Friday, December 25, 2009

South Asian Christians Celebrate Christmas in Fear

Tens of thousands of Christians in India and Pakistan are languishing in refugee camps on December 25, 2009, majority of them in Orissa, India, but some in other places like Gojra, Pakistan. As we wish our Christian brethren Merry Christmas today, let's not forget their suffering in South Asia on this Christmas Day, and do what each of us can to alleviate their fear and pain.
Let's also remember that today is also the birthday of Pakistan's founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah who stood for equal rights for all of Pakistani citizens, including its Christian and Hindu minorities. Here are two excepts from Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's most important speeches laying out his vision for Pakistan:

"You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State." Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah in address to first constituent assembly, Aug 11, 1947

"In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims-Hindus, Christians and Parsis -- but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan." Quaid-i-Azam, Feb. 1948

Here are a few snippets of how Christmas is being celebrated in South Asia:

Christians in Pakistan:

This year has been particularly traumatic for Pakistani christian community. In August, an angry and armed mob of radical Muslims attacked a Christian village in Gojra, eastern Pakistan, firing indiscriminately, throwing petrol bombs and looting houses. Some 70 houses were burnt to the ground and at least seven Christians died in the flames.

The attack happened after an allegation that the Quran was defiled by Christians in Gojra, a claim later proved untrue. Blasphemy laws in Pakistan make defiling the Quran and images of the Prophet Mohammed punishable by death, and is often used to settle scores or persecute minorities.

“Given the anti-Christian events of the past few months it’s no surprise that Christians are being careful in how they will celebrate this day this year,” said Peter Jacobs, president of the National Commission for Justice and Peace. “Many are worried about coming in the limelight and attracting the attention of Muslims.”

Many Christians, however, said they would attend traditional midnight mass on December 24.

“I am planning to light candles on the boundary walls of my house on Christmas Eve,” said Nazeer Masih, a technician who lives in Yuhanabad, a community in Lahore.

“My wife is thinking of getting henna on her hands and buying glass bangles but I am advising her against it since going to marketplaces nowadays is not safe.”

In another house in Yuhanabad, plastic stars were hanging from the ceiling fan while one young girl excitedly showed off pink and red paper streamers that she was planning to use to deck out her living room.

“It’s for Christmas, you know,” she said.

Bishop Sebastian also said he was planning to pray for the country and the victims of violence during the mass he would deliver on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. “It’s a difficult time for the Christian community and it is a difficult time for Pakistan,” he said.

“Our country needs all the prayers we can give.”

The following is from All India Christian Council on Christmas Day 2009:

Up to 20,000 Indian Christians face Christmas as refugees – two years after a wave of attacks by militant Hindus in the state of Orissa.

Release International warns many displaced by the worst sectarian rioting in India are still unable to return to their villages for fear of death or forcible conversion to Hinduism. Many who were witnesses to the riots face threats and intimidation by mobs gathered outside courtrooms. Up to 75 people were killed in the ultra-nationalist riots and 50,000 were driven from their homes, yet two years on, hundreds of cases have yet to be dealt with effectively by the judicial system.

Release International, which is part of the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP), is calling for the Indian government to do all in its power to bring about justice, and for churches around the world to remember at Christmas the Indian Christians who were victims of the riots.

Andy Dipper, CEO of Release International, which serves persecuted Christians worldwide, says: "Please pray for Christians in India this Christmas, especially those in Orissa who still face the high risk of attack and marginalization from the Hindu fundamentalists."

Release partner, the All India Christian Council, estimate up to 20,000 Christians who were driven from their villages by Hindu ultra-nationalists have been unable to return home. "Many village leaders are only allowing people to settle if they convert to Hinduism," says Release partner John Dayal, Secretary General of the All India Christian Council.

"We know many are living as refugees in various cities in Orissa and other parts of India," Mr Dayal told Release. "Many are struggling to find work. There have been reports of human trafficking of Orissa women."

But despite the lack of justice and the hardship and poverty suffered by many refugees, a recent visit by Release International to the area found a willingness to forgive, stand firm and to seek reconciliation.

"I found it particularly inspiring on my visit to the area to see men and women showing grace and forgiveness towards their attackers," says Andy Dipper of Release International, "Those who can, have chosen to remain living in the area, hoping for restoration once again. They are building strong Indian communities, of all faith and none. Please join with me, to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in India today."

