Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Islam

Tariq Ramadan’s ‘Debate’ ‘Within the Islamic Tradition’ on Female Circumcision.

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Ramadan Faces, “campaign by far-right circles, fundamentalist secularists, inveterate Zionists, lying ex-Muslims…”

Tariq Ramadan (Arabicطارق رمضان‎‎; born 26 August 1962) is a Swiss academic, philosopher and writer. He is the professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and also teaches at the Oxford Faculty of Theology. He is a visiting professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies (Qatar), the Université Mundiapolis (Morocco) and several other universities around world. He is also a senior research fellow at Doshisha University (Japan). He is the director of the Research Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE), based in Doha.[3] He is a member of the UK Foreign Office Advisory Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief.[4] He was elected by Time magazine in 2000 as one of the seven religious innovators of the 21st century and in 2004 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world[5] and by Foreign Policy magazine (2005, 2006, 2008-2010, 2012-2015) as one of the top 100 most influential thinkers in the world and Global Thinkers. (Wikipedia)

To get an idea of why this Blog has nothing but disdain for Ramadan his reaction to the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher is a good place to start,

Speaking on the BBC’s Today Programme earlier this morning, Prof Ramadan condemned the attack on the Paris headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, saying that, “these are very difficult times and a very sad situation” and expressing his “deepest sympathy for the victims’ families.”

“We must start by condemning what happened and what was done in the name of Islam… what they did in fact was to betray our principles, our values and the overall message of Islam,” he stated.

Prof Ramadan also outlined the need for a more nuanced reaction to the atrocities, and for there to be a real attempt to understand the grievances that might lead such people to commit such extreme acts of violence.

The Oxford Don is perhaps best known for calling for a “moratorium” – not the abolition – of some  Sharia law penalties as stoning people to death (An International call for Moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty in the Islamic World. 2005)

A new controversy about Islamic Legality  began last week (June the 14th).

It has not stopped growing.

Tariq Ramadan Defends Female Genital Mutilation: ‘Part of Our Tradition’ and an ‘Internal Discussion’ for Muslims Only.

… on Monday, influential Islamist thinker and activist Tariq Ramadan released a 10 minute video on Facebook expressing support for Elsayed staying on. Ramadan stated Muslim leaders who advocate for FGM should be understood as “brothers,” part of “our community” and Muslims who disagree should engage them with “internal discussion” and are instructed “not to expose them.” Here are some of the highlights from this video.

The author continued,

First Ramadan starts by framing opposition to FGM as a critique coming from “outside the community” and stating that he opposes the calls for firing Elsayed:

“I’m reacting to what I heard and some questions that I had about what happened in Washington with this controversy round a shaykh who was not yet fired – I hope he is not going to be, but he was asked to stop preaching and to stop being active within the community or within the mosque in Washington. And I think that some of the brothers and the sisters even wrote a letter after the controversy around female genital mutilation and excision asking for him to be fired from the mosque and reacting to a video that was posted about what he said in the gathering with Muslim students, men and women. Let me say three things about this because I think this [sic] are critical times and we have to be quite serious about the way we are reacting to controversies and the way we are reacting to some critiques that are coming from outside the community and we have to ask ourselves what we are doing.”

Next Ramadan makes his argument that because FGM is defended by some Muslim scholars it qualifies as “part of our tradition” and is therefore worthy of being “promoted”:

“My position as a Muslim scholar, my position: it’s wrong that we should not promote this because I think that first, it’s not in the Koran and second, it’s part of the Sunnah that we have, and it’s something that is done in African countries, among the Christians and the Muslims and it’s not religious. Having said that, I cannot deny the fact that some scholars at the highest levels of their institutional position are supporting the fact that this is possible that you can go for excision, not to go up to the mutilation and infibulation as it is known in African countries, but we have this in our tradition and it’s part of the internal discussion that we need to have. So to please people who are attacking Islam by saying ‘Oh no, no, no, this is not Islamic. It’s illegal,’ it’s not even faithful to our tradition. We need to have an internal discussion… So, once again, we have to be serious. Any one of the six months of any basic Islamic training, no one can say it’s not part of our tradition. It’s controversial, it’s discussed… you need to take a position, but you then cannot deny the fact that this is something which is part of our tradition.”

