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Articles on this Page
- 12/19/14--12:31: _Changing Pakistan a...
- 12/20/14--13:57: _Waiting in Bethlehem
- 12/26/14--08:00: _Pakistan: Litfests ...
- 12/30/14--03:49: _A hectic holiday se...
- 10/20/14--23:40: _"we are muslims"
- 01/05/15--05:00: _Power of the Monarchy
- 01/06/15--04:35: _Understanding the p...
- 01/06/15--06:12: _Good Nutrition Good...
- 01/09/15--04:05: _markets today. 09.0...
- 01/09/15--07:04: _Whose fault is it?
- 01/10/15--01:07: _Is caste system a c...
- 01/12/15--06:12: _Starting the week
- 01/12/15--09:45: _My prospective Hind...
- 01/13/15--04:09: _What is wrong with ...
- 01/14/15--00:02: _Unreal Islam
- 01/14/15--07:09: _Is Showering a whit...
- 01/16/15--09:43: _Who reads BP anymore?
- 01/16/15--09:45: _The power of blasphemy
- 01/17/15--03:04: _Slaughter of blonde...
- 01/18/15--20:01: _Blasphemy, blasphem...
- 12/19/14--12:31: Changing Pakistan after Peshawar: The Role of the State
- 12/20/14--13:57: Waiting in Bethlehem
- 12/26/14--08:00: Pakistan: Litfests and Bookfairs – Two Worlds? by Ajmal Kamal
- 12/30/14--03:49: A hectic holiday season
- 10/20/14--23:40: "we are muslims"
- 01/05/15--05:00: Power of the Monarchy
- 01/06/15--04:35: Understanding the power of religion
- 01/06/15--06:12: Good Nutrition Good Life
- 01/09/15--04:05: markets today. 09.01.15
- 01/09/15--07:04: Whose fault is it?
- 01/10/15--01:07: Is caste system a curse
- 01/12/15--06:12: Starting the week
- 01/12/15--09:45: My prospective Hindu father-in-law quoting Baha'u'llah
- 01/13/15--04:09: What is wrong with the National Front?
- 01/14/15--00:02: Unreal Islam
- 01/14/15--07:09: Is Showering a white people thing?
- 01/16/15--09:43: Who reads BP anymore?
- 01/16/15--09:45: The power of blasphemy
- 01/17/15--03:04: Slaughter of blonde Muslims
- 01/18/15--20:01: Blasphemy, blasphemy laws, Pakistan, Charlie Hebdo..
To see what this moronic narrative looks like, here is Pakistan's premier TV channel (GEO) , Mashallah, shameless morons
Once Again Invitation To Sectarian Violence In...by ak472522
I trust everyone had a good holiday season. December happens to be a particularly hectic month for me as the exact first half is my birthday, followed my parent's wedding anniversary then the Iranian Christmas of Yalda and then the traditional Holiday Season.
This is true, there is a hot war going on right now in Kashmir and all the familiar arguments (pro-war, pro-peace) are being re-hashed. It is time to examine them anew.
We have ex President/General Musharrafnoting that the path to freedom in Kashmir involves inciting Kashmiri Muslims to launch an intifada. He is confident that the inherent strength in the "we are muslims" argument will (finally) lead to the vanquishing of a half-million strong Indian army.
Short response: Our opinion is that the only feasible way forward in Kashmir is to bring Indian civil society on-side by impressing on the moral arguments about self-rule. For that two things (at the minimum) need to happen. First, there has to be a popular consensus in India that meaningful peace is possible with Pakistan. As of now, only Pranay Sharma (see below) and a few committed leftists believe in this. Any Pak incitement will only lead to more Kashmiri deaths (and a rise in popularity of Modi).
Second, moral arguments are not convincingly made by (or on behalf of) people who do not have any inherent faith in them. Large sections of Kashmiri muslims rejoiced when the Pandits left. The argument is simple: get rid of the people (minorities) and the land is yours to enjoy for all times. As originally battle-tested by the proponents of the two nation theory, this winner-takes-all argument has been a winning one all across South Asia. Today in Hindu majority Telangana, the man in charge compares himself favorably to Hitler (see link below) and wants to chase away all Andhra people (also Hindu majority and Telugu speaking).
Thus to win the argument Kashmiri muslims (and their well-wishers such as Musharraf and a Hindu Brahmin like Vishal Bharadwaj) have to stipulate that suppression of the weak by the strong is wrong. But Musharraf is not making that argument. He is claiming that victory will come from Pak army fighting outside-in, even as the Intifada fights inside out. This "we are muslims" dream helped in the birth of Pakistan and (seemingly) helps hold Pakistan together even now. But it will not help liberate Kashmir.
Next, Bruce Riedel worries about a cross-border nuclear war and Pranay Sharma frets about Modi using "Pakistan card" to consolidate his power.
