A strong case can be made against the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) leader for fomenting aggression and religious persecution under the country’s laws regarding hate speech and incitement to violence.
The street power and political clout wielded by Pakistan’s religious right have resulted in the state and society being held hostage by extremist elements. The latter stop at nothing to further their agenda of inciting hatred, divisiveness and violence. The latest example is that of the Jamaat-i-Islami chief, Syed Munawwar Hasan, who during a sermon in Lahore on Friday threatened a fresh movement against the Ahmadi community if it “did not accept their minority status” and the government kept silent about “their blasphemous and unconstitutional activities”.
Mr Hasan did not specify any particular instance substantiating his charges, leading one to read his comments as hate speech and also as an attempt to blackmail the government into further victimising an already persecuted community. Given the incendiary passions the issue arouses, any call by religious parties in this context is certain to be attended by violence. A strong case can be made against the JI leader for fomenting aggression and religious persecution under the country’s laws regarding hate speech and incitement to violence.
Even beyond this particular case, it has now become a matter of urgency that the government show an active and uncompromising stance on the issue of hate speech and incitement to violence or other sorts of criminal activity. Pakistan’s polity is already rent by religious, ethnic and sectarian divisions. Allowing irresponsible and divisive opinions to be aired publicly will deepen these fissures. Once it begins, the process of religious, ethnic and other communities being pitted against one another will prove difficult to bring under control. Spiralling violence, particularly in view of other issues being faced by the country such as militancy and terrorism, can then be expected. It is in the interests of both the state and citizenry to take a stand against inflammatory hate speech and lobby for the prosecution of those who break the law.
Monday, 21 Jun, 2010