The Religious Liberty Partnership is calling on Christians worldwide to pray for India’s Christians this Christmas – especially the thousands displaced in Orissa, who have been unable to return to their homes.

Through its international network of missions, Release International serves persecuted Christians in 30 countries around the world by supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.

There is a lot more horrific news about the horrible treatment of Christians in India at

Christmas fair attacked in Bhopal, India:

An attack on a Christmas fair in Madhya Pradesh has spread panic among Christians in the state, says an organizer of the event.

Thugs chanting Hindu slogans torched representations of biblical scenes at the fair in the town of Gwalior on Dec. 20. The police have arrested one of four men they named in connection with the incident.

The group evoked the names of Hindu deities and started damaging the biblical artworks depicting scenes from the life of Christ, said fair coordinator Raju Francis.

The Catholic layman said that local Christians had held the two-day fair before Christmas for eight years on public land near a market.

"Everything went well on the first day," he said. On the second day, the troublemakers not only spoiled the fair but sent panic through the Christian community in the state, he said.

Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal said the attack "is a matter of serious concern for Christians especially when we are preparing to celebrate Christmas."

The prelate has sent a three-member fact finding team to Gwalior, headed by Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson of the Catholic Church in the state. The archbishop has asked the team to submit its report in two days.

Archbishop Cornelio said he would in turn submit the report to the state government and seek protection for Christians and their institutions, especially during Christmas Eve midnight Masses.

Christians, who form less than 1 percent of the state's population, have experienced sporadic violence since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)) came to power in December 2003.

Archbishop Cornelio said, it is the government's duty to protect its citizens from attacks.

He says the morale of anti-Christian groups is "very high" as the state government seldom takes action against them.
www.ucanews. com

Call For Action:

How can we, as individuals, help fulfill the vision of Pakistan's founding father and fight this scourge of rising intolerance, abuse and hate crimes? In addition to supporting organizations that fight for religious tolerance and human rights such as various interfaith initiatives and Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Commission, etc, each of us should raise our voice against it through whatever platform is available to us. We can blog about it, write to newspaper editors, join the call-in shows and sign petitions to officials. Whatever it takes, it is important that we speak up for the basic rights of our fellow human beings everywhere in the world.

Related Links:

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Vision

Fighting Agents of Intolerance

Remembering Sikh Massacre of 1984

Gujarat in 2002

21st Century Challenges For Resurgent India

Radical Hindutva Government in Israeli Exile?

India's Guantanamos and Abu-Ghraibs

Gujarat Muslims Ignored by Politicians

Rise of Hindu Fascism in India

The 21st Century Challenges For Resurgent India

Hindu Rashtra ideology was driving force for Malegaon conspirators

The Rise and Rise of Mangalore's Taliban

Who Killed Karkare?

Hindutva-Military-Intelligence Nexus

Malegaon Files

Samjhota Express Blast

Muslims Falsely Accused in Malegaon Blast

Hindu Nationalists Gang Up on Musharraf at Stanford

Christmas Greetings From Pakistan

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Muslims in India:

All India Christian Council

Violence Against Indian Christians

Priest Survivor: Hindu Radicals are Terrorists

Gujarat Pogrom of 2002

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review


Anonymous said...


in India christians got a warning for offending hindu sentiments when they openly abused Hinduism in order to convert.

In Pakistan christians live under terror despite no attempts to convert any muslim (because if they both, both will die,the muslim who converted and the christian who converted him)

Basically christians in Pak know their limitation very well. They can not make one attempt to convert and they will be allowed to live.

Zen, Munich, Germany said...


Were raping nuns and burning churches part of this "warning"? Maybe only when Taliban nuts finish off Pakistan, the bigotry in India will come to full attention.

PS: As I feel obliged to mention, not all Hindus support this violence, just like not all Muslims in Pakistan (hopefully, Ameen) support violence :-)


Recently been to Rajasthan and Delhi - my first trip to N.India. To my utter disappointment, a very bigoted place with hopeless sterotypes about Muslims(4 wives, illiterate, terrorists etc.). My driver also claimed that Hindus in India have complete literacy and are "bery reech". Nevertheless a fragile peace exists. But even more depressing was the fact that Muslims there seemed to be more than happy to play into these stereotypes. There is nothing enviable about being called as backward by North Indian Hindus who cant read or write.