It is interesting (and typical) to see how differently the two analysts read the same situation, while "neocon" Riedel points out that not responding to Pakistan's misadventures will encourage them to attack even more, "aman ki asha" Sharma is worried that a robust response from India will invite backlash from Pak (we think both predictions are correct, an ideological response holds constant regardless of the counter-response).
India has a no-first strike policy on nuclear weapons. Thus the only way a nuclear war happens is if Pakistan initiates a strike. Two things are for sure. First this will not happen without Chinese authorization and that seems unlikely. After all India CAN launch a nuclear missile on Beijing (it is a bit closer to home than MARS). Doomsday scenarios are fun to discuss but beyond the recycled concerns we doubt there is anything fresh to ponder upon.
Second, if Pakistan does strike it will be also the end of Pakistan as a nation. We know that the Pak army has a long history of being irresponsible, but we doubt they are suicidal.
Former president General Pervez Musharraf on Thursday said Pakistan needs to incite those fighting in Kashmir, India Today reported.
“We have source (in Kashmir) besides the (Pakistan) army…People in Kashmir are fighting against (India). We just need to incite them,” Musharraf told a TV channel.
Musharraf, who assumed power in 1999 soon after the Kargil conflict as hostilities erupted between Indian and Pakistani troops in the area, claimed that the Pakistan army is ready for war with India. But he cautioned India against any misadventure.
“India should not be under the illusion that Pakistan will not hit back,” he warned.
“In Kashmir, we can fight with the (Indian) army from both the front and back…We are Muslims. We will not show the other cheek when we are slapped. We can respond tit for tat,” he said, while commenting on the recent firing along the Line of Control and working boundary.
At least 12 people have been killed since India resorted to ‘unprovoked’ firing on the border.
“Modi is anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan. He has not changed. The problem is with us… We are running to attend his (Modi) inauguration, we should keep our dignity.”
Let us be absolutely clear on this: the only person who has no dignity left over Kashmir is Ex-P/G Musharraf. He has been exposed as a person who was betraying his allies in the West and (specifically looking at Kargil) betraying his own (Muslim) troops.
The argument that democracy (even if imperfectly) should come to all corners of South Asia (and the near-abroad) is a powerful one.
But then Pakistan as the worst case offender should repair the democracy deficit urgently and teach big brother a "peaceful lesson" in how democracy works, starting with (muslim) people in "Azad Kashmir". Unfortunately there is not a chance of that happening anytime soon, not in Pakistan, but also not in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Iran, Afghanistan, and China. And we will be very surprised if Ex-P/G Musharraf will ever come to a position where his opinion counts for anything, except as a measure of what his fellow citizens think (and dream).
India and Pakistan have fought four wars since 1947 and had several crises that went to the brink of war. Both tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Now tensions are escalating between the two again.
It began in May, when a heavily armed squad of Pakistani terrorists from Lashkar e Tayyiba (Army of the Pure) attacked India’s consulate in Herat, in western Afghanistan. They planned to massacre Indian diplomats on the eve of the inauguration of India’s new Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi. The consulate’s security forces killed the LeT terrorists first, preventing a crisis.
Since LeT is a proxy of Pakistan's military intelligence service known as the ISI, Indian intelligence officials assume the Herat attack was coordinated with higher-ups in Pakistan. They assume another LeT attack is only a matter of time. They are probably right on both counts.
This summer, clashes between Indian and Pakistani troops have escalated along the ceasefire line in Kashmir. Called “the Line of Control,” the Kashmiri front line this year has witnessed the worst exchanges of artillery and small arms fire in a decade, displacing hundreds of civilians on both sides. More than 20 have died in the crossfire already this month. Modi has ordered his army commanders to strike back hard at the Line of Control to demonstrate Indian resolve.
Although Modi made a big gesture in May when he invited his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to his inauguration, since then Modi has canceled routine diplomatic talks with Pakistan on Kashmir and signaled a tough line toward terrorism. He also appointed a very experienced intelligence chief, Ajit Doval as his national security adviser. Doval is known as a hard-liner on terrorism—and on Pakistan.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party strongly criticized his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, for what it saw as a weak response to LeT’s attack on Mumbai in 2008. No military action was taken after 10 LeT terrorists, armed and trained by the ISI, killed and wounded hundreds of innocents, including six American dead.
In 2001, a previous BJP government mobilized the Indian military for months after a Pakistan-based terror attack on the Indian parliament. The two countries were eyeball to eyeball in a tense standoff for almost a year. Two years before that, the two countries fought a war in Kashmir around the town of Kargil.
In the 1999 Kargil War, the Pakistani army crossed the LOC to seize mountain heights controlling a key highway in Kashmir. BJP Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee responded with airstrikes and ground forces. The Indian navy prepared to blockade Karachi, Pakistan’s major port and its critical choke point for importing oil. A blockade would have rapidly cut off Pakistan from oil supplies. The Indian navy was so eager to strike it had to be restrained by the high command.
