Thursday 26 March 2015

"All evil has its end, and the blasphemy law is evil"

Full transcript of my interview with Paul Bhatti, ex-minister of Minorities in Pakistan and brother of Shahbaz Bhatti, who was killed for opposing the country's blasphemy law. See news story here (in Portuguese).

Transcrição integral da minha entrevista a Paul Bhatti, ex-ministro das minorias no Paquistão e irmão de Shahbaz Bhatti, morto em 2011 por se opor às leis da blasfémia. Ver reportagem aqui.
Bhatti está em Portugal para participar no Meeting Lisboa.

We hear a lot about the anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan. What is the situation at the moment?
The blasphemy law in Pakistan is one of the laws which has capital punishment. Anybody who violates this law is sentenced either to death or to a very long time in prison.

Unfortunately this law is often misused to settle personal scores. There are also many Muslims who have been victims of this persecution and these false accusations.

The general situation in Pakistan is very bad. We have political crisis, economic crisis, the country is unstable. This instability creates a fertile environment for those who want to impose their radical philosophy and who take advantage of these things, like false accusations to settle personal scores.

Unfortunately the religious minorities, in particular the Christians communities, belong to the most oppressed and marginalized sector of society, so they are easy victims of this. Doing that, it gives the message to entire world that they don't like Christians, they don't like minorities, they can do whatever they want, and they are in the media. 

This creates the kind of problems we are fighting, and my late brother Shahbaz's main objective was to promote religious freedom, bring in the mainstream of the society, the poor and marginalized sectors of the community. After his death I am carrying on his legacy, and we have a lot to do, but I think that there is hope, if we continue to follow this path. Our conviction is that we are right, we want to honour human dignity, we want to promote social justice, we are working for human equality.

But whereas there are false accusations and innocent victims, on the other hand there are hopes too. A lot of Muslim people support us, they share our feelings, they want to share the contribution to promote religious freedom and peace in the society. 

Do you believe that the anti-blasphemy laws might be abolished in the near future?
Surely. First of all, I am convinced that evil has its end, and this is evil. These things are evil. 

The second thing is that a lot of people of good faith want it to end. Now the sensibility of the international community, of a lot of good people in Pakistan, a lot of people who believe in religion... If these people come together, the opposition is rather small. I think sooner or later we will prevail.

The only thing is that the people who believe in justice, who believe in religious freedom, including the international community, have to unite. They should unite behind one platform and fight against the law, and that way it will end. But if they don't unite behind one platform, then they cannot get the advantage.

Could it be counterproductive for the international community and NGOs to criticize the law? Could that not make it more difficult to end the law as it makes it seem like the government is folding to Western pressure?
You are very right. I agree.

Raising one's voice for those who cannot raise their voice is good. But on the other hand we have to take concrete steps. These are, you have to enforce, support the local community to stand by themselves, to make them strong so that they can defend themselves and raise their voice. The basic problem is illiteracy, poverty and political representation of the religious minorities, including Christians, in the highest forum of society. 

We have to work along those lines so that people can come into the mainstream of society and do all these things.

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