Friday, January 07, 2011


A call to the youth of the Congo, " the vanguard of the peaceful revolution and salvation of your country!"

From the San Francisco Bay View

 Congolese youth, be the vanguard of the peaceful revolution and salvation of your country!

Multinational corporations have been looting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for decades at the expense of innocent human beings, most of them children. This public service announcement features Congolese children from Los Angeles, California, breaking the silence about the tragedy in the DRC funded by multinational corporations. For more information about the DRC, please visit Special thanks to the African Christian Community Church of Southern California and the parents who allowed their wonderful children to participate in breaking the silence. You are all heroes.
A message for the New Year from Congolese activist Kambale Musavuli
On this New Year’s Day, the Congolese youth of America wish you a wonderful new year in 2011. May it be a prosperous and successful one that brings us closer to peace in our country.

Author Dedy Bilamba and activist Kambale Musavuli call Congolese youth to action “to assure that our beautiful Congo remains in the hands of the sons and daughters of the Congo.”
I write to the youth, men and women, to remind you of the prophetic message of our elders who worked tirelessly and made the ultimate sacrifice for us to be called not only African, but also Congolese united in the effort to rebuild the land of our ancestors.
When Patrice Lumumba sent his appeal to the Congolese youth in the 1960s, he realized that without the youth, the future of the Congo would not be guaranteed. Our youth, long asleep, long exploited, he said, must understand their role as the vanguard of the peaceful revolution and the salvation of the Congo.
Living in the United States, we have been able to learn how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at the age of 26, began his illustrious work for equality of the Black man and woman here in the West. The same is true for our Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, age 34, who embarked upon the task of leading a country the size of Western Europe.

Kimpa Vita, born in 1684 in the Kingdom of Congo, is the first woman who fought the European domination of Africa, fighting both local and transatlantic slavery. She led thousands of people to rebuild and repopulate Mbanza Congo, the capital, when Congo’s King Pedro IV, imposed by the Catholic Church, had taken refuge in the mountains. On July 2, 1706, Catholic priests had her burned at the stake with her companion and their baby. In 1739, some of her followers, sold in America, carried out the “rebellion of Stono” in South Carolina, and her teachings inspired the enslaved Congolese during the revolution that led to the independence of Haiti in 1804.
We cannot forget our brother Steve Biko in South Africa who also fought against the apartheid regime by mobilizing the youth in his country and was assassinated at age 30. I would not do justice to the history of our country if I do not invoke the name of Kimpa Vita, the young Dona Beatriz, who mobilized Congolese against the Portuguese invasion and lost her life in the process. She was only 21 when she was burned alive at the stake.
All these historic examples remind us that today we are also able to create a revival in our country. We can make the Congo a great world power. This will not be easy. We will have many difficulties, but our elders will be there for advice and wisdom. It is our duty we owe our ancestors who, even ‘til death, fought so that we would not lose our land. We in the diaspora are counting on you.

We can make the Congo a great world power.

Rest assured that we, your brothers and sisters in the diaspora, and also the many people of goodwill around the world, from China, Canada, Japan, Australia, Belgium, the United States and elsewhere are here to provide you with support, moral as well as financial.
The awakening of the Congolese youth is paramount in achieving a new and prosperous future for not only the Congo but also Africa as a whole. The pride of being Congolese should compel us to toil day and night for peace, as it will come only through our hands in synergy and unity among us in the Congo and the awakened diaspora.
Congolese youth, the great Congo of today is ours. This gift is not just hereditary, but also because millions of Congolese have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country since 1482. We must do everything in our power to assure that our beautiful Congo remains in the hands of the sons and daughters of the Congo.
Long live the Congolese youth! Long live the Democratic Republic of Congo! Long live Africa and Africans!
Kambale Musavuli is spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo. He can be reached at You can follow him on twitter @kambale. Visit his fan page at


You know about the strike in Georgia's prisons last month.  Here is some more news you can use.  Reports on medical neglect in those prisons and on retribution taken against strike organizers.  People on the inside need help from those of us on the outside.  Do what you can.

