Tag Archives: Tyranny

Pakistan’s Tyranny of Blasphemy

Pakistan’s Tyranny of Blasphemy

By 

LAHORE, Pakistan — “I used to feel my life was too straight, too linear.”

The speaker was Junaid Hafeez, a young poet and Fulbright scholar from the south of Pakistan, telling a radio show host in 2011 why he had given up studying medicine for a life in literature. Today, he is in jail on a blasphemy charge that carries the death penalty, and is mourning the lawyer who was murdered earlier this month for defending him.

Before his arrest, Hafeez was teaching in the English Department at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, a city in Punjab Province close to where he grew up. His personal charisma and liberal views had won him a following among students, as well as the envious attention of faculty members.

One day in 2013, a student affiliated with Islami Jamiat Talaba, a wing of the hard-line Jamaat-i-Islami party, accused Hafeez of insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Facebook. The student had no evidence, but no evidence was needed.

Hard-line students soon held a protest crying out for Hafeez’s execution. University administrators backed away. The police registered a case for blasphemy against Hafeez. They did not ask cybercrime specialists to investigate the accusation, relying instead on a fatwa issued by a seminary.

For months Hafeez’s father tried to find a lawyer. Finally he petitioned Rashid Rehman, the 53-year-old special coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Multan. A legal expert with 20 years of activism, Rehman was known as a go-to lawyer for hopeless causes. Despite the danger, he agreed to take Hafeez’s case. Defending a man accused of blasphemy, Rehman told a reporter in April, was like “walking into the jaws of death.”

Those jaws have been open wide since the 1980s, when the military dictator Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq updated a set of colonial laws that criminalized “insulting the religion of any class of persons.” The original laws were devised in the late 19th century by a paternalistic British government trying to keep its multifaith subjects from fighting one another. Those laws were worded generally, and prescribed fines and, at most, two-year prison terms.

General Zia’s amendments particularized the insults and tailored the provisions to favor a stringent Sunni strain of Islam. They criminalized the desecration of the Quran, any defiling of the name of the Prophet Muhammad, and disrespectful remarks about his companions — a jab at Pakistan’s Shiite minorities, who dispute the outcome of the succession struggle that followed the Prophet’s death. Moreover, any attempt by members of the outlawed Ahmadi sect to refer to themselves as Muslims was criminalized. Punishments were upgraded: Blasphemers could be executed or jailed for life.

General Zia died in an air crash in 1988, but his legacy remains. It includes the empowerment of theological figures in every stratum of life — from clerics and televangelists to fanatical academics and Shariah judges — all aided in their righteous endeavors by a legislature that remains intractably Zia-ist.

The blasphemy laws are part of this package. For decades they had been rarely used, with only a handful of cases before the mid-1980s. But General Zia’s amendments opened the floodgates: More than a thousand cases have been reported since then, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Just last week the Punjabi police, prompted by a Sunni extremist, brought blasphemy charges against 68 lawyers.

The blasphemy laws can serve just about anyone with a dark design — an angry relative, an envious colleague, a neighbor with his eye on your property. But the greatest beneficiary has been the professional Islamists, who specialize in their application to encroach on both state and society.

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Pope Francis Calls Unfettered Capitalism ‘Tyranny’

by Joshua Holland

Earlier this month, Laurie Goodstein reported for The New York Times that Pope Francis’ softer rhetoric on hot-button social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage were causing conservative Catholics no small amount of chagrin.

It looks like they can expect more cognitive dissonance, according to this report in The Guardian

Pope Francis has attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny”, urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”.

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

In a sense, the new pope is just grappling with the reality he faces. Polls show that American Catholics, at least, agree with the pontiff’s position that the church focuses too much on social issues. And Francis recently commissioned a survey of Catholics around the world to see where they fall on these questions.

Meanwhile, Dominic Barton, the Managing Director of McKinsey & Co., writes in today’s Wall Street Journal: ”In 2012, the top 1% of earners in the US collected 19.3% of the country’s total household income–an all-time high… The disparity is growing rapidly as well. Incomes of the top 1% grew by 31.4% from 2009 to 2012, compared to just 0.4% for the remaining 99%.