The Pakistanis began losing the fight at Kargil. Then they put their nuclear forces on high alert. President Bill Clinton pressured Nawaz Sharif (the prime minister then and now) into backing down at a crucial summit at Blair House on July 4, 1999. If Clinton had not persuaded Sharif to withdraw behind the LOC, the war would have escalated further, perhaps to a nuclear exchange.
Kargil is a good paradigm for what a future crisis might look like. A BJP government is not likely to turn the other cheek. It cannot afford to let terror attacks go unpunished. That would encourage more.
The difference between the Kargil War and today is that both India and Pakistan now have far more nuclear weapons and delivery systems than 15 years ago. Pakistan is developing tactical nuclear weapons and has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world. China provides Pakistan with its nuclear reactors. India has missiles that can reach all of Pakistan and even to Beijing. The escalatory ladder is far more terrifying than it was on the eve of the millennium.
For retreating in 1999, Sharif was overthrown in a coup by the army commander, Pervez Musharraf, who had planned the Kargil War. Now Musharraf is calling for Sharif to stand up to Modi and not be pushed around by India. The main opposition party leader, Bilawal Bhutto, has called for a tough line defending Kashmiri Muslim rights, promising to take “every inch” of Kashmir for Pakistan if he is elected prime minister in the future. Sharif is under pressure from another party leader, Imran Khan, to resign. The politics on both sides in South Asia leave little room for compromise or dialogue.
America is seen in South Asia as a power in decline, a perception fueled by the Afghan War. U.S. influence in New Delhi and Islamabad is low. A Clinton-like intervention to halt an escalation will be a tough act to follow. But the consequences of a nuclear exchange are almost too horrible to contemplate.
The hype notwithstanding, Narendra Modi’s ‘tough’ line on Pakistan, as reflected in the fortnight-long firing across the Line of Control and the International Border by Indian and Pakistani soldiers, sets a dangerous precedent.
A flag meeting that could have ended the firing between the rival troops earlier than it did was put off because of India. Officials in New Delhi justify the Indian stand to argue that it was to prevent Pakistan from embarking on similar ‘adventurism’ in the future. In the process, however, this also opens up space for India’s own ‘adventurism’ which it can adopt in dealing with other smaller neighbours as well.
To his myriad supporters, Modi’s hard stand against Pakistan is something that was long needed. In Modi they see an Indian leader who has finally decided to set the parameters of engaging with Pakistan in a manner that is both effective and couched in terms that the neighbour can well understand.
However, despite the prevailing mood of belligerence in the country, especially among the prime minister’s admirers, the Modi government’s policy of how to deal with Pakistan raises some serious concerns.
There are clear indications that much of India’s tough response was fashioned by Modi to shore up his image domestically, especially before the crucial assembly elections in Maharastra and Haryana. According to a report in the Economic Times, during the entire period of firing at the border, Modi did not convene a single meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The decision to escalate the Indian response to the Pakistani firing was taken solely by the Indian prime minister and his national security advisor Ajit Doval, a former Intelligence Bureau chief.
Modi decided to refer to the developments at the border and the tough stand his government took several times during his campaigns in Maharashtra and Haryana. This clearly shows that irrespective of the death of several people, including hapless civilians living near the border areas, the prime minister continued with his tough line to raise his own stock and brighten the chances of his party’s victory in the two assembly elections.
But the willingness to adopt such a stand and to use Pakistan to build his own image can have negative implications. One, its success may encourage him to play the Pakistan card every time he finds himself in a spot and needs to boost his image with his countrymen at home. Two, Pakistan can play this game of brinkmanship as well in future, with dangerous consequences.
Whether or not it results in a war between the two nuclear-armed countries, heightened tension between the hostile neighbors will surely scare off potential investors from India and derail India’s project of economic development.
More importantly, a tough, confrontational line drastically reduces the diplomatic space to resolve differences through peaceful negotiations between the two countries. The precedent Modi is setting can also send a negative signal to India’s smaller neighbors in South Asia. If they continue to feel nervous about India, they may end up moving closer to China—the other big power in the region. And surely the Indian leadership would not desire a possible scenario where India gets isolated in South Asia. For the sake of its own development and growth, India needs a peaceful neighborhood, particularly in South Asia.
The Indian prime minister will therefore have to go back from where he started—by reaching out to India’s immediate neighbours. A policy that not only ensures a peaceful neighbourhood but also allows the space for others to grow and develop with India may turn out to be much more effective in dealing with neighbours. Modi may as well show his strength by taking the ‘tough’ political decision to reach out to Pakistan and resume his engagement with the recalcitrant neighbour.
Suffice to say the Congress govt followed Sharma's prescription and lost respect on the international stage and politically at home. Sharma makes the economic point that investments in India will suffer in case of escalation in conflicts but then where were these investments in the peacetime of 2009-2014?
