India/Pakistan: #DearNeighbour – a new ‘velfie’ movement

A ‘velfie’ movement is sweeping social media as Indians and Pakistanis share video messages for peace as part of the ‪#‎DearNeighbour‬ Peace Challenge. But are the politicians listening? The organisers invite people to send their Peace Velfies to: dearneighbourmovement@gmail.com and/or upload it to the fb page DearNeighbour Movement and nominate two friends to take the challenge. Here’s the piece I wrote about it for Aman ki Asha. Text below.

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The importance of celebrating Malala

Propagandists floated this falsely captioned photo, trying to link Malala with Salman Rushdie (it's actually EU President Martin Scholl) and Taslima Nasreen (who wasn't even granted a meeting with Malala)

Propagandists floated this falsely captioned photo, trying to link Malala with Salman Rushdie (it’s actually EU President Martin Schulz) and Taslima Nasreen (who complained later in her blog about how religious Malala is, and how Taslima was not being granted a meeting with her)

I was invited to speak at an event in the Boston area recently titled “Celebrating Malala”. I talked about the hostile propaganda against her in her home country Pakistan, and the need to support her regardless of misgivings about how ‘the west’ or others are ‘using’ her. Scroll down to see the slides I shared with my presentation. Below, the report I sent to The News, reproduced below with additional links:

BOSTON: Several Pakistani professional and community organisations based in New England hosted an event on Saturday night titled “Celebrate Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai”.

It was thanks to Malala that these organisations joined hands for the first time to organise an event, noted Dr Khalil Khatri, a Sindh Medical College graduate and Rotarian who conducted the event wearing a natty ajrak bow-tie. Continue reading

Pakistan needs #ruleoflaw. Arrest and punish those who murder and those who incite violence

Shama Shehzad and daughter

Shama and Shehzad with one of their daughters, in front of a tropical backdrop. How dare they aspire for a better life?

Update: For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the state has become the plaintiff in a case involving murder due to alleged blasphemy. Let this be the start of a new era where no one dare attack or kill anyone on such a pretext again. Let the rule of law prevail, and religion not be used to cover up heinous crimes.

The vicious cycle continues in the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. It will not end unless the ‘takfiri’ (declaring someone a non-Muslim) ideology and justifying murder for alleged ‘blasphemy’ are not curbed. Once again a violent mob incited by calls from mosque pulpits has killed on the basis of such allegations. Once again the motive was not ‘religious’ but financial (as often happens). Rule of law MUST be imposed and the culprits caught, charged, tried and punished. Enough of this culture of impunity for crimes committed in the name of religion. This time it was a poor young couple – read Asif Aqeel’s comprehensive account of Shama and Shehzad, brick-kiln workers, lynched after being accused of ‘desecrated’ pages of the Quran (she was pregnant, they leave behind four children including a baby). Fifty people have been arrested. The next day, in another city, a policeman axed to death a man brought into custody after being arrested for a brawl – his justification: the man had been committed “blasphemy”. The policeman has been arrested. Below: Society for Secular Pakistan’s demand that  clerics involved in hate speech be arrested and punished for inciting religious feeling.

The cycle will continue because no one is ever punished for either false allegations, or for their involvement in the criminal act of extra-judicial murder, although laws exist against both. The ‘blasphemy’ laws of Pakistan are not divinely ordained. These are man-made laws, imposed on Pakistan by a military dictator. Gen Ziaul Haq added various clauses to the original Article 295 of the British law (shared by India and Bangladesh) that dealt with injuring religious sentiment. While criminalising other aspects of ‘injuring religious sentiment’, the critical words ‘malicious intent’ were quietly dropped. ‘Intent’ or ‘neeyat‘ is crucial when someone is accused of such crimes. If the intent was not to defile or injure religious sentiments, there is no case. It’s time to openly debate these issues and stop this senseless violence. Even if someone burnt some pages of the Quran, that is not grounds to kill them.  Continue reading

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