Ahmadiyya Times

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Faith and Inter-faith: Churches in Muslim countries

I always find it very discomforting reading about sanctions on building places of worship or attacks on such places. I feel a lot of sorrow whenever I read about a place of worship being attacked, damaged, demolished and disrespected.

Sacred Heart Church, Lahore, Pakistan has be repeatedly threatened.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Article
Source/Credit: Times of Malta
By Laiq Ahmed Atif | November 20, 2010

Churches, synago­gues and mosques are all places of worship where the name of God the creator and lord of the entire universe is oft-commemorated. Thus, they all are very sacred and holy and deserve to be respected and honoured fully, irrespective of the denomination to which they belong.

But, unfortunately, there are some countries that do not allow the building of churches, mosques or other places of worship on their territory. Also, there are some people who are not paying full respect to the places of worship that do not belong to them or which are not the symbols of their religion. However, I believe all places of worship, whatever the religion they belong to, whoever the worshipers, whatever the way they worship God, are sacred and holy and must be respected fully, in every country, in every part of the world and by all people.

I always find it very discomforting reading about sanctions on building places of worship or attacks on such places. I feel a lot of sorrow whenever I read about a place of worship being attacked, damaged, demolished and disrespected. Or about any religious symbol having been dishonoured by the people of other faiths.

I have often been asked a question about a topic I also see many comments and writings on: “Why do Muslim countries not allow the building of churches?” This is a very important and valid question and I will try to shed some light on the matter.

First of all, I would like to say there are many churches in present-day Muslim countries, such as Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia. This is in line with the freedom of religion that Islam allows. Islam believes in full freedom of faith and rejects any sort of force or violence in matters of religion. The Holy Quran says: “There should be no compulsion in religion’’ (2:257)… “for you is your religion and for me is my religion’’ (109:7).

That is to say, no one has the right to force others into complying with their demands or compelling others to follow their line of thinking. These verses have clearly showed no one has the right to force anyone against his will to believe or to deny any faith or religion. The choice of faith is a personal matter and everyone is allowed to build the place of worship according to his beliefs and he can pray freely.

However, it is right to note that some Muslim countries have gone against this Islamic injunction and prohibited collective worship by non-Muslims.

This is wrong and completely unacceptable. Never did the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) forbid the building of a church, nor did he order the demolition of a church. There is not even a single example in his entire life when he ever prohibited the building of a church or he ever gave a permission to destroy or demolish a church.

His entire life is a clear example of the freedom of faith. When he migrated to Medina he signed a Constitution with the people of Medina that everyone will be free in his religious matters and they all will be equal in the eyes of the state.

Once, during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, a Christian delegation from Najran came to Medina to have interfaith dialogues with Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad extended to them warm hospitality and had discussions with them for many days in his mosque in Medina, called Mosque of the Prophet. At one time during the talks, the Christian delegation asked for permission to go out for some time. The Prophet Muhammad asked them: “Why do you want to go out?” and they replied: “It is our prayer time and we would like to go out and pray outside this mosque.’’ The Prophet said: “It is also a house of Allah and is built for the purpose of worship; you may pray and worship in this mosque’’. And he spared them the place in his mosque and went out with his companions so the Christians could pray easily according to their faith and beliefs.

This incident and the teachings of the Quran mentioned above clearly show that not only is building churches permitted in Muslim states but Christians are also free to pray in Muslim mosques. And any action against this clear teaching of religious freedom is unacceptable and is totally against the teachings of Islam.

In the light of these teachings, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat has opened the doors of its mosques to all, to the people of different faiths, and it always tries to tie the bonds of love, respect and brotherhood, which the world today needs more than ever before in the history of mankind.

The author is president, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta. amjmalta@gmail.com

Read original post here: Churches in Muslim countries

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Filed under: Christian, Church, Islam, Laiq Ahmed Atif, Malta, persecution

Pakistan: Zardari stays execution of blasphemy accused Christian woman

The case has drawn huge attention in the media, and there is deep sympathy for Aasia Bibi. Several NGOs have called for repealing the blasphemy law because it was “being used by illiterate masses in rural areas to hoodwink the minorities”.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: Daily India | Asian News International
By  ANI | November 18, 2010

Islamabad, Nov 20: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has stayed the execution of a Christian mother sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy.

http://www.dailyindia.com/show/409687.php
On Friday, Zardari directed the federal minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, to submit a report in this regard within three days, The News reported.

The lawyer for the accused, SK Shahid, has already challenged the verdict in the Lahore High Court.

Earlier, a religious leader of the local mosque, Qari Saleem, had lodged an FIR against her for allegedly passing derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet.

On November 8, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by an additional sessions judge in Nankana Sahib district on charges of committing blasphemy under the Pakistan Penal Code. The judge also imposed a fine of 300,000 rupees on her.

The case has drawn huge attention in the media, and there is deep sympathy for Aasia Bibi. Several NGOs have called for repealing the blasphemy law because it was “being used by illiterate masses in rural areas to hoodwink the minorities”.

