Plea for Asia Bibi

Providing the Pakistani state permit her survival, or contingent on prevailing health, 2019 will mark the 10th year of Asia Bibi’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment over what was, quite literally, a dispute between her and Muslim women at a local well. If you don’t know at this stage (particularly as I’ve attempted to highlight her ordeal numerously on this platform), Khala Bibi’s case remains as one of the most prolific – in Persecuted Christian terms at least. The fact that a local Christian woman, a local labourer in Punjab, Pakistan has been left to languish in a jail cell for a decade – over essentially what was local Muslim objection to an ‘infidel’s’ use of a village well, spells out not only the dire state of Pakistani Islamisation that shows no signs of reversing; but also the unashamed indifference towards Bibi. Not necessarily only amongst many Pakistani politicians and its judicial system but within countries officially professing Christianity as their state religion. And of course, the Global Christian Church.
Whilst it is encouraging that Bibi’s plight has not slipped from global attention, however sporadic, (the European Parliament awarded Bibi its 2017 Sakharov Prize, for Freedom of Thought), identity politics and the politics of ‘altruism’ does not directly influence the daily treatment of a mother and wife; deprived of her children and in constant deterioration health-wise. I have been following Bibi’s suffering from the moment her ordeal surfaced in 2009. I was 14/15 at the time. I simply can not pen how such draconian circumstances have allowed almost a decade to pass by, with an innocent villager still sat behind bars. It is incomprehensible to the civilised mind.
However, that has been Asia Bibi’s cross to bear and continues to remain so. I don’t write this post to reiterate all past mentions of her. (All past posts can be found by punching her name into the blog’s search engine). Rather, I recieved alarming news from a reliable source, that Bibi’s health is rapidly on the decline. Duties of care concerning detainees is not applicable in countries in Pakistan, particularly a vulnerable Christian woman who has been accused of blasphemy – the most contentious and salient political issue that has seen the murders of former Minorities Minister, Bhatti and former Punjab Minister, Taseer,murdered for daring to challenge the blatant anti-nonMuslim mentality and motives within Pakistan’s penal code. After 9 years of sitting on what has been death row in a country that continues to chip away at its founding promise to enshrine religious and ethnic minority rights, one can imagine the state of Bibi’s health.
Without major campaigning for her release, effective lobbying to our local/national leaders, who barely speak out against Christian persecution, much less instill financial impositions on the billions of aid pumped out to Muslim-oriented countries such as Pakistan; Bibi is fundamentally at the mercy of the Pakistani state. Her family continue to live in terror, tainted by blasphemy and in constant flight for their lives.
 
Today I have been informed that Asia continues to cough up blood whilst being denied access to medical treatment.
 

 
 

Masters Thesis Challenging the 'Freedom of Religion' Concept with regards to the Apostasy Question in Britain.

Much of my inactive blog platform is due to the year long slog of putting this Masters dissertation together, for the purpose of finalising my university degree. Given that I had the freedom to highlight any topic within the field of international relations and granted 15,000 words to do so; naturally it was my opportunity to highlight the ex-Muslim predicament here in the UK.
Rather than upload a 15,000 document, I’ve decided to compartmentalise all sections of my thesis, thereby posting successive chapters daily.  This  blog post will focus on providing the backdrop to my dissertation.
 
Challenging whether Freedom of Religion exists in the United Kingdom, with regards to the rise in persecution of Apostates from Islam
 
 Anniesa Hussain, Masters of Science (MSci)  in International Relations & Global Issues with Honours, University of Nottingham 2016.
 
ABSTRACT
The primary focus of the dissertation is to investigate whether freedom of religion exists in relation to Muslim persecution of apostasy within the United Kingdom, drawing upon ratified, Human Rights provisions; prominently enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights as a legal basis for the report research. The topic is one of relevance, given that Islamist oppression is primarily confined to the Islamic world, with much less reported and documented within Muslim diasporas across the non-Muslim world. A quantitative approach was taken in researching for the dissertation as the issue of apostasy remains a taboo concept. Taking the findings of the dissertation into consideration and through the case studies of British apostates and ex-Muslim, Christian converts, it is evident that freedom of religion exists but for a few. The violent repercussions as a direct result of the renunciation of the Islamic faith and the intolerance towards the case study apostates undertaken, is indeed a dire blow to British values and promises of religious freedom.
 
