A few months ago I had the chance to interview in Seoul the Federal Minister for Minorities in Pakistan – Shahbaz Bhatti. Bhatti came to receive an honorary doctorate in October 2010 from our school (www.ttgst.ac.kr). He was a soft spoken intelligent Christian man who has dedicated his life to defend the religious minorities in Pakistan. A few minutes ago I just found out from my wife that Bhatti was shot. Here is the news:
“Gunmen shot and killed Pakistan’s government minister for religious minorities on Wednesday, the latest attack on a high-profile Pakistani figure who had urged reforming harsh blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam.
The killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, a member of Pakistan’s Christian community, was another major blow to Pakistan’s besieged liberals, who say the attacks are a symptom of an increasingly radicalised Muslim-majority public. Earlier this year, Punjab province Governor Salman Taseer was killed by a bodyguard who said he was angry that the politician opposed the blasphemy laws — and many ordinary Pakistanis praised the murderer.
Bhatti was on his way to work in capital Islamabad when unknown gunmen riddled his car with bullets, police officer Mohmmad Iqbal said. The minister arrived dead at Shifa Hospital and his driver was also wounded badly, hospital spokesman Asmatullah Qureshi said.”
This is again very sad news about a man that I knew personally, a man who has dedicated his life with all the risks involved to make Pakistan a better place. Unfortunately, this case proves again my point that true democracy is not possible in a truly Islamic state.
The following information is from his CV which was still on my desk when I found out the news about his death. I hope to recover the tape with my interview of Bhatti and post it soon!
Bhatti was about my age (42) and started to struggle for the downtrodden minorities back in 1985 when he was a college student. He mobilized minorities throughout Pakistan to spread the message of religious tolerance, unity and hope for the deprived people of Pakistan.
He was actively involved in the struggle for restoration of democracy and people’s rights. Anti democratic forces tortured, imprisoned, threatened and pressurized Mr. Bhatti on many occasions. Despite this, he has devoted his entire life (with all the risks involved) to serve the suffering, persecuted, victimized and poor Christians and other minorities from Pakistan.
He has also established skilled development centers for widows & poor women so they can earn a dignified living and has helped the poor and deserving students by opening tuition centers & counseling centers for them.
The list could go on and on (he received several peace awards from Canada, USA, Europe etc)…hardly reasons to get shot by some Muslim extremists.
May God forgive them and help them see the light.
You can find the BBC news about this here.
A relevant and urgent question often heard today is this: Is DEMOCRACY possible in Islam? The answer is rather simple: NO! Democracy is not possible and I can easily prove it by “sample A” – the impossibility of religious freedom
in a truly Islamic country.
The fact is that it is impossible to have religious freedom (the right to choose and change your religion as you wish) in a truly Islamic country! This cannot and should not be denied and there are countless examples to prove this. I will mention a very recent example still in the news (actually – largely ignored my mainstream media) and then I will exhibit some stats and facts to understand how Muslims think about religious freedom and democracy.
Note the following recent news from Afghanistan:
“In Afghanistan, where the Christian population is almost non-existent, one Christian is on the verge of execution by the government. His crime? Conversion from Islam to Christianity. Said (or Sayed) Musa was among 25 Christians arrested last May, four days after their Christian worship service was featured on Noorin TV, according to Paul Marshall, a religious freedom expert who has co-authored with Nina Shea the forthcoming book, “Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide” (October 2011).
[This is a book that I suspect will eloquently argue the same point and I hope to read it when it comes out! Meanwhile you may take a look at this excellent book by Samuel Zwemer: The Law of Apostasy in Islam. You can download it for free – written by a great Muslim scholar who taught at Princeton early in the 20th century.]
Writing for National Review Online, Marshall summarized the brutality experienced by Musa since his arrest: beatings, sexual assault and sleep deprivation. A letter from Musa has been smuggled to the West detailing his peril.
The Afghan government is defiant, insisting that citizens who convert from Islam to Christianity must be punished with death.”
For other specific cases of conversion in Muslim countries see here.
Now here are some recent stats from Egypt which show a real schizophrenia, or perhaps a simple lack of understanding of what religious freedom means.
When asked about the death penalty (see here) for those who leave the Muslim religion 84% of Muslims in Egypt said they would favor making it the law (this is 86% in Jordan which is considered a moderate Muslim country, but has the death penalty for apostasy!), 74% in Pakistan etc. What makes it schizophrenic is the fact that 59 % of Egyptians said that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government and about 85% said that they favor religious freedom (I cannot find the source but I remember reading that the number was very similar with that of Muslims who favor death penalty for those who leave Islam).
Now – how can you be in favor of religious freedom and also in favor of the death penalty for those who leave Islam??? Clearly there is a problem here, though I assume that those Egyptians don’t see the contradiction. The fact is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to hold both views, and the Muslims in Muslim countries overwhelmingly are for the death penalty for someone who leaves Islam =) there can be no democracy in a truly Islamic country.
For – if you cannot chose/change your religion without fear of being killed, there is no freedom and there is no true democracy. It is sad, but true!
[I would love to be proved wrong!
For those who think that Turkey is a model for Islamic democracy, please note that Turkey achieved some form of democracy as a secular state and they have clear cases of minority discrimination. See also the news below about two cases of conversion to Christianity.
On 18 April 2007, two Turkish converts to Christianity, Necati Aydin and Uğur Yüksel, were killed in the Malatya bible publishing firm murders. Having tortured them for several hours, the attackers then slit their throats. The attackers stated that they did it in order to defend the state and their religion. The government and other officials in Turkey had in the past criticized Christian missionary work, while the European Union has called for more freedom for the Christian minority.
For the view that death penalty for apostasy is not Islamic, see here.]
Obama is in the Middle East trying to mend relations with a part of the world that very much hates us. The first stop was in Saudi Arabia – without doubt one of the most repressive countries in the world, a country with almost zero religious freedom (rivaled only by North Korea).
As one who lived in a muslim country (Indonesia), with a more colorful background that W, he is supposed to be more qualified to mend relations with this part of the world, and understand better Islam. One only hopes that is the case.
My view is much more pessimistic about Obama’s knowledge of Islam and the Middle East, and also about the possibilities for peace.
I wrote a while back about PEACE in Islam (see the article rubric above) and my conclusions were not very encouraging. I hope I am wrong. Here, I will point out a few things and I would like to hear/read some opposing views.