Also, as is clear from the recent state elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, Modi will keep winning due to a complete vacuum in the opposition ranks. Congress is finished, Mayawati also looks finished. Modi has been accepted as an OBC (Shudra) leader by Indians drawing from all sections of society. India is also an OBC nation by a large majority...thus we have a truly strange situation where powerful OBC communities like Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh, Marathas in Maharashtra, and Jats in Haryana opposing Modi (and he will still win).
As far as the muslims are concerned the in-fighting between the "secular" parties have left them without any sure source of political patronage. The understandable reaction has been to vote for "communal" parties like AIMIM headed by the odious Akbaruddin Owaisi. Unfortunately, this will lead to even more marginalization. Strategically, it would make much more sense for muslims to vote for the BJP and make it bend to minority demands (this is starting to happen in some strange places....in Kerala and in West Bengal).
It is early days yet but Modi is transforming into Indira Gandhi (it is a good thing that he has no sons to hand over the baton when the time comes). The weakness of Man Mohan Singh was that the public knew that he was a puppet. So yes, India will not turn the "other cheek" as the provocations keep coming...and Pakistan becomes more and more isolated as a nation with no friends.
Finally, Pranay Sharma knows this well: small neighbors of India seem to be working much better with Modi than the small neighbors of China. Not to mention how the Iran-Pak border has become hot as well as Iranian soldiers violate borders and shoot down Sunni insurgents. It also seems that Afghanistan will not remain passive if ISI continues with the "incite muslims" strategy.
So all in all, even the strongest opponents of Modi are only peddling weak arguments. We have to look harder for better leaders and better arguments (since we are pro-peace after all) but right now all we see is Modi all around us (even if with a broom and a dusting-pan).
Link (1): tribune.com.pk/pakistan-needs-to-incite-those-fighting-in-kashmir-musharraf
Link (2): dailybeast.com/icymi-india-pakistan-head-for-nuke-war
Link (3): outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?292284
Link (4): firstpost.com/kcr-can-even-be-hitlers-grandfather-to-stop-injustice-telangana
If Baby Prince George has a daughter then potentially we could see British history repeating itself uniquely in one single family (the Windsors)
Victoria - longest reigning monarch (Hanoverian)
Edward VII - her son 10yr reign
George V - his soon 20yr reign
George VI - 15yr
Elizabeth II - potentially longest reign monarch
Charles III - say around 10yrs
William IX - 15yr
Baby George -
First child of Baby George (either boy or girl will ascend to the throne regardless
Inside the Middle East’s vanishing ancient religions (http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/11/16/inside-middle-east-vanishing-ancient-religions/AGZ4PsXJ4zQStdn7mfVg5O/story.html)
The beautiful Samantha Gilbert lectures us on why we need to replace processed food with natural ones. I'm truly surprised by how little concern people take to nutrition.
This sentiment emerged in conversation with a fellow Pakistani where I said "it's not the fault of Pakistan, it's the fault of Pakistanis."
I've moved on with my life and live a fairly acculturated integrated life in blighty (where I think about rocks and climbing a bit too much for my own good). Even so I'm more interested in the pink pages of the FT than the broadsheets of the Daily Telegraph. However I have to see that we are simply seeing a meltdown in the Ummah.
Does it affect me personally? Not especially since I'm ensconced in the West and the only real connections I have to Islam are my surname, my descent from Hazrat Ali & the fact that the Baha'i Faith find it's ultimately origins in the Shakyh sect.
However I feel pity and sad that the mental shackles of the people of the Ummah blind them to the message of unity and peace that the rest of the world has already embraced (to varying degrees). It is the responsibility of Muslims in the West (who like all Diasporas eventually have outsized roles of influences) to really lead the drive to modernize tradition.
When children are being picked off in schools, when journalist offices are shot down with impunity and now the ongoing hostage crisis in Paris emerging it seems that things are only getting worse and worse. Maybe I am too idealistic, perhaps I should take off my rose-tinted glasses from time to time (but experience has taught me life has so much to do with perspective) and it is too late for the gradual ongoing cultural exercises I used to embark on a couple of years ago.
The BritPak community needs to cultivate home-grown, authentic leaders who can bridge the gulf between civilisations. I don't know who this cadre is but someone has to issue the call and it has to be a broad-based ecumenical effort. I'm on the UKIP-Tory spectrum because I believe in Britain & British values are resilient & adaptable enough for a modern world. However I always take heed in John Major's mangled Orwellian quote:
Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers and, as George Orwell said, 'Old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist' and, if we get our way, Shakespeare will still be read even in school.
Those who believe in the above are always welcome to join Britain and the British enterprise.
