Nov 22, 2010 - religion    19 Comments

Veneration of bigotry

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Most of the print media – at least the papers I read – are covering the story of Aasia Bibi who is the first Pakistani woman facing death sentence under the draconian Blasphemy law of the country. Aasia Bibi was reported to have committed blasphemy against the prophet and the religion, but according to her she never said anything about either. She offered water (a kind act) to some of her co workers who refused to take it from her because she was an ‘unclean’ Christian. She was not too happy about it and had an altercation with her colleagues. A few days later, she was accused of blasphemy and a local mullah took a frenzied mob to her house to teach her a lesson; she was later taken by police in ‘protective custody’. Instead of providing her with protection and holding those leading the mob accountable, the local Police charged her with Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code, the much maligned – and rightly so – blasphemy law. After a year and half, she was awarded death sentence by Judge Naveed Iqbal of the Sheikhupura district and sessions court – perhaps the most glaring case of bigotry at lower level judiciary. 
To say that this case is particular to either Aasia or rural Pakistan is incorrect. Such attitude is pervasive all over. Just a couple of months, our maid asked me if I can help her son find a job. I asked if he has had any education and what kind of work he is interested in. He has passed his matriculation (tenth grade) and was interested in working a peon (a combination of mail boy/tea boy). I asked someone I know to give him job in his fairly large firm, he agreed and I thought that was the end of it. A couple of days later, I got a rather indignant call from the same gentleman (an Ivy League graduate) who asked me if I knew the boy I was suggesting for employment was Christian. I told him that I knew to which he quite openly expressed his discomfort and said that he cannot hire him because his employees would not be too happy taking water and tea from a choora (a derogatory term for Christian sanitary workers). I argued that he is the boss and if he hires someone, no one in his employment would have issues with it but he decided that he cannot disturb the ‘peace’ of his office. I was extremely sad at this blatant display of injustice but did not push the matter for the fear of any crazy guy going after that boy accusing him of blasphemy because he dared to refuse to become a sanitary worker like his father and grandfather and actually contemplated upward social mobility. That boy is now working in a bank as a sanitary worker.

Aasia perhaps is much braver than I am. She raised her voice against this bigotry and discrimination and learned it the hard way that such valor and bravery is not valued much in this society. Her story is the story of centuries old intolerance that is deeply embedded in our society and no amount of education or interaction with the outside world has made much of a difference. In my opinion, Aasia Bibi was first lynched by a mob and was later taken into police custody because she raised her voice against the treatment meted out to her, something peasant women do not do in Pakistan and a Christian peasant should not even think about.  

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19 Comments

  • no i dont think an Ivy League degree precludes you from prejudice. You might just be prejudiced with an American accent. I remember going on a school trip and a class mate emptying her water cooler after a Christian friend drank water from it. And you know what is ironic, this was a Convent school. Its Ok if one group of Christians (albeit white) leave their home and move to Pakistan, you will fight to be admitted to their school (OK, so Im talking about the ’80s) and speak about the sacrifices the nuns make. But the milk of kindness (and the water in the water cooler for Aasiya and that class mate) does not extend to the “browner” Christians. You know one reason why the Convent schools went out of favour? Local nuns. Ab tau woh standard nahi raha. Sub desi hain.

  • at times like these, i feel its justified when the world treats us like shit. aasia bibi at least got a trial. i wouldnt be surprised if the mob had killed her on the spot without verifying what she had done. we have already seen one such incident.
    your friends employees would not be happy getting tea from CHOORA christian but would be drooling if a GORI christian is serving them cocktails. sad but true.

  • Bigotry seeps in very early. Aged just 11 or 12, the kids in my mohalla stopped talking and playing with two brothers when they came to know that they brothers were Christians – and yes, this was an urban upper middle class gated community. If children go to such lengths to avoid contact with people of other faith, I can only imagine what adults can do in this country.

  • shocking to say the least…the govt should intervene & give her a hand…

  • @annonymous: Hand has to wait,at moment government content at showing the finger.

  • This is horrible! 🙁 If only communalism disappears from our countries, South Asians can totally take over the world!

  • eh, nothing about Pakistan surprises me anymore. We’re a F**ked up Lot.

    Good on Aasia, but the question I have is, has her life or that of her family actually become better?

    Lets be honest, we all will forget her story a few months from now.

    I’m Cynical, but I know I’m right.

  • how do you know that what she is saying is true ?
    on what basis are you giving more weight to her(and her family) argument as compared to the judgment of the court ? do you think that she was really going to admit anything ?

    have you examined the evidence and studied the case ? how can you say that the judge is a bigot without even knowing the facts ?

    just because she was a christian so what she said must be true and the judge must be wrong ?

    the biggest bigots are people like you who don’t waste a moment to please their western masters

    cheers!

