Pakistan, With Its Severe Blasphemy Laws, Says It’s ‘A Multi-Religious and Pluralistic Society’

By Patrick Goodenough | December 13, 2018 | 4:41 AM EST

Imran Khan has been Pakistan's prime minister since August. (Photo by Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Pakistan – whose prime minister said recently there was “no mention of Jesus in history” while calling for greater global awareness of how much Muslims revere Mohammed – said Wednesday it was “a multi-religious and pluralistic society.”

Condemning the Trump administration’s decision to blacklist the country for religious freedom violations, the foreign ministry said there were “serious questions on the credentials and impartiality of the self-proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise.”

“Pakistan is a multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together.”

The world’s second most-populous Islamic nation enforces blasphemy laws that have disproportionately targeted non-Muslim minorities. Consecutive governments have refused to rescind or amend the laws, which make insulting Mohammed a capital offense.

Christians bear the brunt, along with Ahmadis (Ahmadiyya), members of a sect viewed by mainstream Islam as heretical.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday he has designated Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) under U.S. law, for egregious religious freedom abuses.

The foreign ministry statement said about four percent of Pakistan’s population comprises minorities, including Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs.

“Ensuring equal treatment of minorities and their enjoyment of human rights without any discrimination is the cardinal principle of the Constitution of Pakistan,” it said.

“Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities,” said the statement, which was silent on the issue of the blasphemy laws and the Ahmadis.

It ended by pointing a finger at regional rival India and the United States.

“Sadly, the proponents of human rights worldwide close their eyes on systematic persecution of minorities subjected to alien domination and foreign occupation such as in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” it said, referring to the Indian-controlled part of the disputed Himalayan territory.

“An honest self-introspection would also have been timely to know the causes of exponential rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the U.S.” the ministry concluded.

Human Rights Focus Pakistan president Naveed Walter said Thursday that despite the welcome acquittal and release from death row of blasphemy-accused Asia Bibi, many problems remain, justifying putting Pakistan on the CPC list.

They included “routine” false accusations of blasphemy in hundreds of cases, biased social attitudes, communal attacks, and constitutional barriers affecting minorities, he said.

Pompeo’s decision drew a guarded response from a spokesman for an Ahmadi organization in the U.S.

“The fact that Pakistan has been designated as a CPC is not a source of any happiness for our community,” said Ahmadiyya Muslim Community national spokesman Amjad Mahmood Khan.

“How or why would we be happy that Pakistan has been officially designated among those particularly concerning countries that deny freedom of religion and belief?”

Khan said the community hopes and prays Pakistan will join “the list of those countries who confer freedom of religion and belief to all communities and all citizens.”

Ahmadis venerate a 19th century figure called Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and say they reject all forms of violence. The movement claims millions of adherents in 190 countries, mostly in South Asia and Africa.

Members of non-Muslim minorities demonstrate in Faisalabad, Pakistan. (Photo: Human Rights Focus Pakistan)

Pakistan in 1974 amended its constitution to state that an Ahmadi “is not a Muslim for the purposes of the constitution or law.”

It did so shortly after the influential Saudi-based Muslim World League, issued a fatwa calling the sect “a subversive movement” that seeks to destroy Islam.

Muslim organizations everywhere should declare Ahmadis to be non-Muslims and “oust” them from the fold of Islam, it said, calling for Ahmadis to be boycotted socially, economically and culturally, and to be barred from marrying Muslims or holding positions of responsibility in any Islamic country.

‘There is no mention of Jesus in history’

With Pakistan at the helm, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for more than a decade promoted resolutions at the U.N. each year to have “defamation of religion” outlawed around the world.

The drive was temporarily suspended in 2011, after the Obama administration and OIC co-sponsored a U.N. resolution that condemned stigmatization based on religion, but differed from earlier “defamation” measures by not calling for blanket legal restrictions.

In a speech in Islamabad last month, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan signaled that the issue was back on the agenda, telling a religious gathering his government would push for an “International Convention on Preventing the Defamation of Religions.”

“Pakistan will spearhead the signing of this convention and make using freedom of speech to commit blasphemy a crime,” he said.

Khan said that “all Muslim countries should tell the West about the love we have for Prophet Mohammed.”

The Pakistani leader also described the 7th century founder of Islam as a historic figure, while suggesting that less historical evidence existed in the case of Jesus Christ. (Some reports quoted him inaccurately as saying Jesus “never existed.”)

“Other prophets of Allah came, but in human history there is no mention of them,” Khan said. “Very little mention. There is mention of Moses, but there is no mention of Jesus in history.”

“But,” he said, “the entire life of Muhammad, who was Allah’s last prophet, is part of history.”

 

See also:

Under Trump, U.S. Finally Blacklists Pakistan for Religious Freedom Violations (Dec. 12, 2018)

Pakistan’s Top Court Acquits First Christian Woman Sentenced to Death For ‘Blaspheming’ Mohammed (Oct. 31, 2018)

Should the US Grant Asia Bibi Refuge? Some Prominent Americans Say Yes (Nov, 15, 2018)

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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