Then Ramadan shifts to attacking opponents of FGM, decrying them as Islamophobes, attacking MEMRI by name, and criticizing Muslims for wanting “to be perceived as moderate, open-minded”:

“You need to ask yourself: who are these people who are using videos, putting them and creating controversy? If you are reacting only when Islamophobes – and the people, MEMRI, we know who they are, we know what they want to do, we know in which way they want to make Islam problems, not only in the United States of America but around the world through the translation, distorting and covering in ways that are very specific, they have a very specific objective, they have a very specific way of dealing with scholars, intellectuals, and Islam. These are Islamophobes, and you react to them by just exposing one of your leaders, a shaykh that has been serving the community for more than 30 years and you ask for him to be fired so quickly just to be on the safe side of the political discussion in the United States of America by saying ‘Oh, we have nothing to do with this’ while your tradition is there and it’s discussed within your tradition and whoever is attacking you at least you have to be cautious with the people who are using this and are putting you in a situation which is yes, problematic, but you have to stand for your rights to have opinions, and at least to have internal discussion and not to react so quickly to these issues… And the last thing that I wanted to say: we disagree. I don’t agree with the statement. I don’t with one brother, I don’t agree with one leader. Can’t we take the time to have an internal discussion? To say ‘Look we are not going to respond to the controversy, we are not going to fire the people just to be on the safe side and to be perceived as moderate, as open-minded.'”

Ramadan’s concluding comments are perhaps the most revealing [emphasis added]:

At least we take the time and we let the people know these are internal issues, these are discussions that we want to have among ourselves and it’s not for you to decide when we have to fire somebody or even what are our priorities, because at the end of the day the context is now deciding for us, and people around us are deciding for us what are our priorities, what are the main principle of Islam, and we are not able to come with dignity, with consistency, with confidence and say, ‘Ok, this is who we are, we don’t have all the same opinions, there are discussions, there are internal discussions, we will take our decision, we will have our Shura, our deliberation with it, and it is for us to decide, not for Islamophobes, not for racists, not for people who have political agendas that are now deciding for us… The way you have to be dignified as a Muslim is to rely on him [points upward] to be consistent with yourself and to respect your brothers, not to expose them, not to expose your sisters, even though you disagree, even though you don’t agree. And no double standards, no selective indignation, or selective rejection of some of our brothers because they are exposed outside. And as to our internal business, we talk about it but we let the people, we let the brothers say whatever they want to say.

This insistence on “no double standards” is loaded with irony, as double standards are inherent in Ramadan’s worldview. He advocates for one moral standard for his Muslim “brothers” and “sisters” to engage in “internal discussion” and for imams to “say whatever they want to say.” But for non-Muslims who oppose the barbaric (and illegal) practice of FGM – that makes one a racist and “Islamophobe.”

The international religious authority has tweeted,

Ramadan’s further  reply:

I thought it was not needed as I repeated three times in the video that I do not support either excision or FGM. In any way and I have been involved around the world against both practises. I disagree as well with the comments made by Shaykh Shaker about hyper-sexuality. Yet, this was not my point and I made it clear in the video. To say this discussion has no ground within the Islamic tradition is wrong : it has been debated and still is. Even though I am against these practises as I think it is not the right Islamic interpretation, it cannot be denied that it was condoned by some Muslim scholars (even contemporary ones). So let us be clear about it and address the issue the way it should be, in a clear, wise and scholarly manner. My other point was about our reactive way to deal with issue when vicious islamophobic agencies, such as MEMRI, are attacking people and leaders within the Muslim community. This is the time where we should be wise and decide for ourselves how we have to deal with these issues and prioritise our struggles. Instead of exposing people, let us have an open internal debate even if it has to be heated, tough with no compromise. This is where I stand and I hope it is clear enough by now.

 

In a more forthright vein, in French the scholar talks of,

A new campaign by far-right circles, fundamentalist secularists, inveterate Zionists, lying ex-Muslims, and propagandists from all sides…claims that I am a defender of female genital mutilation! Not satisfied with altering my remarks and twisting their meaning, these imposters are waging a campaign in all directions, at Muslims, at Africans, and my self…I have campaigned for 30 years in Africa, and across the world against female circumcision, and all forms of mutilation. These claims are abject smears.  But there is no greater deafness than the deafness of liars, racists and the dishonest.

