Friday, January 7, 2011

Blaspheming the Blasphemy Law

Earlier this week extremists delivered yet another shocker to the world when Salman Taseer, the Governor of the Pakistani province of Punjab, was gunned down by his own bodyguard. The guard, 26 year old Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri defended his actions, insisting that Taseer “did blasphemy about the Prophet Mohammed” which under current Pakistani law, is a crime punishable by death. Yet it is the hero’s reception that Qadri is receiving in Pakistan that is the most troublesome aspect of this fiasco. Bedecked in rose garlands and showered in petals as he arrived in court for the initial proceedings, Qadri is a standard bearer for the extremist movement consuming Pakistan. Even supposed moderates are coming out in public support of an admitted killer, stating that his actions were just and in line with the law.

What is interesting to note is that Taseer never insulted the Prophet, taking aim only at a law on the books that he described as being a “black law.” In fact, Taseer did not even question the existence or need for the law, noting that the law should be modified to make the act of insulting any prophet "a criminal offense, but certainly not punishable by death." These comments were made in light of a media firestorm surrounding Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death for insulting the Prophet Mohammed, for whom Taseer was seeking a presidential pardon.

The law as codified under Section 295 of the Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan forbids damage or defiling of any place of worship or sacred object. Furthermore, §295A forbids inflaming religious sentiments, §295B specifically prohibits defiling the Quran, and §295C forbids the defamation of the Prophet Mohammed. All instances of any violation of these sections must take into account the accused person’s intent at the time of the alleged violation, save for §295C, which does not require a consideration of the accused’s intent. It is the law under which Asia Bibi was charged and convicted.

The blasphemy law in Pakistan gets its teeth from Islamic Law, or Shariah law. As written in the Quran, the basis of Shariah law, “the punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter” (Surah Al Maidah 5:33). The only problem with Shariah law is that is applies only to Muslims, and cannot be applied to non Muslims regardless of where they live. The Quran also refers to “those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger” not those who speak ill of Allah and His Messenger. We must, therefore, give pause before determining who this line addresses; is it the person who carelessly tosses a business card with the name ‘Mohammed’ on it in the trash? Or a poor, illiterate Christian woman who is insulted by her Muslim neighbors? Or does it address a more specific type of person; one who unrepentantly persists in defaming the Prophet publicly? These are weighty questions to consider before issuing any fatwa against a person or cause.

A reflection on Islamic rule and law during the time of the Prophet reveals that there was no blasphemy law in effect during his lifetime. No Muslim nor non Muslim was ever punished by court of law for speaking out against the Prophet. One of the most well known cases of abuse against the Prophet is that of an old Jewish woman who would throw garbage at the Prophet on a daily basis. Instead of condemning her to death, the Prophet tolerated the insults and made it a point to behave respectfully towards her. When she fell ill and he came to inquire about her health, she was so touched by his kindness that she converted to Islam. Every school age child in Pakistan learns this story in Akhlaq (conduct and morals) class, yet as a society, Pakistanis fail to apply its lesson on kindness and forgiveness to their daily lives. With regard to the most unrepentant enemy of the Prophet, Abu Lahab, the Quran has this to say: “The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish. His wealth and gains will not exempt him. He will be plunged in flaming fire. And his wife, the wood-carrier, will have upon her neck a halter of palm-fibre” (Surah Al Lahab). Even in the instance of Abu Lahab, the Quran does not delineate a worldly punishment for him, instead choosing to describe his reward in the afterlife.

While the Pakistani Penal Code does not run directly afoul of Shariah law, the application of the law does run counter to the interests of a nation struggling to repair its damaged reputation in the international community. What Taseer suggested, a reform of the existing law, could certainly still conform to Shariah without allowing for the persecution of minorities in Pakistan. The law could be changed to include a consideration for the accused’s intent, just as in the other sections of the blasphemy laws, and the punishment can be modified from death or serious injury to exile, or even a hefty fine. Taseer’s strong stance on reforming the law does not run counter to Shariah, it in fact is completely in line with Shariah and instead of being condemned as a blasphemer, Taseer should be recognized for trying to wrest control from the extremists and restore sanity to a country run amok.

Those who support Taseer’s cause should push for reform of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. If the country wants to establish Shariah law, it should do so correctly, and in line with the true principles of Islam and Islamic law. Islamic law does not apply to non Muslims, and the code should reflect that consideration. In addition to adding a consideration for the accused’s intent, the law should be amended to strike capital punishment for such an offense from the book. It should instead, allow for the forcible removal and exile of a person correctly convicted under the modified law, and a hefty fine to discourage further behavior. This reform will serve a two fold purpose: one, to prevent the misappropriation of justice by those who seek to oppress the voiceless minority, and two, to restore the international community’s faith in Pakistan as a country devoted to the principles of justice and freedom, not vigilantism by extremists seeking to hijack a nation and a religion.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Specter is an Ass. No, Really.

