Brutally assaulted beyond our imaginations, Sajid Masih was a picture of pain and helplessness. Pain because his body had to endure harsh and near fatal injuries.
There was helplessness because his faith is dominated by another who is privileged enough to have an overwhelming number of followers.
While both faiths preach peace and harmony, the followers of the ‘dominant’ faith like to boast their numerical strength and supremacy over those who belong to other faiths.
Sajid Masih is involved in a case of blasphemy. If found guilty, the punishment according to the country’s blasphemy law is the harshest of all – death. Yet during interrogation, he is cruelly assaulted – verbally and physically. He goes on to allege that he was forced to sexually assault his cousin, the main accused. It seems that just because he was a suspect of the most serious offence deemed by this country and that he was a non-Muslim; his assaulters felt that any action of cruelty is justified. The image of terror and torment Sajid portrays is no different than that of Mashal, the only difference being that Sajid survived, while Mashal was not even given a chance.
Battered and bruised was the body of Mashal Khan, a university student lynched to death last year by an angry mob of fellow students. His progressive views on social media were misjudged as blasphemous, a fatal crime in the view of those who brought upon his untimely and unworthy death. Investigations later determined that the charges were false. And still out of the mob of over 60, one person has been sentenced to death, a few to life imprisonment and 25 have been acquitted, while more than 20 were released due to ‘lack of evidence’.
Throughout the world, Muslim extremists are using violence and beliefs shunned by their very religion as a means to communicate their anger and hatred over various issues to the world’s non-Muslims
Recently, a college student of Charsadda – in the same province to which Mashal belonged – gunned down his principal on the pretext of ‘blasphemy’. The principal had expressed anger over his absence from college for three days due to participation in Faizabad sit-in. In response, the student, Faheem fired six bullets at the head of the institution, saying he had ‘no remorse over killing the principal’.
The sit-in where Faheem had participated in late last year had paralysed the country’s capital for nearly a month. The ‘peaceful’ protest had demanded the resignation of the then law minister of the country, due to a previous omission of an oath in the country’s new electoral law. The oath to be taken by elected officials had not included a declaration of the finality of prophethood and had led to an uproar in the National Assembly. Although almost immediately corrected, the grave omission was not to be excused by a far right wing leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Himself crippled, he did not wince to bring the capital and even the country at a standstill until his demand was accepted. And in the ‘interest of the nation’, it was. Not to include a belief regarding the finality of prophethood in the country’s electoral law was seen as many an act of blasphemy. And all reactions were probably seen as waging a holy war and those against it as infidels. This is the only explanation which Faheem has for his brutal action.
The blasphemy law of the country itself has led to concerns over human rights violations as in most cases, accused are arrested and condemned to punishment over weak evidences, while in some, the law is also conveniently used merely to settle scores. Asia Bibi’s case is the most prominent, who since 2010 is languishing in court, being awarded capital punishment over blasphemy charges, sparked by a row over Asia drinking water from the same glass as that of her neighbours. Former Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer was gunned down by his own security guard when he attempted to free Asia. The guard, Mumtaz Qadri, although promptly arrested and hanged to death, has been hailed by many as a martyr, his burial place converted to a mausoleum and still thronged by many admirers.
In September last year, 17 year old Sharoon Masih was killed in Burehwala by one of his Muslim classmates. His parents claim that Sharoon’s ‘crime’ was to drink water from the same glass his other classmates used – an act which some Muslims find unacceptable as they consider the non Muslims ‘impure’.
Throughout the world, Muslim extremists are using violence and beliefs shunned by their very religion as a means to communicate their anger and hatred over various issues to the non-Muslims. And purely due to lack of understanding, when the ‘non-believers’ resort to strict laws like banning headscarves and even the Muslim call to the mosque, its followers scream of persecution. While many Muslims still don’t understand that what we need is dialogues and a harmonious environment to ensure worldwide peace, their fellow brethren in Pakistan are bent to project the image of a violent, intolerant nation, with religion on the tip of their tongues and a desire to seize power in their hearts.
At a time when the foundations of the country are shaking, Islam can provide exemplary solutions to promote peace and stability. But when it’s very followers promote concepts contrary to its belief, progress is thwarted and anarchy replaces people’s rule. For the sake of our religion, actions maligning it’s name need to stop or else our souls would continue to sit-in and our minds would permanently shut down.
The writer is a senior media professional with experience in Broadcast Journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Daily Times, March 5th 2018.