Visit our new British Pakistani Christians website

Visit our new British Pakistani Christians website
This site will no longer publish new material. Please join our new website

Monday, 21 December 2009

Message from Clara Connolly - Women Against Fundamemtalism

Clara Connolly, Women Against Fundamentalism
BPCA Rally 19th December 2009

Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF) challenges fundamentalism in all religions – by fundamentalism we mean the use of religion or religious affiliation to gain, or hold on to, political power. The ultimate fundamentalist goal is a theocracy – or state run along the dictates of one religion. Pakistan is one example; so was Ireland when I was growing up there – which was what led me to join WAF. The primary aim of a theocracy is to keep its own people under control – especially its women and dissidents. But it is invariably harsh and intolerant of its minorities.
Modern Britain, it goes without saying, is not a theocracy – though the state has many institutional features which many a rising fundamentalist would envy: it has a state religion – the Church of England, with its ties to state and monarchy. Until recently it also had a blasphemy law, an offshoot of Christian canon law, which protected only Christians from being offended.
In 1989, the founding moment of WAF, Muslim groups tried to extend the British blasphemy law to prosecute to the publishers of Salman Rushdie’ s ‘Satanic Verses’, and have the book banned. This was unsuccessful in the courts - which clearly exposed the discriminatory nature of the UK blasphemy law. WAF argued strongly then that the law should not be extended to cover all religions, but abolished.

Blasphemy laws isolate people from each other, along sectarian lines. If in Pakistan (and until 2008, the UK) it protects only the majority or state religion, it can be used as a tool for persecuting minorities, as is happening in Pakistan. The blasphemy law is being used there as an excuse to inflict terror and persecution on Christians, as well as on Ahmadis and other minorities. But extending blasphemy only widens the capacity for offence; it still promotes sectarianism and set people of different beliefs at each other’s throats. It compounds the divisiveness along religious lines – the same goes for any substitute or replacement like ‘incitement to religious hatred’. And of course it polices, persecutes and silences dissidents of any religion – majority or minority .

What we should be asking for is the abolition of the blasphemy law in Pakistan. To do this we should support the progressive forces there who are calling for its abolition – including lawyers and judges who have been among the most exemplary critics of the regime. A victory on this issue would be one significant step along the way of restoring Pakistan to what was promised by its founder, Jinnah – a secular state which would guarantee equal rights for all, regardless of belief.But its is right also to put pressure on the British Government ; it has some responsibility for the increased targeting of Christians in Pakistan since 9/11 – and particularly since the second wave invasion by Western troops of Afghanistan. Human rights organisations in Pakistan have commented on the relationship between the West’s war on terror and the increase in attacks on Christians in Pakistan.
The British Government bears a responsibility for the protection of Christians in Pakistan, unwitting victims of the war against terror, and should use its influence with Pakistan to press for the abolition of the blasphemy law.

No comments:

Post a Comment