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Anti-Blasphemy Protests in Pakistan Reach New Pitch: All French Citizens Advised to Leave Pakistan.

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A Reminder of what Blasphemy Laws Can Bring.

Pakistan Islamists clash over French cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad

Reuters two days ago,

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Thousands of Pakistani Islamists clashed with police for a second day on Tuesday in protest against the arrest of their leader ahead of rallies denouncing French cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad, officials said.

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At least one activist and one police officer died from wounds suffered overnight after Islamists blocked highways, rail tracks and main entry and exit routes, paralysing business in almost all major cities.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, government official Naveed Zaman told Reuters, adding that they had refused to leave until the release of their leader, Saad Rizvi, who was arrested on Monday.

Rizvi is the head of an extremist group, Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), that rose to prominence making the denunciation of blasphemy against Islam its rallying cry.

Pakistan to ban Islamist TLP party after deadly clashes Deutsche Welle.

The Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which has widely denounced perceived acts of blasphemy against Islam, has organized three days of protests in which more than 100 police officers have been injured. The group opposes the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in France, and also the French response reaffirming the right to “blasphemy” after schoolteacher Samuel Paty was beheaded last October.

The TLP has demanded that the government expel the French ambassador and endorse a boycott of French products.

Anti-French sentiment has been simmering for months in Pakistan since the government of President Emmanuel Macron expressed support for Charlie Hebdo’s right to republish the cartoons, deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.

France 24. Today,

Clashes erupted on Tuesday between TLP supporters and police officers after the group’s leader, Saad Rizvi, was detained hours after encouraging thousands of his supporters to take to the streets in cities across Pakistan.

Two police officers died in the clashes, which saw water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets used to hold back crowds.

Rizvi has been charged with instigating murder.

TLP supporters brought the capital Islamabad to a standstill in November last year for three days with a series of anti-France rallies.

Announcing the decision to outlaw the TLP, Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid told reporters in Islamabad that the government did not want “to be known as an extremist nation at international level”.

But the TLP is backed by a majority Sunni sect of Islam with a massive following in Pakistan, that will make it difficult to enforce any ban.

Pakistani extremists groups also have a history of popping up with different names after being outlawed.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in conservative Pakistan, where laws allow for the death penalty to be used on anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures.

Islamist racists in Street Protests.

Pakistan’s Imran Khan slams French President Macron’s views on Islam

The Pakistani prime minister has also sought a ban on “Islamophobic content” on Facebook. Imran Khan’s criticism of Emmanuel Macron comes at a time when he is under scrutiny for rising religious intolerance at home.

Pakistani Islamists have a long history of attacks on Freedom of Expression. Here demonstrators express support for the racist killers who attacked Charlie Hebdo and murdered our comrades: 2015.

Thousands Protest against Charlie Hebdo in Pakistan — Naharnet

Thousands marched in several Pakistani cities on Sunday against the publication of Prophet Mohammed cartoons by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, two days after similar protests were held across southern Asia.

The largest rally on Sunday was held in the financial center of Karachi by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan’s main Islamic party, and according to police estimates it was attended by some 25,000 people.

This indicates a wider lesson:

Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2021 at 3:58 pm

Batley Grammar: Two More Members of Staff Suspended.

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The Left and Labour Movement Should Defend Secular Freedom.

LBC:

Two more members of staff at Batley Grammar School have been suspended, it has been reported.

The school had apologised and suspended a teacher pending an investigation following a protest over the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad being shown in a class last week.

The picture had been used as part of a religious studies lesson, and the teacher involved has since been suspended and gone into hiding with his partner and four children.

It has since emerged two other teachers have also been suspended although this information was not made available to the public.

According to Mail Online, one ‘school source’ said: “Two other teachers are also being investigated but the school has been trying to keep it secret because they don’t want attention being drawn to the fact that this went beyond the actions of one person.”

It is understood they were aware the material was going to be used, but were not in class when it was shown.

LBC continues:

Batley Multi Academy Trust said in statement on Wednesday that an inquiry panel would begin work within a fortnight and said: “We understand everyone will want clarity as soon as possible.”

It said: “We’re grateful for the constructive engagement with all our stakeholders over the last few days with regard to Batley Grammar, one of the schools within our trust.

“We believe the right way forward is for an independent investigation to review the context in which the materials (which caused offence) were used, and to make recommendations in relation to the Religious Studies curriculum so that the appropriate lessons can be learned and action taken, where necessary.”