Yesterday's announcement that Arlen Specter was switching to the Democratic Party after serving close to thirty years as a Republican Senator was a real shocker. I mean, I never saw that coming. But the real kicker was the RNC's response to the switch. When asked if Specter gave them a heads up, Michael Steele emphatically said, "No, not at all." and followed up with "At least give me a call, or give the party leadership a call and let us know, 'This is what I'm thinking.'"

Well as if Michael Steele didn't have enough to worry about with the Coleman-Franken legal dogfight, and the upstate New York House seat upset, now he's dealing with defections to the other party. Specter's party switch is only the 13th ever in history.

While Republicans are obviously and rightly miffed, I'm shocked that Democrats are rejoicing over Specter's switch to the Democratic Party. They seem to think that with Specter and potentially Franken added to our side that we'll have the magic number 60. I've got news for you, buddy: Specter is stil Specter. Having Specter on board is like carrying a mule on your back. Sure, you HAVE the mule, but it isn't doing you any good on your back. Likewise, the mere fact that there are 60 professed Democrats in the Senate doesn't mean a damn thing if the 60th Senator is going to disagree with the party on big things like health care reform, dialing down the troop numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and environmental issues.

The Republican Party is in severe crisis mode. At risk of becoming as relevant and enduring as the Whigs, they are latching onto anything buzzworthy or trendy in the hopes that it will make them less anachronistic. When Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's historic candidacies were making headlines and grabbing attention worldwide, John McCain was merely another "old white guy" running for President, yet again. When Obama and Clinton were actively courting the young vote and the women's vote, McCain's campaign was yet again, lagging behind in generating the appropriate buzz for the candidate. Only after they realized that "Gee, this women's issues business translates into actual votes!" did they quickly bring Sarah Palin on board in the hopes of stealing away any votes that Obama had alienated with his second in command pick, Joe Biden.

Then with the ground breaking Obama candidacy, making him the first ever African American to head a major ticket, and then his subsequent historic win, Republicans again, had to play catch up and seem somewhat relevant to a new generation of Americans. Steele's election as RNC chairman was an effective "Me too!" from the Republicans. After all, the Republican Party until that point had no African Americans in any significant leadership positions, and with the Democrats holding the highest office in the U.S. under the leadership of an African American man, well, it wouldn't be wise to buck the trend, now, would it? And therein lies the problem with the Republicans. They see these things as trends that will at some point, drop off the radar, and the political landscape will eventually return to a more familiar WASP-y backdrop for them to continue their exclusive party agenda.

Specter's defection to the Democratic Party is another "Me too!" It's cool to be a Democrat now, so why not join in on the foray? At least it will guarantee him another Senate term come 2010. Make no mistake about it, Specter did not claim to be newly embracing Democratic ideology. He said point blank in his statement to the press, that he "found that the prospects for winning a Republican primary are bleak."
Not willing to be another has been like Tom Delay, or Trent Lott, Specter "decided to be a candidate for reelction in 2010 in the Democratic primary."

It's just sad that the Republicans have moved so far right, as to alienate moderate, long time Republicans. As Specter said in his address, "As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the philosophy of the Republican Party." Maine Senator Olympia Snowe said that Specter's switch was devastating to the party. Yet fools like Limbaugh and Steele are saying "good riddance" and to "take McCain with you."

At a time when the Republican Party needs to be more and more inclusive to make themselves more relevant to a new generation of politically aware Americans, Limbaugh and Steele are further alienating their own peers and shutting out all constructive criticism from within their own party. Case in point, Miss Meghan McCain. Now I don't agree with her ideologically, but at least she is trying to resuscitate the party with what clout she has. Props to her.

With Specter now a "Dem" (really, I can't do it. I can't call him a Democrat) and Democrats finding themselves one step closer to an artificially inflated magic 60, I hope that history will be kind to the Obama administration. With "Dems" like Specter and Lieberman, who needs Republicans?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kalashnikov: A symbol of Islam??

Reading the statement by the Taliban commander in Buner, Mowlana Mohammed Khalil, I was filled with a red hot rage I could barely contain.

"We came here only to preach Islam," Khalil said. He added that his fighters were carrying weapons only because they were an important symbol for Muslims.

OMFG! AKs and grenade launchers are NOT important symbols for Muslims! Muslim symbology dates back to Mohammedan times, and I am quite sure such weaponry never existed in that era. Sword symbology is specific only to Arab cultures, and has been combined with Islamic symbology in Arab nations. Note that I said that swords are specific to Arab CULTURE, not RELIGION. There is a big, black, BOLD line that separates the two. Not all Muslims are Arabs, therefore, not all Muslims find a sword to be of any significance at all.

