Clarion’s Raheel Raza looks at recent events from her perspective: Good News, Sad News and Bad News…
GOOD NEWS: There is good news from Pakistan this week. The Supreme Court overturned a decision to hang Asia Bibi. Asia Bibi is a Christian woman who has been in prison for the past nine years on a trumped up blasphemy charges. They date back to 2009 when she went to get water for her and her fellow farm workers. Two Muslim women refused to drink from a container used by a Christian. A few days later, a mob accused her of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and she was jailed.
The controversial Blasphemy Law in Pakistan has caused many deaths. In 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of the largest Province of Pakistan (Punjab) was shot and killed for supporting Asia Bibi; Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minorities, was shot and killed when he started advocating for reforms in the Blasphemy laws. Numerous lawyers have been killed and arguably the most horrific case was that of a young student Mashal Khan who was murdered last year by a mob on charges of blasphemy.
While Bibi’s acquittal is good news, it remains of great concern that already the ultra-right-wing religious parties are demanding death for Bibi’s family and the judges who acquitted her.
The Blasphemy Law is so challenging to human rights, that 1,200 judges and lawyers in Pakistan have absolved themselves from presiding over any blasphemy cases.
SAD NEWS: The recent tragedy at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania caught the world’s attention. There have been outpourings of support, prayers and thoughts. But are we in any shape or form tackling the root cause of anti-Semitism? Whether the perpetrator is an ultra-right Nazi or a radical Islamist, they will only act on the environment created for them. And the environment these days is ripe for anti-Semitism.
We know that hate leads to anti-Semitism which as we have seen leads to violence. And the hate is being perpetuated unchallenged all over the West through the BDS movement, Israel apartheid week, the Al-Quds day rallies and divisive and hateful rhetoric being spouted from the pulpits of some mosques by hate preachers.
It’s not enough to condemn the murder of innocent people in Pittsburgh. We must take action to ensure that an attack like this never happens again.
BAD NEWS: The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues to make headline news.
It goes on and on.
The fact is that Khashoggi is sadly dead after a horrific experience. Whatever is said or done will not bring him back.
However, the Saudis need to answer some tough questions. There are still activists in jail in Saudi Arabia and this is a good time to lobby for their release before they endure a similar fate to Khashoggi.
Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger who criticized the country’s government was sentenced to a decade in prison in 2013 and 1,000 lashes in public.
His sister, Samar Badawi, a prominent human rights activist, was pulled from her home in the middle of the night this July and detained on unknown charges.
And Loujain al-Hathloul, an activist who protested against the ban on women’s driving, was arrested along with several other women’s rights activists in May, right before the ban was lifted. She’s been charged with treason and could face up to 20 years in prison.
Saudi Arabia also has to answer for thousands killed in the Yemen war due to indiscriminate bombing.
Meanwhile, we must not let the spotlight fade from the country that is chuckling softly while continuing with its own agenda of rape, torture and murder – Iran.
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