Where do we see the markets go from here? Well I for one think that despite the plunging price of crude oil we are seeing an ongoing recovery. It's always puzzled me that just how quickly the world has forgotten the Credit Crunch of 07-09 and that any recovery (from what was at the time the end of the financial system) was going to be a decade long.
We are living in a new Imperial Age when the most exciting electoral prospect are Bush vs. Clinton (which Obama was only barely able to budge by 8years). At the end of the day the Central Banks are still continuing with the stimulus plans (especially in the Eurozone and GBP area where the Euro continues to weaken against the USD maybe all the way to parity?)
Other than that where do I actually see oil go? I think we may see it plunge down to $30 even before recovering to the $40-50 format. The commodity story isn't going to go anywhere and with the plunging price of solar power.
As he did with oil & gas reserve once again Allah smiles on the Ummah as making it among the sunniest places on earth (of course there are elaborate geopolitical explanations on why that is the case but let's stick with the religious one for now as Muslims needs all the manna they can get atm).
It seems that the world is going to enter a new systemic bull cycle, low oil prices are going to compete with dropping solar energy prices to industrialise the Rest of the world.
It seems apart from the plunging price of oil the FT seems replete instead with warning about democracy. I intensely dislike and distrust nationalism (apathy/dislike for the "Other") while I condone patriotism (love of one's Own).
However I don't think Europe is going to slip towards fascism anytime soon in the forseeable future. I don't even think it's viable or tenable to deport illegal immigrants however there has to be a control on future entries and manage the process.
Immigration has to be revamped that the developed countries of the world (West + Japan) need to synchronize their borders. As an example how many Americans would really want to move to Japan and settle there, or vice versa. I once read an Israeli economies write in the International Herald Tribune (essentially the NY Times) that unless incomes were 3x greater most populations would not immigrate.
As borders become more fluid it makes sense to plan for the eventuality of a more federated and united world. We are leaving the age of a Single Hegemon (with mixed results) towards a more equitable system. Transnational cultural groupings will take on much more significance than before however we must also begin to have a much fairer system.
The West (& Japan) have aging populations and overloaded pensions as a upcoming crisis. The answer is not more immigrants (because they themselves will ultimately age) but for pensioners to start migrating Southward (to found their own OAP colonies so to speak). Desirable locations around the world can become huge hubs for aging baby boomers where they will also be able to take advantage of purchasing power parity. Tourism and other industries would be built on the back of that (as families come to visit etc) and it would create huge employment opportunities in the South (for carers, companions etc).
Other than that it would also have an excellent environment impact as these compact colonies would essentially transfer from high emission producing regions to lower emission producing regions.
This is the migration that needs to happen not the one that's currently occurring where the brain drain depletes the middle class in the Rest and squeezes the native middle class in the West. The first retirement colony will then start a wave (I know they are trying that in the Phillipines & Japan).
In this manner the West & Japan can ease into smaller more amalgamated populations (probably followed by countries that are becoming wealthier and aging) while also becoming much more capital intensive (and preserving high wages, low employment). The Rest will benefit from the spin-off of compacting Prosperity Sphere.
There is nothing wrong whatsoever with declining populations as long as cultural coherency remains in tact. The mistake right now in the West is that natives have a low fertility rate coupled with immigration creates a huge amount of societal imbalance. In a globalising world high wages can eventually be found everywhere (and even where wages are not high PPP can ensure that it's more lucrative staying back rather than immigrating).
At that point support for the far-right will begin to precipitously decline as citizens and individuals begin to use globalisation to their advantage.
By now, the Philippines should have retirement villages for Americans because English is widely spoken. Instead, Americans are going to Spanish-speaking Mexico.
US Census 2010 estimates approximately 2.5 million citizens and legal permanent residents of Philippine ancestry.
One nongovernment survey claims 200,000 Fil-Am senior citizens would really like to retire in the Philippines, but they won’t.
Unlike Social Security, which you can take anywhere, Medicare stops at the border. Fil-Ams are afraid to return home without medical insurance. Another survey calculates that more than one million American seniors have homes in Mexico. The popularity of Mexico as a retirement destination is because you can simply cross the border back to the US for medical treatment.
Prince Dara Shikoh with three sages (Ascribed to Dal Chand India, Mughal scool, c. 1650)
Leave a comment if you do; I'm not expecting many to be honest even if we do have robust viewing figures.
The first couple years of the blog had an excellent comments section especially when we were WordPress.
There is never a point to deliberately offend; in fact BP is a perennial victim of that.
There was a time in our first year when we were hitting a tipping point and then we became a target, which led to several website issues. Ever since we moved from WordPress to Blogger our user engagement is a fraction of what it was.
A blasphemy law was part of the 19th century Indian Penal code as section 295.. It was not a bad law at all and the lazy habit of blaming it for later blasphemy law crap in the Indian subcontinent is just that: a lazy habit.