  • The reason this act of discrimination has come to light is because the death sentence was passed under the Blasphemy laws which were created by the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq with the strokeof a pen, and No Vote whatsoever. General Zia passed this law hoping to approach the Saudi’s point to the blasphemy laws and ask for monetary aid.

    on what basis are you giving more weight to her(and her family) argument as compared to the judgment of the court

    Because the law itself is wrong.

    do you think that she was really going to admit anything

    It doesn’t matter because the law itself is wrong.

    have you examined the evidence and studied the case

    It doesn’t matter because the law itself is wrong.

    how can you say that the judge is a bigot without even knowing the facts

    Because the law itself is wrong and someone is getting the death sentence.

    just because she was a christian so what she said must be true and the judge must be wrong

    No, it’s because there is systematised discrimination in Pakistan.

    the biggest bigots

    Do you want to get into that fight?

    are people like you who don’t waste a moment to please their western masters

    Oh screw you. And screw the west. This is for ourselves, so that we don’t live in such a bigoted country.

    Maybe Tazeen should totally print this blog post out and apply for citizenship in the west.

  • if the law is wrong that why it was written
    “perhaps the most glaring case of bigotry at lower level judiciary. “

    the judge is doing his job following the law, if you don’t like it than get the law changed

  • if you don’t like it than get the law changed

    Great idea!

    #repealblasphemylaw

  • It is quite sad. Hats off to her to take on the establishment despite knowing what the consequences would be.

  • http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/11/why-timur-kuran-is-one-of-our-most-important-thinkers.html

    His first book Private Truth, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification (one of the best economics books of the last twenty years) is about how societies can stick with screwed up beliefs and defend them publicly, yet without everyone being evil or stupid, even if they sometimes sound as such. It has major implications for the theory of revolution, and sudden flips of opinion, yet I read it as a defense of [fill in the blank] society. His work with Sunstein on availability cascades extends the basic point of how falsehoods spread in otherwise normal environments; it applies directly to U.S. regulation also global religion.

  • it seems zardari will pardon her…confirmed

  • Hallo Tazeen,

    There is a female writer over here who said Islam is one of the heaviest stones humanity has to carry around its neck.

    I wonder how a country like yours will every be able to master its problems.

    Georg

  • @Georg,

    Talk about an ignorant female writer then 🙂

    It would be prudent that you read better blogs 🙂

    The biggest burden humanity or rather women have to carry is a white man trying to protect them

    X

  • Well I work at Forman Christian college in Lahore which is under the administration of the PB chruch of USA. I am a muslim myself but most of my colleagues and staff members are christian. We all eat together and celebrate christmas and eid and all other events together. We share gifts and everything. Sadly though most of the population in pakistan is of that view as you have stated in your post about the christians. I wonder when the prophet himself had no issues of such sort then why do ppl come up with such stupid mindset. The PHD faculty members who are like the educated class of pakistan actually in a dinner had seperate dishes for one of the faculty member who was christian. Its a sad state of affairs. Its funny when muslims all over the world are the victim of such attitude then there is a lot of hue and cry but we ourselves do not do the same thing when it comes to our country and culture. This has to stop. The upcoming generation is a key to it I think. Teaching them value of considering everyone human first can only bring the change we desire to see.

  • @Tazeen – I salute your courage to write under such dangerous circumstances. Please be safe. I wish to keep reading your blogs way into the future 🙂

    @TLW – I understand your need to stay faceless. I hope you and others like you are able to make a change in Pakistan.

    My best wishes to you both. Note that the intolerant supporter who commented here is anonymous. Let him/her stay that way. Such people should never be allowed to openly flaunt anti-human sentiments. The blasphemy law in your country is painfully ridiculous. Your parents should never have let it happen and now its your headache. Please get that law struck off and disarm the religious fanatics for humanity sake.

  • @Tazeen – I salute your courage to write under such dangerous circumstances. Please be safe. I wish to keep reading your blogs way into the future 🙂

    @TLW – I understand your need to stay faceless. I hope you and others like you are able to make a change in Pakistan.

    My best wishes to you both. Note that the intolerant supporter who commented here is anonymous. Let him/her stay that way. Such people should never be allowed to openly flaunt anti-human sentiments. The blasphemy law in your country is painfully ridiculous. Your parents should never have let it happen and now its your headache. Please get that law struck off and disarm the religious fanatics for humanity sake.

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