Saturday, August 1, 2009

Minority Report: Christian-Muslim riots In Gojra

Since 9/11, Christian minorities and their places of worship have been under attack in Pakistan by Taliban sympathizers suspecting them of pro-US and pro-western allegiance. Recent rioting between Christians and Muslims in Pakistan following allegations that a Q'uran was defiled in a Christian district in the Punjabi city of Gora has left six christians dead including women and children. According to Dawn, members of the banned group Sipah-e-Sahaba began torching houses following this allegation and police ignored explicit instructions by the Federal Minister for Minorities Shabaz Bhatti to protect those threatened.

I am extremely disturbed by this. Six people were killed over an allegation, not a factual event. Why is it that every time someone disrespects our beliefs we react with violence? Of course everyone has a right to be offended and outraged, but within the remains of civility. This violence cannot be condemned simply because the said allegation was not true. Even if the Q'uran was actually defiled, this is no reason to kill someone.

Part of the problem is Pakistan's identity as a Sunni Islamic state. The elevation of Sunni Islam to a statewide level legitimizes the Sunni religion over all others promoting religious discrimination. In addition to this, it impresses upon non-Sunnis that they are somehow not as Pakistani as everyone else. If the desecrated religious book in question was the the Bible, the Guru Garanth Sahib or the Gita, would there have been a public uproar by any non-muslims? If the Nahjul Balagha had been desecrated by a Sunni, would there be as much of a condemnation seen as in this event? I don't think so.

Legitimizing a religion at a state level offers state protection for that religion and not others. The fact that the majority of the country follows Sunni Islam does not provide justification for this unfairness. Why are the blasphemy laws only invoked for Islam and not when other faiths are ridiculed and attacked. Like the police who denied protection to the Christian community under threat, our position on this issue is very clear.

We don't care.

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