The tragic events in Arizona are a hideous conclusion to a week already scarred by the assassination in Pakistan of Punjab governor Salman Taseer. The ominous implications of Taseer’s killing have only been underlined by its aftermath. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, one of Taseer’s sons (the two were estranged, and the story of their relationship—described in the same article—casts an interesting light on the complexities of today’s Pakistan) takes up the story:
For if it is science and rationality whose fruit you wish to see appear in your country, then it is those things that you must enshrine at its heart; otherwise, for as long as it is faith, the men who say that Pakistan was made for Islam, and that more Islam is the solution, will always have the force of an ugly logic on their side. And better men, men like my father, will be reduced to picking their way around the bearded men, the men with one vision that can admit no other, the men who look to the sanctities of only one Book.
In the days before his death, these same men had issued religious edicts against my father, burned him in effigy and threatened his life. Why? Because he defended the cause of a poor Christian woman who had been accused – and sentenced to die – for blasphemy.
My father, because his country was founded in faith, and blood – a million people had died so that it could be made–could not say that the sentence was wrong; the sentence stood; all he sought for Aasia Bibi was clemency on humanitarian grounds. But it was enough to demand his head.
What my father could never say was what I suspect he really felt: “The very idea of a blasphemy law is primitive; no woman, in any humane society, should die for what she says and thinks.”
And when finally my father sought the repeal of the laws that had condemned her, the laws that had become an instrument of oppression in the hands of a majority against its minority, he could not say that the source of the laws, the faith, had no place in a modern society; he had to find a way to make people believe that the religion had been distorted, even though the religion – in the way that only these Books can be – was clear as day about what was meant.
Already, even before his body is cold, those same men of faith in Pakistan have banned good Muslims from mourning my father; clerics refused to perform his last rites; and the armoured vehicle conveying his assassin to the courthouse was mobbed with cheering crowds and showered with rose petals.
I should say too that on Friday every mosque in the country condoned the killer’s actions; 2,500 lawyers came forward to take on his defence for free; and the Chief Minister of Punjab, who did not attend the funeral, is yet to offer his condolences in person to my family who sit besieged in their house in Lahore.
More background on this topic here.