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Pakistan – A History of Judicial Tyranny

By Shehryar Riaz Sheikh

26 April 2012 was another tragic day in our democratic history; the unanimously elected Prime Minister of Pakistan who in his wisdom ordered the release of the deposed Lordships of the Superior Courts immediately upon his election was convicted of Contempt of Court. Notwithstanding the uniqueness of NRO judgment condemning over 8000 accused without a hearing and the inherent selectivity of only targeting the President and his aides in the process, the overwhelming part of the judgment was implemented by the Federation of Pakistan. It is pertinent to mention that the grand strategist (of the “strategic depth” fame)–the promulgator of the infamous Ordinance luxuriously resides safe and secure from the wrath of law. Former Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo and his almost 9 March’07 like moment of defiance during the notorious Zia regime is a case in point as to how an instance of individual heroism could not break the dictatorial chains. In case of the present dispensation, it was Benazir Bhutto’s sheer political maneuvering in striving for a political settlement, her ultimate sacrifice coupled with the sagacity of the political leadership along and the democratic struggle unleashed by the lawyers movement which paved way for the return of democracy to Pakistan. The present democratic dispensation is the sequel to NRO. History is bound to narrate as to how if had not been achieved, there would have been no elections, no assemblies, no free media and no free judiciary. The national leadership too would still have been languishing in exile.

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Tyranny and Terror Cannot Last for Long…….!

By: Dr. Ahmed Makhdoom, Malaysia

Today, we, the world over, are witnessing the end of this deep state. It is speeding fast towards being buried in the manhole of the history.

Tyranny and terror cannot last for long! All walls of despotism must fall! Balochistan has paid a severe and terrible price to free themselves from the mean fetters of ignominy chains of slavery. Thousands of valiant sons and daughters of Balochistan has lost their lives in the struggle of the  rights. Long live Sindh and Balochistan and down to the dictators of the deep state.

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, February 20, 2012.

A case of double standards

By Murtaza Razvi

It’s not only the West, but also Muslims who have double standards, Pakistanis and Arabs more so than others. While the West keeps mum over Israel’s excesses against Palestinians, its Nato ally Turkey’s suppression of Kurds, India’s policy towards Kashmiris, Bahrain’s and Saudi Arabia’s oppression of their Shia citizens, Western leaders cry from the rooftops for the rights of Syrian, Chinese, Iranian and North Korean people living under a tyranny.

The Yemeni president too comes across as an OK guy to Washington regardless of how much blood of his own people he has on his hands, but the Pakistan Army is singled out for assaulting the Baloch. The same army was a special, close ally outside Nato under Gen Musharraf, who had ordered the killing of the octogenarian Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, and which in the first place sent Baloch nationalists into an open revolt against Islamabad. The US Congress back then did not give two hoots about the large number of Baloch youth who went ‘missing’— a euphemism for extra-judicial confinement or killing, which goes on in Balochistan. Ditto for the Guantanamo Bay inmates, who still languish in Camp X-Ray without trial.

And now about us and our double standards. We want our madressahs and hijabs and missionaries preaching in the UK, which readily obliges because it respects your right to practise your faith (France and even Turkey will not allow half as much freedom to their Muslim populations), but here in Pakistan we won’t have the Ahmadis call themselves Muslim even though they recite the same kalema and pray the same prayer; we won’t allow Christian missionaries either.

According to a thin but a loud minority in Pakistan, anyone who does not believe in the Taliban or the Saudi-like reading of Islam is a heretic, who must be converted or ‘banished to hell’, as the expression in Urdu goes. Farhat Hashmis of the world also go around preaching that even greeting a non-Muslim is akin to heresy.

The Gulf is another story altogether. Most our of brotherly oil-rich people — read very honourable men, for women hardly count — have their rules of engagement listed according to your nationalities, rather the race. A white man from the US, say a doctor, draws a much higher salary than his plebian Bangladeshi counterpart even if both are graduates of the same American medical school! But neither can go to church in the holy kingdom, for no such place exists there.

A friend narrates that whilst he was in Riyadha, a Hindu chap was picked by the religious police along with him because they were found loitering in the marketplace while a muezzin had already called the faithful to the prayer. The Muslim friend says that he went down on his knees and begged forgiveness for his felony from the officer who hit him on the head and let him go with a warning that next time Allah will not forgive him, while the Hindu fellow found himself in a bigger mess. When he, too, was tauntingly asked if he was Muslim, he replied in the negative and prompt came the next question in all its fury: ‘Why are you not Muslim?’ To which the poor chap had no answer. He too was eventually let go with a long and hard kick in the back, but with the warning that next time if he dared say he was a non-Muslim, he’d have to face a bit more than the wrath of Allah. This, my friend says, is not Islam but is definitely quite the Muslim conduct, for which many will, perhaps very wrongly, cite the backing of their religion.