Riaz Haq said...

Zen: Welcome back, and thanks for sharing your impressions. I'd love to have you write a guest post on my blog about your travelogue.

Let me share with you an interesting commentary by Kapil Komireddi published in the Guardian earlier this year:

"Indian Muslims in particular have rarely known a life uninterrupted by communal conflict or unimpaired by poverty and prejudice. Their grievances are legion, and the list of atrocities committed against them by the Indian state is long. In 2002 at least 1,000 Muslims were slaughtered by Hindu mobs in the western state of Gujarat in what was the second state-sponsored pogrom in India (Sikhs were the object of the first, in 1984).

For decades Indian intellectuals have claimed that religion, particularly Hinduism, is perfectly compatible with secularism. Indian secularism, they said repeatedly, is not a total rejection of religion by the state but rather an equal appreciation of every faith. Even though no faith is in principle privileged by the state, this approach made it possible for religion to find expression in the public sphere, and, since Hindus in India outnumber adherents of every other faith, Hinduism dominated it. Almost every government building in India has a prominently positioned picture of a Hindu deity. Hindu rituals accompany the inauguration of all public works, without exception.

The novelist Shashi Tharoor tried to burnish this certifiably sectarian phenomenon with a facile analogy: Indian Muslims, he wrote, accept Hindu rituals at state ceremonies in the same spirit as teetotallers accept champagne in western celebrations. This self-affirming explanation is characteristic of someone who belongs to the majority community. Muslims I interviewed took a different view, but understandably, they were unwilling to protest for the fear of being labelled as "angry Muslims" in a country famous for its tolerant Hindus.

The failure of secularism in India – or, more accurately, the failure of the Indian model of secularism – may be just one aspect of the gamut of failures, but it has the potential to bring down the country. Secularism in India rests entirely upon the goodwill of the Hindu majority. Can this kind of secularism really survive a Narendra Modi as prime minister? As Hindus are increasingly infected by the kind of hatred that Varun Gandhi's speech displayed, maybe it is time for Indian secularists to embrace a new, more radical kind of secularism that is not afraid to recognise and reject the principal source of this strife: religion itself."

Anonymous said...

"Were raping nuns and burning churches part of this "warning"? "

Zen, In your state Kerala nuns are raped by christian priests themselves. I am sure you are aware of them.

Anonymous said...

"Indian secularism, they said repeatedly, is not a total rejection of religion by the state but rather an equal appreciation of every faith. Even though no faith is in principle privileged by the state, this approach made it possible for religion to find expression in the public sphere, and, since Hindus in India outnumber adherents of every other faith, Hinduism dominated it. Almost every government building in India has a prominently positioned picture of a Hindu deity. Hindu rituals accompany the inauguration of all public works, without exception."

India is the only country which subsidizes haj trip to muslims, something which even muslim countries don't do. that's indian secularism for you.

In india, by law, all religions except Hindus, can start a religion based college with exclusive reservation for their religion. Hindus can't do that as they already in majority. that's exhibity #2 for you about indian secularism.

You are right. The stance of Hindus towards Muslims and to a lesser extent Christians have hardened due to their continuous abuse of our tolerance. When the govt fails to address this, guess what happens, public change their attitude.

Zen, Munich, Germany said...


Thanks. I'd write in detail sometimes. Social scientists are right to conclude that changes happening in places I visited are similar to those happened in early industrial history of Britain. But this is restricted to urban areas only. Rural areas are still very backward and have changed little, save some new highways. In all of the cities in Rajasthan, there were atleast some Mosques with loud Azans, which stood as a testimony to the official and social tolerance of Islam as a minority religion. But adherents of the faith seem to suffer a lot of difficulties in day to day life where they are stigmatised and stereotyped as pro-Pakistani, polygamist, misogynist, parasitic, potential terrorist. Hindus I met there have many easy self comfirting beliefs, like they live in more hygeinic conditions than Muslims(though both lacked something that I'd call sanitation), they have higher education(though illiteracy is only slightly better than Muslims), have lower fertility(I really doubt it) etc. To my largely foreign eyes, they all looked the same or sometimes even worse, with sights of children as young as 10 working in Hotels as porters.

