“Those who say a religion makes someone evil, I don’t think so. Religion is just a very powerful vessel, used by those who are evil, those who are inherently inhuman and would rather benefit themselves than help others.
WARNING: *Religious folks who can’t tolerate a difference of opinion are not advised to read this*
This is a story of a born Pakistan woman, a Muslim and self-converted individual, the story narrates the evil of religious fanaticism and the deception of religious claim of adherence to faiths that has no basis in humanity.
If the details accounts do not make your blood boil perhaps, you’re just another existing danger lurking around.
What makes my blood boil is religious people who are so blinded by their faiths, so insecure in their convictions, and so detached from their humanity by what they choose to believe, that they’re willing to not just oppress, but even kill anyone who has a different viewpoint.
Being raised in Pakistan, I was surrounded by people who used religion as a means of control, and if you challenged their beliefs, you would be either violently wiped from existence or put through the worst tortures imaginable for as long as you lived. My country doesn’t have any semblance of justice, and even something as grave as murdering someone over a difference of opinion or a petty grudge, is as simple as accusing them of blasphemy and waiting for a horde of believers to descend upon them and end their life.
Even if it’s a false accusation, who cares? It’s not like the legal system would demand evidence for this victimless crime before sentencing the accused to death or life imprisonment, because in my country, displaying evidence of blasphemy is tantamount to committing blasphemy yourself.
I have grown up reading and listening to horror stories of innocent non-muslims being subjected to some of the worst cruelties imaginable. If you’re easily distressed by gruesome accounts of inhuman torture, you’re free to stop reading beyond this point, after all, turning away and ignoring this constitutionally sanctioned human rights crisis is what most people do.
But for those who choose to see the truth, let’s look at some of the stories that have kept me up night after night in fear.
Let’s start with the tale of Shehzad and Shama Masih, a couple who worked at a brick kiln and were falsely accused of burning the Quran.
How did the people around them react? An angry mob of hundreds of Muslims gathered from several villages, broke into their room, dragged them out, injured and bloodied their one year old daughter, brutalised the couple, tore off their clothes, broke their legs, threw them into a furnace, weighed them down so they couldn’t crawl out, and burned them alive in front of their five year old son. How did the state react? 93 out of the 103 people charged were acquitted and others were released on bail without any major consequences.
“I grew up hearing that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, but where is the peace in torturing, raping and killing another person for not sharing those beliefs?
Then a few months ago, two nurses removed a sticker containing a Quran verse from a cupboard after being told to clean their workplace. Seems like a fairly harmless act that would only be expected while cleaning furniture, right? Well, it didn’t seem that way to the followers of a self-proclaimed peaceful ideology, and a mob formed and demanded that they be executed. The bloodthirsty crowd, which included the nurses’ own coworkers, stabbed one of the nurses and the other was arrested and charged with blasphemy.
Many would be familiar with the absolutely infuriating story of Asia Bibi, who was arrested and charged with blasphemy for merely drinking from the same cup as her Muslim co-workers while working in a field.
For something so minor, she was arrested, imprisoned, and given the death sentence and for 8 years, her appeal was repeatedly delayed and denied. She was kept in solitary confinement with an iron collar while waiting between each successive appeal, denied food and water for prolonged periods of time, and regularly abused by the officers.
Another horrific case, which shot to international prominence, is that of Mashal Khan, a university student who was suspended and put under investigation by his university for allegedly making a blasphemous Facebook post.
Even though no evidence of blasphemy was ever found, a mob of four thousand faithfuls formed and captured him. They beat him with sticks and bricks, shot him, threw him from a second-floor window, beat him again until he died and then continued to desecrate his body. The police did not intervene until the mob tried to burn what was left of him. His murder was filmed and shared on social media and widely celebrated throughout the country as the “death of an enemy of Islam”.
Still have the stomach for more atrocities carried out by these “men of God”? In 2018, Patras Masih was arrested and charged over an allegedly blasphemous Facebook message after an angry mob attacked his neighbourhood and threatened to raze his entire village to the ground. Patras and his cousin were brought into the HQ of the Federal Investigation Agency to be questioned and to gather forensic evidence. Instead, they were brutally beaten and subjected to extreme torture, after which Patras was stripped and they attempted to force his cousin to have sex with him as an act of degradation. His cousin, unable to bear the torture and utter dehumanizing humiliation any longer, threw himself from the window in an attempt to end his own life, but instead the poor soul survived, suffering a fractured skull, broken legs and damaged eyes amongst other injuries.
Now you might be wondering, “But Hoor, is there no one in the country who would speak up against this wild senseless barbarism? How could everyone in the country be complacent and sit by as all this happens?”
And you would be right, I can’t say that there haven’t been people who have attempted to reform these vile, monstrous laws and the mindset that goes with them. Let’s explore how those attempts have gone.
This is the former Pakistani Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, known for being a champion of inter-faith harmony and preserving human dignity, and his repeated attempts to reform Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
In 2011, he was denied his mandatory security protocol when he left his home, only to be surrounded and murdered by a gang of gunmen in broad daylight for having the audacity to ask for the humane and equal treatment of people who exercised their fundamental human right to not believe in Islam.
And who could forget Salman Taseer, the very Muslim Governor of Punjab, the biggest, most developed province of Pakistan, a strong advocate for reforming the blasphemy laws that allowed the indefinite detention and torture of those accused, particularly Asia Bibi.