 

One assumes that the erudite savant was referring to this report in French language media,

Après la lapidation, Tariq Ramadan voudrait avoir une discussion « interne » sur l’excision : « Elle fait partie de notre tradition » toute l'information et l'actualité sur Israel, sur l'Europe, les news sur Israël et le Moyen Orient

Ramadan’s response is, one might observe, in just the kind of tone which we need in the present climate.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 22, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Tunisia: Protests at enforcement of Religious Law as 4 get 1 month prison for eating in public during Ramadan.

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RAMADAN

“We are not forced”: Tunisian campaign against making everybody obey religious law during Ramadan. 

Tunisians get jail terms for eating during Ramadan

A court in northern Tunisia handed one-month jail terms Thursday to four men for eating in public during the Muslim dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan, a spokesman said.

The four had been “eating and smoking in a public garden, a provocative act during Ramadan”, which started last week, Chokri Lahmar, prosecution spokesman at the court in Bizerte, told AFP.

He said the four men had 10 days to appeal against their one-month sentences before the terms take effect.

Their sentencing, which followed complaints from other local residents, comes ahead of a call circulated on social media for a June 11 demonstration to protect the rights of those who decline to take part in the Ramadan fast.

Although the state has the role of “guardian of religion” under the constitution, Tunisia has no specific law banning eating in public during Ramadan, a controversy which resurfaces each year in the North African country.

Most restaurants and coffeeshops remain shut in Tunisia during daylight hours over the holy month, but some establishments open behind closed curtains to prevent customers from being seen.

More in LibérationQuatre Tunisiens condamnés à un mois de prison pour avoir mangé en public pendant le ramadan.

There is a campaign in Tunisia to respect the rights of those who refuse  to fast during Ramadan and against the (forced) closure of cafés and restaurants during the day to make people conform to religious ‘law’.

#MouchBessif: La campagne qui appelle au respect des libertés des non-jeûneurs.

A Collectif pour la défense des libertés individuelles, bringing together a number of ONGs, states that this enforcement of religious obligations on everybody is an attack on personal freedoms and  contrary to Tunisia’s constitution.

A demonstration is planned on Sunday the 11th of June.

More background in Huffpost Tunisie: Fermeture de cafés et restaurants durant ramadan: La société civile tunisienne se mobilise.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 2, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Islamists Massacre Egyptian Christians on Palm Sunday.

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A bomb exploded in a church north of Cairo that was packed with Palm Sunday worshippers, killing at least 21 people and wounding 50 others, officials said. France 24.

The attack in the Nile Delta town of Tanta was the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt‘s Christian minority, which makes up around 10 percent of the population and has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. It comes just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt.

CBC TV showed footage from inside the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers. Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed confirmed the toll from the attack in interviews with local and state-run media.

No one immediately claimed the attack (Blog Note, but there is little doubt that they were Islamists).

A local Islamic State affiliate claimed a suicide bombing at a church in Cairo in December that killed around 30 people, mostly women, as well as a string of killings in the restive Sinai Peninsula that caused hundreds of Christians to flee to safer areas of the country.

A militant group called Liwa al-Thawra claimed responsibility for an April 1 bomb attack targeting a police training centre in Tanta, which wounded 16 people. The group, believed to be linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, has mainly targeted security forces and distanced itself from attacks on Christians.

Egypt has struggled to combat a wave of Islamic militancy since the 2013 military overthrow of an elected Islamist president.

This tragedy cannot be blamed on Western intervention.

This tragedy cannot be blamed on ‘the West’.

There responsibility lies with those violent Islamists and jihadists whose hatred of Christians, and other non-Muslims, has already led to a mass exodus in the Middle East.

Our love and solidarity to all those suffering after this attack.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2017 at 11:35 am

Tunisia: Banned “Call to Prayer Remix” now on-Line.

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Prayer Remix: “Violation against Good Moral and Public Outrage Against Modesty”.

Tunisian authorities have shut down a nightclub and begun an investigation after a DJ played a remix recording of the Muslim call to prayer, an official said on Monday.

A video, widely shared online since Sunday, shows clubbers dancing at the weekend to music that includes the call to prayer at the club in the northeastern town of Nabeul.

The footage sparked a storm of debate on social media.

The party, near the popular resort of Hammamet, had been organised by two European DJs.

“After confirming the facts, we decided to close this nightclub” until further notice, Nabeul governor Mnaouar Ouertani told AFP.

