“They looted everything, we have nothing left”

RT @Norbalm: Where are the blasphemy charges now?

@Norbalm: Where are the blasphemy charges now?

“Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack…”
King Lear

See this brief, heartbreaking video below documenting the damage done by the criminal mob at Joseph Colony, Badami Bagh, Lahore. All efforts must be made to rehabilitate them and provide them with justice. When is enough enough? Or have we still not reached the breaking point? Also see my earlier article on the ‘blasphemy’ laws and the dangers of ignoring malicious intent when accusing someone of this crime.


Joseph Colony Arson Attack from Saad Sarfraz Sheikh on Vimeo.

The dangers of ignoring ‘malicious intent’ while accusing of ‘injuring religious sentiments’

Shaheen Dhada, left, and Renu Srinivasan, who were arrested for their Facebook posts, leave a court in Mumbai on Nov 20, 2012. AP photo

Shaheen Dada (left) and Renu Srinivasan were arrested last Monday, seen here leaving a court in Mumbai on Nov 20, 2012. AP photo

Some thoughts on ‘blasphemy’ and the issue of ‘injuring religious sentiments’, in this somewhat belated blog post, which includes ‘Malicious Intent’, an article I wrote for The New Humanist on the blasphemy issue (abridged from the original article; scroll down for references that had to be deleted for reasons of space). Since then, in a move that was widely welcomed, the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court quashed the First Information Report (FIR) of the “blasphemy” case registered against the minor Christian girl Rimsha Masih. Here is the link to a downloadable PDF copy of the judgment, dated Nov 14, 2012 - IHC verdict on the Rimsha case.

Meanwhile, in India, as the death of the aged Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray sparked off fears of violence, police arrested a young woman who posted a facebook status objecting to the ‘bandh’ (strike) that shut Mumbai down, and a friend who ‘liked’ the status. Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan were charged under Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code – “injuring religious sentiments”; Section 295-A, as I explain in my article below, is also the basis of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws. Continue reading

Iqbal Haider, we’ll miss your ‘groove’

Iqbal Haider: A firm believer in secular values.

 My article for The News on Sunday, Nov 18, 2012 – in which I forgot to mention the resolution Iqbal Haider tried to get the Senate to pass against the cold-blooded murder of young Saima Sarwar in the office of Hina Jillani at the behest of her own parents, simply because she wanted a divorce from her abusive husband. Some senators from FATA physically attacked him for it (See my article ‘There is no ‘honour’ in killing).

 Beena Sarwar

The protests outside Karachi Press Club will be all the poorer without Senator Syed Iqbal Haider’s energising presence. Activists promoting any good cause could count on him to be there — whether it was justice for Mukhtaran Mai, protest against Shia killings, or a call for peace between India and Pakistan. Continue reading

Lest we forget…. other minors in Pakistan accused of ‘blasphemy’

1993 – May 11: Salamat Masih, a 14-year-old Christian boy, was named as the main accused in a case lodged by the imam of the mosque at Ratta Dhotran, district Gujranwala, Punjab, Pakistan. It was alleged that Salamat had written derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad (SW) on the mosque walls and  thrown slips of paper with similar language written on them into the mosque. Salamat’s father Rehmat Masih and uncle Manzoor Masih were co-accused. Manzoor Masih and Salamat Masih were illiterate. A sessions court sentenced them to death but the high court later acquitted them. Manzoor Masih was shot dead during the hearings, and the High Court Judge, Arif Iqbal Bhatti, who acquitted them, was also later shot dead. Salamat Masih and Rehmat Masih had to flee the country.

For a list of more cases see Incidents of minors in Pakistan accused of ‘blasphemy’ at the Citizens for Democracy blog

Photos from Karachi protest in support of Rimsha Masih

People of all ages and from all faiths came out in Karachi in support of Rimsha Masih, the young girl accused of blasphemy. For more photos see the Christians in Pakistan facebook page. Photo Copyright © Sunny Gill Photography.

Demo in Karachi, Aug 25, 3.30 pm, in support of ‘blasphemy’ accused Rimsha Masih

 

Demonstration in Karachi in support of Rimsha Masih, the girl (aged between 11 and 16 years who is reported to have Downs Syndrome) who has been accused of blasphemy in a blatant misuse of religion as a political tool, at Press Club TOMORROW, August 25, at 3.30 pm. This peaceful protest has been organised by All Pakistan Christian League, Action Committee for Human Rights, Peace and Development Organization, The Saviour’s Trust, Minority Rights Forum and Mass International, supported by various human rights organisations. Do join with friends if you are in town. Cross-posted from the blog Citizens for Democracy, Pakistan.

NOTE: I’ve removed the visual originally used with this post after learning that the photo that was used is fake and misleading on several counts.

Signature campaign and public performance against violence in the name of religion

Signature campaign against violence in the name of religion


CFD volunteers receive an encouraging response as they engage with members of the public.

On April 14, 2012 Citizens for Democracy organized a signature campaign against killings and other violence in the name of religion, as well a public theatre performance. Read more at the CFD blog… Signature campaign and public performance against violence in the name of religion.

Salmaan Taseer: The political context of a ‘religious’ assassination

My recent article for Viewpoint Online, published Jan 7, 2012:

Salmaan Taseer: The political context of a ‘religious’ assassination

Enforce rule of law, expose hypocrisy of the Taliban mentality

Just over a year ago, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated in the most cowardly manner by a government-assigned security guard. Mumtaz Qadri, a member of the Punjab Elite Force assigned to protect the Governor, pumped 27 bullets into his victim’s back as he headed to his car on the afternoon of January 4, 2011.

The sensational murder was no spontaneous act by an enraged fanatic. It was a well-thought out, cold-blooded plan. Was the executor acting alone, motivated only by ‘religious fervour’ as projected, or is there more to the issue than meets the eye? And even if his act was purely altruistic, should the law of the land not be applied to punish him? Continue reading

Aasia Bibi update: in good health and mental condition. Stop spreading rumours, appeals CLAAS

Aasia Bibi: Praying for relief but in good spirits

“Prison staff is very good and kind to her and they are very much concerned about Aasia’s health and security as well, but due to the wrong news broadcasting the prison staff and prison authorities are feeling hurt,” says an update about Aasia Bibi from Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) Pakistan. (Note: I know several  CLAAS members personally, and have worked with them on blasphemy case fact-findings for the HRCP). Reproduced below, their email of Dec 29, 2011: Continue reading

Zarteef Khan Afridi: The tribesman who showed the way

Zarteef Afridi's latest photo. Courtesy: HRCP

A tribute to the human rights activist Zarteef Khan Afridi who was shot dead recently – my article in The News on Sunday. Latitude News earlier published a shorter, different version titled In Pakistan, an unlikely hero dies for his cause. Also see my earlier article: Pakistan’s ‘enlightenment’ martyrs

The tribesman who showed the way

There was the letter from an anonymous writer saying he was going to hunt down and kill her. And then there was the letter from an Afridi tribesman offering to come down and protect her.

This was in the mid-1990s. The recipient of the letters was the fiery human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, under threat for having taken on the case of Salamat Masih, the illiterate Christian boy sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’ for having allegedly written sacrilegious words on the walls of a village mosque. Continue reading

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