The last man standing is….no more.

January 4 2011

The brutal murder of the Punjab Governor Taseer for his willingness to defend a Christian woman, who had allegedly violated Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, has rightly shocked many with a belief in a tolerant society. It is clear from recent media interviews that the late Governor  was fully aware of the dangers his views and actions posed in the poisonous atmosphere endemic in today’s Pakistan. It is also well-known that the blasphemy laws have often been a means of settling old scores: we have no knowledge of whether the woman is guilty or not, nor whether in this overheated atmosphere anything like a fair hearing is remotely possible.

Sufficiently moved by this mindless piece of brutality, I first tried to find out at least what (some) Islamic scholars had to say on the subject of tolerance. Here is  quote:

Islam may tolerate anything, but it teaches zero tolerance for injustice, oppression, and violation of the rights of other human beings. Allah says, (And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? Men, women, and children, whose cry is: ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from Yourside one who will protect; and raise for us from Yourside one who will help!’) (An-Nisaa’ 4:75).

Islam teaches tolerance on all levels: individual, groups and states. It should be a political and legal requirement. Tolerance is the mechanism that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), and the rule of law. The Qur’an says very clearly: (To every People have We appointed rites and ceremonies which they must follow, let them not then dispute with you on the matter, but do invite (them) to your Lord: for you are assuredly on the Right Way. If they do wrangle with you, say, ‘God knows best what it is you are doing.’ ‘God will judge between you on the Day of Judgment concerning the matters in which you differ’) (Al-Hajj 21:76-69).

Inshallah, this does not seem to square at all with the brutal action of his bodyguard or those that might have helped him. Irrespective of the weakness of the Zadari Government, its ineffectual response to the country’s disastrous floods or that Taseer was a friend and associate of the President, this killing resolves nothing. Indeed it reinforces the view of a country spinning disastrously out of control and increasingly in the hands of extremists. That a moderate group of scholars has further condemned any attempt at mourning Taseer’s cold-blooded murder is yet further testimony to a failure to stand up and be counted: he did and paid the ultimate price.