INTERVIEW
 
Seminar Calls for Decisive Govt Action against Extremism
Daily Times
14 January 2011
LONDON: The killing of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer has sent shock waves not only in Pakistan but also among the Pakistani diaspora living in Europe.

Seminars, talks and meetings are being held to discuss the reasons of eliminating the top PPP leader in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) governed Punjab province.

One such seminar was held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, where eminent scholars, lawyers and academicians blasted the myth that there was anything Islamic about the blasphemy law.

Among the panel were Dr Tahir Kamran of the Cambridge University, Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad of the Oxford University, Dr Tahir Wasti a specialist in Islamic Law from the SOAS, Dr Asad Ahmed of the Harvad University and National Awami Party (NAP) former secretary general Prof Amin Mughal.

Speakers refuted the claims that the holy Quran was a book of codified law and maintained that the book was a medium for guidance and communication. They agreed that the Quran did provide guidelines for punishments for crimes such as murder, slander, adultery, theft and robbery, but there was no evidence in the scriptures for punishment for blasphemy.

Rejecting the plea of the killer Mumtaz Qadri, the panel said that taking the state’s law in one’s hand was under no circumstances justified. They firmly asserted that by taking the law in his hands Qadri had challenged the writ of the state.

The speakers said that it was only during the rule of General Ziaul Haq that the colonial blasphemy law was amended to introduce the draconian death penalty for someone who used derogatory remarks in respect of the holy Prophet (PBUH). It is for the removal of the death penalty from the blasphemy law and not the law itself that late Taseer was advocating to be repealed, they added.

Criticising the recent role of Urdu print and broadcast media in Pakistan, the speakers accused it of demonstrating a religious bias that was playing a fundamental role in creating a social environment of violence. They warned if not checked the media’s religious bigotry would make Pakistan slide further into a chaos and confusion. They demanded that in order to put an end to the duality of the media, a code of ethics and legislation be formulated by parliament.

The panel vehemently criticised the airing of and publishing pictures of rose petals being showered upon the murderer of Salmaan Taseer by those whose job they said was to uphold the law. It said that this act of irresponsibility was sending a wrong message to society in general and was telling the people that it was not a crime to take the country’s law into one’s hands. “Such footage glorifies the act to kill in the name of religion,” it remarked.

Referring to the formation of Sipah-e-Sahaba in 1985 and its armed wing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the panel was of the opinion that the question of who was a Muslim and who was not, was still unsettled in Pakistan. The speakers said the role of ulema should be to calm the nerves of the people and not to incite to kill.

Citing the Tehreek-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwat in 1953, the speakers said that it was the ignorance of the true values of Islam, which led to the anti-democratic movement that became instrumental in bringing down the government of Khawaja Nazimuddin. They said the current violence in the name of religion could derail the democratic process by encouraging the anti-Pakistan element to act.

The speakers called on the government to act decisively to tackle extremism and opined that the aftermath of the killing of Salmaan Taseer manifested the fact that extremism was far more widely spread and deep-rooted than was thought before.

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