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Aug 21 2012

As communal tensions continued to rise

Can’t we all get along? No. Not in Islamabad, for instance, after that 11-year-old was accused by her neighbours of burning a few pages of a Koran.

As communal tensions continued to rise, about 900 Christians living on the outskirts of Islamabad have been ordered to leave a neighbourhood where they have lived for almost two decades.

One of the senior members of the dominant Muslim community told the Christians to remove all their belongings from their houses by 1 September.

What an oddly respectful way of wording that – it makes him sound like a prime minister instead of a thug. If some male neighbor told me to get out of the neighborhood, I wouldn’t be thinking of him as one of senior members of the community. I do wish journalists would learn to stop dressing things up in that way. This isn’t some legitimate authority telling people what to do, it’s just criminal intimidation.

The other point of general agreement is that “the law should be followed”. Unfortunately, the law in question is Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which has a proven track record of ensnaring people on the flimsiest of evidence and being cynically used to intimidate communities or settle quarrels over money and property.

Even though no one has yet been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, long prison terms are common – one Christian couple was sentenced to 25 years in 2010 after being accused of touching the Qur’an with unwashed hands.

There have also been cases of people killed by lynch mobs demanding instant punishment. Daring to criticise the law is incredibly risky and few do it.

In 2011, Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab province, was gunned down by his own bodyguard after he spoke out against the case of Aasia Bibi, another Christian woman accused of blasphemy.

Humans: finding absurd reasons to make each other miserable for 100,000 years.

 

 

8 comments

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  1. 1
    grumpyoldfart

    One of the senior members of the dominant Muslim community told the Christians to remove all their belongings from their houses by 1 September.

    And now what? Is The Guardian reader supposed to assume that all 900 Christians are packing up and preparing to leave? I’ll bet they’re not. I’ll bet they’re already singing, “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    Well no, I didn’t quote the whole article. The article says. No, they all left.

  3. 3
    Raging Bee

    This isn’t some legitimate authority telling people what to do, it’s just criminal intimidation.

    In that particular part of the world, criminal intimidation is the only “authority” there is.

  4. 4
    Don Quijote

    Wasn’t just a conspiracy to get rid of the Christians then?

    This despicable country remains in the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations. They should be kicked out of both.

  5. 5
    Eric MacDonald

    This is despicable, but not surprising. Not surprising for journalists to speak in ways that are respectful of the people they are reporting about either. I agree with Don Quijote that it is a scandal that Pakistan has not been ejected from the Commonwealth. But I would just add to this that this kind of behaviour is basically written into the Qu’ran and the Sharia. Mohammed himself ran a protection racket, and the jizya tax was protection money. So let’s not pretend that this is not a fairly fundamental part of the self-understanding of Islam, however widely or firmly held.

  6. 6
    Marcus Ranum

    one Christian couple was sentenced to 25 years in 2010 after being accused of touching the Qur’an with unwashed hands.

    Well, I feel that way about some of my comic books. Was it an autographed first edition or something? No?

    Then maybe they should only inflict such punishment on people who are part of their club and who have agreed to play by those rules. Not that anyone in their right mind would agree to play by rules like those …

  7. 7
    xmaseveeve

    This sinks fishy. How did they even know the child did this? Were they spying on Christians? Did they frame an 11-year old Down’s Syndrome child? Have they no shame as well as no brain?

    At least brave people are speaking up, until they get murdered, that is.

  8. 8
    Arkady

    At least brave people are speaking up, until they get murdered, that is.

    Not sure I see it getting better any time soon. A pakistani friend (Dawkins-reading, liberal, doing a bioscience PhD in the UK) posted on FB this morning that one of his best friends back in Pakistan, another liberal-type, has been murdered. Four bullets in the back of the head. As yet unknown if he was deliberately targeted for his campaigning.

    My friend is exactly the type of person Pakistan needs, but on a personal level I hope he never has to go back there long term…

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