From Georgia Prison Watch

Please sign the Statement of Solidarity!

To: General Public.
A Moment for Movement-Building: Statement of Solidarity with Georgia Prisoner Strike.

Please sign the statement here:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Medical neglect stalks Georgia prisons

From: Black Agenda Report
Taken from: SF Bay View, Jan. 6, 2011

by Black Agenda Report managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Can’t breathe? Crushing chest pains creeping up the side of your neck? See a doctor? In prison? Don’t bet on it.Arnold Porter was serious, and seriously worried. He was dizzy and short of breath, he told Dr. William Sightler, with a crushing, tightening sensation in his chest with pain shooting up one side of his neck. “Maybe I have a clogged artery. This is not my normal health,” he told Dr. Sightler. “Please help. I need something done fast.”

Slow motion heart attacks, in which symptoms leading up to full cardiac arrest build and worsen gradually over weeks or months are quite common. Porter should have been a lucky man, being able to bring his heart attack symptoms into in a physician’s office, except for one thing. Porter was a prisoner at Georgia’s Wheeler Correctional Facility, operated by the notorious Corrections Corporation of America. And William Slighter was their doctor, not his.

According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Dublin, Ga., Porter repeatedly and insistently sought medical aid throughout the month of December 2006, informing Dr. Sightler and a prison nurse of his symptoms and urgently requesting some kind, any kind of diagnostic treatment for his chest pain, shortness of breath, profuse sweating and the other classic markers of cardiac disease. By Dec. 29, the complaint states, Porter’s symptoms were well documented in his file, but the first appointment with Dr. Sightler was delayed a full 35 days. It was at this appointment that Porter stated he thought he might have a clogged artery and asked for help.

Dr. Sightler, Nurse Newcurt and the prison Director of Nursing Carolyn White, the complaint alleges, did nothing. Wheeler is a privatized prison, run by a highly profitable corporation. Private prisons, as well as publicly-run prisons with privatized medical care, have built-in reasons to skimp on diagnostic testing and all kinds of care. Medical care costs money, and they’re in business to make it, not to spend it.

On Oct. 16, 2007, Arnold Porter went into full cardiac arrest. He died. His pulse and breathing stopped, he had to be brought back with a combination of electric shock and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Porter is lucky to be alive today. He’s a long way from being well but has made it far enough back to draft and file his own complaint against CCA, the state of Georgia, and the doctors and nurses who refused to treat him ‘til he reached the point of death.

Porter’s sister Vondra told Black Agenda Report, “My brother says, ‘They’ve already tried to kill me. I don’t know what more they can do.’” So Porter is doing what he can do, acting as a jailhouse lawyer, researching and assisting with the pleas and motions of other prisoners at Coffee Correctional facility, where he is now held.

Some other Georgia prisoners are not so fortunate. Terrance Dean, who was brutally beaten by officials at Macon State Prison in mid-December, around the same time as the visit of a Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights fact-finding team, finally got a visit from his sister on Sunday, Jan. 2.

“He’s got a long way to go,” said Wendy Johnson of Atlanta. “He’s in a wheelchair, his speech is slurred, and he seems to have partial paralysis in his arm and leg on one side. He can’t walk without help … He is very fearful.” According to Johnson, the last time he saw his mother, in November, he was in normal physical condition with no complaints.

Dean was transferred in apparent secrecy to an Atlanta hospital more than 130 miles away from the prison. His family was not informed at all by state authorities of either his injury or his transfer. They had to find out by other means. And although Johnson spoke to Steve Franklin of CBS Atlanta on Friday, the story appears to have received little or no on-air coverage and cannot be found on the station’s web site.

“We’re going to do everything we can to find out what happened to Terrance Dean and everything we can to make sure justice is served,” pledged Rev. Kenny Glasgow of The Ordinary Peoples Society.

