The Guardian newspaper headline “Mainstream religious groups applaud murder” makes for uncomfortable reading. Of course this concerns the assassination of Pakistan’s governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer over his opposition to a blasphemy law which signalled signs of radical modernity in the higher echelons of the Islamic republic.
It’s important to remember, however, that most people there do not condone murder and the removal of the blasphemy law would’ve been compatible with ensuring the existing security of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jews and atheists who live peacefully and happily in the country, and who may only – if ever – inadvertently ‘blaspheme’.
It’s certain that the many highly religious Muslims there want a tough shield held over their beliefs, but at the same time there needs to be an excision of the rotten core that is extremism; it is no longer justifiable for the ordinary people in power to look the other way or cave in. The ‘applause’ of some mainstream religious groups can be put down to fear of reprisal for saying anything else.
If there is a God and Taseer’s actions indeed needed to be reprimanded, surely it’s up to the holder of the heaviest gavel – up above the skies – to decide when a person must die and what they then must face; and then if there is a fair God it seems unlikely that they would also endorse a man who killed someone without real personal provocation. And that is also if God exists.
Religious people should keep comfort in their faith, but belief allows room for doubt. Bear in mind also that Taseer was trying to protect a Christian woman who is also tied to Islam by the Abrahamic umbrella, if not humanity alone.
Some further ‘justification’ for Taseer’s death was that he was not a good Muslim anyway due to various aspects of his private life, but to me he seemed better than those who look pious from the outside but are truly unscrupulous underneath.
In the end what I believe is: don’t worry about the dirt in somebody else’s house when you need to be moving the broom in your own. If there is a judgement to be made, no additional enforcers are needed.
There are others like Taseer and there will be more to come, but lone speakers will have the same fate, unfortunately. Real change will only come when many decide to band together to change the fabric. I can’t forecast when that could be but I’m looking forward to a divorce of God and government there – a vision that is actually more accurate to Jinnah’s (the founder of Pakistan) in which he wished to avoid the religious problems of pre (and even post)-partition India.