This Blog does not usually recommend the Weekly Worker, still less ‘Eddie Ford’, although it is well known that many of our section of left contributed to its pages in the past, but one of the best articles on the issues raised is in this week’s edition, (extracts)

Blasphemy laws old and new

Outraged, the local mosque mobilised its supporters, forcing the school to adopt remote learning. Mohammed Hussain of the Batley-based ‘Purpose of Life’ group – a registered charity – declared that the teacher “has insulted two billion Muslims on the planet” and “we cannot stand for that”, sharing the teacher’s name on social media with a letter condemning him. Taking it upon himself to speak for the entire ‘Muslim community’, as so often happens, he went on to state: “We do feel that, if this had been something that offended the LGBT community or something that was anti-Semitic, he would’ve been sacked on the spot.” For Hussain, the teacher’s resignation “should be forthcoming immediately.”

Similar sentiments can be heard from the protestors. One of them was quoted in various media outlets as saying the western world “is at a loss in understanding the reaction” from the Muslim community, as they are “required to stand up when prophet Mohammed is insulted, and when all the prophets are insulted, including all the prophets of the Old Testament, including Jesus” – the British “Muslim community” everywhere needs to review the materials being taught in their children’s schools. Showing images of Mohammed, we are told, should be as unacceptable as using the word ‘nigger’. Just beyond the pale.

This begins with something on everybody’s mind.

The very first thing to say is that this is an extremely serious matter. In October last year Samuel Paty, a school teacher in Paris, was horrifically beheaded after he too showed Charlie Hebdo cartoons during a class about free expression. In that sense, very similar to Batley. It is widely reported that the teacher there, who loved his “fantastic job”, is now in fear for his life – as are his family. He was whisked away from his home on “police advice” after receiving constant death threats. He is unlikely to return to Batley, let alone his job.

Secondly, we should support the immediate reinstatement of the suspended teacher – the lesson was precisely designed, presumably, to elicit critical thinking and philosophical inquiry. In which case, why not show the cartoon? Teachers should be free to show cartoons, pictures or quote texts that are relevant to the subject. After all, how can you conduct a lesson on blasphemy otherwise? Thirdly, Kibble was totally wrong to make his wretched apology – it will only encourage a climate of censorship.

There are wider issues, as religious figures push for the banning of views they dislike.

Many of those protesting outside Batley grammar school, and beyond, want the UK to resurrect its blasphemy laws. The common-law offences of “blasphemy” and “blasphemous libel” were formally abolished in England and Wales in 2008 after an amendment was passed to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.1 

And in Scotland the blasphemy law was only formally abolished this month after the new Hate Crime Bill passed its final parliamentary vote. There is now a new offence of “stirring up hatred” on religious grounds, meaning that Scots could be subject to prosecution if their behaviour is deemed “threatening or abusive”.2 As a consequence, the threshold for prosecution for “stirring up hatred” on religious grounds remains lower than in England and Wales – inevitably having a chilling effect on freedom of expression north of the border. This only leaves Northern Ireland, where blasphemy continues to be an offence under the common law, despite an attempt in the House of Lords to abolish it in 2009.

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This Blog covered the SWP line. This is a excellent answer.

According to the SWP, there is “a big difference between ridiculing a religion such as the establishment-backed Church of England and mocking the beliefs of the poor and oppressed” – apparently Islam is above analytical criticism, sceptical questioning, let alone biting humour, and can never be the belief of the rich and powerful. Ignorance in the extreme. Religions are almost always cross-class phenomena. The Church of England unites Elizabeth Windsor and Justin Welby with the worthy poor who huddle in church every Sunday. Roman Catholicism is the religion of Francis I, a bloatedly rich bureaucracy, and huge numbers throughout the Americas, Europe and Africa. The same with Islam. Sunni Islam unites the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the fabulously rich king of Saudi Arabia, with millions throughout the world. The same goes for Shia Islam, the Mormons and Judaism. Vicars, priests, imams and rabbis form a privileged middle class with a material interest in maintaining their hold over their congregations and fuelling hostility to secularism and anything that smacks of criticism.

There are countries with state churches, like England. But more widely it is not just the wealth of the pious religious bourgeoisie behind institutions of faith, right to their most extreme forms. Political Islamism enjoys the financial and political support of capitalist dictatorships, from Saudi Arabia to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The conclusion is absolutely spot on.