At Smith Prison, where another fact-finding visit occurred, there was at least one incident which may be another case of official retaliation for the prison strike. The wife of another prisoner at that institution spoke to corporate media reporters just before New Year’s about her husband, whose nose was broken and not reset and who had other injuries. Again, the story has seen little light. The family has retained an attorney and is looking into its legal options.

The Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoner Rights expects to hold a press conference in Atlanta Jan. 6 at 10:30 in downtown Atlanta. We’ll be there.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report [2]and is based in Marietta, Georgia. He’s also a member of the Georgia Green Party’s state committee.

New charges of inmate beatings

by the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights

The Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights, formed to support the interests and agenda of thousands of Georgia prisoners who staged a peaceful protest and work strike initiated Dec. 9, will host a press conference this Thursday, Jan. 6. The mothers and other family members of Terrance Dean and Miguel Jackson, inmates reportedly brutally beaten by guards at Macon State and Smith State Prisons in connection with the strike, will be in attendance.

The press conference follows reports of violent abuses of these men and others and the findings of fact by coalition delegations after visits to two prisons in December. These reports have increased fears of the targeting of and retaliation against inmates on account of their peaceful protest for their human rights and raise the urgency for immediate reform.

“These new developments have increased our fears and our legitimate call for more access to inmates,” said Elaine Brown, co-chair of the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights.

Ed Dubose, coalition co-chair and president of the NAACP of Georgia, stated: “Family members are frantic and mothers are crying and anguished after learning their loved ones have been badly injured. We cannot allow those cries to go unanswered. Since the start of the Dec. 9 peaceful work stoppage and appeal for reform and respect for human rights, some inmates have been targeted and others have simply disappeared. We are urging the Department of Corrections and Governor-Elect Nathan Deal to act now to halt these unjust practices and treat these men like human beings.”

Black, brown, white, Muslim, Christian and Rastafarian prisoners, including those at Augusta, Baldwin, Calhoun, Calhoun, Hays, Macon, Rogers, Smith, Telfair, Valdosta and Ware State Prisons, joined a peaceful work stoppage Dec. 9, 2010, refusing to come out of their cells as part of a petition to the Corrections Department.

Among concerns expressed by inmates were not being paid for their labor; being charged excessive fees for basic medical treatments; language barriers suffered by Latino inmates; arbitrary, harsh disciplinary practices; too few opportunities for education and self improvement; and unjust parole denials.

Coalition leaders attending the press conference will be Mr. Dubose, Ajamu Baraka of the U.S. Human Rights Network, Pastor Kenneth Glasgow of The Ordinary People Society, Chara Jackson of the ACLU of Georgia, along with Abdul Sharrief Muhammad of the Nation of Islam.

The prisoners have been petitioning the corrections department for their human rights, including wages for labor, decent health care and nutritional meals, a halt to cruel and unusual punishments and an end to unjust just parole decisions.

The Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights can be reached through Leila McDowell at


 Will the USA provide safe haven for white supremacist wanted by Canada. If so, should Canada consider air strikes?

From the Provence.