Zen, Munich, Germany said...


"Zen, In your state Kerala nuns are raped by christian priests themselves. I am sure you are aware of them."

Yes, there were even higher profile sex scandals in Kerala among Hindu Swamis as well(both by the way demolishes the sterotype that Muslims are the sole sexual predators), but raping of a nun within a Monastery is not what I'd call persecution. Persecution is what happened to Muslims in Gujarat, Xtians in Orissa, to Hindus in Bangladesh and to Pundits in Kashmir.

"India is the only country which subsidizes haj trip to muslims, something which even muslim countries don't do. that's indian secularism for you."

There are direct or indirect subsidies to several Hindu pilgrimages as well. Hajj subsidy was started as a sop by subsidising a portion of the unfair airline fare charged by a state monopoly(ie, Air India). If you want to defend Indian secularism, you would find much better examples..

Anonymous said...

"There are direct or indirect subsidies to several Hindu pilgrimages as well. Hajj subsidy was started as a sop by subsidising a portion of the unfair airline fare charged by a state monopoly(ie, Air India). If you want to defend Indian secularism, you would find much better examples.."

Can you give it by numbers.

Also since Riaz loves to compare Pak with India, what are the similar numbers for Pakistan, both for muslims and its ever dwindling non muslims.

Anonymous said...

Riaz, I decided a little while ago to stay away from challenging your views. You don't publish them anyway, so what's the point. But this one is beyond the pale.

As an Indian Christian - and having several (Muslim - since that's a qualification for you) Pakistani friends who shared with me their experience with Pakistani Christians - there is _nothing_ in common between Indian and Pakistani Christians. India has 30M million Christians - which would rank it among the large Christian countries. Apart from your tired, regurgitated facts on violence in Orissa, the Christians in India live as equal (in some cases, unnecessarily constitutionally privileged) citizens. That kind of violence happens several times a year to Christians in Pakistan. Also, there are only 3M Christians - mostly lower class if my Pakistani friends are to be believed - in Pakistan. The people and the State of Pakistan is aiding and abetting a slow genocide. But that's not news is it? Also, except for Muslims in India, _every_ minority actually scores higher that the mean (i.e. the Hindu average) on wealth and literacy. The Muslim below-average performance pulls all minorities down to the Hindu-mean. So you may want to stop clubbing all minorities together in India as well. The Muslim experience in India is unique (and below par).

I understand your need to be sensationalist. But please refrain from tarring all people with the same brush based on your sparse "facts". Pakistani Christians may celebrate Christmas in fear. Indian Christians do not.

Anonymous said...


Pl enlighten one scheme were government subsidizes hindu pilgrimage. ON the the contrary the politican are looking out for the wealth in temple. Lost is the ysr reddy who wanted to convert tirupathi into genting island at the cost of the temple with ownership with his sibling. Yes, he had personal date with jesus best of luck

He had the guts to state that land will be given out of the temple propery to build church. Only this nonsense can happen in hindu india nowhere in the world i bet.

Riaz Haq said...


I think you are justifying your views based on your your personal anecdotal experiences. I can make similar arguments about Pakistani Christian friends of mine who are better educated and wealthier than the majority Muslims in Pakistan and quite vocal about their views on issues that affect them. One of them was the head of an NGO, is an influential member of Pakistan's Human Rights Commission, has terrific social standing and close links with some of the country's Muslim elite in Pakistan.

But I can not argue based on my personal experience that Gojra did not happen. The tragedy did occur and its victims are hurting.

You should pay attention to what the All India Christian Council tells you on this subject; the council is much more knowledgeable than you and represents many more Indian Christians than you do.

As to Orissa being an old story, it's not an old story for the 20,000 Christian refugees still languishing in camps more than a year after the riots, rapes and murders there.

And the attack on Bhopal Catholics just happened a day or two ago, instilling fear in the hearts of the Indian Christians just before Christmas.

Anonymous said...

As regards prejudice against muslims in india, are muslims not suffering prejudice in US and Europe after 9/11. Muslims love to ask others to do introspection and find the root cause of muslim anger. How about muslims themselves doing introspection and finding out the root cause of all other religion disliking them.

