Freedom Isn’t Freedom Without Justice

America celebrates its Independence Day on July 4th while Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day on August 14th. This nearness of the Independence Days of America and Pakistan is the only thing that can be said to define the relationship of the U.S. to Pakistan as “close.” In all other respects, we are as far apart as night and day.

America deserves due credit because its Constitution and amendments grant its citizens rights and freedoms and the means to secure and protect them. And while the realization of these rights and freedoms by different groups and classes took many decades to achieve, the fact remains that the freedom America represents is the shining light that draws people to our shores from all over the globe. America as an ideal is the place where people are Americans first and nationalities or religions second.

It is this very dream of inclusiveness in the American Dream that must be made a reality for all. The Africans brought to America as slaves were eventually freed not only by the efforts of good-hearted people but by the promise imbued in the words of Thomas Jefferson – Founding Father, slave-owner and author of the Declaration of Independence – who wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is these words that ultimately gave birth to our Constitution’s Bill of Rights – freedoms that would be in the governing charters of all Muslim nations were they truly following the dictates of justice set forth in the Holy Quran.

One Muslim country, Pakistan, started off on the right path towards justice when, on August 14th, 1947, its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, stated the fundamental right of all Pakistanis to enjoy religious liberty free from state control. In his inaugural speech, Jinnah proclaimed that every Pakistani – be they Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu or Sikh – was free to go to their mosques, churches, synagogues or temples. The state would not interfere in the religious matters or faith choice of any citizen of Pakistan. However, when Jinnah passed away suddenly soon after, the dream of religious freedom died with him. The Mullahs of that era lost no time in strong-arming the national assembly into defining Pakistan as an Islamic and not a secular state.

Sixty-four years later, all religious minorities in Pakistan live in fear of the bigotry, persecution and violence of the mainstream Sunni Mullahs and their congregations. This is because Pakistan’s Constitution and penal codes, rather than protecting people’s religious rights, liberty and lives as envisioned by Jinnah, instead sanction their death by way of the draconian blasphemy laws that criminalize the free exercise of religion and religious expression – all in the name of respecting Islam and the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

Since 1984, anyone in Pakistan can be fined, jailed or even put to death by the state simply for being accused of blasphemy against Islam or the Prophet Muhammad by word or deed. No proof is required because to produce it would be to recommit the alleged offense. Ahmadi Muslims, Christians, Shia Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus are the chief victims of these infamous blasphemy laws, which are employed regularly to dispossess one’s neighbors and business rivals of their homes, livelihoods and even their lives. It is a spiritual cancer that has raged unchecked for three decades, claiming thousands of innocent lives.

The instigators and beneficiaries of this cancer are the Mullahs, the religious clerics and fanatical rabble-rousers the Holy Prophet Muhammad warned Muslims about 1,400 years ago, calling them “the worst creatures under heaven.” But do Pakistani Muslims listen to and act upon the dire prediction of the founder of their religion and rid themselves of this plague of Mullahism? On the contrary, the vast majority of Pakistanis either cower in fear of the mullahs or jubilantly support the hate-mongering incitements of these same Mullahs. (To demonstrate this one need only consider the paltry 362 Pakistanis who turned out to condemn the Jan. 4th, 2010 assassination of Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer by his own bodyguard, compared with the 62,000 Pakistanis who turned out a few days later to cheer and show their support for Taseer’s unrepentant confessed murderer, showering him with rose petals as he went to court for his arraignment.)

To add insult to injury in this deadly theater of the morally insane, the majority of Pakistan’s mullahs routinely tell the people that all their problems are caused by America. In reality, all their problems are, ultimately, caused by the mullahs themselves. And though Pakistan is labeled a ‘democracy,’ there is no democracy, no justice and no civil rights or equal protection under the law. The rule of law is held captive by the clenched fists of the mullahs who, with their venomous calls for hatred and murder, are leading themselves and their congregations to hell from virtually every mosque in Pakistan.

This is why the only way to effect real, substantive spiritual change and true justice in the lives of the persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan is to rid the country of Mullahism. The first and most effective step towards that end is to excise all blasphemy laws and punishments from the Pakistan Constitution and penal codes. The next step is to stringently enforce the “rule of law” and provide equal protection under the law for all Pakistanis, regardless of race or religion. This will effectively hold the Mullahs and their minions accountable for the evils they commit in the name of Islam – evils that are in complete violation of true Islamic law.

As long as the mullahs hold sway over the military, president, prime minister and national assembly, and as long as the mullahs are given free license by the laws and Constitution of Pakistan to foment injustice and murder, there will be no freedoms and no justice. Ideally, there should be total separation of state and mosque in Pakistan, with the mullahs being removed completely from the political equation that only condemns Pakistan to certain chaos and eventual death as a nation.

When the Constitution of Pakistan begins to resemble the Constitution of the United States, then and only then will our two countries begin to have a relationship that can be said to be “close” – one based on mutual respect, human rights and true religious freedom. Then and only then will the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, rest easy in his grave and be proud of Pakistan: the “Land of the Pure.”

Shamshad A. Nasir is the Imam of Baitul Hamid Mosque, Chino, CA.
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