Salmaan Taseer’s murder highlights growing extremism (Guest Post from Ms Jupiter)

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5th November 2011

Below is a guest post by Ms Jupiter.  An earlier post at this blog from this freelance writer can be found here – Which Muslim Women Does Lauren Booth speak for?

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Salmaan Taseer was a Pakistani businessman and politician who served as the 26th governor of the province of Punjab.

On January 4, 2011, one of Taseer’s bodyguards, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, shot him 26 times with a submachine gun at Kohsar Market, near his home in Sector F6, Islamabad, as he was returning to his car after meeting a friend for lunch. Kohsar Market is a popular shopping and cafe spot for the city’s elite and expatriates.

Salmaan Taseer's body is carried through crowds

The assassin Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri is from Punjab, and was part of the security detail provided to Taseer by the Elite Police. After the shooting, Qadri threw his weapon down and put his hands up when one of his colleagues aimed at him. He reportedly pleaded to be arrested. Qadri reportedly said he killed Taseer due to the latter’s vocal opposition to the blasphemy law in Pakistan.

Taseer was against the blasphemy law and termed it a black law. Notably, Taseer made headlines when he favored the Christian Pakistani woman, Asia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy. It was suspected that this was the main reason for his assassination. According to a report in Dawn, the assailant was associated with Dawat-e-Islami, a religious organization associated with the Barelvi movement.

Face of evil or a job well done? Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, a guard of governor of Pakistan's Punjab province Salman Taseer, smiles after being detained at the site of Taseer's shooting in Islamabad January 4, 2011. REUTERS/Saaf-ur-Rahman

The next day, many people turned up for governor Salman Taseer’s funeral in Lahore in spite of denunciations by some clerics and religious scholars from mourning Taseer, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and many supporters of the ruling PPP were seen attending the funeral prayer. The funeral prayers were finally led by Allama Afzal Chisti of the Ulema wing of the PPP after the chief cleric of the Badshahi Mosque, who had initially agreed to offer prayers, backed off at the last moment, saying he was going out of town.  Taseer was buried at a military cantonment in Lahore.

KILLER SENTENCED TO DEATH BUT IS A HERO TO MANY

Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri had been sentenced to death by a higher court in Pakistan. While Taseer’s killing has met with mixed reactions in Pakistan, with many from the country’s conservative religious quarter praising the gunman for acting to silence the outspoken moderate politician, rallies have been held in honor of Qadri, who was showered with petals at court when he admitted to shooting. After the verdict from the court for his crime, further rallies were held all over the country denouncing the verdict.

MADRASSAHS

One seeks to search answers for such an appalling and cold-blooded act committed by the gunman, and all clues lead to extremist thoughts and ideologies circulated by the religious right-wing people. But if one is to analyse deeper to try and study why the killing was seen as a right motive and how a mindset was nurtured to believe that amendments of the man-made law on blasphemy was an affront to the principles to uphold Prophet Mohammad’s honor and integrity the needle rests on the religious seminaries or Madrassahs to some extent.

This picture of opponents of Taseer's secularism was taken AFTER he had been killed. For some death is not enough.

It was the cleric of the local mosque from Asia Bibi’s village who initiated the charge of blasphemy on her. His word was taken seriously and it did nothing to prevent a mob raiding her house and beating her family members.

Surely such acts of violence should be condemned? It is troubling that what clerics are preaching is what is giving rise to such intolerance.

Asia Bibi was accused of insulting Mohammed. Taseer (right) championed her defence of innocence. Few Pakistani politicians now will dare do similar.

The young generation is being influenced towards seeming indifference to violence, like Faisal Shahzad, the New York Time Square bomber. His act of terrorism dispels the myth that poverty and social class structure has anything to do with the rise in extremism. He came from an educated middle class background and led a privileged life, so what prompted him to plan an act of terrorism. He is the product of what the clerics preach from the mosques.

Fed by the notions that all ills of the Muslim world have to do with the West and the harrowing images of civilian casualty from Kashmir, Palestine, Chechnya, and Bosnia seemed to work well on his imagination. He is festered with hatred towards the Americans who have not done anything to solve the issues.  He believes the glorification of jihad or holy war will rid the Muslim world of suffering and hardships.  It results in a feeling of helplessness.

It culminates in terror unless extraordinary force is committed to show defiance in the face of it all.

A REJECTIONIST MIND

What is preached in the religious seminaries has raised certain questions. The syllabus is focused towards religiosity that sometimes encourages militant thoughts. Furthermore theology, history, philosophy are primarily taught to extend the Islamic past and reference. No preference or sometimes even reference is given to mathematics, science subjects and computers. The exclusion of a broad-based knowledge about the world, history, geography, metaphysics and science leads to a frame of mind that is limited in its approach to understanding and analysing issues relevant to today’s world. Graduates coming from the Madrassahs are unable to play a constructive role in society because Madrassahs create a rejectionist mind: one which rejects modernity and discourses from outside the madrassah.

Time and again the role of the Madrassahs has been debated on several levels. From the Pentagon to the White House many concerns have been raised about these seminaries. It has been debated endlessly on all forums and several valuable suggestions have risen as to how to streamline these schools so that the graduates are better equipped to understand and promulgate issues on religion without giving rise to a militant frame of mind.

But there is a real need to act at grassroots level.

No Pakistani government has taken any constructive step to address this issue.

The next elections in the country are due next year in March. It will be drone attacks, economy and energy crisis, law and order which will take precedence in the manifestoes of political parties.  No one will consider bringing about reforms to spearhead transformation of the Madrassahs.  Even if Mumtaz Qadri is hanged the frame of mind will not change, unless we seek to address it. There will be further incidents of extremist acts perpetuated by individuals who are prone to adhere towards violence and intolerance. Mumtaz Qadri’s act itself speaks of the intolerance towards logic. He came to believe that Taseer’s criticism of the blasphemy law was condemnation of any act of disrespect towards the Prophet Mohammad. He could not perceive the logic as to why the governor was seeking to amend it.

Blasphemy laws were introduced by General Ziaul Haq in 1986. Before these laws were introduced, only one person was booked Under Section 295 in 38 years between 1947 and 1985 in the district jail of Lahore.

Over the next 24 years, 1,030 people were booked under blasphemy laws. A number of blasphemy cases continue to be registered against innocent people out of personal vendetta, yet routinely no action is taken against complainants whose accusations prove to be false after due investigations. Astonishingly, 801 of the 1,031 people imprisoned under these laws are Muslim. Of the remaining 230 prisoners 162 are Christians, 15 are Sikh, 28 are Buddhists while 25 persons are adherents of other faiths.

Currently, a total of 130 people are facing blasphemy charges in various prisons across Punjab, including 122 Muslims and eight Christians.

By Ms Jupiter

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3 Responses to “Salmaan Taseer’s murder highlights growing extremism (Guest Post from Ms Jupiter)”

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    I feel profound grief and sorrow . I have no words enough to condemn it. I pray peace for the departed soul and courage to the family to bear the loss with courage.
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    Salmaan Taseer’s murder highlights growing extremism (Guest Post from Ms Jupiter) | Tony Blair

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