We do not want to unnecessarily offend religious people like modern-day zealots from the League of Militant Godless.5 Rather, we want to be freely able to use Marxism to investigate the truths and untruths of religion. Religion is profoundly human – bearing all the characteristics and contradictions of class society. In that sense, as Marx argued, religion is an encyclopaedia of humanity’s complex history.

Lest we forget, this is what actually existing Blasphemy laws are like,

Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer in Pakistan, had been imprisoned for six years when he was sentenced to death in December 2019. The charge: blasphemy, specifically insulting Prophet Muhammad (P.B.H.) on Facebook.

Pakistan has the world’s second strictest blasphemy laws after Iran, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Hafeez, whose death sentence is under appeal, is one of about 1,500 Pakistanis charged with blasphemy, or sacrilegious speech, over the last three decades. No executions have taken place.

But since 1990 70 people have been murdered by mobs and vigilantes who accused them of insulting Islam. Several people who defend the accused have been killed, too, including one of Hafeez’s lawyers and two high-level politicians who publicly opposed the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted for verbally insulting Prophet Muhammad. Though Bibi was acquitted in 2019, she fled Pakistan.

Opinion: Is Pakistan’s blasphemy law a result of the ulema-state alliance?

Written by Andrew Coates

April 2, 2021 at 11:33 am

Batley Blasphemy Protests: Suspended Teacher Receives Police Protection.

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Dur d'être aimé par des cons" remis à l'affiche à Lyon, Aubenas et  Fernay-Voltaire

En soutien au journal “Charlie Hebdo”.

The Guardian reports:

A teacher displayed satirical cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. The teacher has been suspended pending a formal investigation.

Gary Kibble, the head of Batley grammar school, apologised to parents for the inappropriate use of the cartoons, taken from the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, during a religious studies lesson this week which sparked a protest outside the school on Thursday morning.

“Upon investigation, it was clear that the resource used in the lesson was completely inappropriate and had the capacity to cause great offence to members of our school community for which we would like to offer a sincere and full apology,” Kibble said in an email sent to parents that promised further investigation.

Images on social media showed about 30 to 40 protesters, many wearing masks, outside the school, with police at the entrances to the school grounds and the road outside. The Huddersfield Examiner reported from the school that the protests were peaceful as children arrived, with the start of the school day delayed until 10am. West Yorkshire police said that no fines or arrests were made.

However, the Department for Education spokesperson condemned the protests which it said included issuing threats and was “in violation of coronavirus restrictions”. A spokesperson described the protest as “completely unacceptable”

Sky

A demonstration that took place outside a school after a teacher showed a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed in the classroom was “disturbing”, a cabinet minister has said.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the protest was “not right” and that “we shouldn’t have teachers feeling intimidated”.

“That is not a road we want to go down in this country so I would strongly urge people concerned about this issue not to do that,” he told Sky News on Friday.

Mr Jenrick added that reports the teacher is now in hiding are “very disturbing”.

National Secular Society:

The National Secular Society has criticised the protests and the school’s response.

The NSS is planning to write to the school, to ask for an explanation of its rationale and urge it not to pander to demands for blasphemy taboos.

Reports suggest the teacher warned that some members of the class may find the cartoon offensive, before using it to prompt a discussion about killings that have taken place after the publication of Muhammad cartoons.

School’s statement

In a statement, the school said: “The school unequivocally apologises for using a totally inappropriate resource in a recent religious studies lesson. The member of staff has also given their most sincere apologies.

“We have immediately withdrawn teaching on this part of the course and we are reviewing how we go forward with the support of all the communities represented in our school.

“It is important for children to learn about faiths and beliefs, but this must be done in a sensitive way.

“The school is working closely with the governing board and community leaders to help resolve this situation.”

NSS comment

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said the protest was “an attempt to impose an Islamic blasphemy taboo on a school”.

“Teachers must have a reasonable degree of freedom to explore sensitive subjects and enable students to think critically about them.

“Schools will understandably want to promote community cohesion and inclusiveness. But this cannot be achieved by pandering to religious groups who wish to dictate what can and cannot be taught.

“And the school’s weak response will fuel a climate of censorship, which is brought on by attempts to force society as a whole to accommodate unreasonable and reactionary religious views.”

Note

In October last year a school teacher in Paris, Samuel Paty, was killed after he showed cartoons of Muhammad from Charlie Hebdo magazine during a class about free expression.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 26, 2021 at 9:39 am