid Hamid faced no opposition or objection. It was mainly due to the sympathetic views expressed by the lawmakers of all political parties in the relevant standing committees.

The bill was approved by the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights on January 2 with an overwhelming majority.

However, Senator Mufti Abdul Sattar of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl had opposed the bill, claiming that the Constitution was vast enough to cater to such needs.

While approving the bill, committee chairperson Senator Nasreen Jalil of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had announced, “This was unfair —— not only against the principles of Islam but also a human rights violation —— that we have not been able to formulate a personal family law for the Hindus of Pakistan.”

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a leading Hindu lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League—Nawaz, had been working relentlessly for three years to have a Hindu marriage law in the country.

“Such laws will help discourage forced conversions and streamline the Hindu community after the marriage of individuals,” he said, expressing gratitude to the parliamentarians.

Mr. Vankwani also said it was difficult for married Hindu women to prove that they were married, which was one of the key tools for miscreants involved in forced conversion.