Posted on April 8, 2016 by beenasarwar
I wrote this for the Huffington Post after the attack on the Lahore park on Easter Sunday.
How Pakistan’s Religious Right Uses ‘Blasphemy’ to (try and) Usurp Political Power
Filed under: Blasphemy Laws, Freedom of expression, Human rights | Tagged: blasphemy, Easter, Lahore blast, minorities, Pakistan, qadri | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 7, 2016 by beenasarwar
Something I wrote last month about how sedition and blasphemy are the two sides of the same hyper-nationalist coin in India and Pakistan. Updated after the tragic bombing at a park in Lahore on Easter Sunday, published in Himal Southasian on March 30, 2016.
Filed under: Blasphemy Laws, Freedom of expression, Pakistan-India | Tagged: #StandWithJNU, Activism, blasphemy, Dalit, democracy, HCU, Human rights, hypernationalist, Media, Mumtaz Qadri, Rohith Vemula, Sedition, shahbaz taseer | 2 Comments »
Posted on March 11, 2016 by beenasarwar
Very happy to be able to write about some good news – the recovery of Salmaan’s Taseer’s son Shahbaz Taseer, kidnapped nearly five years ago. Wrote this piece on March 8, 2016, for Scroll.in
The best news coming out of Pakistan this week was about the recovery on Tuesday of Shahbaz Taseer, the abducted son of slain Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. The businessman, in his early thirties, had been kidnapped in August 2011 as he drove to his office in Lahore. Continue reading
Filed under: Blasphemy Laws, Human rights | Tagged: Balochistan, Gilani kidnapped son, kidnapped son, Kuchlak, Pakistan, salmaan taseer, Shahbaz Taseer recovered, Taliban | Leave a comment »
Posted on September 20, 2015 by beenasarwar
A beautiful sunny day… and Shahab Ahmed’s funeral. His friends, including prominent scholars some of whom had known him for decades and traveled long distances to be there, like Kamran Ali Asdar and Shahnaz Rouse; many from Harvard like Homi Bhabha, Parimal Patil, Asad Ali Ahmed, Martha Minnow, Asim Khwaja; students and former students now themselves teachers; family members; all devastated and in shock. We were together in this panel at Harvard on the ‘blasphemy’ issue a few years back. I had last heard from him in July when his then fiancé Nora replied on his behalf to an email I’d sent. That’s when I learnt he was ill in hospital. My report today, basically just getting the facts out for now. Thanks to Nora for sharing his biographical details and photo at her time of grief. (NOTE: Updated below with comments from Michael Cook, his dissertation advisor, and others):
Prominent Islamic scholar Shahab Ahmed laid to rest
Shahab Ahmed in Pakistan. Photo by Rehan Lashari, courtesy Nora Lessersohn
Prominent Islamic scholar Shahab Ahmed, originally from Pakistan, was laid to rest on Saturday morning at the historic Mt. Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his adopted home. Born in Singapore on Dec 11, 1966, he passed away on Sept 17, 2015 in Boston.
Filed under: Blasphemy Laws, Education, History, Islam, Obituary | Tagged: Islamic scholar, Islamic studies, Shahab Ahmed | 6 Comments »
Posted on December 29, 2014 by beenasarwar
I recently wrote ‘Poison in the body politic’ on the persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan, the hate-speech against them in public spaces and the impunity their attackers enjoy. One of the people I spoke to was Farooq Kahloun, an Ahmadi leader and successful businessman in Karachi who had left everything behind in Pakistan and taken political asylum in the USA after a murderous attempt on his life that left his son Saad Farooq dead two years ago. Four bullets still lodged in Kahloun’s body are a permanent reminder of the attack (details below) — and of the poison in Pakistan’s body politic, the menace of takfirism. Continue reading
Filed under: Blasphemy Laws, Human rights, Media | Tagged: #ArrestAbdulAziz, #ReclaimYourMosque, Aamir Liaquat, Abdul Aziz, Ahmadis, Lal Masjid, Pakistan, Red Mosque, Taliban | 6 Comments »
Posted on November 8, 2014 by beenasarwar
Upd 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
Filed under: Blasphemy Laws | Tagged: 295-C, blasphemy, brick kiln workers, hate speech, mob violence, Pakistan, rule of law, Shama Shahzad, Society for Secular Pakistan | 3 Comments »