Wednesday March 21, 2018
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Misinterpretation of Islam pushing Pakistan to insanity


Is it insanity or being loyal? A teenager in Pakistan, just to punish himself, slashed off his own hand as he thought he had committed a blunder on the name of religion. Have Pakistanis “really been driven to the edge of insanity in our subservience to the maulavis and mullahs,” an editorial in a leading daily wondered on Monday after such an incident.

The editorial “‘Accidental’ blasphemy” in the Daily Times said that in a country where religious fundamentalism has so vehemently branded itself onto the psyche of the common man, one call on a mosque’s loudspeaker is enough to send hordes running to kill the unfortunate person accused – something that is hardly surprising anymore.

“However, recently an appalling incident has surfaced in which a boy, 15-years old, cut off his own hand to punish himself for the blasphemy he believed he had committed,” it said.

The issue originated at a gathering at a local mosque, located in the town of Hujra Shah Muqeem, a small village near Lahore, where the cleric after telling the listeners that those who love Prophet Mohammad always say their prayers, followed by inquiring who of them had stopped praying.

According to accounts, Mohammed Anwar, ostensibly mishearing the question, raised his hand, after which the crowd instantly moved to accuse him of committing blasphemy.

“After this, he went back home and cut off the hand he had raised, put it on a plate and presented it to the cleric. On being asked during the interview if this was painful for him, he responded with an unequivocal no.”

The editorial said that while the “insanity of the brutal act is completely lost on the young boy, the rest of his community including his own family has since come together to celebrate and revere the boy for his act. Latest reports say the cleric has been arrested on the charge of instigating the chopping off.”

It added that the daunting realization that extremism and fanaticism, rampant within all facets of society, dominate the way religion is understood confronts us time and time again, and this incident too is a clear reflection of it.

“However, the sheer savagery of this act compels one to ask: have we really been driven to the edge of insanity in our subservience to the maulvis and mullahs that we now chop off our limbs in order to acquire the status of a believer who has been indoctrinated by their parochial and dogmatic interpretations?”

The daily went on to say that the “black and white mindset has coloured religious interpretation in such a way that people have turned religion, in its essence a potent force driven by rationality and reason, enjoining a way of being that is humane, merciful, and tolerant, into a convoluted version that constantly demands violent retribution from others and from one’s own self.”

“The fear that is evident in the boy, who is unable to trust his own conscience, is also what has led us to close the doors to any debate or open discourse on matters even remotely related to religion. These beliefs are left to stew in the absence of any counter-narrative from the government, media, or any other institution, which has allowed more harmful attitudes to emerge,” it said and added: “Unless this fear that is driving society towards insanity is dealt with, there appears little chance of overcoming its apparent manifestations.” (IANS)

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Christian Blasphemy Suspect in Pakistan Jumps from Building to Escape Torture

Supporters of Pakistani civil society groups protest in favor of the Christian community in Karachi, Pakistan, Feb. 26, 2018. An official said Sajid Masih, a Christian blasphemy suspect, who suffered serious injuries after jumping off a federal building, is now in stable condition. VOA

Authorities in Pakistan are investigating reports that a Christian blasphemy suspect jumped from a four-story building and suffered serious injuries to escape torture in custody.

Officials and doctors say Sajid Masih is recovering from his “fractured legs and jaw” in a hospital in Lahore where the incident took place on Friday.

Masih and one of his cousins were taken into custody for allegedly posting anti-Islam content on Facebook. They were being probed by cybercrime experts of the Federal Investigation Agency, or FIA, at its main office in the eastern Pakistani city when Masih jumped from the fourth floor of the building.

FIA officials denied charges the man was being tortured or abused, saying “no one had even touched” him. They insisted Masih panicked after “he was asked to unlock his cell phone” for screening.

ALSO READ: 69 Years a Slave? Balochistan’s Struggle for Freedom: A Detailed Report

In a video message circulated and shared via social media, Masih has accused several FIA officers of “severely” torturing him and snatching his cell phone in the process. Pixabay

He alleged the officers were coercing him and his cousin into sexually assaulting one another before he decided to jump from the window.

Dozens of Pakistani human rights groups and activists strongly condemned the incident in a joint statement Monday. They raised serious concerns over persistent misuse of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, specifically against Christian and other religious minorities.

“The law enforcement authorities have not only failed in their duty to protect minorities but have actively participated in violence against them,” the statement said.

The groups called for an independent inquiry into the incident, rejecting the FIA’s ongoing internal probe as unacceptable. Wikimedia Commons


They also demanded that area police withdraw the case of attempted suicide against Masih. Activists say they suspect the police case was meant to cover up and protect FIA officers who made the Christian community member jump off the building.

Insulting Islam and its Prophet Mohammad are extremely sensitive issues in Pakistan and can carry the death penalty, although no one has been executed under the blasphemy laws. Right groups say the laws are often misused or exploited to settle personal disputes.

ALSO READ: Pakistan’s handling of Balochistan is reminiscent of its step brotherly treatment to East Pakistan

Mere allegations of blasphemy have provoked mob lynchings of suspects or their targeted killings in Pakistan. Pixabay

In Monday’s joint statement, activists have also demanded authorities take immediate steps for safety and protection of Masih and his relatives.

Last year,23-year-old university student Mashal Khan was beaten to death by fellow students and others at the campus, accusing him of sharing blasphemous content on social media, charges investigations later determined were false. The incident happened in the northwestern city of Mardan, provoking a nationwide outcry against Khan’s brutal killing.

Earlier in February, an anti-terrorism court sentenced one person to death and 30 others to jail terms, including life imprisonment, for their role in the lynching case. (VOA)