As a result, he was shot 27 times by his own bodyguard in broad daylight.
How do you think the people of the country reacted? How would any group of sane, civilized, moral human beings react to the public cold-blooded murder of their elected representative?
I’ll let you mull that over and tell you how my fellow Pakistanis reacted, spurred on by the strength of their convictions. The bodyguard was hailed as a hero and praised throughout the country. When the state begrudgingly gave him a death sentence after receiving numerous witness testimonies and a very proud confession to murdering Governor Taseer for “insulting and threatening Islam”, tens of thousands attended his funeral and celebrated him, constructing a shrine in his honor, elevating him to sainthood, and donating 80 million rupees as support to his family in just the first 24 hours after he was buried.
Imagine how terrifying must it be for anyone in Pakistan who does not buy into mainstream Islam when they hear stories like that happening around them almost every week. Imagine how torturous it must be for anyone who has loved ones living in Pakistan and facing these horrors every single day. I, unfortunately, do not have to use my imagination to experience how that feels. Because that has been and remains my reality to this day.
“Haven’t we had enough of this division? Haven’t enough people suffered from religion and nationalism and the greed for power and control turning us against each other? Haven’t we lost enough good people for us to stop dividing ourselves along these lines and to come together to actually help and save our fellow human beings?
You see, despite the fact that I was able to leave my country, a place where my life was constantly at threat as a non-muslim woman, one of my closest friends, the closest in fact, H, still lives there. H, too, is a non-believer, and his life, too, is constantly at threat. And bravely though he may face that danger, two weeks ago, the danger caught up with him.
Several policemen apprehended H as he walked with his partner along the road, apparently provoked by the fact that he was holding her up after she twisted her knee. They threatened to charge him with fornication (which is punishable by a ten-year imprisonment in Pakistan), and forcefully took his wallet, after which the worst of H’s ordeal began.
They read off his full name, which unfortunately happens to be stereotypically associated with the Shia faith, a minority Muslim sect which is also heavily oppressed by the Sunni majority in Pakistan, and immediately started shoving him around. H could not truthfully say that he was not a Shia Muslim, fearing that he would be killed on the spot for apostasy, so he elected to simply say that he identified as solely a practicing non-sectarian Muslim. This unfortunately was not enough for the officers who, so strongly incensed by just the idea that H was a Shia and had claimed to be a Muslim, started a violent physical assault, beating him with their fists, their batons, and even their rifles, and dragging him away to a nearby holding cell.
There, H was tortured and questioned “under suspicion of blasphemy” for several days, despite there being no evidence, not even a registered allegation against him. Simply because a piece of paper said H believed very slightly differently from them. He was degraded, badly injured, and denied food and water for several days before an influential family member managed to bribe the officers into releasing him. All that, over a slight difference of beliefs within the same religion, and I shudder to think what the case might be if anyone was to find out H’s actual beliefs. It’s a possibility I can not bear to imagine.
I grew up hearing that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, but where is the peace in torturing, raping and killing another person for not sharing those beliefs? When I was still a pious Muslim, I was taught to imagine God as a being who loved his creations 70 times more than a mother does, and one of the reasons I left Islam was because I looked around at the world around me and asked myself, would I ever let my children starve? Would I let my children face excruciating pain and lifelong suffering from diseases that I gave them? Would I make laws calling to torture and kill any of my children who questioned my authority?
I realized that if I were a mother, I’d have love for my children no matter what. They could be criminals, they could be addicts, they could dress how they want, love who they want, believe what they want, but I would still love and care for them. So why is a supposedly All-Powerful, All-Knowing Almighty deity treating his creations so cruelly? Why would someone who is said to be unimaginably above us succumb to petty emotions like anger and jealousy and punish and hold grudges against his own creations?
What makes my blood boil is that the life of the most important thing in my life, my family and my best friend, as well as countless other non-muslims is at stake simply because they don’t believe in the same things Muslims do.
THAT WAS NOT THE POINT OF THIS ANSWER.
This answer was NOT intended to further racism or anti-muslim bigotry. DON’T use this answer to support the narrative of any other country or their methods. AND FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE DO NOT turn this answer as yet another battlefield between India and Pakistan or Hindus and Christians and Muslims! Haven’t we had enough of this division? Haven’t enough people suffered from religion and nationalism and the greed for power and control turning us against each other? Haven’t we lost enough good people for us to stop dividing ourselves along these lines and to come together to actually help and save our fellow human beings?
This answer is about HUMANS WHO ARE SUFFERING. One human being in particular.
The POINT was that my family, my best friend, the closest person I have, is being threatened, assaulted, and is at death’s door and yet none of the comments have even asked if he is alright. And I see my call for help being turned into a war zone, between people who have been divided along those same lines, between people who are once again forgetting their humanity and instead of helping a fellow human being in need, are busy in either attacking another group of people, or attempting to defend their convictions by obscuring, ignoring, denying, or diverting from what is documented reality.
Those who say a religion makes someone evil, I don’t think so. Religion is just a very powerful vessel, used by those who are evil, those who are inherently inhuman and would rather benefit themselves than help others.
And I see similar tendencies in those who, instead of proving through their actions that they are indeed good, moral people, whatever group they might be a part of, would use an innocent post, a cry for help even, to hate on others instead of actually making a positive change in the world.