The spokesman of the National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP)- an NGO working for minority rights in Pakistan- said that the proceedings of the case took place under intense pressure, and the verdict was likely to be overturned in the high court.

Earlier this week, Pope Benedict XVI had also called for her release, and said that Christians in Pakistan were “often victims of violence and discrimination.”

It is noteworthy that only around three per cent of Pakistan’s population of 167 million is estimated to be non-Muslim.

Copyright Asian News International/DailyIndia.com

Read original post here: Zardari stays execution of blasphemy accused Christian woman

Filed under: Asia Bibi, Blasphemy, Christian, persecution

Eye on Extremism: An instrument of revenge

We move to 1973 and the insertion of the Objectives Resolution as the preamble to the constitution, and on to the second amendment of 1974 when an entire community which had been part of the majority since the country’s birth was declared a minority.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: The Express Tribune
By Amina Jilani | November 20, 2010

When Founder-Maker Mohammad Ali Jinnah told the future legislators of his country-to-be that “religion is not the business of the state” he knew what he was saying. He spelt out some of the reasons why it should not be, stressing the point that bigotry and intolerance should have no place in a new country about to take its place in the democratic and civilised world.

His warning went unheeded. It took only six months after his death for those same legislators to come up with the objectionable Objectives Resolution which firmly set Pakistan on its path towards complete intolerance of anything outside the state-defined religion, opening up the scope for the legislating of laws inherently at odds with accepted international fundamental human rights.

The first ominous signs came with the 1953 state-cum-mullah inspired Punjab riots involving the Ahmadis. In 1956, the authors of the first of the three constitutions with which we have been unblessed decreed that the Republic of Pakistan should be an Islamic republic. We move to 1973 and the insertion of the Objectives Resolution as the preamble to the constitution, and on to the second amendment of 1974 when an entire community which had been part of the majority since the country’s birth was declared a minority.

Now, when legislation is undertaken in the name of religion and the clerical lot is allowed to play a disproportionate role in the business of the state, it is virtually impossible to undo what has been decreed. Take the laws of 1977 when the then prime minister acted in a vain attempt to save his kursi and uncharacteristically banned alcohol (thus depriving the exchequer of a fair amount of money and enriching bootleggers), and gambling (which continues under the counter) — but the laws ridiculously remain with us.

All was opened up for Ziaul Haq to impose his wicked ways. In 1979 he came up with the Hudood Ordinances under which God alone knows how many innocents have suffered as they are open to gross abuse when it comes to women. Then he made his first move on the blasphemy law, Section 295, an innocuous law dating back to 1927, under which anyone injuring or defiling a place of worship with the intent to insult the religion of any class would be punished by imprisonment of up to two years or by a fine. He added 295-B which awarded imprisonment for life to anyone defiling the Holy Quran. The master stroke came in 1986, Section 295-C passed by the Zia-Junejo government which decreed that anyone using derogatory remarks in respect of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) “shall be punished by death” or imprisoned for life or fined.

This law is tailor-made for those wishing to take revenge, or to grab property, or to rid themselves of a meddlesome rival, or even to gain employment. Murders have taken place, using 295-C, even the murder of a judge who dared to declare an accused innocent, several accused have been shot down in court premises, and countless citizens conveniently languish in the country’s jails accused of the ultimate blasphemy. And to top it all, not one of the many who have made known and obvious false accusations has been punished.

And now, in 2010, with the party of the people in place, an innocent woman, falsely charged, has been sentenced to death by a judge of our independent judiciary, under Zia’s iniquitous and depraved bit of legislation. No government has had the guts to at least try to do something about this horrid law. What is wrong with the PPP (both B and Z versions) that it is unable to move against something imposed by the man who hanged the founder of the party? If democracy is its best revenge, then let us have some revenge for the citizens of this country against the dangers posed to them by Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2010.

Read original post here: An instrument of revenge

Filed under: 295-C, Ahmadiyya, Blasphemy, Christian, Law, Revenge

Pakistan: Blasphemy laws — Stopping the rot

The pattern involves one party targeting another, alleging blasphemy while the real motives are personal enmity or economic rivalry…

Photo: Reuters

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: Asian Human Rights Commission
By Beena Sarwar | November 16, 2010

An article by Ms. Beena Sarwar published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The introspection, debate and outrage generated a month ago by the attacks on two villages in Gojra on July 31 and Aug 1 may be out of public sight, as happened all too often in the past, but the nine people murdered and the homes and churches gutted are not out of mind. Neither is Najeeb Zafar, the young factory owner in Sheikhupura, Punjab, killed on August 4 for allegedly desecrating Quranic verses when he removed a calendar from a wall. The following day, police in Sanghar, Sindh, saved a similarly accused 60-year old woman, Akhtari Malkani by taking her in protective custody.

