The shooting death of Pakistan’s Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti has once again cast the country’s blasphemy laws before the world’s scrutiny. Bhatti, the only Christian in Pakistan’s government, was one of the country’s diminishing number of outspoken freedom advocates. He was prepared to face the threat of death in speaking out against Pakistan’s murder of anyone who insults Islam.
In an exclusive pre-released public statement, a personal friend of Bhatti, Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe (the president of the World Evangelical Alliance) sent to me his words of grief at the loss of a dear friend:
Not only have I lost a dear personal friend, but the world has lost a great champion for religious liberty, human rights and protecting the dignity for all people.
Dr. Tunnicliffe had recently met privately with Minister Bhatti to plan a high level visit to Islamabad by leaders of the World Evangelical Alliance. Bhatti revealed his final wish in a message to Dr. Tunnicliffe a day before his brutal assassination at the hands of Islamofacists upholding Pakistan’s blasphemy law:
I am determined to carry on defending the principles of religious freedom, human equality, social justice and the rights of minorities.
Bhatti went on to call on Christians around the world to “stand in solidarity.” Bhatti’s status as an “infidel Christian” was cited in pamphlets left by his assassins as the reason for his assassination, according to the World Evangelical Alliance statement.
Two months ago Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer , a high-profile member of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, was murdered by his own bodyguard for speaking out against the country’s blasphemy law which states:
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
This law even applies to accusations by a questionable witness(es) with an axe to grind. Christian mother of five Asia Bibi was sentenced to death just before Christmas after a dispute. She was asked to fetch water as a farmhand. When other Muslim women workers refused to accept it from her because she was “unclean” and an infidel due to her faith, Asia allegedly lashed out at Mohammed and the Muslim faith according to so-called ‘witnesses’ and for this she was sentenced.
Freedom of speech is reviled in Pakistan and headlines have cast the issue into a dramatic public light. But it is also condemned in other shariah countries including Turkey, deemed democratic, where Prime Minister Erdogan delivered a scathing anti-free speech address after receiving the absurd Gaddafi Human Rights Award in Libya three months ago.
The war against free speech–a tenet of shariah– has seeped outside Islamic jurisdictions: Dutch politician and film-maker Geert Wilders has been living in the shadow of fatwa since his release of the movie “Fitna.” And the United Nations has long endorsed Defamation of Islam resolutions which have had reverberations in the Western world, especially Europe where citizens have been dragged to courts and human rights commissions for “defaming” Islam, even as insults run rampant against Christianity with no retaliation.
Yet still the persecution of Christians in Islamic regimes, the fatwas upon the heads of those who blaspheme Islam, and the spread of shariah disdain for free speech remain whitewashed issues in the left-wing media.