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Blasphemy Laws: Who's on the Right Side of History?

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The ruthless assassination of Pakistan's Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, puts Pakistan's persecuted minorities on the right side of the history. Listen to his recent video interview on BBC and you will know why.

Bhatti was killed in a gun attack in Islamabad on March 2nd for questioning the country's controversial Blasphemy laws.

In the video (which did not receive widespread media coverage in Pakistan during his lifetime), Bhatti, draws strength from his faith in Jesus Christ by saying, "I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of cross. And I am a follower of the cross. I would prefer to die for my principles and for the justice of my community rather to compromise against these threats."

This is an interesting phenomenon. When the media asked Mirza Khurshid Ahmad (Ahmadi Muslim spokesperson) for his reaction after the twin attacks on Ahmadi mosques in May 2010 he replied, "Our reaction is according to the teaching of Holy Quran which exhorts believers to stay patient when a calamity hits him. We ask help not from any person, any government, any society, but from Allah alone"

So the minority victims of the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan, at least Christians and Ahmadi Muslims, are turning to their faith and history for strength in an increasingly suffocating environment. Christians are identifying with early followers of Jesus Christ who faced extreme persecution for centuries and emerged victorious. The Ahmadi Muslims are identifying with the early followers of Prophet Muhammad who endured the battle of persecution in order to win the hearts.

Religious persecution in Pakistan has left minorities seeking divine intervention instead of political condemnation.

The next logical question: Is the Pakistani Muslim majority on the wrong side of the history?

So it seems. Just look at the history of religious persecution. On the wrong side you have oppression: ruthless in might, larger in numbers, frightening in tone, and vindictive in action. On the right side you have compassion: hurting with plight, smaller in numbers, peaceful in tone, and forgiving in action.

The contrarians are likely to raise the following two objections to that theory. First: "Isn't the American hegemony persecuting the Pakistani majority?" they might argue. From organized drone attacks to the street violence of Raymond Davis', hundreds of Pakistani civilians have perished. Second: "And Pakistani minorities remain compassionate because they have no choice."

Yes and no.

Yes, one can make a reasonable argument that average Pakistani civilians are paying the price of aggressive military actions against terrorists. But the contrarians break their own logic in the next step. If minorities never have a choice then why are the Pakistani clerics resorting to terrorism against innocent civilians? Why is every Daniel Pearl, Asia Bibi, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti on their hit list? Who are they trying to pressurize with suicide bombings? Why is a terrorism plot being thwarted in America, almost every quarter in the past year, implicating a Muslim youth?

Compassion under oppression is a tough choice; a choice that puts a community on the right side of history. Ironically, Prophet Muhammad best exemplified this choice -- whose honor Pakistan is trying to protect with bloodshed in the guise of the Blasphemy Laws.

The skeptics within Pakistani masses continue to argue that the Blasphemy Laws are applicable to the whole country and many Muslims have also been punished under them. So they do not lead to persecution.

Wrong again. That's like justifying 9/11 by mentioning the many Muslims who also died in those attacks. In the Pakistan of 2011, try going to school, working in the Army, socializing at work, or living in a neighborhood as an Ahmadi Muslim or a Christian and then you would understand.

Like it or not, by turning to God instead of guns, minorities in Pakistan are actually following the true example of Prophet Muhammad. And this is what the Quran says about the patient, "It is these on whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy, and it is these who are rightly guided (2:158)."

Regardless of which side of history you are on, there is a false sense of security in numbers. This was demonstrated when I asked a supporter of the current Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan: What if you are on the wrong side of the history?

His response: who cares?

Faheem Younus is an adjunct faculty for religion/history at the Community College of Baltimore and a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland. He can be reached at faheem.younus@ahmadiyya.us

Around the Web

Blasphemy law in Pakistan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pakistanis Rally in Support of Blasphemy Law - NYTimes.com

Factbox: Pakistan's blasphemy law strikes fear in minorities | Reuters

Pakistan's Blasphemy Law Strikes Again - by Wajahat Ali | The ...

Pakistani governor who opposed blasphemy law slain - Yahoo! News