Carolyn Glick explains the ins and outs of the fragile Middle East as few others can. Virtually everything she writes is a must-read.
Speaking in the military garrison town of Rawalpindi, Pakistani Army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif said that any Iranian threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity will “wipe Iran off the map.”
Sharif made the statement following his meeting with Saudi Arabia’s defense minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to media reports, Salman was the second senior Saudi official to visit Pakistan in the past week amid growing tensions between Iran and the kingdom.
Glick proceeds to discuss Pakistan as a failed state, and the outlook for Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. Read on....
Most in the United States are familiar with the Kurds of Iraq, and how, after suffering under Saddam Hussein, they are striving for their own nation. What many do not know is that in places like Syria, Kurds are hoping for the same thing but want, not unlike the Islamic State, a Kurdish nation emptied of all non-Kurdish peoples. While it is true that in Syria Kurds have been fighting an off-again, on-again “hot war” with ISIS, they have also been waging a slower, grinding “cold war” against the Christians, especially in Northern Syria.
Elizabeth Kendal reports: Tensions are erupting in Chhattisgarh's southern Bastar district as violent persecution with impunity becomes prevalent. At least 50 villages have banned all non-Hindu religious practice. In many places Christians are being denied food rations and access to water. Churches are being attacked and Christians assaulted without the authorities intervening, which guarantees that the situation will escalate. Officials in Madota invited Christians to meet with them for mediation on 25 October. The Christians attended but nobody else did. Then in the evening a truck arrived with 50 Hindu militants who attacked the defenceless Christians with knives, swords and axes. Fifteen believers were wounded and 12 required hospitalisation for serious injuries. Many Christians have fled. Impunity is almost inevitable. Please pray for the Church in India.
It has been two years since Pastor Saeed Abedini was imprisoned in Iran for preaching his Christian faith. Naghmeh Abedini, Pastor Saeed’s wife, invites us to join her in remembering Pastor Saeed Abedini and others who are persecuted for their faith by participating in prayer vigils across the world.
"The kids and I are longing to see Saeed returned home safely to us," Abedini said in a release. "The kids have been suffering for too long. Our family is ready. It is time. We are praying for a miracle. My hope is that, as thousands gather together on September 26, our governments and leaders will be reminded of the importance of religious freedom for all and continue to pressure Iran to secure Saeed’s release.”
Vigils in 27 countries will be held on September 26th, the anniversary of Saeed’s imprisonment. Click here for a list of churches in the USA holding prayer vigils.
The story of Asia Bibi is very troubling. This lady has been kept in prison since June 29, 2009 leaving her children and husband without a mother and wife. Here's the story with the latest update:
Asia Bibi, a 37-year-old Pakistani woman from the village of Ittanwali, was arrested by police on Friday, June 19, 2009. Asia (also called Asia Noreen) is the wife of 50-year-old Ashiq Masih, and their family is one of only three Christian families in a village of 1,500 families.
Many of the local women, including Asia, work on the farm of Muslim landowner Muhammad Idrees. During their work, many of the Muslim women have pressured Asia to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. In June, the pressure became especially strong.
On Friday, June 19, 2009,V there was an intense discussion among the women about their faith. The Muslim women told Asia about Islam. Asia responded by telling them about her faith in Christ. Asia told the Muslim women Christ had died on the cross for sins, then asked them what Mohammad had done for them, according to VOM sources. She told them Jesus is alive, but Mohammad is dead. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told them, “and yours is not true.”
Upon hearing this, the Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia. Then some men took her and locked her in a room. They announced from the mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey. Local Christians informed the police, who took Asia into custody before the Muslims could carry out their plan. She was held at the police station in Nankana city. Christians there urged the police not to file blasphemy charges, but police claimed they were under pressure from local Muslim leaders.
In Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five [I think she is mother of two], still faces the death penalty for allegedly blaspheming Mohammed. Punjab governor Salman Taseer and Federal Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were both killed this past year for defending her and opposing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. The Fides news agency reports that she needs medical care to ward off mental illness. An international delegation from the Masihi Foundation, overseeing Bibby’s legal and material assistance, visited her on December 19 in the prison in Sheikpura, where she has been held for more than a year, and is currently in isolation. They report that she had not been allowed to bathe for more than two months, could not stand on her own, appeared confused, and was afraid to accept the water they offered her to drink. Nevertheless, she told them she has forgiven those who accused her of blasphemy and only wants to return to her family.