Double standards abound. In the UAE Muslims can drink alcohol in a bar, but taking liquor is a punishable offence for them; in Qatar, it is your nationality, and not your faith, that decides whether you can legally consume alcohol: a Muslim from UAE, Turkey, Indonesia or India can, but a Muslim from Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia or Iran cannot.

Yes, Islam emphasises on equality in social justice, as was enshrined in the de facto constitution which the Prophet of Islam hammered out in consultation with all concerned, and which became the basis of running the first Islamic state at Madina. He declared the neighbouring Jews and Christian tribes with whom he entered into a truce as part of the Ummah, in which each individual was bound by the same set of rules, obligations and privileges regardless of his/her faith. This was a true pluralistic aspect of Islam which its Prophet implemented and enforced by consensus in his own lifetime in the 7th century CE.

Today the word Ummah has been robbed of its original meaning and popularly connotes Muslims only. Muslims who feel free to discriminate against non-Muslims in Muslim-majority countries, whilst demanding and enjoying equal rights in Muslim-minority countries. Thus, the modern pluralistic, secular state is more Islamic in its social justice regime than the few Islamic republics which have their minorities on tenterhooks.

Courtesy: DAWN.COM

One Woman’s Jihad

by Yoginder Sikand

Excerpt:

Zehra Cyclewala is a leading figure in the reformist movement against the tyranny of Syedna Burhanuddin, the head-priest (dai-e mutlaq) of the Daudi Bohra Ismaili Shia sect. Here, in a conversation with Yoginder Sikand, she relates the story of her decades-long personal struggle against priestly tyranny.

The Syedna turns 100 this month, and massive celebrations are being organized by his followers across the world to project him as a popular and pious leader. Zehra’s life tells a different story, however.

My name is Zehra Cyclewala. I am 55 years old, and have lived in Surat for most of my life. I was born in an orthodox, lower middle-class Dawoodi Bohra family. My parents had five children, and I was the youngest child. In the mid-1980s, soon after I completed my education—I did my graduation in Commerce—I joined the Saif Cooperative Society in Surat, a bank established in the 1960s by a group of Bohra traders. It was inaugurated by the Bohra head priest Syedna Burhanuddin himself, and enjoyed his blessings. I started work there as a clerk, and, gradually, rose to become its manager.

From the very beginning, the Saif Cooperative Society gave and took interest. The Syedna naturally knew of this, and he had no problem with it, although some Muslims believe that even bank interest is forbidden or haraam in Islam. However, two years after I joined the bank, the Syedna issued a fatwa claiming that bank interest was forbidden, and demanded that the Bohras working in our bank leave their jobs at once. All the staff of the bank was Bohras at that time. Because the Bohras believe the word of the Syedna to be almost like divinely-inspired law, they hurriedly complied with his order and quit their jobs. I was the only one to refuse. After all, I thought, when, from the time the bank was established till the Syedna had issued this fatwa, the bank had been giving and taking interest, and the Syedna knew about this all along, how come he had suddenly decided or realized that such interest was haraam? The Syedna himself had inaugurated the bank, and when he did so he had no problem with it dealing in interest. There was something fishy in this fatwa, I felt.

Despite enormous pressure to leave the job, I refused. I lived with my mother, Fuliben Taherali, in Surat, and was the sole source of her support, because my father had died when I was 20. I simply could not do without this job. So, despite the Syedna’s order, I stuck on. The District Cooperative Society Board appointed a non-Bohra administrator—a man called Mr. Daru—to run the bank, and I worked under him. My defiance of the Syedna’s orders was not liked by the Bohras of Surat, and soon complaints about me reached the Syedna’s religious establishment—the Kothar. …

I appeal to the Government, political parties, intellectuals and social activists, and to people in general to see through this charade of the Syedna and his cronies, who have been twisting Islam in order to promote their own interests. I ask them to stop supporting and patronizing these men. …

Read more : Wichaar

In the US, where 45 per cent of young African Americans have no jobs and the top hedge-fund managers are paid $1bn a year on average, mass protests against cuts in services & jobs have spread to heartland states such as Wisconsin

Behind the Arab revolt lurks a word we dare not speak

BY John Pilger

The people of Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan and Libya are rising up not only against their leaders, but also western economic tyranny. …

Read more : NewStatesman

Egyptian uprising. Democracy & Freedom for All!

We are with our brothers and sisters in Egypt. We Salute you and want you to know that we are by your side in this struggle against Tyranny. Be strong, we are with you. The whole world is watching you and it is by your side. Dictators of the Arab world listen the voice of the people. People will Prevail, and Tyrants in the Arab world will Fall. We are with you People of Egypt.

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