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PAKISTAN: USCIRF: “Religious liberty from bad to worse in Pakistan”

 USCIRF: “Religious liberty from bad to worse in Pakistan”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom denounces the “dire condition” of religious minorities.

By Massimo Introvigne

 

Bitter Winter (17.08.2022) – https://bit.ly/3CfBogv – It is a bad month of August for Pakistan. As Bitter Winter has reported, the newly elected Chief Minister of Punjab came under heavy international criticism for making the persecution of the Ahmadis in his province even worse. Accusations of visa trafficking against a senior Pakistani diplomat, former ambassador to Czech Republic Israr Husain, highlighted the presence of human trafficking and corruption at the highest level of the Pakistani bureaucracy. Meanwhile, in the United States, a detailed report by the USCIRF, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, indicted the government of Pakistan noting that the situation of religious liberty is going from bad to worse.

The report notes that Islam is the state religion in Pakistan. The constitution reserves a small number of seats in the national and some provincial assemblies to religious minorities but, through a perverse mechanism, the Ahmadis, who are part of the most persecuted minority, in practice are not allowed to vote.

The USCIRF report reviews the laws punishing blasphemy with the death penalty. It notes that, “Those accused of blasphemy face violence, imprisonment with limited opportunity for bail, and even the death sentence, although no blasphemy convict has been executed by the state in Pakistan. Even if acquitted by a court of law, the accused and their family are often ostracized or expelled from the community and face continued aggression. Mere allegations of blasphemy are enough to cause riots and the killing of the accused by armed assailants or vigilante groups. Blasphemy laws are also used to fulfill personal vendettas.”

The fact that so far no death sentence for blasphemy has been carried out is balanced by the sad finding that “many of those who are charged or merely accused of blasphemy are killed by vigilante mobs or in targeted killings.” Obtaining justice from the court against those who were part of the lynching mobs is not easy.

The report mentions the case reported by Bitter Winter in December 2021 of a Sri Lankan manager accused of blasphemy and lynched by a mob who burned his body. It also mentions the horrific case that happened in “February 2022, [when] an angry mob stoned to death Muhammad Mushtaq, a mentally ill man accused of burning the Qur’an, in Khanewal District, Punjab Province. Officers at the scene were also injured while trying to take the accused into custody. The mob of some 300 people then hung his body from a tree. Videos shared on social media showed a large crowd gathered at the site.”

Christians, Sikhs, and Ahmadis have also been killed in sectarian hate crimes outside any accusation of blasphemy. The laws prohibiting the Ahmadis to refer to themselves as Muslims are enforced with more and more strictness. The use by the Ahmadis of any symbol that may constructed as Muslim is enough to arrest them, vandalize their places of worship, and even their graves.

Christians and Hindus report that forced conversions and kidnapping girls from the minority religions who are then “converted” to Islam and married to Muslim men are on the rise. Courts often side with the perpetrators, and claim conversions have been voluntary.

The report also notes the rise of xenophobic and fundamentalist Sunni Muslim political organizations, including Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, which target Shiite Muslims as heretics.

The report concludes that, notwithstanding Pakistan’s promises to improve its human rights record, the situation of religious liberty, if anything, has deteriorated, and religious minorities remain in a “dire” situation. “The existence and enforcement of blasphemy laws and anti-Ahmadiyya laws facilitate Islamist extremist elements and support their narrative that leaves little space for religious inclusion. Pakistan’s laws further fail to protect religious minorities at increasing risk of abduction, forced marriage, and forced conversion to Islam.” “As the U.S. government continues to engage with Pakistan, the USCIRF notes, it should continue to raise religious freedom concerns and ensure protection of religious communities targeted by Pakistan’s problematic laws and extremist groups.”

Photo: Protests against forced conversions in Pakistan. Credits.

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Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova ReligioFrom January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

Further reading about FORB in Pakistan on HRWF website

 





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WORLD: European Parliament denounces religious persecution

European Parliament denounces persecution of religious minorities worldwide

ECR Group at the EP (15.03.2022) – https://bit.ly/3s39Zs9Today, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee adopted ECR rapporteur Karol Karski’s own-initiative report on the persecution of minorities on the grounds of faith or religion. In the text, MEPs support and protect the rights of persecuted believers around the world, pointing out that the level of violence in some regions may constitute crimes against humanity or even genocide.

 

“I am glad that my report has received such broad support, because it touches on a very serious problem. Research shows that freedom of religion or belief is violated in nearly one-third of all countries in the world, and more than 5 billion people live in countries that mandate or tolerate serious violations of freedom of religion or belief,” said Karski following the vote.

