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Shahbaz Bhatti var en fryktløs mann. Han var den første og eneste kristne statsråd i den pakistanske regjeringen, minister for religiøse minoriteter. Da Aisa Bibi eller Noreen som hun også kalles, ble arrestert for blasfemi, etterforsket han personlig saken, og fant ut at anklagen var et forsøk på å dekke over at hun var gjengvoldtatt. Sammen med guvernøren av Punjab, Salman Taseer, startet han arbeidet for å reformere blasfemiloven. Den har utartet til å bli et rent terrorinstrument for de religiøse og folk som ønsker å ramme noen i private vendettaer.

Asiya Noreen, a member of the only Christian family in the Punjab village of Ittan Wala, was asked to fetch water for a group of women working in the fields. Some of the women refused to accept the water, because of her low caste, and an argument broke out.
Local clerics said Mrs Noreen had blasphemed but Mr Taseer, who met her in prison, concluded that the charge had been brought to hide the fact that she had been beaten and gang-raped for having argued with people of a higher caste. Mr Bhatti conducted a separate investigation, and concluded that the allegations were “baseless”. Both men called for a review of the case – and the laws themselves.

Islamistene har gjort blasfemiloven til en symbolsak. Begge menn var dødsmerket for å våge å ta opp behovet for en reform. President Asif Ari Zardari ga først inntrykk av å støtte reformen, men trakk seg unna da presset økte.

Under begravelsen sist uke var det flere diplomater og journalister enn politikere. Slik var det også i Taseers begravelse. Den politiske eliten holdt seg unna. Statsminister Yusuf Gilani talte, men nevnte ikke hvorfor Bhatti ble drept.

Denne mangel på protest fra landets regjering er et signal om de religiøse fanatikerne vinner frem. Hæren har sin egen agenda, og støtter heller ikke regjeringen.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws date from 1860 when colonial administrators wrote a single section dealing with religious offences into their new criminal law code. Section 295 provided for the punishment of anyone who “destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons”. In 1927, after Hindu-Muslim riots rocked British India, the law was expanded to proscribe “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings”.
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled Pakistan from 1977 until his death in 1988, introduced several amendments to the penal code, mandating ever-harsher punishments for an ever-wider range of religious offences. For example, Section 298C mandates that whoever “by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life”.

Loven er i dag en gummistrikklov som kan anvendes til å knuse all opposisjon og alt avvik, reelt eller innbilt. Denne forståelsen av islam får uhyrlige konsekvenser.

Members of the heterodox Ahmadiya sect may face up to three years in prison for simply describing their houses of worship as mosques. The laws led to the word “Muslim” being gouged out from an epitaph on the gravestone of the Nobel-prize winning physicist Abdus Salam – which now reads, bizarrely, “the First Nobel Laureate”.

Loven er så vid og vag og generell at hvem som helst kan bli anklaget for blasfemi, siden Muhammed er det mest utbredte guttenavnet. Det blir som i Irak under Saddam, der det å søle kaffe på en avisside med bilde av Saddam kunne føre til arrestasjon og tortur.

Hvis man først slipper galskapen løs har den lett for å galoppere:

Between 1980 and 2009, more than 960 people were charged with blasphemy. The overwhelming majority, 809, were Muslims. Higher courts have often set aside the death penalty for blasphemy – but 32 people facing charges, and two judges who handed down acquittals, have been murdered by religious extremists.
“In most cases,” says Farzana Shaikh, a south-Asia expert at Chatham House in London, “the accused have no prospect of defending themselves, because to introduce their blasphemous statements would itself be blasphemy. If witnesses say you blasphemed, you’re guilty.”
More than a few recent cases have about them a surreal quality. A 17-year-old schoolboy potentially faces the death penalty because he doodled supposedly blasphemous remarks on a corner of an examination paper. So does a doctor who threw into the dustbin the card of a pharmaceutical salesman whose first name was the same as that of the Prophet.
Just days after Mr Taseer’s murder, a special anti-terrorism court gave life sentences to a Muslim prayer leader and his son. Their crime, prosecutors said, had been to tear down a poster advertising a religious service that had been pasted on their shop front.
In some cases, the accused never made it to court: in 2009, a mob murdered a factory owner because he used an outdated calendar with verses from the Koran written on it to paper over his workplace desk.

Både Pakistan People’s Party og Pakistan Muslim League forsøker ikke å legge seg ut med ekstremistene, og sørger dermed for at de blir sterkere.

Det hjelper heller ikke at mediene bidrar til hysteriet ved å sette konspirasjonsteorier i omløp. Det er aldri de religiøse ekstremistene som står bak, det er andre krefter, og bare fantasien setter grenser: USA, CIA, Mossad, og ubestemmelige fremmede. Denne noiaen undergraver det politiske systemet og spiller rett i hendene på ekstremistene.

Matters have not been helped by a mass media that often endorses the religious right’s conspiratorial world-view. The Urdu-language newspaper Jang carried a special supplement on Friday, blaming foreign powers for killing Mr Bhatti, as part of a conspiracy to defame the country. The English-language News, in turn, speculated about the role of Xe, the US security contractor, Indian spies and “a white foreigner who is acting as a ‘security consultant’ in Islamabad”.

Turning a blind eye to the blood-thirsty clerics
Pakistan is being swamped by a rising tide of religious hatred, while its political leaders remain silent, writes Praveen Swami.