Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pakistan And Tucson-- Sarah Palin And Qari Hanif Qureshi... Something In Common


Like Palin & Beck, Qari Hanif Qureshi didn't pull the trigger either

Imagine if fans of incendiary hate talkers Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck had shown up at the Tucson home of Jared Lee Loughner after he murdered U.S. District Judge John Roll and 5 other people and nearly assassinated Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Yesterday's L.A. Times reported that a few days after Mumtaz Qadri, a 26-year-old police commando, assassinated Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer, the man he was assigned to guard, a mob of 4,000 Pakistanis showed up in front of his family home in Rawalpindi chanting their support. And ten times as many demonstrated on Qadri's behalf in Karachi the next day. Another follower of the same primitive, hate-preaching fundamentalist who had inspired Qadri to murder (Qari Hanif Qureshi-- a Pakistani version of Palin or Steve King or Louie Gohmert) casually told the Times reporter "I would have done the same thing. Qadri has brought honor upon his family. He's a hero now."

And to some U.S. right-wing extremists, domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh was also transformed into a hero after he blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people... 20 of whom were under the age of 6. Another 680 people were wounded in the attack, which also caused $652 million worth of property damage, helping to establish McVeigh in the minds of right-wing terrorists as someone to look up to, if not emulate... yet.

The killing, carried out by a man who saw Taseer as an apostate for opposing Pakistan's blasphemy law, has exposed the rising influence that Islamic fundamentalism has over Pakistani society, a mindset that increasingly radicalizes the nuclear-armed nation, breeds intolerance and further weakens Islamabad's feeble civilian government.

Led by clerics at the helm of the country's religious political parties and its hard-line mosques and madrasas, the extremists demonstrated their reach after Taseer was assassinated in an upscale neighborhood of Islamabad. Days later, fundamentalist clerics rallied more than 40,000 people on the streets of Karachi in support of Qadri. A day earlier in Qadri's Rawalpindi neighborhood, at least 4,000 people had gathered in front of the accused assassin's house, chanting, "Salute to your bravery, Mumtaz!"

At Qadri's court appearances, lawyers have showered him with flower petals and kissed his cheeks, a worrisome sign that his support stretches far beyond Pakistan's underclass and into the upper echelons of society.

Hard-line clerics are now turning their anger toward another leading member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, lawmaker Sherry Rehman, who, like Taseer, called for changes aimed at reforming the blasphemy law after a Pakistani Christian woman accused of insulting the prophet Muhammad was given the death penalty.

...Pakistan's religious extremists thrive on street power rather than on ballot-box appeal. In elections in 2008, religious parties collectively garnered less than 5% of the vote. Founded as a moderate Islamic state, Pakistan is governed by the largely secular Pakistan People's Party.

But in the thousands of mosques and madrasas across the nation, fundamentalists enjoy a captive audience. Hard-line clerics delivering fiery Friday sermons are seen as more credible than the country's government leaders.

Compare the esteem for McConnell, Boehner, Romney or Cantor with the esteem for Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity or Ingraham, at least, on the right-wing American street.

Take a look at this page from a Pakistani blog, just filled with righteous indignation about Governor Taseer, his family and his secular political party. Wholesome-looking people are automatically the object of scorn and abuse: "We don't care what other people wear... or do... in their private lives." [I wonder if whomever writes Palin's gibberish consulted them on that.] "But when our leader commit [sic] these types of sins in public they should be removed... After all Pakistan was founded in name of Islam. Salam [sic] Taseer and his family is [sic] disgrace to this country... the governor house has been converted into a party house." Whoever wrote this probably is reading American right-wing propaganda; they're certainly spreading it. I'll leave the sics off from here on and leave it to you:
Even in American if president is found drinking in public or having a relationship... he's removed from his presidency... but this is PAKISTAN an Islamic country. Zardari has made the most corrupt people his close friends... How could these people save Pakistan... they can not even save themselves.

And the photos that are so scandalous-- scandalous enough to provoke murder? Well the governor's daughter is swimming in a pool with friends, also girls-- all with swimsuits. And the governor and his wife are in a photo with a famous clothing designer who is also gay. And the governor's son is on the beach with naked women... naked meaning they're wearing swimsuits. That kind of stuff. The other day I heard one of Gov. Taseer's sons, Shehryar, being interviewed on NPR the week after the assassination I couldn't find it but here he is speaking about him on Fathers Day last year, followed by an article he penned for Britain's Independent:

'Abba, for the hundredth time, you need to keep adequate security on you at all times." Just one week ago, I sleepily voiced my concern for my father's security at our 8am family breakfast.

As usual, he brushed aside my unease at the escalating threats he had been receiving. Summoning a small smile, he kissed his Ayat-ul-kursi (protective verses from the Koran) hanging around his neck and quoted the great historian Thomas Babington Macaulay: "How can a man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the Temple of his Gods?"

And, a few days later, on my 25th birthday, that is how my father died. He was gunned down in cold blood by a man who veiled his inhumane deed in a perverse ideology of Islam. He thereby blackened the name of Islam, and of our country, Pakistan.

It was his outspoken support for the minorities and the oppressed that led to my father's assassination. Salmaan Taseer was the most prominent advocate pushing for amending an extremist Blasphemy Law inserted by the dictator General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq in the Constitution of Pakistan in 1977.

That law is the reason that Aasia Bibi now languishes in prison, in solitary confinement and in fear for her life; my father's fight against it so enraged some people in my country that they have found themselves unable to pay their respects even in death, suggesting that he deserved no better a fate. Some of those exulting in the crime even threw rose petals to celebrate the man who is said to be his assassin.