Also one of the best indicator of prejudice against minority is how well they are in wealth, education. Indian CHristians are well ahead of hindus in both dept, unlike Pak christians who form the lowest strata of society.
Indian Sikhs are right at the top in success.
So much for hindu intolerance.

Anonymous said...

@anon indian christian is right. In India Christians can proselytize. The magazine Satya Darshini is one good example which abuses Hindu god for inducing hindus to convert. Can any christian org dare do it in Pak?

Zen, Munich, Germany said...


"Pl enlighten one scheme were government subsidizes hindu pilgrimage."

Hajj subsidy is the most sensationalised issue used by some Hindus, fundamentalists and non fundamentalists alike to highlight the alleged "Muslim appeasement" in India. But on the contrary, when I wrote about subsidies to Hindu pilgrims, I was referring to the enormous tax payers money that are spent on providing logistics to millions of Hindu pilgrims who move around each year. I don't count security here as I think govt. is obliged to provide that, but other things such as special buses, trains etc. where these pilgrims barely take tickets or even direct handouts such as for Lake Manasarovar(see At the end, tax money is tax money. I dont have the numbers as noone is keeping any numbers on mones spent on these sensitive issues. Hajj subsidy is highly sensationalized as the trip is to Mecca and is provided to Muslims. But the fact is that it is just a sham.
Air travel has come a long way - I personally would take care to demolish Hajj subsidy along with beaurocratic and corrupt quota systems and quasi monopoly of Air India which overcharges the customers only to provide horrible services. The best would be if Hajj board uses some electronic lot to fill in quota and pilgrims can decide how to go to Hajj and how much to pay for that.

To quote from

"The contentious issue of Haj subsidy is also put forward to prove the theory of Muslim appeasement. (Now that the Supreme Court in its interim order has granted subsidy not only to the Muslims going for the Haj, but also to the Hindus going for pilgrimage to Mansarovar, the controversy can put to the rest for the time-being). The total amount of Haj subsidy is always exaggerated. Last year, government reportedly spent 450 crore, but the figure quoted in some newspaper reports was more than 2 billion rupees!"

@Anon2 (Indian Christian)

"Apart from your tired, regurgitated facts on violence in Orissa, the Christians in India live as equal"

Hah. Do we need Riaz to make this "tired argument"? Christians in India themselves have been crying a lot, though they in general are clever enough not to offend Hindu Fascists. Nevertheless your Pope could not avoid addressing this

Maybe you are one of the happy Christians, alright, but don't make sweeping generalization.

Riaz Haq said...

The BBC is reporting that a delegation of the European Union is due to visit a region which was hit by anti-Christian riots in the eastern Indian state of Orissa last year.

Members of a hardline Hindu organisation have protested against the visit saying it was a violation of the "sovereignty" of the country.

The violence in Kandhamal district left at least 40 people dead and more than 25,000 homeless.

The riots followed the killing of a Hindu religious leader and four others.

A local leader of the hardline Bajrang Dal Subas Chouhan has criticised the Orissa government for allowing the delegation to visit Kandhamal.

"It seems the state government wants the riots to return," he said.

Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik said the 11 member-delegation was going to Kandhamal to see the "development activities there".

Christian leaders have denied that the visit would lead to religious tensions.

"Those who are opposing the visit are the perpetrators of the communal violence. So their anxiety is understandable," Raphael Chennath said.

The delegation was originally scheduled to visit Kandhamal early last year, but the federal government refused permission because of the general elections in April.

Kandhamal district witnessed weeks of anti-Christian violence after a Hindu leader was shot dead.

The clashes erupted after hardline Hindu groups blamed Christians for the killing.

The government set up two fast-track courts to deal speedily with cases relating to the riots.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Times of India report on the deprivation of Muslims and Dalits in Gujarat:

NEW DELHI: Muslims in Gujarat have a long way to go. A new study shows there's deep-rooted poverty and income inequality among the state's lower castes and Muslims. The latter, in particular, fare poorly on parameters of poverty, hunger, education and vulnerability on security issues — nowhere benefiting from the feelgood growth story of CM Narendra Modi's state.

In the study titled "Relative Development of Gujarat and Socio-Religious Differentials", economist Abusaleh Shariff used the NSSO, NCAER's human development data and the Sachar Committee report, among others, to tabulate the status of Gujarat's Muslims. "Estimation of poverty by social group is rare, but the NCAER survey data, and NSSO, allow for such estimates," says Shariff, also chief economist at National Council of Applied Economic research (NCAER).

