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Letter to the Christian Community on the Recent Gojra Tragedy
Asif Iftikhar

The Rt. Rev. Bishop Alexander John Malik
Lahore, Pakistan

Dear Bishop

I have no words to express my grief and anguish at the recent tragedy of Christian persecution at Gojra. Insignificant as my humble effort might be, I have spent the last two days with various TV channels to lodge my protest against this inhuman and irreligious atrocity. I have also expressed my outrage in interviews to Los Angeles Times and the daily News. I really wish I had the power to do more. I am scheduled to leave for Montréal on the 11th, but I have already suggested many friends and NGOs to launch a movement for the protection of all Pakistanis who have been or are likely to be persecuted in the name of religion. In my interview to the News, I pointed out that even though it is the ethical and moral right of people in any country to enact laws through their representatives in the parliament that ensure that the sanctity of religion is not violated, the present blasphemy laws do not appropriately reflect any pertinent directive of the Qur’ān or preclude the strong possibility of causing injustice through misuse. These laws are based on human constructs of interpretation that are not infallible and therefore, in the light of pertinent foundational texts, sources and principles, can be reviewed in the parliament and/or suspended by the courts until they are replaced by laws that do not carry the potential of detriment to the basic principles of justice and religion. I have also pointed out that there are a number of meritorious Muslim scholars who believe that the Qur’ān has not prescribed death punishment for blasphemy. Furthermore, I have emphasized that lynching is considered a major violation by all mainstream Muslim scholars of classical and mediaeval times, which violation itself deserves the strongest punishment. Therefore, the apathy and indifference of so many Pakistani Muslim scholars is appalling. Above all, the way religion has been misused by our “religious” political parties and agencies of our government and of the international community is the primary cause of ever-growing trend of lynching in the name of religion. Therefore, the acceptance, atonement and rectification must begin from the top. Furthermore, serious, intense and intensive discussion and debate must continue at high pitch to critique popular notions of violence and to bring out their flaws in front of the public. Finally, as a Muslim, I should like to relate this story to my Muslim brothers:

I was in Canada when 9/11 happened. In a discussion with some Muslim colleagues among others, I found out that, in a city in the US, a large group of non-Muslims had encircled a mosque to keep it safe in the rather volatile environment that prevailed at that time. At the same time, I heard that a number of Christians were massacred in a church in Pakistan.

If it is fights that the Muslims must win, it must first and foremost be fights for superiority in ethics, morality, humanity, justice and compassion. I should be very happy if my Muslim brothers could point out even one example of benevolence of the kind I have mentioned above to convince me that we have not completely lost in this arena. While I assure my Muslim brothers that I too love and respect the Prophet (sws) more than I love or respect anybody else on this earth and while I too take the strongest exception to any disrespect of the slightest degree to him or my religion, religious persecution of those who do not agree with me in my beliefs is most certainly not what I have learned from him or his teachings. I am amazed at how apathetic so many of our ‘ulamā have been in this regard. Isn’t showing such utter disregard for his teachings also blasphemy of sorts?

Beware! He who oppresses a mu‘āhid (someone granted protection under State agreement) or does him injustice or burdens him with what is more than what he can bear or takes anything from him without his consent is a person against whom I shall plead myself  on the Day of Judgment (Abū Dā’ ūd, No: 3052)

It is my hope that recipients of my message, my audience, my readers, and, above all, my students will not sit back on this occasion and join me in making this feeble voice a crescendo against injustice and negation of Islamic teachings.

To you sir – and, through you, to all Pakistani Christians --, I can only say that I really do not have words to express my grief. My tears, my efforts, my writings, and my voice are a testimony to the fact that I have felt the hurt as much as one human being can feel another’s. And I can also assure you that, as a very humble well-wisher, I remain firm in my resolve to continue my efforts to convince those with authority that meaningful steps be taken to ensure that religion is not misused by those with ulterior motives or little understanding. May God grant Pakistanis the sagacity and the strength to live with each other in harmony and peace and with justice and love. May we also learn not to judge others wrongfully lest that we be judged by God Himself.


Many prayers



Asif Iftikhar

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