White supremacist taunts cops

B.C. police seek to bring Craig Cobb to justice for alleged hate crimes

Venomous white supremacist Craig Cobb is in the U.S. taunting B.C. police as they seek to bring him to justice for alleged hate crimes.
Cobb, a shaggy 59-year-old racist, was arrested June 17 in Vancouver on suspicion of promoting hatred of blacks, Jews, gays and lesbians through a website called Podblanc he allegedly operated for about 10 months from Vancouver.
But because federal hate-crime law requires the provincial attorney-general's approval for a charge, Cobb had to be released after his arrest at the downtown library, and he quickly fled south across the border, said Det. Terry Wilson of the B.C. Hate Crimes Team, a unit made up of officers from various police forces.
Crown counsel in B.C. laid a charge Dec. 30 of promoting hatred, and police issued a Canada-wide arrest warrant for Cobb -- a dual Canadian/U. S. citizen -- the following day. Wilson emailed Cobb a notice of the warrant. Cobb posted that message on his Facebook site.
"Get An Extradition Order, Chump Terry Wilson," Cobb wrote by way of introducing the warrant notice. On his blog, Cobb addressed Wilson saying, "you can find me in the orange easy chair near the elevator" at the library in Kalispell, Mont.
The fugitive has also posted information on Facebook suggesting he's in Montana, but that could be a ruse, Wilson said.
Cobb has a long history in the white-power movement in the U.S., according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a left-wing research group.
At the 2005 memorial for American civil-rights icon Rosa Parks in Washington, D.C., Cobb videotaped mourners responding as he called Parks a "s---skin communist" and said he was there to "celebrate her death," the SPLC reported.
Cobb appeared with his video camera in March in New Westminster for a planned white-power rally that never materialized.
The now-shut Podblanc website had more than 1,000 channels, each directed by a different registered user, with content including combat handgun training, explosives-making and details of security measures at three California synagogues, according to the SPLC.
The site's most-popular video showed Russian neo-Nazis beheading and shooting Asian immigrants, with other videos showing Russian and Eastern European skinheads punching and stomping orthodox Jews and non-whites, according to the SPLC.
In January 2009, 22-year-old Keith Luke told police in Massachusetts he'd been inspired by Podblanc and other white-power websites to go on a killing spree in which he murdered two black immigrants and raped and shot another, The Enterprise newspaper in Massachusetts reported.
Cobb spent three years trying to gather white-supremacist support in northern Europe, but was kicked out of Finland and Estonia, according to the SPLC. Wilson said Cobb arrived in Canada in August 2009 soon after leaving Estonia.
The U.S. First Amendment guarantee of free speech may make it impossible to get Cobb extradited to face the Canadian charge of communicating hatred, Wilson said.
"You need to have a similar offence in the country that you're extraditing from," Wilson said, adding that he isn't aware of any instances of suspects being extradited to Canada to face a promoting-hatred charge.
"If he sets foot in Canada, he'll be arrested," Wilson said.
Of course, thanks to modern technology, Cobb can keep up his work from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


We're living on the edge...and the rent is coming due.


Is mother nature trying to tell us something?

As the risk of sounding like Chicken Little, doesn’t it sort of seem like the sky is falling? I’m not trying to push any sort of apocalyptic conspiracy theory, but I do think we’ve got to take these kinds of things seriously. The frightening and unexplained trifecta reminds me of Naomi Klein’s critical piece in the Guardian about the BP oil spill and the testosterone-fueled hubris that caused it:
In the arc of human history, the notion that nature is a machine for us to re-engineer at will is a relatively recent conceit. In her ground-breaking 1980 book The Death of Nature, the environmental historian Carolyn Merchant reminded readers that up until the 1600s, the Earth was alive, usually taking the form of a mother. Europeans – like indigenous people the world over – believed the planet to be a living organism, full of life-giving powers but also wrathful tempers. There were, for this reason, strong taboos against actions that would deform and desecrate “the mother”, including mining.
The metaphor changed with the unlocking of some (but by no means all) of nature’s mysteries during the scientific revolution of the 1600s. With nature now cast as a machine, devoid of mystery or divinity, its component parts could be dammed, extracted and remade with impunity. Nature still sometimes appeared as a woman, but one easily dominated and subdued. Sir Francis Bacon best encapsulated the new ethos when he wrote in the 1623 De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum that nature is to be “put in constraint, moulded, and made as it were new by art and the hand of man.”
There may be perfectly reasonable explanations for all of the wildlife suddenly dropping dead as of late, but that still wouldn’t change the reality. We have been pillaging the earth without any sense of the long-term and reverberating effects and it has got to stop. There is no technology powerful enough, no human brain sophisticated enough, to replicate the highly complex interdependent system that is nature and we’re royally f-ing that up.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


 In Germany today it seems that Nazis are finding a nice home while the government wrings it's hands but does nothing. It is up to the famous PEOPLE to so something about it. I ain't holding my breath.