Here is section 295 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860:
Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.—Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
The aim of the law was to prevent/punish things like someone throwing a dead pig into a mosque or a cow's head into a temple. An actual physical desecration is to be punished.
This seems like an eminently sensible law and cannot really be blamed for all the evils that came later. But in the 1920s there was a famous case in Lahore where a Hindu publisher was arrested by the colonial authorities after Muslims agitated against him for having published a book called Rangila Rasul ("merry prophet"). The British colonial authorities tried to prosecute him for hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims, but the high court in Lahore (quite properly) found him innocent because there was no law on the books against just publishing a book, no matter how offensive it may be to some religious group. Fearing future communal discord from such provocations, the British then had the legislative assembly add section 295A to the law in order to criminalize deliberate attempts to "outrage the religious feelings of any community". This section states:
Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 4[three years], or with fine, or with both.
But even with this new and expanded article 295A in place, prosecutions for blasphemy were few and far between until, in the 1980s, General Zia added two new sections to the law in Pakistan and really set the ball rolling. These infamous sections are labelled 295B and 295C.
295-B: Defiling the copy of Holy Qur’an. Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or of an extract there from or uses it in any derogatory manner for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.
295-C: use of derogatory remarks etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet: – who ever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation innuendo, or insinuation, directly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable for fine.
2. Aasia bibi, the law's most prominent current victim, will not get a reprieve from anyone but she will not be hanged. Instead, she will be held in prison till she dies or is killed by a vigilante in prison. Her immediate family will have to leave the country at some point. The local Christian community will have to clearly show their humble submission in order to be allowed to get on with their lives.
In an ironic twist the charpoy (rope bed) on which Ilm Deen was borne to his grave is said to have been donated by another literary luminary, Mr MD Taseer, whose own son would later become governor of Punjab and would be killed for "blasphemy" by a new Ilm Deen. Ilm Deen's grave is now a popular shrine and a movie has been made about his exploit, complete with a dance sequence featuring the blasphemer enjoying himself before he meets his fate.
Rushdie went underground and has managed to survive, though some of his translators were not so lucky. But Theo Van Gogh was killed in broad daylight in Amsterdam and Ayan Hirsi Ali was driven underground for producing a supposedly blasphemous movie in liberal Holland. Another blasphemy execution was attempted by textile engineering student Aamir Cheema in Germany. And as expected, Aamir Cheema too has achieved sainthood in Pakistan after he took his own life in a German prison, with his funeral attracting thousands and his grave becoming a popular shrine.
A minister in Musharraf's enlightened cabinet wrote more than one op-ed commending such acts and fantasizing about the day Salman Rushdie's skin will be torn from his body with sharp hooks. A fantastically surreal movie has even been made about the execution of Rushdie by Muslim Guerillas who penetrate his secret Zionist hideout and attack him with flying Korans.
I am not kidding.
In 2002 a convicted murderer named Tariq decided to atone for his sins by killing a man accused of blasphemy who happened to be in the same prison in Lahore. Director Syed Noor (known for countless song and dance Lollywood films) produced and directed a movie called aik aur ghazi (one more holy warrior) about this young man and his glorious exploit. It is worth noting that Syed Noor is a "moderate Muslim", but this has not prevented him from glorifying the actions of a vigilante who killed another prisoner because he believed him guilty of blasphemy.
When a poor christian boy was accused of blasphemy in Lahore, the entire colony he lived in was burned to the ground. When a poor Christian woman named Aasia bibi acted "uppity" in front of some Muslim ladies (see details in the video below), she was charged with blasphemy and sentenced to death. These episodes highlights another important aspect of the blasphemy meme: it functions to bully and oppress minorities by threatening them with legalized lynching in exactly the same way as the "uppity nigger" meme was used to bully and oppress black people in the pre-civil-rights South in the United States. The fear of being accused of blasphemy, enforced by periodic horrific lynchings, ensures that Christians, Hindus and Ahmedis never forget their place and act uppity in front of good Muslims, since any indiscretion could lead to a blasphemy accusation and once accused, your goose is cooked.
Aasia Bibi's death sentence was so flagrantly unjust that Salman Taseer (whose own father had provided a funeral bier for Ilm Deen), the then governor of Punjab, was moved to say she should be let go and the blasphemy law should be amended to prevent such misuse. He was killed by his own guard for saying so. His guard was garlanded and showered with rose petals by Pakistani lawyers when he appeared in court and now has at least one mosque named in his honor.