Disturbingly, and surprisingly, says Shariff, Gujarat's levels of hunger are high alongside Orissa and Bihar, with only Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh having higher hunger levels. Urban poverty among the state's Muslims is eight times more than high-caste Hindus, 50% more than OBCs.

Muslims are educationally deprived: despite 75% enrolment of Muslim children in primary school, a mere 26% reach matriculation. This is against 79% enrolment of 'others except SCs/ STs', 41% of who make it to matriculate levels.

Shariff points out that while FDIs and investments are channeled into the organized sector, self-employment — where most Muslims make their living — is "not a growing sector". Says Shariff, "Income growth in self-employment has only marginally increased compared to other sectors in Gujarat."

The study says that Gujarat's is hunting ground "for NRI and corporate politics", and that "the FDI hype" is designed to facilitate tax subsidies, cheap licensing and under-priced land.

Concluding that Muslims in Gujarat face high levels of discrimination and deprivation, Shariff adds, "Even on roll-out of NREGA, Gujarat is at the bottom of the pile."

The study is a first in series of studies of various states on similar lines, says Manzoor Alam of the Institute of Objective Studies that organised its presentation. The purpose is to cut through rhetoric and evidence the state of Muslims across states. "We get lost in the talk on 'appeasement'. It's important to see the actual status of Muslims. So, Muslims know where they stand, and it will help governments formulate policy," says Alam.

State of Gujarat Muslims
* 60% live in urban areas; their poverty is eight times more than high-caste Hindus, 50% more than OBCs
* 12% have bank accounts. But their share of total loan amounts is low at 2.6
* Gujarat among worst performers in NREGA-implementation. Only Rs 540 million distributed at a wage rate of Rs 50. Only 4.9 rural households participated.

(Source: Relative Development of Gujarat and Socio-Religious Differentials by Abusaleh Shariff)

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excepts from Sherbano Taseer (Salman Taseer's daughter) interview with Pakistani Islamic scholar Javaid Ahmed Ghamidi as published in Newsweek Pakistan:

Are Islam and democracy compatible?

Yes, of course. Islam favors democratic societies. In the West, they have created democracies, which may have their shortcomings, but where people listen to one another, tolerate each other's opinions, and engage in dialogue. The majority opinion is made into law, and these laws can be criticized, debated freely, and amended based on people's beliefs.

There is furor in Pakistan over the blasphemy laws. What does the Quran say about punishing those who are proven to have committed blasphemy?

There is no punishment prescribed for blasphemy in the Quran or in the sayings of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). Some clerics cite the case of Ibn Akhtar, but they misinterpret that incident and make it about blasphemy. Man can make laws, and these should not be misused to unfairly target or victimize anyone. Islam specifically says that taking the life of an individual is tantamount to taking the life of all humanity. It is a crime. It is wrong. Allah says true Muslims are those in whose hands others are safe.
Do you feel Pakistan can contain the extremist threat?

Let's start by not losing hope. We can contain it if we unite. There needs to be a new movement, by educated people, who can put pressure on the government so that, for one, education returns to being the responsibility of the state. Otherwise, this cancer of extremism will continue to spread. Pakistan has over 12,000 madrassahs with more than 2 million students. The countless clerics at these schools have immense sway, they have formed communities around themselves and they have weapons. And when power comes into the hands of such people—when we give them that power—you get what we have happening right now. There is nothing in the Quran or the Prophet's (peace be upon him) sayings to justify what the extremists are doing. We need to enter the playing field and correct this, and turn their arguments on their head. I have challenged them on every occasion for the past five years or so, and told them what they are saying is incorrect. They can only stay silent in return. Even in the matter of blasphemy they could not refute me, but I feel I am alone in this.
So how do we change things?

People need to understand Islam themselves, there is no other way. We need to understand the religion and launch a movement to reform society. In the West, there was a reformation movement which needs to be replicated in the East. There is strength in our arguments. You can reason with these people if you reason strongly and with facts. Islam was initially spread by a handful of people. This is how you will get success and nobody will be able to refute it. The media has a lot of power and must use this power positively, spreading the message from house to house. But the reality is that we are not ready to take up this cause. The secularists and the elite are not ready to take this up, they are not ready to talk and engage especially about beliefs.

