First, here’s the story in a nutshell: Pakistan has an anti-blasphemy law, which makes it a crime to blaspheme God. Problematically, this law has been invoked in such a way as to target religious minorities: Christian belief in the Trinity, for example, is considered by many Muslims blasphemy against God, whom they understand as One. Narrowly interpreted, then, any Christian could be charged as a blasphemer. Aasia Bibi is a Christian woman who was charged, convicted, and sentenced to death under Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law. Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, defended Bibi and called for reform of the law; Salman Taseer was then assassinated by his bodyguard– who claimed to be doing a good thing by killing a blasphemer.
Condemnation of the assassination of Salman Taseer has come from Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (photo above), as well as Pope Benedict. Each leader is pushing back against a narrowly “religious,” life-denying possessiveness of God:
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of slain former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has called those who celebrated the murder of a liberal politician who sought changes to the country’s blasphemy laws “the real blasphemers.” via Bhutto’s son: Pakistanis who praise Taseer assassination are ‘covert blasphemers’ – CSMonitor.com.
For his part, Pope Benedict XVI called for repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy law this past Monday.
Zardari’s remarks may be intemperate, but they do point to the struggle in religion– Christianity not excluded– and within whole societies– between those who will accept the challenges of a plural modern world without fear, and those whose fear lead them to kill those identified as Other.
It’s Pakistan, but there are analogies to the US.