Karski would have liked the report to have gone a step further by naming the actors in the persecution of believers:

“In my opinion, we should also have exposed the main perpetrators in the persecution of believers and the countries in which religious minorities are most oppressed, but unfortunately we didn’t find a common approach here.”

As a result of amendments introduced by left-wing MEPs, the report’s focus shifted from presenting specific examples of religious groups, particularly Christians, as the group most affected by persecution, to a more general approach. “That’s a shame, because I think there’s enough evidence of gross violations of the rights of people belonging to the four largest religious groups in the world: Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, to name just these,” Karol Karski said.

The document was adopted by a majority of 59 in favour, 1 vote against and 13 abstentions.

Photo : dreamstime.com

Further reading about FORB in the World on HRWF website





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PAKISTAN: Conference about Blasphemy Laws in Brussels and Online

Conference about Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan and the Persecution of Minority Groups

Picture: Mob demonstrating for death penalty in blasphemy cases in Pakistan (Getty Images)
“The blasphemy laws of Pakistan, while purporting to protect Islam and the religious sensitivities of the Muslim majority of Pakistan, are vaguely formulated and arbitrarily enforced by the police and the judiciary; as such they permit, even invite, abuse and the harassment and persecution of minorities in Pakistan.” 
A conference to discuss Pakistan’s highly controversial and widely condemned blasphemy laws will take place on Tuesday July 27th, at 11.00 (CET) at the Press Club Brussels, under the auspices of the Alliance internationale pour la défense des droits et des libertés (AIDLR)
The issues to be discussed will include:
  • The legal basis of the blasphemy laws.
  • The use of the laws to justify ethnic cleansing.
  • The particular effects on females.
Moderator: Andy Vermaut, Alliance internationale pour la défense des droits et des libertés .
Confirmed speakers
Paulo Casada, former MEP, Founder and executive director of the “South Asia Democratic Forum”. 
Jürgen Klute, former MEP, Christian theologian.
Willy Fautré, Director, Human Rights Without Frontiers.
Manel Msalmi, International affairs Advisor of MEPs of the European Peoples’ Party at the European Parliament.
Journalists and other interested parties are invited to register to join the debate via Zoom by e-mailing mordeau.brussels@gmail.com before 21:00 July 26th.
The event will be live-streamed from 11.00 (CET) at: 




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INDIA: Open Doors publishes new report on situation of religious minorities

INDIA: Destructive Lies: Open Doors publishes new LSE report on situation of religious minorities

 

Open Doors (07.01.2021) – Christians across India are living in constant fear as a systematic campaign of violent harassment, rape, and murder is waged against them. This is the finding of a shocking new report from the London School of Economics, commissioned by the Christian NGO Open Doors.

 

Destructive Lies – Disinformation, speech that incites violence and discrimination against religious minorities in Indiadescribes the extreme persecution Christians and Muslims are facing at the hands of violent vigilante mobs of Hindu nationalists. An executive summary is available here.

 

According to the report, the attacks and persecution are ignored, and even condoned by state actors – including state and regional government, police, and media – to keep in favour with India’s powerful Hindutva organisations.

 

A series of disturbing case studies are laid out in the report, including Sunita Verma**, who gave birth to a still-born baby after a Hindutva mob violently kicked her in the stomach, Ravi, a local labourer, entrapped and beaten by a mob and left to die in a cell by police, and the details of a mass attack on a Muslim village by a 6,000 strong mob, committing arson and driving many from their homes permanently.

 

According to one of the report’s authors, who have asked not to be named: “The extent to which … state actors are complicit in the violence is shocking; it was there even at the ground level. The bureaucrats, the police, the lower court judges, all of them are …openly colluding to harass these minorities. And politicians, top religious leaders and powerful media owners [are giving] very overt signals that this [behaviour] is desirable.”

 

During the current Covid-19 crisis, for example, Christians and Muslims have been targeted in concerted campaigns of misinformation, including claims that they are deliberately trying to spread the virus and infect Hindus through their acts of worship.

 

The research was conducted in February and March 2021 by an LSE research team based in India. The data was collected in localities where there had been reported incidents of anti-Christian or anti-Muslim violence. Further findings of the report include how attacks are filmed and posted on social media, how police and local legal infrastructures refuse to acknowledge any of the crimes committed or press charges and how state-level anti-conversion laws are encouraging violence and persecution.

 

The report makes a series of urgent recommendations, including an international fact-finding commission to record levels of violence and human rights violations against religious minorities. Meanwhile social media corporations are urged to take a series of immediate measures, including more moderators to address local issues of discrimination, harassment, and violence and immediate suspension of accounts spreading such materials.

 

** Names have been altered for safety reasons.

Picture: AsiaNews


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