What role do you see religious scholars playing to improve our society?

They, like doctors and engineers, are experts in their field. Their role is not to pick up guns, but to argue with facts and to present their arguments logically and calmly. Their role is not to threaten or to preach in a hostile or forceful manner in the streets, but to inform and show people the right Islam. The unfortunate reality here is that those who claim to be adherents of Allah's word are actually quite unfamiliar with the faith.

Mayraj said...
500 Dalit Homes Burnt… And A News Blip
A love marriage. A suicide. And three ravaged villages. Imran Khan reports on a deadly reprisal against Dalits in Tamil Nadu that should have made it to national news

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan arrests second cleric (Imam) for 'blasphemy' mob attack on Christian couple in #Lahore - Channel NewsAsia Pakistan police on Friday (Jul 3) arrested a cleric accused of leading a mob trying to kill a Christian couple for allegedly committing blasphemy, a senior officer said.

Police had saved the couple on Tuesday from a Muslim mob who were attempting to lynch them in the village of Makki in Punjab province.

"One of the clerics who led the mob demanding the arrest of the couple and their death was at large, he was arrested today (Friday) and we are looking for a barber who ignited the whole issue," Sohail Zafar Chattha, the district police chief, told AFP.

Another cleric was arrested earlier in the week.

The incident, which took place in the village of Makki in Punjab province on Tuesday, represents a rare successful intervention by authorities in a country where even unproven allegations of blasphemy can result in a bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.

The illiterate Christian couple had obtained an old panaflex advertisement awning which contained the names and slogans of various colleges, which they were using as a mat to sleep on in their home.

Arabic inscriptions, allegedly from the Koran, were found among the colleges' slogans, leading the local barber as well as the two clerics to accuse the couple of committing blasphemy.

"Muslims of the town gathered there and dragged the poor couple who didn't know what they had done. They were being beaten to death," Chattha wrote on Facebook.

"Police intervened in time and rescued the couple from the mob and shifted them to Lahore and handed over them to the elders of Christian community," he later told AFP.

Pakistan's tough blasphemy laws, which carry the death sentence for insulting the Prophet Muhammad, are often invoked against minorities and the poor by those wishing to settle personal scores, according to rights groups.

Christians, who make up around two per cent of Pakistan's mostly Muslim population of 200 million, have been increasingly targeted in recent years, by both mob violence and militant attacks.

Bonded labourer Shehzad Masih and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi were beaten by a mob of 1,500 people then thrown into a lit furnace last year in a crazed reaction to rumours they had thrown pages of the Koran into the garbage.

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News - Investigating Pakistan's 'mobs for hire'. Rent a mob is a business in #Pakistan …

To an outsider, it can often look like mob rule in Pakistan. There are public lynchings and frequent attacks on religious minorities and nobody ever seems to get arrested or go to jail. But running and renting out mobs is also an organised business in the country, where the men organising the mobs insist they are providing a vital public service and anything is available - at the right price.
An old man with fiery red hair, Khwaja, lounges on a rickety rope-woven bed and speaks to a rapt audience. These are all men from the area, many of them wearing prayer caps and sporting beards. He has gathered more than a dozen in just a few minutes, armed only with a cell phone and a little black book full of numbers.
"Gathering a mob - what's so difficult about that?" he says. "One phone call and a hundred people will come, they can throw stones till nothing is left and if that doesn't work, it costs very little to buy 10 litres of petrol and set things on fire."
A few months ago, Khwaja brought together a protest mob that blocked the railway lines till the authorities were forced to accept their demands. What looked like a mass protest against gas shortages was organised by one influential man. In a country where many of the people still don't have access to basic necessities, there is power in numbers, and men like Khwaja claim to wield this power.