But had he known of all this, none of it would have changed my father's determination to fight for his cause. He always told me that a man's mettle is determined not by how many strong shoulders he leans on, but by how many weak hands he holds. I believe that we must continue to support the oppressed, and not succumb to the fear spread by terrorism.

My father wanted his children to live in a Pakistan envisioned by Muhammad Ali Jinnah [the country's founder] – a liberal Pakistan, a tolerant Pakistan. He said that without liberation there is no tolerance; he believed in problem solving through reasoning and dialogue, a true democrat's approach. At his inauguration as Governor, he stated that "from this day on, all the doors of the Governor's House are open to the public." He welcomed open discussion and debate.

He attempted to bolster his democratic ideal by vigorously promoting education. In his role as Governor, and therefore Chancellor of all the universities and schools of Punjab, he attended every convocation during his incumbency.

...He came from humble beginnings: he was a self-made man, who recovered from even the adversity of losing a fortune to make another one. He used the many opportunities and resources in Pakistan to climb to remarkable entrepreneurial and political success. Tortured for his beliefs in democracy under Gen Zia ul-Haq's regime, he nevertheless retained his firm belief that our country has enough potential to strive towards the self-sustenance that it so desperately needs.

My entire childhood, I idolised my father: he was my hero. He was an expert journalist, accountant, business man, entrepreneur, politician and a humanist. As an avid reader, he was well informed on the lives and doings of many of history's great men, and often quoted from their memoirs.

The daughter in the swimsuit, SherBano Taseer, a reporter for Newsweek, turned to another Pakistani blog to write about her father's murder:
TWENTY-SEVEN. That’s the number of bullets a police guard fired into my father before surrendering himself with a sinister smile to the policemen around him. Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, was assassinated on Tuesday-- my brother Shehryar’s 25th birthday-- outside a market near our family home in Islamabad.

The guard accused of the killing, Mumtaz Qadri, was assigned that morning to protect my father while he was in the federal capital. According to officials, around 4:15 p.m., as my father was about to step into his car after lunch, Mr. Qadri opened fire.

Mr. Qadri and his supporters may have felled a great oak that day, but they are sadly mistaken if they think they have succeeded in silencing my father’s voice or the voices of millions like him who believe in the secular vision of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

My father’s life was one of struggle. He was a self-made man, who made and lost and remade his fortune. He was among the first members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party when it was founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the late 1960s. He was an intellectual, a newspaper publisher and a writer; he was jailed and tortured for his belief in democracy and freedom. The vile dictatorship of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq did not take kindly to his pamphleteering for the restoration of democracy.

One particularly brutal imprisonment was in a dungeon at Lahore Fort, this city’s Mughal-era citadel. My father was held in solitary confinement for months and was slipped a single meal of half a plate of stewed lentils each day. They told my mother, in her early 20s at the time, that he was dead. She never believed that.

Determined, she made friends with the kind man who used to sweep my father’s cell and asked him to pass a note to her husband. My father later told me he swallowed the note, fearing for the sweeper’s life. He scribbled back a reassuring message to my mother: “I’m not made from a wood that burns easily.” That is the kind of man my father was. He could not be broken.

He often quoted verse by his uncle Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one of Urdu’s greatest poets. “Even if you’ve got shackles on your feet, go. Be fearless and walk. Stand for your cause even if you are martyred,” wrote Faiz. Especially as governor, my father was the first to speak up and stand beside those who had suffered, from the thousands of people displaced by the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 to the family of two teenage brothers who were lynched by a mob last August in Sialkot after a dispute at a cricket match.

After 86 members of the Ahmadi sect, considered blasphemous by fundamentalists, were murdered in attacks on two of their mosques in Lahore last May, to the great displeasure of the religious right my father visited the survivors in the hospital. When the floods devastated Pakistan last summer, he was on the go, rallying businessmen for aid, consoling the homeless and building shelters.

My father believed that the strict blasphemy laws instituted by General Zia have been frequently misused and ought to be changed. His views were widely misrepresented to give the false impression that he had spoken against Prophet Mohammad. This was untrue, and a criminal abdication of responsibility by his critics, who must now think about what they have caused to happen. According to the authorities, my father’s stand on the blasphemy law was what drove Mr. Qadri to kill him.

There are those who say my father’s death was the final nail in the coffin for a tolerant Pakistan. That Pakistan’s liberal voices will now be silenced. But we buried a heroic man, not the courage he inspired in others. This week two leading conservative politicians-- former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and the cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan-- have taken the same position my father held on the blasphemy laws: they want amendments to prevent misuse.

To say that there was a security lapse on Tuesday is an understatement. My father was brutally gunned down by a man hired to protect him. Juvenal once asked, “Who will guard the guards themselves?” It is a question all Pakistanis should ask themselves today: If the extremists could get to the governor of the largest province, is anyone safe?

It may sound odd, but I can’t imagine my father dying in any other way. Everything he had, he invested in Pakistan, giving livelihoods to tens of thousands, improving the economy. My father believed in our country’s potential. He lived and died for Pakistan. To honor his memory, those who share that belief in Pakistan’s future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win.

The video seems to take the other perspective-- the narrow, hateful, violent Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck perspective. Watch it:

And, then watch something more uplifting, not from Pakistan, but from Tucson or at least inspired by Tucson-- Latino Voces:

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At 2:31 PM, Blogger khubaib Abbasi said...

nice visit this

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. What an extraordinary, inspiring man this was...


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