The Village Where the Neo-Nazis Rule

By Maximilian Popp
Roland Geisheimer / Attenzione / DER SPIEGEL
Hitler salutes in the street and firing practice in the forest: Neo-Nazis have taken over an entire village in Germany, and authorities appear to have given up efforts to combat the problem. The place has come to symbolize the far right's growing influence in parts of the former communist east.
Horst and Birgit Lohmeyer have been working on their life's dream for six years, renovating a house in the woods near Jamel, a tiny village near Wismar in the far northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Birgit Lohmeyer writes crime novels, her husband is a musician, and both try to pretend everything is normal here in Jamel.

It wasn't easy to find their new home. The Lohmeyers spent months driving out to the countryside every weekend, heading east from where they lived in Hamburg, but most of the houses they saw were too expensive. Then they came across the inexpensive red brick farmhouse in Jamel. Slightly run-down, but not far from the Baltic Sea, the house sits surrounded by lime and maple trees, near a lake.

The Lohmeyers knew that a notorious neo-Nazi lived nearby -- Sven Krüger, a demolition contractor and high-level member of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). What the Lohmeyers didn't know was that other neighbors felt terrorized by Krüger. He and his associates were in the process of buying up the entire village.
Jamel is an example of the far-right problem that has plagued Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania for years. The rural region, once part of communist East Germany, has a poor reputation in this regard -- the NPD, which glorifies the Third Reich, has been in the state parliament since 2006 and neo-Nazi crimes are part of daily life. In recent months, a series of attacks against politicians from all the democratic parties has shaken the state. Sometimes hardly a week goes by without an attack on another electoral district office, with paint bombs, right-wing graffiti and broken windows.
Norbert Nieszery, leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the state parliament, calls it an "early form of terror." Nieszery's own office windows have been smashed twice. State Interior Minister Lorenz Caffier of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) says he has registered a "new level" of right-wing extremist violence. He believes the NPD is trying to raise its profile through aggressive behavior ahead of the state parliament election in September. One local mayor requested police protection after receiving repeated right-wing threats. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, has warned that the NPD is becoming increasingly influential in local municipalities and that the neo-Nazis are trying to entrench themselves in daily life.
Mounting Concern About Far-Right Influence
Nowhere have they succeeded as well as in Jamel. If the right-wing extremists left, the village would be empty. Jamel is no longer just a problem at the regional or federal state level -- even Berlin is growing concerned about the situation.
SPD member Wolfgang Thierse, vice president of Germany's federal parliament, the Bundestag, visited the village a few months ago. He spent half an hour in the Lohmeyers' living room and promised to support them in their fight against the neo-Nazis. So far, nothing has changed. Jamel has come to symbolize the fact that there are places in Germany where right-wing extremists can do virtually whatever they want.
When the Lohmeyers moved here in 2004, they started to fix up their country house and to make contact with the neighbors -- although not with the neo-Nazi Krüger. They were sure right-wing extremists wouldn't be the only people in Jamel.
Only gradually did they realize just where they had ended up. Plaster crumbled from many of the houses in the village and one roof had collapsed completely. Beer bottles, car tires and gas canisters were littered behind the bus stop. There were metal fences surrounding some properties and attack dogs strained against their chains in the front yards. No one bothered to remove the swastika scribbled on the sign at the entrance to the village.
Children Giving Hitler Salute
There were young men with shaved heads and army trousers in the village and Nazi rock music could be heard from across the fields on the weekends. Shots sounded from the woods, where the neo-Nazis practiced their shooting -- police later found bullet casings in trenches there. When the Lohmeyers walked through the village, children raised their hands in the Nazi salute.