He said an investigation had been opened and the club’s manager detained “for violation against good morals and public outrage against modesty”.

“We will not allow attacks against religious feelings and the sacred,” Ouertani said.

The organisers of the Orbit Festival apologised on Monday in a post on the event’s Facebook page.

The DJ “did not realise it might offend an audience from a Muslim country like ours” and “had no intention to anger or offend”, they said in their post.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

Jeune Afrique reports,

Organisatrice de l’événement qui s’est tenu de vendredi soir à dimanche matin, l’équipe d’Orbit Festival a de son côté « décliné toute responsabilité » et « présenté (ses) excuses », dans un message publié sur sa page officielle Facebook.

« Le DJ ‘Dax J’ est anglais et a joué ce titre récemment en Europe », il n’a pas réalisé « que cela pouvait offenser le public d’un pays musulman comme le nôtre », a-t-elle ajouté.

That is the Organisers of the event, Orbit Festival, have stated that the DJ, Dax J, is English, and they deny any responsibility for the incident, adding that they apologise, and that they had been as surprised at the incident as the general public and had acted after realising what was going on.

They add that the DJ has offered his “sincères excuses ” sincere apologies, for any offence caused.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 4, 2017 at 11:07 am

The Way of the Strangers. Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme Wood. Reflections on Islamism.

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The Way of the Strangers. Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme Wood. Allen Lane 2017. La Fracture. Gilles Kepel. Gallimard/France Culture. 2016. Pour les Musulmans. Edwy Plenel. 2015 (2014).

The problem must be posed anew, the hypotheses inverted, for in this domain ‘ideology’ is but another name for ignorance: the religious expression of a social phenomenon is not its disguise, but its unveiling. Gilles Kepel. (1)

From the 7th of January 2015 Islamist murders at Charlie Hebdo and the Vincennes Hyper Cacher to the massacre on the 14th of July in Nice, on the Promenade des Anglais, was for those living in France, Gilles Kepel, begins La Fracture, “une année terrible”. That the anniversary of the 2016 jihadist killings in Belgium was marked last week by the Westminster atrocity has brought the Islamic State, Daesh, back to European headlines. In Mosul and Syria ferocious battles, waged with few scruples, continue against their genocidal tyranny.

Some figures have reacted to the latest tragedy with what Nick Cohen calls the “lies of the right” – Nigel Farage’s tirade against “migration” in first place – “debase civilised society.” (Observer 26.03.17) In Pour Les Musulmans the journalist Edwy Plenel one of the first to signal the dangers of Le Pen and the Front National in the 1980s (L’Effet Le Pen 1984 Edwy Plenel and Alain Rollathas written a generous appeal, in the spirit of Émile Zola’s Pour les Juifs (1896). Against hatred, and the accumulated prejudices against Muslims that makes them a “global enemy” and target in French political life, Plenel offers the British reaction to the 2005 London carnage, “We Are Not Afraid”.

Perhaps now is also the moment to look anew at Jihadism, the most violent wing of Islamism. In his column Cohen reflects a wider dissatisfaction with those who try to explain these outrages as responses to western foreign policy (the ‘anti-imperialist’ left), or the ‘result’ of multiculturalism (the ‘alt-right’).

Kepel was an early critic of the view that political Islam was a “mask” for deeper social causes. Since 9/11 we have heard much of the “religious disguise” that Al-Qaeda and now Daesh presented, while the ‘real’ issue of Western intervention, or more generally ‘neo-liberal globalisation’.  While these abstractions count for little, there are without doubt hard social facts that help extreme forms of Islamism flourish. In France the social divisions that leave many of those of North African descent marginalised, time in prison, and the psychological fragility of individuals, are conditions working behind the acts of individual Jihadists. But “l’idéologie donne la conscience de l’action et en détermine la forme.” Ideology is material, and exists, in ISIS/ISIL, as an organised would-be state, with international offshoots. Daesh, Kepel states, aims to provoke a violent fracture in France, which their ideologues elaborate from Salafist materials, a conquest of Europe, ending in the mass conversion, the enslavement or extermination of the inhabitants. (2)

The Islamic State.
These may be outrageous beliefs, but Kepel does not misrepresent them. The Way of Strangers is a thorough account, first hand evidence, of Islamic State ideas. Those wearied by the media use of the “so-called” before Islamic State will find that, after consideration, Wood, uses the term they use themselves. He shifts the attention to what they are and not to what a ‘real’ ‘Islamic’ state might be. It cannot be grasped as “Jacobinism with an Islamic veneer. It has its own story, the will of god written on the battlefield.

