Today a charged mob” set fire to about 150 poor Christian homes in Badami Bagh Lahore. see pictures here.
The order of events was pretty standard.
Wednesday: A Christian sanitary worker (yes, they clean gutters and sweep roads) argued with a Muslim Barber at a snooker game. At some point after this he accused the Christian of having blasphemed he who must not be named.
Friday: “Enraged Muslims” marched into Joseph colony looking for the blasphemer. They beat up his father (age 65, very much in the “beatable” age group) and did some property damage. Police arrested the accused that night. They also advised the local Christians to clear out since more “rage” may be on its way.
Saturday: Thanks to the timely efforts of the Punjab police, no Christians were home when the rage returned on Saturday. 178 houses were burnt, as was one church. No one was killed since no one was there.
Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif has suspended the local police officers and promised to rebuild the houses. He has also said the trial of the blasphemy accused will be held in prison and it is looking possible that the trial will be quick and he may be set free (unlike Aasia bibi, who remains in prison).
“Civil society” has reacted with outrage and the President and the PM have condemned this outrage. Most of the outrage is probably genuine. But I noticed some common misconceptions too.
1. This outrage is new and shocking and marks a “further deterioration” in how things are done in the Islamic Republic….In this case, NOT true. This event is small scale compared to the assault on Shantinagar in 1997.
There have been many other blasphemy accusations and mobs between then and now. The outrage is outrageous, but neither new nor out of proportion to “usual practice”.
2. The mobs are led by misunderstanders of Islam. Actually the mobs are led by people who know what they are doing with remarkable clarity. Blasphemy and apostasy memes (memes, not laws…no law is needed if the meme is firmly in place, since they allow for freelance action) are the twin pillars on which Islamism is built. See here for details.
2. “Reform of blasphemy law” will stop this sort of thing. Reform will help, but not because the law will be better. It will mainly help because any such reform implies that the state has given a signal that things are going to change. It also implies (and this is critical) that when signal has been resisted (which it WILL be), the resisters have been prosecuted, beaten up, shot, bought off etc. All THAT having happened, mob attacks may begin to decline because the police will have got the memo and mobs will know they may face harsh action. …but take a look at this sequence (and its an inevitable sequence, no part can be skipped by having Tariq Ali in charge instead of Asif Zardari, though a dictatorship of the proletariat would presumably be able to apply force more harshly and efficiently…in any case, there WILL BE BLOOD)…it is not a smooth and peaceful process. And if the state tries to put this sequence in place, terrorist incidents (assassinations, bombings) will likely accelerate as the Islamist hardcore also gets the memo and tries to derail the improvements. All of this may be in the minds of some of the “reformers” but somehow I doubt it. As far as I can tell, a lot of them are Lahore literary festival types. Keep that in mind.
3. Imran Khan can fix this. I doubt it. Look at the sequence above. Any attempt to change the prevailing rules (that Christians, Ahmedis etc have to keep their head down and behave like good Negroes behaved in the American South) will be resisted. Right now the trend is in the opposite direction. An attempt is underway to have Shias, previously subject to “Muslim rules”, to start living by “infidel rules”. That does not bode well for Pakistan but it is something that Imran Khan seems not to grasp. While he may have a slightly better idea about “our misguided brothers” being a real problem irrespective of American presence in Afghanistan, he still seems to sincerely believe his theories about Islamic social justice and rightly guided caliphs and the “vision” of Allama Iqbal. From these notions to the work that needs to be done may be a distance greater than Khan sahib can cover. More to the point, its a vastly greater distance than the one his FANS can cover. THEY are even more sincerely Paknationalist and “modern Scandinavian Wahabi Islamist” than he is. If he does come into power, his solutions are going to be based on imaginary notions. That works well when the background rules are already set by smarter people. With no rules in place, its no place for a boy scout. ….