If it takes up the extremists’ baton, liberal Pakistan is lost


The extent of this encroachment became clear recently as many of those who had been insisting that a decisive response was needed in the name of anti-extremism blogged and tweeted their delight at a fatwa apparently issued by a previously unheard-of mufti, Muhammad Idris Usmani of the Jamia Islamia. He declared that, on examining all the evidence, it was clear Salmaan Taseer was not guilty of blasphemy; rather, the real blasphemers were those who praised or justified his assassination in the name of Islam. Their punishment, in accordance with the Qur’an, was “execution, or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile”. He then went on to list all those real blasphemers, including “200 lawyers who cheered up the killer; dozens of journalists, scholars and media persons who justified the killing”.

The authenticity of the fatwa – and the man himself – is in serious doubt. But the responses to it from liberals were genuine enough. Some who expressed delight at the fatwa probably would be entirely pleased to see the execution of those cheering on the assassin – in Pakistan you can be both a liberal and a fascist, so long as you’re a secular fascist. But in other places the approval for the mufti seems indicative of a deep despair born of a certainty that extremism has won. We are left with the image of liberalism’s last act – the attempt to hurl extremism’s weapons back at it, not in the hope of causing serious damage but because there are no other weapons left. At least, that’s how it feels today. That is the cheeriest note it’s possible to strike at the moment.

Guardian for more

(Thanks to Harsh Kapoor of South Asia Citizens Web)

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