“The notion that religious belief is a minor factor in the rise of the Islamic State is belied by the crushing weight of evidence that religion matters deeply to the vast majority of those who have travelled to fight. “(3) Not only does it issue mountains of Fatwas and other pious declarations, but also, Wood demonstrates, the Islamic state cannot be understood without a deep immersion in the ideology of Salafism and a variety of Islamic schools. The “simplest explanation” for their roots is that their founders were “extreme Islamists”. As for effort to dismiss their faith basis, those doing so rarely have any knowledge of the clerics and scholars in its ranks.

“Since 2010, tens of thousands of men, women and children have migrated to a theoretic state, under the belief that migration is a sacred obligation and that the state’s leader is the worldly successor of the last and greatest of prophets. If religious scholars see no role for religion in a mass movement like this, they see no role for religion in the world.” (4)

In meetings, across the world, with those in sympathy with this goal Wood talks to figures, many of them converts, Musa Cerantonio, ‘Yahya’, Anjem Choudary, and some with decided distance from the Islamic state, such as Hamza Yusuf. The Way of Strangers melds these encounters, invariably over Halal food, with considerations on Islamic history, above all the legal school of Dhaharism, which rigorously bases its rulings on the Qur’an and the prophet, and no additional material or judgements. Parallels with the seventh century Kharijites, a vicious Muslim splinter group who practised mass excommunication, and denied all authority but their own, are dawn.

As one reads The Way of Strangers happy talk about Islam as a “religion of peace” quickly evaporates. The ‘literalist’ Islam of the Islamic, baked by scriptural authority, state sanctions the most severe forms of Hudud punishment, slavery, infamously including sexual captives, and the regulation of all aspects of personal life fused around loathing of the non-licit and the ‘kuffer’. It is obsessed with, The Way of Strangers continues, the takfir¸ the “sport” of declaring those who disagree with them and claim to be Muslims “apostates” under sentence of death. It has genocidal intentions, already put into practice against Yazidis. Wild dreams of a worldwide apocalypse the Islamic state’s followers, to come in decades not months, round off the picture.

Religious Genocide.

Most people do not want, Wood writes, to be part of a religion seen as “fanatical and bloodthirsty.”Most religions have zealots that the mainstream would prefer to make disappear and the Muslim bind is not unique”. Yet, is the Islamic State Muslim? “Whether it is ‘legitimate; is a question other believers answer for themselves, overwhelmingly in the negative” That can be said of any minority, “the group led and supported by Muslims albeit Muslims with whom they vociferously disagree.” To say that it has “nothing to do with Islam” is to deny that they “cite Koran, hadiths, and carefully selected thinkers within the Islamic tradition.” In brief, the denial of the Muslim roots of Daesh is a way of avoiding answering uncomfortable questions, starting with the fact that the Qu’ran does contain verses that support slavery, sexual oppression, and is riddled with ideas that are hard to reconcile with democratic values. Word for word reading shows them, and reasoning by analogy, historical context, and other methods used to adjust Islam to today, on the model perhaps of Saint Augustine’s 5th century reading of the Bible in On Christian Doctrine  always runs up against the problem that the book is claimed, however bizarrely, to be the inerrant word of god. (5).

The Way of Strangers is not just an important and brave book. It is a way of confronting difficult issues about religious politics above all religious genocide based on a form of spiritual racism. The immediate response to defend universal human rights a point of unity between people. Yet Wood leaves us with multiple dilemmas. If the Islamic State is now facing defeat in its Caliphate, will it be able to retain and rebuild support in other violent conditions? What will happen to those who have joined its genocidal regime? Will they return home, or will they, like the butchers of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen be tried and imprisoned?

*********

(1) Page 234. Gilles Kepel. The Roots of Radical Islam Saqi 2005. Originally published as Le Prophète et Pharaon. La Découverte. 1984.
(2) Pages 47 and 256 – 8 La Fracture. Gilles Kepel.
(3) Page 73. The Way of Strangers. Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme Wood.
(4) Page 77. The Way of Strangers.
(5) Pages 217 – 8 .The Way of Strangers.