Krüger has shaped the village. He grew up here, with a father who was known as a right-wing radical and who used to make his son salute each morning in the snow. Young Krüger was an outsider at school, an acquaintance remembers, and didn't find friends until he joined the skinhead scene. As a young man, he incited right-wing thugs to attack a campsite and spent time in pre-trial detention on suspicion of burglary. Still, for a long time, the Krügers were the only neo-Nazis in the village.
"Now," says Horst Lohmeyer, "they see Jamel as a 'nationally liberated zone'" -- a neo-Nazi term for places foreigners and those of foreign descent must fear to tread. The extremists took over the village in just a few years. They now own seven of the 10 houses and have driven out anyone who couldn't come to terms with them. They battered down doors and broke windows, slashed tires, flew the German imperial war flag and celebrated Hitler's birthday. In the 1990s, they stuck dead chickens on one family's garden fence with the warning, "We'll smoke you out."
The village emptied and Krüger encouraged his right-wing friends to buy the available houses. Few others dared to venture into Jamel anymore. Neo-Nazis greeted one couple that wanted to move there with "Piss off" -- and the couple's house burned down shortly before they planned to move in. One new property owner dared to set foot in the village only accompanied by police.
The Lohmeyers have made it their life's work not to let themselves be driven out of Jamel. Each year, they host a rock festival on a field behind their house. Governor Erwin Sellering of the SPD has been patron of the festival since 2009. Police fence in the area and guard the entrance, and in past years, things remained largely calm.
Help is Far Away
This summer, though, neo-Nazis jumped over the fence, yelling slurs and attacking concertgoers. Police stepped in and stopped the troublemakers. But police can't always protect the Lohmeyers -- the nearest station is 12 kilometers away.
Horst Lohmeyer sits in his kitchen, bent over a map, and runs his finger along the roads and through the towns -- Gressow, Neu Degtow, Grevesmühlen. It takes a quarter of an hour to reach the nearest police station. When Krüger got married this summer, the village was inundated with several hundred right-wing extremists from Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, including a number of high-ranking NPD politicians such as Stefan Köster, NPD party head for Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Jamel has become a right-wing pilgrimage site -- they come from all over Europe to see the village where neo-Nazis call the shots. They celebrated Krüger's wedding until late in the night, with nationalist rock music and fireworks. The Lohmeyers lay awake in bed, frozen with fear.
Mayor Uwe Wandel is helpless in the face of the right-wing movement in his community. He sounds bitter when he talks about Jamel. "The police, the authorities, no one dares to intervene," he says. "The Nazis are laughing in our faces." Wandel says he has repeatedly asked the state government for help. The interior minister and a parliamentary delegation came by one time, he adds. "They stayed for 20 minutes, expressed concern -- then they left again."
No One Responsible
Jamel has become a lawless place, Wandel complains, and the authorities don't take decisive enough action against the right-wing extremists. He says Krüger is allowed to dump demolition waste and burn trash in the village with impunity. The head of the department of public order in nearby Grevesmühlen says higher-level officials at the district level need to tackle the problem. They in turn say the local authority is responsible for Jamel.
Krüger, meanwhile, has much bigger plans. He has been a member of the district council for the NPD since 2009 and has bought parts of a concrete factory in Grevesmühlen, which he uses for his NPD office and his demolition company. The company logo shows the outline of a Star of David being smashed; the slogan is, "We do the dirty work." Barbed wire encloses the factory premises and dogs bark. A sign above the entrance reads, "Better dead than a slave." Krüger prefers not to comment on the accusations against him. All he says is, "Nothing that's written about me is true. I don't stand a chance against the system."

Krüger has hired new employees in the last few months. He gets contracts from fellow members of the far-right scene, but also from local businesses. Mayor Wandel says he's appalled by how far these right-wing structures now extend. "I'm afraid of a second, third, fourth Jamel," he says.

Neo-Nazis placed a boulder at the entrance to the village. A plaque attached to the rock reads, "Village of Jamel - free, social, national." Signs next to it point the way to Hitler's birthplace ("Braunau am Inn 855 km") and to the formerly German cities of Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland) and Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia). No one has removed the rock. "We've given up on Jamel," Wandel says.
Only the Lohmeyers are left.


