Friday, February 24, 2017

Pakistan

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A mosque situated about an hour’s drive from the nation’s capital recently held a ceremony to honor a radical Islamist who murdered a beloved political figure in Pakistan for publicly chastising the Muslim country’s blasphemy laws and supporting a Christian woman. The facility, Gulzar E. Madina Mosque, sits in the Maryland suburb of Pikesville, roughly 50 miles from Washington D.C. and a dozen or so miles from Baltimore.

A Pakistani digital news publication covered the outrageous celebration and published a detailed account, including pictures and speeches delivered by radical clergy.

The event is officially known as an “Urs”, a Muslim celebration to commemorate the death anniversary of saints. In this case, the Maryland mosque was honoring an Islamist assassin named Mumtaz Qadri who shot the governor (Salman Taseer) of Punjab province in 2011 for speaking out against the nation’s abhorrent blasphemy laws. Qadri was the governor’s bodyguard and he shot him 28 times in Islamabad’s Kohsar Market in broad daylight, according to an international news report.

He was charged with terrorism and murder by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan and was hanged in 2016. The execution ignited violent protests throughout Pakistan, where Islamist groups hailed Qadri as a hero. That’s hardly surprising for an Islamic south Asian country with an official law that bans the use of derogatory remarks about the holy prophet Mohammad. Violators are punished with death or life imprisonment.

But nearly 12,000 miles across the Atlantic, in the land of the free and the civilized, it’s downright unacceptable that these atrocities are praised. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what occurred at the Gulzar E Madina Mosque in Maryland earlier this week. In a Sunday “Urs” commemoration attended by dozens of people, including children and teenagers, the radical Islamist assassin was honored. The event had been advertised in the largest Urdu newspaper in the U.S., the Urdu Times, and a large crowd turned out for the festivities.

Among them was a New Jersey-based Islamic scholar named Syed Saad Ali who referred to Qadri as surpassing all warriors and blasted the crowd for not helping him while he was in jail, kissing the noose in love for Prophet Mohammed. “Qadri did everything for us and for the love of Islam and we could not even stand by him,” the fiery scholar told the crowd. “People say Islam teaches peace…I say Islam teaches us ghairat (honor). Who will now stand up?” Ali also glorified another Islamist assassin named Tanveer Ahmad, who stabbed a fellow British-Pakistani man to death in Scotland for posting blasphemous statements on social media.

Also, delivering the pro terrorist rhetoric at the U.S. mosque was a Baltimore-based imam named Ijaz Hussain, who said Qadri was not a terrorist and whoever says “we are with you O prophet cannot be a terrorist.” He proceeded to denounce American Muslim groups, such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), for failing to act against those who commit blasphemy and praised free speech in the U.S. for allowing the terror-praising powwow to take place.

An unidentified speaker, whose photo is included in the article, took the podium and said this: “Whoever disrespects the Holy Prophet Muhammad is worthy of death, and even if disrespects indirectly he is still worthy of death. Even if someone asks for forgiveness it is not acceptable.”

It’s disgraceful that this sort of support for terrorist acts is glamorized and praised in the United States. Undoubtedly, eight years of Obama administration policies protecting Muslim rights and downplaying the connection between Islam and radical terrorism caused a lot of damage. Obama launched a government-wide Muslim rights initiative that forced federal agencies to go out of their way to accommodate Muslims and avoid offending them by, among other things, caving into their demands involving law enforcement anti-terrorism training considered offensive.

Read a Judicial Watch report on that here. Last year a Homeland Security Advisory Council recommended eliminating divisive Islamic terms like “jihad” and “sharia” to avoid “us versus them” in government anti-terror programs.

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While everyone is worried about Syria and Iraq and Putin and refugees and ISIS, let’s take a quick trip to the other side of Iran to see what atrocity is going unnoticed in Pakistan.

ISIS is being scorned for murdering people in the name of Islam, as well they should be, but in the great country of Pakistan you can be executed for the same reason. That’s right. Under Pakistan’s “blasphemy laws” you can be put to death or sentenced to prison for any number of vague reasons concerning the insult of Islam.

The sternest of the punishments comes from, even accidentally, saying something bad about the Prophet Muhammad. You can be executed by the state for that offense. Most people are not actually executed and end up occupying a Pakistani prison for the rest of their lives awaiting an appeal. Prisons in Pakistan are, to say the least, not as nice as American prisons.

There are a host of other ways that you can be charged with any of the violations under the blasphemy laws, because they do not require much proof and they do not make legal provisions that require you to even understand you were doing anything wrong (for the law buffs out there, this would be “mens rea”).

The laws are being used mainly by opportunists who want grab land from religious minorities or those who have grudges against people that would be easy to frame for these “crimes”.

Most of the cases reviewed by international commissions show that over 60% of those charged were falsely accused. Even though there are laws against perjury, none of those who have lied to imprison these people have been brought to justice.

While there are other Muslims who have been wrongfully imprisoned, there exists a gross imbalance of representation of religious minorities when the vast majority of the country of Pakistan identifies as Muslim.

Reports show 633 Muslims as having been charged with crimes that fall under the blasphemy laws, while Christians make up 187. Ahmedis and Hindus are also targets for the unfair application of these laws.

The laws do not seem to be going anywhere. Religious pressure has kept many politicians from speaking out. There are even those who have been assassinated. Salman Taseer, the Punjab governor, who was vocal about being against the laws was killed by his own bodyguard.

There are few in Pakistan who would face the imminent threats to speaking out against these laws. This isn’t a rogue organization. This is the majority.

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