I have previously reported on Asia Bibi here, here, and here. This last link features a video with Asia's family: 10-year-old Isham and her 12-year-old sister Isha and their father, Ashiq Masih.
[...] In an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez, Nina Shea offers a striking comparison between the state of religious freedom at home and abroad: “We don’t face death squads, torture or labor camps, as millions do elsewhere, so we should be careful in our rhetoric. At the same time, there are growing, dangerous restriction on religious freedom in the U.S., and more so in Europe, and we need to protest and fight them. We can do both, while not confusing their gravity.” . . .
Who is your nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, from among those profiled in Silenced?
Shahbaz Bhatti and Gov. Salman Taseer of Pakistan wouldn’t qualify since both have been murdered this year and posthumous nominations for the prize are not permitted. I would, therefore, nominate Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somalian-Dutch former member of parliament. For raising the issue of violence against women in the Netherlands’ Muslim communities, she endured and overcame death threats, a criminal hate speech investigation, a civil hate-speech trial , the stripping of her citizenship, eviction from her home, a constant need for bodyguards and social ostracism. She, however, has not been silenced.
How should the name Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani politician who was assassinated this year, be known?
Shahbaz Bhatti was quite simply a Catholic martyr. He was murdered early this year because he opposed Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which is regularly used to persecute the Christian and Ahmadi minorities and Muslim liberals. Peacefully defending minorities persecuted for their religious beliefs in Pakistan was his life’s work both from his base as the head of a non-governmental organization and from his post as the only Christian in the government’s cabinet as minister of minority affairs. He put his life on the line every day.
What can American Catholics do? [This goes for Protestants like me, also]
Catholics need to become more aware of the intense religious repression suffered by other Christians in Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, northern Sudan and elsewhere. They need to pray for them and reach out to them. They need to use their rights as citizens of the world’s leading democracy to insist that their president and members of Congress defend persecuted believers.
A good place to start would be with Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Catholic mother of five who has been on death row in a Punjab prison awaiting appeal on blasphemy charges since November 2010. The Catholic media Asia News reports: “The bishop of Islamabad wants Pakistan’s highest authorities, including the justice minister, to intervene. However, so far, warnings by Western governments and Pope Benedict XVI’s appeal and words of solidarity for the Christian mother have fallen on deaf ears. … She had been arrested on blasphemy charges in June of 2009 stemming from a discussion she had had with Muslim women. At the time, she tried to defend her Christian faith and Jesus, who died on the cross for humanity’s sins, asking her co-workers what Muhammad had done for them. After verbally assaulting her, they accused her of “contaminating” a well by drawing water from it. … Local Muslims retaliated against her once the charges of blasphemy were made. They surrounded her home and tried to lynch her.”
While American Catholics—and all people who take their religion seriously—are understandably offended when their faith is mocked, hate-speech laws are not the solution.
Government-coerced speech codes would be applied in a broad fashion to curtail individual freedom and would also be used against them. The state regulation of Christian preaching has already happened in Western countries that have hate speech laws: clergy have been put on trial for preaching against gay marriage and for teaching the differences, in Christian theological terms, between Islam and Christianity. Following the example of Father John Courtney Murray in the last century, we must promote, including in Rome, the importance of the American First Amendment.
A lot of the nations you survey are allied with the U.S. in one way or another. What can we do to influence religious liberty abroad? Why is it any of our business?
We need to better integrate religious freedom into our foreign policy. We should now anticipate great persecution against Christians, a religious cleansing, for example, in Iraq, Egypt and Syria and make plans to forestall that though our diplomacy and aid. We should stop partnering with the Organization of the Islamic Conference on issues involving freedom of religion and speech; this validates its agenda of repression.
Another Christian in Pakistan has been murdered, and the local Catholic Church is calling her a “martyr of the faith.”
The 18-year-old Amariah Masih (also reported as Mariah Manisha), a Catholic girl from the village of Tehsil Samundari, near Faisalabad, in Punjab province, was shot dead on November 27, after putting up resistance when a Muslim man abducted her with the intent to rape her. Fr. Khalid Rashid Asi, General Vicar of the Catholic diocese of Faisalabad told Fides, the Catholic news agency, that “cases like these occur daily in Punjab. It is very sad; Christians, often girls, are helpless victims.”