"When government officials fail to deliver on the legitimate needs of the people, then they come to me for solutions. Now the people of my area have more trust in me than the government."
Religion is often used as a rallying cry to stir up sentiments among people influenced by increasing religious radicalism in the country. Khwaja's huge compound contains the only mosque in the area and he chooses the prayer leader himself. His mosque, his cleric, his rules, he says.
Men like Khwaja are known as patrons or "Dera daars". Khwaja insists that he uses his religious influence, connections and political clout for the good of his community, but admits others have exploited mob power for their own purposes.
He explains: "It doesn't take much to gather hundreds against someone you may have a personal enmity with. If they are from a religious minority, you just say they committed blasphemy or burned the Koran, and everyone will follow, no one will verify the truth of it."
'Failure of the police'
Last year an angry mob attacked the homes of Gujranwala's Ahmadiyya religious minority, not too far from Khwaja's area. Locals say it started as a fight over a game of cricket but as tempers flared, a young Ahmadi boy was accused of religious blasphemy, a crime punishable by death under Pakistani laws.

Police Superintendent Sukhera admits such backchannels to local mobsters exist. These mobsters often have strong political support and stronger influence than the authorities.
He says: "What we are seeing is a parallel system of governance. The police are often helpless, because we do not get the protection to apprehend these mobs.
"When we try to stop them through the means necessary, often cases are lodged against the police officers themselves. Why would a police officer put his life and livelihood at risk for others, if he gets no support?"
Psychological experts believe that social unrest is on the rise and tolerance diminishing in a country dealing with the impact of decades of terrorism and growing religious radicalism.
As public confidence in the government's ability to tackle rampant socio-economic problems is eroded, a sense of frustration and anger has emerged. And harnessing that anger to serve ulterior motives appears to have become big business.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan arrests 129 #Muslims after mob attacks on churches and homes of minority #Christians. The violence drew nationwide condemnation, and caretaker Prime Minister Kakar ordered police to ensure rioters were arrested. #violence #Jaranwala

Police arrested 129 Muslims after a mob angered by an alleged Quran desecration attacked a dozen churches and nearly two dozen homes of minority Christians, officials said Thursday. Police also arrested two Christian men accused of defacing Islam’s holy book.

The alleged desecration set off a violent rampage Wednesday in Jaranwala, causing Christians to flee to safer places in the eastern city as the mob inflicted one of the country’s most destructive attacks on Christians.

The city police chief, Bilal Mehmood, said officers arrested Raja Amir and a friend who were accused by local Muslims of tearing pages from a Quran, writing insulting remarks on other pages and then throwing the book on the ground.

The regional police chief, Rizwan Khan, said 129 people had been arrested as suspected rioters and the situation was under control. Authorities summoned soldiers to restore order, and Christian residents slowly returned home to see the destruction Thursday.

“We were sitting at home when suddenly we heard that a mob is coming and it is burning homes and attacking churches,” Shazia Amjad said as she wept outside her charred home.

She said that the mob burned household items and furniture and that some of her possessions were stolen while she was staying with her family in a safer area.

Other Christians described similar ordeals and expressed bewilderment.

Azeem Masih wept as he sat outsisitting outside his home, which was one of several buildings burned on his street. He said some rioters brought in vehicles to haul away Christians’ household items after burning furniture and other belongings.

“Why did they do it to us? We had not done anything wrong,” he said.

Local priest Khalid Mukhtar said he believed most of Jaranwala’s 17 churches were attacked and his own home was damaged.

Government officials said all of the damaged churches and homes would be repaired within a week and those who suffered losses would be compensated.

The violence drew nationwide condemnation, and caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul-ul-Haq Kakar ordered police to ensure rioters were arrested.

The regional police chief said the mob quickly gathered and began attacking churches and Christian homes. Rioters also assaulted the offices of a city administrator, but police intervened, shooting into the air and wielding batons to disperse the attackers with the help of Muslim clerics and elders.

Videos and photos posted on social media show a throng of angry people descending on a church, throwing pieces of bricks and setting it on fire. In another video, four other churches are attacked, their windows broken as attackers throw pieces of furniture outside and set them on fire.

In another video, a man is seen climbing to the roof of a church and removing a steel cross after repeatedly hitting it with a hammer as a crowd cheers him on.

The violence drew condemnation from domestic and international human rights groups.

Amnesty International called for the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, often just an accusation can incite mobs to violence, lynchings and killings.

Rghts groups say blasphemy allegations have been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.

Vedant Patel, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, urged Pakistan to conduct a full investigation. “We support peaceful freedom of expression and the right to freedom of religion and belief for everybody,” he said in Washington on Wednesday.