The Guardian today has a very hard-hitting editorial about the assassination of the Pakistani governor of the Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, and the continuing demands from many (not just some religious extremist groups) who want a Christian lady, Asia Bibi, to be killed for alleged blasphemy. The Guardian quotes Pakistan’s second largest Urdu newspaper as actively endorsing the killing of Asia Bibi.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws must rank amongst the most unjust laws in the world. They are notoriously prone to abuse by all manner of unscrupulous people with grudges to settle, particularly against members of vulnerable minority groups.
The very visible and sad moral collapse of Pakistan that we are witnessing – the seemingly endless suicide bombers, tit-for-tat sectarian killings, corruption levels rivalling Nigeria etc, should be a huge cause of concern to all Muslims. At the very least, Pakistan has buried the idea that an ‘Islamic State’ can be a workable solution in today’s world. The truth is that Muslims in power are every bit as prone to abusing that power as non-Muslims. Only, most ‘Islamic states’ or ‘Islamic republics’ do not have anywhere near the same legal safeguards and restrictions on power that most modern secular states do.
The irony here is that Inayat Bunglawala has devoted most of his life to raising the political consciousness of Muslims, as Muslims; to placing a private religious identity firmly in the public sphere in Britain; to championing (what he has described as the Muslim Council of Britain's most signficant achievement) "a greater sense of faith identity among British Muslims in place of the outdated and mostly irrelevant ‘ethnic’ based categories of yesteryear." What we are seeing in Pakistan - established under Jinnah as a secular country, but one explicitly for Muslims - is precisely what happens when you let religion (above all this particular religion) form the basis of political organisation.