The girl’s mother, Razia Bibi, 50, told the Catholic media outlet AsiaNews that she and her daughter were riding on a motorbike on their way to pick up drinking water, which is not available in their village, when a man seized the motorbike, grabbed the young woman, and tried to drag her away at gunpoint. As she tried to pull away, the man opened fire, killing her instantly. According to AsiaNews, the 28-year-old Muslim Arif Gujjar, the son of a wealthy local landowner, is in police custody for questioning for the murder of Amariah.
Amariah’s funeral was presided over by Fr. Zafal Iqbal, who said to Fides: “She is a martyr. . . . The girl resisted, she did not want to convert to Islam and she did not marry the man, who killed her for this.” He explained to AsiaNews: “Wealthy and influential landowners often take aim at those who are marginalized and vulnerable, for their dirty interests.” In Pakistan, a rape victim is often imprisoned for unlawful sex and released on the condition that she marry her rapist. Because, under sharia, a Muslim cannot be married to a Christian, the women in such cases are also forced to convert to Islam. In its sharia courts, the testimony of a Christian is worth less than that of a Muslim, and a Christian woman’s is worth less yet. The whole system is rigged against the Christian woman.
More information on Amariah can be found on the website of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.
Meanwhile, Ruqqiya Bibi, a Christian woman, was sentenced in Pakistan in late October to a 25-year prison term for blasphemy on accusations that she defiled a Koran after handling it with unclean hands. Mrs. Bibi is not to be confused with Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who was convicted of blasphemy following a dispute with other Muslim women with whom she had been working as a field hand, and who remains imprisoned after being sentenced to death a year ago.
Pakistan’s minister of minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, also a Catholic, was murdered earlier this year, as was Punjab governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim, for calling for the repeal of the nation’s blasphemy law. Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy law is notoriously vague and ever expanding to include new applications.
The BBC reported on November 17 that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has told mobile-phone companies to begin blocking text messages containing “obscene” and otherwise “offensive” words. The name “Jesus Christ” was listed among them.
The discriminatory blasphemy law, which protects only Islam, generally encourages targeted violence against Christians, as well as against Ahmadiyas, Hindus, non-Sunni Muslims, and Sunni Muslim dissidents.
This is a terrible case of injustice. Asia Bibi should be freed. She is a Christian wife and mother convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people from around the world have signed a petition for her release at www.callformercy.com More than 400,000 petitions were delivered to the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. If you haven't signed the petition yet, do so now. Asia continues to be held in prison, separated from her family. The goal is one million signatures.
A Presbyterian minister was beaten, burned and left for dead by six Muslims in Pakistan on his way home from preaching at a nearby church. The police are refusing to investigate, because the Muslims involved are the sons of a powerful land owner. The police have allegedly been bribed, or perhaps they, too, are devout and pious Muslims.
Update 2/2/08 - Joe Biden picks up on Clinton's gaffe.
** Wow. I had no idea Mrs. Clinton had so little knowledge of Pakistan. Recent interviews, however, indicate that fact conclusively. I find it amazing and truly stupefying. And she presents herself as experienced? As someone who knows something about foreign policy? Check out this post from Thomas Houlahan in Middle East Times from which I excerpt the following:
Sen. Clinton really didn't know that the upcoming elections were
for individual seats in Pakistan's parliament. She actually believed
that Bhutto, Nawaz and Musharraf would be facing off as individual
candidates for leadership of the country in the upcoming elections.
Sen. Clinton didn't know that Nawaz Sharif isn't allowed to run for
office in Pakistan because of a felony conviction. She didn't know that
President Musharraf won't be on the ballot because he's already been
Sen. Clinton, a candidate for the leadership of the
free world, apparently doesn't know the first thing about the country
referred to by some as "the most dangerous place on earth."
A transcript of Senator Clinton's interview with Blitzer is posted here; a video of Senator Clinton's interview with Stephanopoulos interview is posted here.
If any of the major Republican presidential candidates had spoken in
this manner about the scheduled elections in Pakistan, surely an issue
would be made of it.
Andrew C. McCarthy exhibits clear thinking on Pakistan, even if it be sad and unsettling to accept. Some excerpts:
A recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden. . . .
McCarthy contrasts the Pakistan of our fantasy with the real Pakistan.
The real Pakistan is a breeding ground of Islamic holy war where, for
about half the population, the only thing more intolerable than Western
democracy is the prospect of a faux democracy led by a woman . . . .
The real Pakistan is a place where the intelligence services are salted with Islamic fundamentalists: jihadist sympathizers. . .
The real Pakistan is a place where the military, ineffective and
half-hearted though it is in combating Islamic terror, is the