 

Pakistan Asks Facebook to Track Down ‘Blasphemers’.

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“Enemies of Humanity” Says Pakistan Interior Minister.

Radio Pakistan ‘reports’:

NISAR VOWS TO BLOCK  BLASPHEMOUS CONTENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Interior Minister asks Facebook administration to cooperate in removal and blocking of the blasphemous contents.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan says those responsible for blasphemy will be dealt with an iron hand.

Talking to media after inaugurating citizen facilitation center in Islamabad on Thursday, he said the culprits of blasphemy are enemies of humanity.He said that we have asked Facebook administration to cooperate in removal and blocking of the blasphemous contents.

 The Interior Minister said that government is making all out efforts to block blasphemous material on social media. He said eleven people who commented on such posts are being interrogated.

He urged all Muslims countries to practice unity against sordid conspiracies against Islam as the matter of blasphemy hurts feelings of all Muslims.

He said the government will take strict action against blasphemous contents and will avail all the possible options.

The Minister said that cooperation from the US Administration is also being sought through US embassy in Pakistan in this regard.

He urged the international community to have immense consultations on the issue of blasphemy as it has become a critical matter for the world.

He said ridiculing a religion in the name of freedom of expression will not be allowed

Al Jazeera reports,

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani authorities have contacted social media website Facebook for help in investigating the posting of “blasphemous content” on the platform by Pakistanis, according to a statement.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan. Insulting the Prophet Muhammad carries a judicial death sentence and, increasingly commonly, the threat of extrajudicial murder by right-wing vigilantes.

At least 68 people have been killed in connection with blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to a tally maintained by Al Jazeera.

“There have been positive developments in the matter of the Pakistani government’s contact with Facebook’s management regarding the blocking of blasphemous content,” an interior ministry spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.

Facebook would be sending a representative to visit Pakistan with regard to the matter, the statement said, and the government has appointed an official to liaise directly with the social networking website regarding the censoring of certain content.

In a statement quoted by the AP news agency, Facebook said it viewed government requests with care keeping in mind “the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users”.

The move comes after Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, ordered a ban on all online content deemed to be “blasphemous” on Tuesday.

“Ridiculing a religion in the name of freedom of expression should not be allowed,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s interior minister, said on Thursday.

11 People under Threat.

Khan is spearheading the government’s efforts to have the material blocked.

Eleven people have been identified as having posted “blasphemous” comments or material on Facebook and will be acted against, the minister said. The identities of the 11 people in question were not immediately clear.

The authorities’ move comes after a senior judge at the Islamabad High Court called upon the government to block all blasphemous content online, “even at the cost of blocking entire social media”.

The petition at the High Court accuses five rights activists who were abducted in early January of running Facebook pages that had posted content deemed to be blasphemous.

No evidence has been shared directly linking the five activists to the Facebook pages in question, but during their three-week disappearance the men were the subject of a vast social media campaign accusing them of blasphemy.

“There is overwhelming evidence that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws violate human rights and encourage people to take the law into their own hands.

Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues.”

Amnesty: Pakistan: How the blasphemy laws enable abuse.

Al Jazeera continues,

Pakistan’s telecommunications regulator currently blocks hundreds of websites, including those run by ethnic Baloch dissidents, as well as sites containing pornography or material deemed to be blasphemous.

It is empowered under a 2016 law to block any content “if it considers it necessary in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, public order, decency or morality”.

In January 2016, Pakistan ended a three-year ban on video-sharing website YouTube, also over blasphemous content, after the content provider agreed to launch a localised version that would streamline the process for content to be censored for viewers in Pakistan.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeeras Web Correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Pakistan’s Missing Bloggers: Back Pakistani Protests.

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Pakistani rights activists hold images of bloggers who have disappeared, during a protest in Lahore on January 12. Photo: AFP

Pakistani Human Rights Protests for Missing Bloggers.  

The families of five missing Pakistani activists denounced what they called a “malicious” social media campaign accusing the men of blasphemy, a highly charged allegation that can have deadly consequences in Pakistan.

The five men had stood against religious intolerance and at times criticized Pakistan’s military. They all vanished within days of each other earlier this month.

No group has claimed responsibility for their abduction and security agencies have denied involvement.

Meanwhile, the blasphemy accusations against the activists have been multiplying on Facebook and Twitter, triggering a flood of threats.

