Muslim Clerics Call for Banning of the Bible in Pakistan
Call to Ban the Bible Troubles Pakistan’s Embattled Christians
By Patrick Goodenough
06/02/2011 Pakistan (CNSNews.com) – Pakistani Christians reacted with dismay Thursday to campaign by radical Muslim clerics to have the Bible declared blasphemous and banned, but some said the community should respond calmly, without fear, trusting God to protect His word.
Muslims should not blame Pakistan’s Christian minority for the actions of one misguided pastor in Florida, said one activist, who also noted that even Mohammed, the 7th century Muslim prophet, had not outlawed the Bible.
A group of Muslim clerics has asked the Supreme Court of Pakistan to determine that certain passages of the Bible violate the country’s blasphemy laws, because they depict some biblical figures – whom Muslims revere as “Islamic prophets” – as flawed or immoral.
If the court does not make the declaration, the campaigners said, they would lodge an formal application for the Bible to be banned in its entirety.
The group, led by Abdul Rauf Farooqi of the Islamist party JUI-S (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Sami-ul Haq group), says its initiative is in response to the burning of a Qur’an at the small Florida church headed by Terry Jones.
Aqeel said JUI-S should remember that, even during the times of Mohammed and the subsequent caliphs and other Muslim rulers, the Bible was not banned “despite the fact that all of them knew that the Bible had different viewpoint on several things.”
The Rev. Arif Siraj, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan, said that there have been attempts to challenge biblical truth ever since the birth of Christianity.
It was the responsibility of Christians to act in the light of biblical teachings, he said. “It is God’s word so He will take care of it.”
Siraq said Christians should understand the essence of the Bible and be encouraged to pray in the face of the current circumstances, rather than be fearful.
If the JUI-S initiative takes hold and gathers momentum, he said, “then we will peacefully protest as we have been doing in the past and we will also pray that God will make Pakistani people understand the efforts of the Christians in developing this nation.”
Naveed Walter, the president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan, a non-governmental organization advocating against the blasphemy laws, was taken aback by the latest move by radicals.
“I am shocked to hear about the new Islamists’ plans to attack the Christians, now in a different way,” he told CNSNews.com.
“They usually attack individuals, groups, churches and communities of Christians, by falsely accusing them of blasphemy,” he said. “But this time they are planning to ban even the Bible in Pakistan. The extremists have crossed the all limitations of extremism.”
Walter said Christians were hopeful the Supreme Court would not accept an application calling for a Bible ban, should JUI-S lawyers try to submit one.
The Rev. Majid Abel, pastor of Lahore’s historic Naulakha Presbyterian Church, said that most Muslims, including several clerics of his acquaintance, respect the Bible since the Qur’an describes it as a revealed book.
On the other hand, “there are a few elements in society who want to make political mileage from such a shoddy political gimmick,” he said. Abel said Christians should be ready to react peacefully if the time comes when a reaction is necessary.
Violent reaction feared
Islam’s view of the Bible is open to debate and interpretation. In places (such as sura 29:46-47) the Qur’an appears to direct Muslims to respect the Bible and those who believe in it. But elsewhere (such as sura 9:29-31) it exhorts Muslims to fight those – including Christians and Jews – who do not accept Islam, until they pay tribute and accept inferior (dhimmi) status.
The JUI-S is closely associated with the Taliban and other violent Islamic groups.
According to Aqeel, it is not a prominent political faction, though considered influential due to its historical relationship with the Taliban. The “Sami-ul Haq” in its name is the head of a madrassa that has been called the Taliban’s launching pad, with Mullah Omar and other senior Taliban figures having studied there.
As a federal senator, Sami-ul Haq played a leading role in passage of a law in 1991 enforcing shari’a in Pakistan, Aqeel recalled.
Given that background, he said, the group’s anti-Bible campaign had to be taken seriously.
“If the petition is filed, the Christian community may not be able to handle the case due to lack of sufficient legal acumen and due to the sensitivity and violent reactionary attitude of the Muslim majority in Pakistan,” Aqeel said.