It really pisses me off that people can be so damn ignorant and spit BS, and other ignorant people just accept that BS at face value.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Islamabad: The Next Hotbed of Terrorist Activity?

What could only be described as a "nightmare scenario" for the U.S. and the rest of the world could very well be unfolding in Pakistan at this very moment. Earlier this month Taliban forces took over a region in Swat Valley in Pakistan. Swat Valley is a poor, rural region not too far from the ultra-modern capital city of Islamabad. With concessions and "peace treaties" from the Pakistani government, specifically Asif Ali Zardari, the Taliban saw the government's inability (or refusal) to take a strong stance against their advances as an invitation to plunge further into the heart of the country. CNN reported that Taliban forces have recently taken over the Buner region, which brings them one step closer to implementing their perverted version of Shariah (Islamic Law) in Islamabad and the rest of Pakistan.

I put the blame of this squarely on Mr. Zardari, who isn't even a real President, since he fraudulently took over the post following the elections. The Taliban situation would be unthinkable under Musharraf. During the time that Musharraf was in power, the Taliban was relegated to the far reaches of the Northern Frontier and the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Taliban training camps and meetings were held in secret, and their militia hid in caves that dotted the border. Members of the Taliban were afraid to even be identified in public, or in the media. The situation in Buder is such that "heavily armed men openly patrolled the roads in pickup trucks" and the Taliban is out in full force, in defiance of the Pakistani government.

Though I am not a proponent of U.S. involvement in foreign nations when the intervention is unwarranted and unwanted, it would be in our best interest to get involved as soon as possible, to prevent another possible Afghanistan situation to occur again. Pakistan and pre-Taliban Afghanistan have many similiarities: both have similar topographies, including a shared mountainous border, large swaths of poor, rural communities desperate for resources, pockets of educated but largely apathetic communities with access to all the country's resources, and a government unresponsive to the needs of the poor. All these factors provided the Taliban with a fertile recruiting ground in Afghanistan's rural regions. The only diference between Pakistan and Afghanistan is that Pakistan has a significant arsenal of nuclear weapons and the technology to produce more.

The U.S. and Pakistan should work together on ways to target and weed out Taliban influence and operations. Zardari needs to be held accountable and meet benchmarks for success. Should he fail to do so, the U.S. should withhold aid to Pakistan and Zardari should step down and allow a more competent leader to take on the post. Involvement in Pakistan is a necessity at this point. The extent of our involvement should be dictated by the Pakistani goverment's willingness to take responsibility and action for the problem on their own. If Zardari fails to take strong stance against Taliban clerics and military action against Taliban forces, the U.S. should intervene to take action against the Taliban on Pakistani soil.

But a more necessary action would be to cut of Taliban funding at the source. The Bush Administration made much adieu about prosecuting anyone in the U.S. who funds terrorist activities. Yet these funds coming from the U.S. are a paltry sum compared to the millions and millions and perhaps, billions of dollars that go to fund the Taliban from Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries. The Saudi government is quick to provide funds for Islamic centers and activities that propagate Wahabbism, which is the root of Taliban ideology, whether in the U.S. or abroad. When we signal to Saudi Arabia that this is no longer appropriate and that we will end diplomatic relations until it stops, then and only then will we see the Taliban shrink back into the caves that they were previously hiding in. Until then, the Taliban will continue to be richly funded by Saudi oil money, (provided generously by oil consuming nations, such as the U.S.) and they wil continue to threaten our security and the security of the rest of the world.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hot Summer Days

The first day of spring was barely a month ago, and yet this past weekend, we have been experiencing a full on summer heat wave in the Bay Area. With afternoon temperatures in the mid to high 80's, I had to think of ways to keep Armaan cool yet entertained all week and weekend.

We took a trip to the park, but with limited mobility, Armaan just sat contentedly in the baby swing for less than 30 minutes. After that, we hit the mall, which was a zoo! Too many teenagers and teenyboppers yakking away on cell phones. It hits me that actual parenting is no longer en vogue with parents of the 13 and up age group, as retailers and Starbucks employees have more interaction with the kids than their own parents. I wonder why there are so many kids at the mall without their parents? My mother made certain to accompany me wherever I went, not just to keep tabs on me, but to *gasp* spend time with her teenage daughter. Alas, I digress.

Then on Wednesday we went to Borders and sat upstairs in the kids section. While large and expansive, there wasn't much for kid patrons to DO at the Borders. I was disappointed further, when I didn't see any information for activities posted. A salesclerk was terribly unhelpful, and I was forced to find other options for Armaan to enjoy. Fortunately, a metal shelf with toys and a few books on the floor were enough to keep him occupied for a while, but then again, an 8 month old is quite easy to please. Just give him some paper and let him destroy it. I will have to figure out some other avenues for play and distraction when he gets a little older.

