Badami Bagh tragedy
Saturday, March 16, 2013 – Our heads hang in shame over the tragic incident at Badami Bagh Lahore, where more than 175 houses were burnt in a mob attack on a Christian colony over an alleged blasphemy incident. The mob comprising thousands of people attacked Joseph Colony, torched houses, ransacked several shops and looted them. The police took into custody a 28-year-old sanitary worker, Sawan Masih, after an altercation with his Muslim barber friend led to the latter accusing him of making blasphemous remarks.
Fortunately, there were no casualties this time. In July 2009, seven Christians were burnt alive and at least 70 houses and a chapel were set ablaze. The reason advanced by General Ziaul Haq for amending the Blasphemy law was that it would stop the people from taking law in their hands and that they would prefer a legal recourse if any incident of blasphemy or desecration occurred. Unfortunately, mob attacks fuelled by alleged acts of blasphemy have increased significantly since the law was amended by General Ziaul Haq. Many civil rights organisations have been expressing concern over the misuse of the blasphemy law, and demanded that amendments be introduced in it to stop its misuse.
There were only two blasphemy cases registered up to 1978 while the number exceeded 950 after the inclusion of the death penalty clause in the Blasphemy law by Zia-ul-Haq that year. This is a clear indication that the amended law introduced by General Zia-ul- Haq has become a tool in the hands of mischief-makers rather than serving the stated purpose for which it was amended. After the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, the issue of introducing new amendments in the Blasphemy law had become a focal point of discussion not only in the national but also the international media. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a renowned religious scholar, has said: ‘Quran does not lay down a punishment for blasphemy and the current Blasphemy laws are not Islamic’. In view of the fact that Blasphemy law has been rampantly misused as a routine, and some non-Muslims as well Muslims were framed by their opponents for personal enmities, property disputes and land-grabbing scams, civil rights groups, legal experts and many religious scholars are of the view that it needs to be amended.
It has been established in most of the blasphemy cases that the allegations were fabricated, yet the false accusers have gone unpunished. In Gojra, for instance, an entire community of Christians was attacked because of a rumor that three Christian men had desecrated the Holy Quran in a village in the outskirts of the town. Justice requires that the blasphemy law should include a clause regarding strict punishment to false accusers. The accuser in blasphemy cases, if found guilty, should be indicted on two counts – one for blasphemy and second for wrong accusation. It is all the more necessary because Allah has ordained that saving an innocent life (whether Muslim or non-Muslim) is just like saving the whole humanity. The government should amend the law to bring an end to this madness by giving exemplary punishments to the people involved in games of death and destruction let loose on peaceful communities.
The incident has been denounced and openly condemned by the entire nation, and all sections of the people stand firm with Christian community. The government, its agencies and the judiciary should work to unmask the real perpetrators and bring them to justice. The causes of triggering the violent incident must be established and truth be brought to the notice of public. Blasphemous allegations must be substantiated with evidence (if true) and the narratives linking the land grabbing motives (if any) must also be thoroughly investigated.
According to reports, land mafia was interested in grabbing the land of the colony to convert into a posh residential area. Anyhow, dozens of ulema belonging to Sunni Ittehad have given fatwa that this heinous act was un-Islamic. It is imperative that religious scholars of all sects should come forward and play their role to make people understand that Islam is a religion of peace, it preaches tolerance towards followers of other religions, and exhorts peaceful co-existence of all sects and communities.
When incidents like Badami Bagh and Gojra take place in Pakistan, the foreign media finds it easy to support its biased views against Pakistan that minorities are not safe in Pakistan. The fact of the matter is that Pakistan is in the throes of ethnic and sectarian violence, and there have been many incidents when Muslims of different were attacked and killed by fellow Muslims. It is in fact because of some misguided elements resorting to extremism and terrorism and involvement of terrorist organizations like LeJ, TIP and BLA having links with AI-Qaeda that have brought ignominy to Pakistan. It has to be mentioned that the cause for tension or friction between Islam and Christianity at the present is not because of difference in perception about teachings of Islam or Bible but because of unjust world economic order.
As a matter of fact all religions gave the message of peace and love. And all the Prophets were assigned by God with the task of making human beings humane and reasonable with a view to establishing a society where people could live in peace, so that they could achieve intellectual, spiritual and material welfare. However, it was because of religious shysters that gave a spin and misinterpreted the religion to create hatred between the followers of different religions.
It is true that some Muslim religious scholars in an effort to prove supremacy of Islam try to belittle the importance of other prophets and religions. Nevertheless, some religious leaders of Christians, Jews and Hindus demonize Islam for the acts of a few extremists, terrorists and war mongers. It has to be acknowledged that today Muslim countries are backward or underdeveloped, and are on the receiving end. But this is also true that many a great Christian writers, philosophers and eminent persons like Bernard Shaw, Michael H. Hart, Lamartine Edward Gibson and Simon Ockley etc., paid tributes to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Islam.