DENVER (CNS) — Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf calls on others not to discriminate against Muslims, but he discriminates against non-Muslims in his own country, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver.The archbishop, a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, co-wrote an opinion piece in The Denver Post with the commission’s vice chairwoman, Elizabeth H. Prodromou, after Musharraf delivered a speech at the United Nations calling for “enlightened moderation” to bridge a growing divide between Islamic and Western governments.
In the Sept. 19 speech Musharraf said that to build such bridges “it is imperative to end racial and religious discrimination against Muslims and to prohibit the defamation of Islam.”
“Musharraf’s action plan suggests it is Western countries that must change their behavior toward Muslims, and not the other way around,” Archbishop Chaput and Prodromou wrote in the Sept. 28 issue of the Post.
“Musharraf fails to address the urgent need to bring ‘enlightened moderation’ to his own country, where intolerance and violence is aimed at both Muslims and non-Muslims,” they said.
“Currently, sectarian and religiously motivated violence persists in Pakistan, particularly by Sunni Muslim militants, against Shiite Muslims, Ahmadis, Hindus and Christians,” they wrote. “Perpetrators of attacks on religious minorities are seldom brought to justice. Pakistan’s nearly 4 million Ahmadis are prevented by law from fully practicing their faith.”
Ahmadis form two sects of Islam that emerged from the 19th-century reformist movement of an Indian Muslim, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The larger sect regards Ahmad as a new prophet and both are regarded as heretical by other Muslims. Since 1974 Pakistan’s Constitution, which makes Islam the nation’s official religion, has declared Ahmadis non-Muslim by defining a Muslim as one who “believes in the finality of the prophet Mohammed.”
Prodromou is associate director of Boston University’s Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs.
She and the archbishop said violations of religious freedom in Pakistan include “fatal violence against Ahmadis, torture of Christians, attacks against Shiite clerics and vandalism and destruction of churches.”
They said that Pakistan’s strict anti-blasphemy laws, which criminalize any defamation of Islam, “result in extensive human rights abuses” because people will falsely accuse someone of blasphemy to settle a personal score.
Those laws “have resulted in the lengthy detention of Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus and members of other religious minority communities, as well as Muslims whose views are deemed offensive by religious extremists,” they wrote.
“Given the sway that Muslim extremists hold over Pakistan’s judiciary, judges’ findings and penalties for blasphemy reveal an arbitrariness intended to squelch fundamental freedoms of thought and expression,” they added.
They also sharply criticized the Hudood Ordinance, Pakistan’s Islamic law enacted in 1979 that criminalizes sexual relations outside marriage in such a way that a woman who is raped can be imprisoned for reporting it.
If the rapist denies the woman’s claim, to convict him the law requires testimony from four independent witnesses who saw the act of penetration — all witnesses must be Muslims if the accused is a Muslim; but by reporting a rape the woman has confessed to a sexual relationship outside marriage and is subject to penalties unless she can meet the four-witness requirement to prove it was forced.
“Women who have reported being raped are routinely imprisoned for the crime of adultery and face a potential sentence of death by stoning,” Prodromou and Archbishop Chaput wrote. “In 2003, the National Commission on the Status of Women in Pakistan found as many as 88 percent of female prisoners, many of them rape victims, were serving time for violating the (anti-adultery) decrees.”