On the surface, these incidents were motivated by passions aroused by allegations of blasphemy or disrespect to the holy Quran. These criminal charges can be punishable by death – but this is a punishment for the state to administer, not private citizens. The real motivation remains settling scores, a pattern identified over twenty years ago when the first ‘blasphemy murder’ took place; that of the Punjabi poet and teacher Naiamat Ahmar in Faisalabad in 1992.

The pattern involves one party targeting another, alleging blasphemy while the real motives are personal enmity or economic rivalry as Zubeida Mustafa noted in a recent column. The accused tend to be poor people who have improved their lot in life, triggering jealousies. Accusations of blasphemy are used to justify the violence. Ms Mustafa also pointed to (mis) education as a factor that makes it easy, when such an allegation is levelled, to rabble-rouse a mob into violence.

The three recent cases bear out these observations. In Gojra, evidence points to a pre-meditated plan aimed at clearing out the village from the area, while the administration turned a deaf ear to the warnings and pleas of observers. A disgruntled employee accused Najeeb Zafar of disrespecting the Quran; the unarmed police sent to protect him could only watch as the mob set upon him. Akhtari Malkani had a monetary dispute with her accuser but disappeared without registering an FIR. She says she threw a book of accounts on the floor, not the holy Quran.

Last April, there was the horrific case of Jagdish Kumar, the young Hindu factory worker in Karachi, lynched by co-workers for alleged blasphemy. The real reason appears to have been personal enmity based on Kumar’s reported association with a Muslim girl.

Such cases have been taking place since the option of life imprisonment under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (“Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet”), the ‘blasphemy law’, introduced by Gen. Ziaul Haq in 1985 was amended by default in 1992 to make death the mandatory punishment for anyone convicted under this law. Certainly, the law does not provide for these extra-judicial murders. However, it is equally true no such murder took place until death was made the mandatory punishment for 295-C convictions.

People of all faiths, including Muslims (remember the Muslim religious scholar lynched in Gujranwala, 1994?), have been accused and attacked since then. Investigations into blasphemy accusations indicate pre-meditation rather than the heat of passion. Those who commit the violence may be arrested but none has ever been punished. Even the Inquiry Commission Tribunal headed by Justice Tanvir A. Khan of the Lahore High Court examining the destruction of Christian homes and churches in Shantinagar, 1997, was quashed (the Punjab Chief Minister then too was Shahbaz Sharif; will he rise to the occasion this time?).

The public defamation of blasphemy victims is a key tactic preceding such attacks — posters and mosque loudspeakers are routinely used for this.

Naimat Ahmar was killed after posters cropped up warning people that a Christian teacher (Ahmar) was leading their children astray. A handwritten copy in Urdu that I saw at the time warned Muslims that Ahmar was misleading students, telling them that the Prophet (pbuh) ‘stole’ goats – ‘bakriyaN charaya kartey thay’. Replace ‘churaya’ (stole) with ‘charaya’ (grazed) and it’s apparent what Ahmar probably said.

A youngster from the militant outfit Anjuman-e-Sipah-e-Sahaba (later changed to Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan) accosted Ahmar outside the Education Department in Faisalabad and knifed him to death. Investigations revealed that the murderer’s uncle wanted Ahmar’s job in the Education Department. The allegation of blasphemy alone was enough to ‘justify’ the murder. Policemen at the lockup housing the murderer, garlanded by his ASS (sic) mentors, embraced and kissed him. The ASS was, in fact, behind just about every ‘blasphemy case’ during the 1990s — the SSP, now banned, is believed to be behind the Gojra carnage as well.

Blasphemy accused are attacked and murdered even in prisons and police lock-ups, sometimes by the very people who are supposed to protect them. In 2004 a police constable attacked Samuel Masih, 27, a prisoner under trial at Kot Lakhpat jail with a brick-cutter. Samuel had been charged with spitting at the wall of a mosque (Section 295, “defiling a place of worship with the intent of insulting the religion of any class”, maximum sentence up to two years). He succumbed to his injuries the following day. “I wanted to earn a place in heaven by killing him,” Ali reportedly confessed.

The fanatical and misguided mindset cultivated over the past few decades will not disappear by simply repealing 295-C, although this must be done. Embarking on a sensible education policy is also a long-term step that must be taken to stop the rot. What must be an immediate priority is the strict enforcement of law and order.

Those inciting violence and murder from mosque loudspeakers and public accusations, true or false, must be held culpable, charged, tried and punished according to law. This also goes for those who desecrate a holy book or symbol of any religion. There must be accountability for those who allow these murders to take place. The political leadership is responsible for providing police with the training, means and the orders to prevent such violence. Finally, religion cannot be used or allowed to justify murder.

The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.

About the Author: The writer is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker. Ms. Sarwar’s email address is beena.sarwar@gmail.com

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Read original post here: Blasphemy laws — Stopping the rot

Filed under: 295-C, Beena Sarvar, Blasphemy, Christian, persecution