HE has not been hanged. In fact, he is a hero to many and has been handing out new death sentences of his own while in prison; he convinced one of his guards to go and shoot a 70 year old mentally unstable British man who has been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges but not yet exectuted (probably not yet executed because he is British). MNA Sherry Rahman introduced a “private member bill” to amend the law and was herself charged with blasphemy for her pains (though being a member of the ruling elite, she has not yet been brought to trial). Rashed Rahman, a well known human rights lawyer was shot dead because he dared to take up the case of a young university lecturer who is being tried for blasphemy on insanely ridiculous grounds in Multan. Javed Ahmed Ghamdi, a liberal cleric who has tried to present religious arguments against this law (a law that clearly goes well beyond anything written even in most of the medieval compilations of shariah law) has had his assistant killed and is now living in exile in Malaysia. "Respected" Pakistani religious scholars have declared him to be an apostate and an agent of the enemies of Islam. The law is no closer to repeal or even modification.
And just a few weeks ago, the spineless Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence on Aasia Bibi. She may be hanged before the Governor's killer.
In fact. the law is now moving on to fresh pastures. There is a sustained push by anti-Shia groups to use the law against Shias just as it is being used against Ahmedis, Christians and other minorities. The law does not specifically mention the issue of blasphemy against the companions of the prophet (the sahaba), but why not? if you insult any of the companions of the prophet, do you not insult the prophet? Never mind that the companions themselves were frequently at each other's throats, but today the issue is the wedge that will open the way to legal persecution of Shias and help push them into the same position now occupied in daily fear by Christians, Hindus and Ahmedis. Several Shias have already been charged under the law and there is more to come. In fact, on the same day when Shahzad and Shama met their gruesome fate in Kot Radha Kishan, a Shia Zakir was killed in custody in Gujrat. He may have been mentally unstable and had been arrested for brawling in the bazar. In custody, he continues to harangue the police about the calumnies suffered by the Banu Hashim (the family of the prophet) at the hands of some of the companions (the sahaba). This so upset one of the police officers present that he got an axe and decapitated the prisoner inside the police station. The police officer concerned has been arrested and desperate attempts are being made to play down the sectarian dimension of this killing, but all will become clear once the policeman is put on trial. The ASWJ (the main umbrella anti-Shia organization) will protest that he was only defending the honor of the prophet. Punishment will not be easy. "Sweep under the rug" is likely to be the compromise.
In short, killing blasphemers is considered a highly admirable deed by a very large number of people in Pakistan (and probably in several other Islamicate nations). While it is indeed true that misuse of the law has become common after General Zia’s time (an intended consequence, as one aim of such laws is to harass and browbeat all potential opposition), the law has deeper roots and liberals who believe that it is possible to make a distinction between true blasphemy and misuse of the law, may find that this line is not easy to draw. The second, and perhaps more potent reason the law will not be repealed is because the law was consciously meant to promote the Islamist project that the deep state (or a powerful section of the deep state) continues to desire in Pakistan. The blasphemy law is a ready-made weapon against all secular opposition to the military-mullah alliance (though some sections of the military now seem to have abandoned that alliance, hence the qualification “section of the deep state”). Secular parties are suspected of being soft on India and are considered a danger to the Kashmir Jihad and other projects dear to the heart of the deep state. At the same time, Islamist parties provide ideological support and manpower for those beloved causes. In this way, the officers of the deep state, even when they are not personally religious, recognize the need for an alliance with religious parties and against secular political forces (Musharraf was a good example). They may have been forced into an uneasy (temporary?) compromise with secular parties by circumstances beyond their control (aka America) but with American withdrawal coming soon, the deep state may not wish to alienate its mullah constituency too much. They will be needed again once the Yankees are gone. Hence too, no repeal at this time.
The above was written BEFORE the Hebdo killings. The reaction to the Charlie Hebdo killings in Western countries (and especially in France) has been so visceral and immediate that many Muslim countries felt the need to send officials to express solidarity with France (those marching for freedom of expression have included the representatives of such bastions of free speech as Turkey and Egypt and even Hamas, Iran and Saudi Arabia were moved to condemn the killings. And within the Western world, even the postMarxist apologists who generally support restrictions on free speech in the name of "sensitivity" have been split vertically by the Hebdo murders. Some like Zizek have taken (for their ilk) an unusually harsh stance against the killers and their ideology, multiculturalism be damned.. But the Hebdo moment does not extend into the Islamicate core. In fact, Islamists in Pakistan are recovering their balance as we speak and are likely to launch some more protests this Friday to remind people that they are still around (though if the deep state does not wish to promote their cause at this time then the affair may not reach the level of past protests).
In Niger, crowds have already burned several churches and several people have been killed (it seems they were not impressed by Pope Francis' attempt to use this moment to ask for insult-protection for all faiths). More such stuff may happen in the days and weeks to come. In any case the Islamists do not have to respond soon. Patience is one of their virtues. Revenge attacks will come some day even if nothing happens soon. They have long memories. They are not done yet.