I am also surprised that despite moving into the burbs, there are few parents willing to interact. Is it because they have playgroups/cliques already formed and exclusive to their own bunch? I'm disappointed. Not just for my son, but for myself. I was really hoping to find some other moms to socialize with.

I am now off to get ready for another day of aimlessly wandering around a mall, or maybe back to the Borders so I can find something for this little guy to do. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

If it's broke, then I cain't fix it

Oh the joys of motherhood! The six month milestone has always been my favorite, even before I had my own half year old munchkin wiggling all over his playmat. This age is the perfect harmony of optimum cuteness, tempered by minimal mobility. As much as he wriggles and squirms, he just can't escape he clutches of doting mommy dearest or over stimulating uncles and grandmom. And wouldn't you know it, he's just cute as a button. He finds comedy in a shaking rattle, or a silly voice, or Tigger jumpingup from behind a pillow. Any one of these actions sends Armaan into a fit of giggles that he just can't stop.

As much as I adore my lovely son, and wouldn't trade it for the world, who knew that I still wouldn't be WHOLE after six full months post delivery? I woke up a few weeks ago with a searing pain up my leg, concentrated mostly around my right ankle area. It still hasn't disappeared or even subsided in the least. An X-ray showed NOTHING. No broken bones, or cracks, nothing! So I did a little research of my own, and here's what I found:

I probably have a stress fracture. This is also called an over use fracture; silly, because one never over uses their bodies, only uses them to the extent that God has given us. But stress fractures are not common in young people, unless they are: 1) female atheletes 2) females with irregular periods 3) females with easting disorders 4) older females that have osteoporosis.

Seeing that I don't qualify under any of the first three, the deciding factor came to #4. And sadly, I knew that I already had osteoporosis, despite being under 40. I brought it up with my doc, and she said, well geez, this all makes perfect sense now!

So a stress fracture, unlike other breakages of the bone, cannot be fixed by setting the bone, putting it in a cast, etc. Because stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone, there is no need to set the bone. They just hurt like HELL and are virtually undetectable on Xrays. The only remedy is rest and to abstain from using the injured ankle at all costs.

One would THINK that because I am now completely homebound, and stuck on a couch all day, I would be eager and able to update my blog on the daily. Nay, my friend, you are mistaken. Remember the adorable 6 month old I mentioned earlier? Well he has the keenest senses I've evre seen. It's like he smells blood. He knows that I can't really pick him up, carry him around, and run around after his needs: bottles, diapers, paci, toys, etc etc. But now that I can barely walk, he has new demands. He wants to be rocked to sleep in the standing position. He will lie next to me, and aggressivley kick my injured ankle. And God forbid that I want to take a nap with him. Already a light sleeper, his naps have been abbreviated to less than 30 minutes twice a day. It's enough to drive a girl mad!

I complain, but as my little boo lies next to me sleeping soundly as I type this, I am overcome with love and I can't help but forget that my foot screams in agony, and that I haven't showered or slept in days. It's as if his soft breathing melts away any stress. But strike me dead if I dare lie down next to him: it's like asking him to wake up and harass me again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Reflections on the last month

The last month has been a whirlwind of activity on all fronts. I got back from my cousin's wedding in Houston the weekend before Thanksgiving. Even though Houston is my hometown, it shocked me still, to see so many McCain-Palin signs all over town. One would think that a city with a sizeable Black population and a Democratic mayor would at least be balanced in its political inclinations.
So there you have it. President-elect Barack Obama, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It sounds so strange to say, yet so deliciously satisfying. The only thing that would be more satisfying would be Al Franken soundly defeating Norm Coleman in the Minnesota Senate race. However, that joy is somewhat tempered by the news yesterday Saxby Chambliss defeated Jim Martin in the Georgia Senate race. It's a bad sign for Democrats; even in this anti-Republican climate, Martin just can't gain a foothold in the state.
Martin may have stood a chance against Chambliss, if he were a more moderate Democrat. Martin's support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is not just too liberal for Georgia, it may be too liberal for the nation. The same goes for Martin's stance on universal healthcare. Many Americans, though they are receptive to the idea, are wary of government sponsored healthcare, because of the mess that Medicare and Medicaid are in. Higher taxes to extend healthcare to all just isn't palatable to the working class, and especially not in a time of Recession. With the factors all being the same, Martin stood a better chance of defeating Chambliss if he was just a little less left of center. The tides of change were not in Chambliss's favor, but it looks like Georgia is not ready for change.