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Pakistan’s Religion problem

ICC Note

Pakistan’s blapshemy law has caused violence against Christians and moderate Muslims. Pakistan must abloish its blasphemy laws and the interntional community must put pressure on Pakistan to do so.

By Asma Uddin
03/25/2011 Pakistan (The Washington Post)-On March 10, a week after the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minister for religious minorities, a bipartisan group of U.S. congressmen called on U.S. and international officials to formally oppose the draconian blasphemy laws that cost Bhatti his life by introducing a “Taseer-Bhatti resolution” in the U.N. Human Rights Council. The proposed resolution, named after Bhatti and Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was also murdered recently for his efforts at repealing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, advocates for “the repeal of blasphemy laws and condemn]s] their adverse effects on freedom of religion and thought.”

On March 2, Bhatti, Pakistan’s only Christian government official, was murdered for his opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Bhatti’s car was riddled with at least 25 bullets as he was leaving his mother’s home in Islamabad, the country’s capitol. In a note left next to his slain body, Al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban Movement boasted responsibility for the assassination.

Bhatti was well aware that he risked his life by fighting for the rights of religious minorities. In a video that he requested be released in the event of his murder, he courageously stated that he was willing to die for their rights.

Bhatti is not the first Pakistani government official to be murdered for his unflinching support of religious freedom. On January 4, Governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own bodyguard for the same. Both Bhatti and Taseer spoke out against the death sentence that was issued in November to Asia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blaspheming the prophet Mohammed.

While Bhatti’s Roman Catholic faith was certainly on the mind of his assassins, the primary motivation behind his murder was not his religious beliefs, but his belief in religious liberty. Governor Taseer was Muslim, and he lost his life in the very same way that Bhatti did. Both brave men who ascribed to two different religions were assassinated because of their political view that the government does not have the power to determine religious truth and punish those who disagree. Indeed, this is not a tale of strife between two religions; the clash is really between those who desire liberty and democracy, and powerful, oppressive extremists who seek to squelch this desire in their people.

In their fight for liberty, Bhatti and Taseer recognized the dark reality behind blasphemy laws. In addition to stifling the speech of religious minorities, these laws are often used for personal gain or revenge, regardless of the accused person’s religious beliefs. Threats of blasphemy accusation are often used to settle property disputes, for example. So rather than protecting religion—the touted purpose of blasphemy laws—these laws abuse religion by allowing it to be wielded as a weapon to destroy a person’s life—all for another’s personal or economic gain.

The defamation resolution, which was originally introduced by Pakistan, protects religions from being criticized, but what it amounts to in reality is a cover to hide under for nations like Pakistan who use blasphemy laws to punish dissenters. Support for the provision has waned significantly over the past few years, and it will likely be defeated, but the U.N. can and should do more than merely let the cover fade: they should oppose blasphemy laws altogether. A Taseer-Bhatti Resolution seeks to do precisely that.

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