Longer term, the outcome in Western countries is likely to be more blasphemy, not less (things will be more confused in the world's largest democracy). And it will not all be some principled defense of free speech. In terms of abstract principle, the French (and many other European countries) are not without their own hypocrisies. Many European countries have laws against "hate speech" , holocaust denial and even blasphemy that are a mockery of free speech (and that do not really promote the peace and harmony they are supposed to be promoting; see a must read article by Sam Schulman on this issue) They frequently do not apply these laws, or fail to convict when they do apply them (and punishments are very very mild), so the actual situation on the ground is not as bad as it is in many Islamicate or Marxicate countries, but it is certainly not ideal. The United States is, in terms of abstract principles, probably the best country in the world for freedom of expression. As in all human endeavors, there is some distance between the ideal and the practice even in these United States, but legal restrictions on freedom of expression are lower in the US than in any country I can think of (past or present). Thank Allah for the first amendment.
But while discussions of abstract principle have their place, they can also distract from far more obvious and simpler points. In this case, here is the situation: there are people of many religions in Europe, in Japan, in China, in the Americas (North AND South) and in all these religions (except Islam) it is now the norm to argue about the foundational myths and to make fun of them. Some people take them literally (in ALL religions), many people deeply respect them, but some find them totally unbelievable and others just make jokes about them. In this atmosphere, you have a Muslim population that is asking for very special treatment for their particular myths. They are saying (in effect) that not only will WE live under rules XYZ, we want EVERYONE to live under rules XYZ. But they (and their intellectually more sophisticated defenders in the Western liberal elite) also insist they are not different in principle from anyone else. They also have ongoing and historic disputes with many groups (including, for example, right wing anti-immigrant politicians, Zionists, Jews in general, Christian religious nutjobs, Serbs, etc etc). In this setting, how likely is it that everyone in Western societies will accept MUSLIM rules that even some Muslims find unbearably oppressive? ...I think it is not very likely.
btw, Charlie Hebdo itself has come out of this tragedy with flying colors. The accusation that they are some kind of racist right wing publication was a canard in any case, and their current issue proves it. You can read more about it here.
Anyway, here are my predictions:
1. More blasphemy in the West. Things will go back and forth, but the overall trend is that Islamicate taboos on satirizing Islam will gradually fall, as will taboos on discussing early Islamic history any differently from the histories of other religions or other ideologies. There will be more attacks, more Islamophobia (both real as well as imagined-SOAS-type Islamophobia) and more unpleasantness all around, but the overall trend will be towards more criticism and more satire and ever fewer taboos.
2. In the Islamicate core, blasphemy will remain a huge big deal and many more people may yet share the fate of Raif Badawi (or worse), but the internet will ensure that the discussions that will become common in the West will slowly make their way into the Islamicate core as well. But they will invite a backlash and in places (like Pakistan) things will get worse before they get better.
3. PostMarxist thinkers will split further, with some joining the critics of Islamicate taboos and other defending them in the cause of fighting Islamophobia. Many of them will continue to insist (not always without justification) that the "real issues" are economic or political, not religious, and that Islamophobia is real and the people on Fox News really do have more power than the Islamists still living in Western Muslim communities, but the circle within which religion is ALWAYS "not the real issue" will shrink, not expand. This is not of much interest to many people (since Post-Marxists don't actually run the world, in the "West" or the "East"), but is always of interest to some of us because of the friends and family we hang out with. It will not be a happy few years in this circle as things in the Islamicate core get worse, Islamophobia (the actual cases) gets worse and neither Zionists nor Palestinians get to win cleanly. I feel a bit sad about this.
4. "Reform Islam" (consciously or unconsciously modeled on Reform Judaism) as promoted by people like Reza Aslan or Karen Armstrong may eventually become a real thing, with some sort of coherent theological framework and it's own network of mosques and religous teachers, but we are nowhere close to it being a reality already. The notion that there is already some kind of "moderate Islam" that lies hidden under a recent Wahabi overlay and can be recovered by promoting Sufiism and the poetry of Maulana Rumi is highly exaggerated. Blasphemy and apostasy, for example, are capital crimes in ALL major sects of Islam and a few superficial books from Reza Aslan or Armstrong are not enough to change that. On the other hand, where there is damand, someone will eventually provide supply. These books are not completely useless. In the years to come, other, more subtle, more knowledgeable and more sophisticated thinkers will no doubt create such Islams (plural) in the Western world and in China. But not so easily in the Islamicate core. Things there will get worse before they get better. Dr Ali Minai has an excellent piece about some of the work that will have to be done.
The full-frontal Islamist memes meanwhile can be seen in this excellent video. Our Imam in school used to say a lot of these things in 1974 and we thought it was more funny than threatening. But they were serious and here we are today.
Postscript: Excellent nuanced piece from Indian journalist Praveen Sami http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/the-silence-of-corpses/99/
btw, as an illustration of things to come: several people (and more important, the magazine Newsweek) have posted respectful portraits of the prophet Mohammed painted by Islamic artists in Iran, Turkic and Mughal lands in the pre-colonial era. See for example
Btw, Hafiz Saeed is on it..