User login

The Rule of Law – or the Law Under Other Rules

By: Norbert Klein Posted: January-10-2011 in
Norbert Klein

The Mirror, Vol. 15, No. 698

Several events – some of them new and shocking, but always painful and disruptive for those concerned, are under reference here; they relate to violence based on religious convictions.

Though this may not be known very widely, it has to be pointed out that some of the oldest Christian communities in the world exist in Middle Eastern countries – they are not the result of any Western influence related to Christian communities coming into existence during the last couple of centuries. – Christian communities in Iraq date back to the first century. Early predecessors of the Coptic Christian communities in Egypt are recorded to have existed in Alexandria in the year 42. These Christian communities existed about half a millennium before Islam became more and more dominant in the region.

Around Christmas time, several of these Christian communities were added to the targets of bombings and suicide bombings. In Iraq, there had been about 800,000 Christians among a total population of over 31 million before the invasion into Iraq in 2003, but the attacks on these old communities in the meantime have led to a steady stream of emigration to other countries. In Alexandria in Egypt, 23 people coming out from a church on the day before New Year were killed, and about 100 were injured, when a bomb in a car, parked in front of their church, exploded.

The present violent conflicts in Pakistan – according to its constitution the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” – relating to blasphemy legislation, dates back to the time of the government led by General Zia-ul-Haq, who had overthrown Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a coup in July 1977 (then Bhutto was hanged in 1978). As Zia-ul-Haq’s legacy the systematic development of nuclear weapons, and the Islamization of the legal system in Pakistan are often mentioned – both served popular conservative support for his government.

The punishment for theft was now to be amputation of the right hand by a surgeon, for robbery, the right hand and the left foot should be amputated by a surgeon. Provisions relating to adultery were that a women and a man found guilty will be flogged with one hundred lashes, if unmarried. If married they shall be stoned to death, provided proof of four adult Muslim male witnesses can be found.

The legal definitions made no clear distinction between adultery and rape. In practice, when a woman tried to appeal to a court claiming to have been raped, she risked to be accused, as she had sexual intercourse outside of marriage. This ordinance was strongly criticized by human rights and women rights activists, lawyers, and some politicians.

Anti-blasphemy legislation made anything disrespectful to the prophet Mohammed, his family members or companions, and any Islamic symbols an offense, punishable with imprisonment, a fine, or death.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in 1889, has about 4 out of the almost 170 million of inhabitants of Pakistan. Since 1984, this community has been the main victim of the legislation protecting Islam, as it is considered not to adhere to the right doctrines, though the Ahmadiyya traditions claim to be a correct and Muslim, though of a reformist nature. Their motto is “Love for All, Hatred for None.”

“Ahmadis continue to be killed and injured, and have their homes and businesses burned down in anti-Ahmadi attacks. The authorities continue to arrest, jail and charge Ahmadis for blasphemy and other offenses because of their religious beliefs. In several instances, the police have been complicit in harassment and the framing of false charges against Ahmadis, or stood by in the face of anti-Ahmadi violence.”

The second largest religious minority is the Christian community, with about 2.8 million members. There have been tensions, which are often handled at the local level. For example, in November 1992, Gul Masih, a Christian, was sentenced to death after having remarked to his neighbor Mohammad Sajjad, a Muslim, he had read “that Mohammed had 11 wives, including a minor.” According to Muslim tradition this is true: When Mohammed married Aisha, she was six years old,according to tradition, the marriage was consummated when she was nine years old.

The latest case, which is now causing a major unrest in Pakistan, started with the conviction for blasphemy of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman and mother of five, who was sentenced to death by hanging in November 2010.

This sentence provoked not only in criticism in various other countries, but also in Pakistan itself. There were calls to the President of Pakistan to commute her death sentence. The governor of the province of Punjab predicted that the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari would pardon this Christian woman, sentenced to death for blasphemy. “What basically he’s made it clear is that she’s not going to be a victim of this law,” Governor. Salman Taseer said. “I mean, he’s a liberal, modern-minded president and he’s not going to see a poor woman like this targeted and executed. … It’s just not going to happen.”

But on 4 January 2011 Salman Taseer was gunned down by one of his own body guards. The killer said that he is proud that he killed the governor, because he considered him to be a blasphemer.

The public reaction is split – with a huge public support for the killer who is considered a hero.

“Within hours of the assassination the self-confessed killer, Mumtaz Qadri, acquired a Facebook fan club, and a group of 500 religious scholars and clerics from a generally moderate sect declared that ‘there should be no expression of grief or sympathy on the death of the governor, as those who support blasphemy of the Prophet are themselves indulging in blasphemy.’”

“Meanwhile thousands of flag-waving Pakistanis defied the warning, to attend Taseer’s funeral in Lahore, and supporters posted furious diatribes against Qadri on Facebook.”

Others say that it is now time to reconsider the meaning of the constitutional statement that Islam is the state religion of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – quoting also other constitutional requirements.

Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minorities, called “Salman Taseer’s assassination a barbaric act of religious violence, taking a principled stand against misuse of the blasphemy law.” – “Those who issued degree for killing should be investigated and blasphemy laws should be reviewed to control the increasing intolerance in society,” he added.

Apart from the public emotion condoning the public murder of the Salman Taseer – a problem still without any probable solution visible – those who want to see that oppressed minorities should be protected according to the law, refer also to the international commitments of Pakistan. Pakistan was one of the 48 states (among the 58 members of the United Nations) which adopted, on 10 December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Commitments entered are considered to be valid, unless withdrawn. When they related to fundamental rights, they may even overrule national peculiarities.

In relation to the future treatment of asylum seekers in Cambodia, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International cooperation, Mr. Koy Kuong, was quoted in The Cambodia Daily on 22 December 2010:

“Mr Kuong said the government would continue to assess the status of newly arrived Montagnard asylum-seekers using the immigration law and a 2009 sub-decree on refugees.”

A reference is made to Cambodian Immigration Law; but Cambodia is also a signatory of the “1951 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.” The thousands and thousands of Cambodians who fled the country during and after the Khmer Rouge time would never have made it if Thailand or Indonesia had applied their immigration laws.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) explaining many procedures related getting a certain permission to enter the USA, describes how the immigration regulations have to be observed – except when a persons tries to apply for asylum! That is always an irregular case which needs special protection:

“Waive any rights to review or appeal of the admissibility determination of the United States Customs and Border Protection officer, or contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.”

There are goods that have to be protected that are higher than what normal procedures foresee.

Norbert KLEIN

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 15, No. 698 – Thursday, 6.1.2011
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror


Whats on! See our help pages - add your own events

This location does not have any events. Why not add one here!