More here.

Pakistanis active on social media were drawn to a poem written by Haider and published last July in Tanqeed (criticism), an e-zine he co-edits:

Right now the friends of my friends are being ‘disappeared’

Soon it will be my friends’ turn

And then mine …

When I become the file

That my father will bring to court hearings

Or the picture that my son will kiss when asked by a journalist

This sad story has yet to come to a conclusion.

Disappeared: Silencing Pakistan’s activists Al Jazeera.

Rights groups say blasphemy allegations against disappeared activists aim to silent dissent for good.

The issue of enforced disappearances is not new for Pakistan. Rights activists allege that there are thousands of people who have been “disappeared” by the state, with some allegedly killed while in custody. In December, the government’s Commission on Enforced Disappearances reported that the dead bodies of 936 missing persons had been found in Balochistan province alone since 2011.

The government denies any wrongdoing, and, in the case of the five activists currently missing, the interior ministry says it is “making every possible effort for [their] safe recovery”, according to a statement.

Now, however, these activists and citizens, as well as those calling for their release, face an even greater danger: They are being accused of blasphemy – a crime that carries a judicial death sentence and, increasingly commonly, the threat of extrajudicial murder by right-wing vigilantes.

Weaponising blasphemy’

“These [Facebook] pages … are extremely insulting to the Prophet, the Quran, Allah and Islam. They have made a joke out of this,” said Abdullah Cheema, a guest on a popular television news show on January 12. Cheema accused Goraya of running the Facebook pages in question, a charge denied by the activist’s family.

“Speaking in support of such criminals is a crime in itself,” said Cheema, while being encouraged by Orya Maqbool Jan, the show’s host and a well-known newspaper columnist.

“These blasphemers who they have captured, whoever has captured them, may Allah bless those people,” said Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a well-known Muslim leader in a sermon uploaded to YouTube on Jan 13.

“The bloggers’ disappearance is its own issue. They should definitely be produced, but no one should try and hide their crimes, and their crimes are so heinous that no one should … say that they suffered injustice,” said Aamir Liaquat, one of Pakistan’s most well-known talk show hosts on January 16.

Meanwhile, Facebook pages known for posting material in favour of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies have also taken up the cry.

“The group of atheists committing blasphemy on Facebook … have been defeated,” said a recent post by Pakistan Defence, a pro-military Facebook page that has 7.5 million likes and is run by anonymous administrators.

Insulting Islam’s prophet carries the death sentence in Pakistan, while defiling the Quran carries a life sentence. Blasphemy accusations have often been used to target minorities and to settle personal scores, rights groups say. Currently, there are 40 people on death row or serving life sentences for the crime in Pakistan, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

More worryingly, at least 68 people linked to blasphemy accusations have been killed by vigilantes or mobs since 1990, according a tally maintained by Al Jazeera. They have included those accused of blasphemy, their lawyers, their relatives, judges hearing their cases and members of their communities (PDF).

“Anyone even accused of blasphemy practically carries a death sentence even if they are [released],” says Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), expressing her organisation’s “alarm” at the accusations being levelled at both the disappeared and those campaigning for their release.

Gul Bukhari, a Lahore-based rights activist, sees the campaign of accusations as aimed at silencing the campaign for the five men to be recovered.

Human Rights Watch.

The Pakistani government should urgently investigate the apparent abductions of four activists who campaign for human rights and religious freedom, Human Rights Watch said today. The four men, Salman Haider, a well-known poet and academic, and bloggers Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, and Ahmad Raza Naseer, went missing or were taken away from different cities between January 4 and January 7, 2017.

All four men were vocal critics of militant religious groups and Pakistan’s military establishment, and used the internet to disseminate their views. Their near simultaneous disappearance and the government’s shutting down of their websites and blogs raises grave concerns of government involvement. While the Pakistani interior minister, Nisar Ali Khan, directed the police on January 7 to speed up efforts to locate Haider, whom the government says it is not holding, a broader effort is needed to uncover the whereabouts and well-being of all four men.

“The Pakistani government has an immediate obligation to locate the four missing human rights activists and act to ensure their safety,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The nature of these apparent abductions puts the Nawaz Sharif government on notice that it can either be part of the solution or it will be held responsible for its role in the problem.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 26, 2017 at 11:59 am