More than 500 Muslim scholars are praising the man suspected of killing a Pakistani governor because the politician opposed blasphemy laws. The group of scholars and clerics known as Jamat Ahle Sunnat is affiliated with a moderate school of Islam and represents the mainstream Barelvi sect.

They added anyone else who felt the same way ought to be killed.

The following is from the National Post.

Javeed Sukhera: Primitive blasphemy laws a curse on Pakistan

Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
Supporters of slain governor of Punjab Salman Taseer hold a candlelight vigil.
  January 5, 2011 – 1:27 pm
With the summer sun bearing down on the agricultural heartland of Pakistan, farm worker Asia Bibi dipped her cup into a communal water bucket to quench her thirst. According to various accounts, an argument immediately ensued as Bibi, a Christian, was accused by her peers of making the water impure. As she rose to her defense, Bibi was accused again of blaspheming Islam and insulting its prophet. After 18th long months in prison, she was sentenced to death by a district court judge who based his conviction on hearsay.
But her story did not end there. The world now grieves the recent assassination of Salman Taseer, the Governor of the Pakistani Province of Punjab. Mr. Taseer spoke out against the injustice that was being perpetrated against Bibi and raised important questions regarding the place of the blasphemy laws within modern Pakistan. The debate regarding the laws played out in the streets over several days prior to his assassination with extremist parties stoking the emotional flames of their constituency and inevitably and inarguably, contributing to Mr. Taseer’s murder by one of his own bodyguards, who accused him of being an enemy of Islam.
Condemned by scripture in all three Abrahamic faiths, the act of blasphemy has long been exploited to justify persecution of minorities. While many nations have current blasphemy laws, punishment mostly ranges from imprisonment to fines. In the Netherlands the law came into effect in the 1930′s as a reaction to the Communist party’s call for Christmas to be excluded from the state’s list of holidays. In the UK as recently as 2007, a Christian group sought to prosecute the British Broadcasting Corporation over a television program that depicted Jesus dressed as a baby.
In the Muslim world, blasphemy laws were invoked in the fatwa against author Salman Rushdie in 1989. In Pakistan, the laws are a vestige of the extremist ordinances established by former ruler Zia-ul-Haq. Despite their existence for several decades, the Bibi case was the first where an individual charged with blasphemy was sentenced to death. In order for the sentence to be carried out, a higher court would be required to uphold it.
A large number of Pakistanis across the globe are not only embarrassed by the primitive justice that prevails in rural Pakistan, but also find themselves on the defensive when they read accounts of the blasphemy laws in the mainstream media. Indeed, missing from most widely read accounts of Bibi’s case and the depiction of the Pakistani nation is mention that the state was founded with minority rights explicitly protected under certain provisions of the constitution. Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah stated to the state’s minorities in 1947, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
The battle over the blasphemy laws represents the daily battle for the soul of a nation. Over the past several years, Pakistan has deteriorated into a volatile state where its citizenry are subjected to constant threats. Rarely a month goes by where the vibrancy of Pakistani life is not diminished by school and business closings, power outages and police checkpoints.
Yet in the fallout from the assassination, the current government of Pakistan remains unclear in its intentions. Numerous officials state that the repeal of the laws is not a viable political option and instead propose perpetuating the status quo by re-examining the concept of “proper implementation.”
Unfortunately, in their current form, the laws are written in vague and non-specific language. They permit prosecution for any form of disrespect including “indirect innuendo” against Islam or its prophet. The laws and the current state of sharia courts in rural Pakistan have not only fomented discrimination against minorities, but also unjust treatment of many Pakistani Muslims. Therefore, in their current state, nothing short of repeal would be sufficient. Now, more than ever, Pakistanis across the globe must speak up against injustice and push their politicians to reclaim the Pakistan that its founder intended to create.
National Post
Javeed Sukhera is a doctor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center.