INTRODUCTION
The primary focus of the dissertation is to investigate whether freedom of religion exists in relation to Muslim persecution of apostasy within the United Kingdom, drawing upon ratified, Human Rights provisions; prominently enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights as a legal basis for the report research. The topic is one of relevance, given that Islamist oppression is primarily confined to the Islamic world, with much less reported and documented within Muslim diasporas across the non-Muslim world. Chapter One explores whether and why religion bears any salience to 21st Century Europe, concluding that religiosity is as fervent as ever, with Islam in particular rising to prominence in the public domain through European egalitarian multiculturalism. Chapter Two introduces the concept of the Muslim Cultural Defence, officially creating a parallel, alternative system in a British society, essentially highlighting certain failures of Multiculturalist policies and concluding that the Cultural Defence is intolerant of heterodoxy in a Muslim context. Chapter Three develops the Cultural Defence by applying it to the Orthodox versus Heterodox paradox, concluding that apostasy is explicitly intolerable to the hierarchal Muslim orthodoxy. Chapter Four outlines Islamic scriptural verses and theological rhetoric and interpretation, debating the concept of freedom of religion in Islam and providing scriptural basis for the death penalty for apostates. Chapters Five and Six examine case studies of British apostates to firmly conclude that there is no freedom of religion where apostasy from Islam is concerned.
 
A quantitative approach was taken in researching for the dissertation as the issue of apostasy remains a taboo concept. The fact that there were only a few select cases of British, public apostasy cases confirms this. There is also an overwhelming lack of academic and political literature on apostasy in a Western context, with the majority of literature adapted from news articles and religious organisations’ reports.

Rescuing ex-Muslims: Leaving Islam

This latest Vice news clip which briefly documents the lives of ex-Muslims from Northern England (Dad) to Izmir, Turkey is hopefully and finally getting the vital message across that those who choose to leave Islam are almost always in danger of potentially losing their lives. The mini documentary is self-explanatory, nor does it highlight anything particularly new but at time where the clash of civilisations continues to be a contentious, controversial and highly-debated matter, we all perhaps need to be reminded that humanity should reign supreme. Crucially, what is over-looked consistently is the proximity of the issue: that apostates are living -or running away rather-on our very streets, having been disowned from family, friends and communities and all for the sake of abandoning an inherited religion that no longer holds true to them.
See for yourselves
https://news.vice.com/video/rescuing-ex-muslims-leaving-islam

Apostasy by choice

Hi!
Obviously, apostasy is an issue close to my heart, my top priority as you know very well by now. It was estimated a few years ago that over 3,000 apostates from Islam currently reside in the UK, yet it still is largely ignored, dismissed and unknown to the vast majority of the population. Current government policy does not address or recognise apostasy as imperative to national security, despite the ever growing figure of apostates. My family are just one example. a recent public case study and I wish to use our recent spotlight to highlight the urgency of this issue, as ex-Muslims stand to lose everything once they abandon Islam, Since there are no measures to accommodate or protect us, the petition below aims to kick-start some form of action.
We claim to be a nation who afford its citizens the freedom of conscious, the freedom of religion. Well now this rather bold claim is being put to the test.
Please take the time to read this petition, sign and get sharing!
Thank-you!
http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/apostasybychoice

Tainted with Blasphemy

I have written numerous posts concerning the utilisation of the Blasphemy law across many Islamic countries. Section 295 of Pakistan’s Penal Code has enshrined blasphemy, whereby defiling or defaming the Quran and/or Muhammad is deeply illegal. In extreme cases it carries a death sentence. Aside from the legal ramifications which render many of the accused languishing in prison – some of which await the death penalty – the social consequences are less publicised and therefore widely unknown to the wider world.
For those accused of blasphemy yet never imprisoned, for those released from detention – the mark of blasphemy continues to taint and follow them within their local communities. All too often we hear of instances where those accused of blasphemy are set upon by local, incensed mobs, beaten and in extreme cases murdered. Regular readers of this blog are already very aware of a few case examples. Families of the accused are hardly guaranteed their safety. I immediately think of Asia Bibi’s family who were forced to flee their home in the Punjab province of Pakistan upon her arrest in 2009. In 2010 the BBC reported on the plight of the Bibi family, referring to Asia’s husband – Ashiq Masih – as ‘having the look of a hunted man, gaunt, anxious and exhausted’.
Hunted. Imagery of petrified prey scurrying away from predators on the prowl spring to mind. The Bibis are one example of a family tainted by blasphemy and constant flight is the consequence. I have often wondered which would be the lesser torment – to be caged inside a Pakistani cell at the disposal of prison guards and other detainees or to be ‘free’ at the mercy of local communities who take it upon themselves to avenge so-called blasphemy charges and accusations. Either way neither option constitutes freedom. This rising issue of blasphemy ensnares and entraps those accused.
Christians are targeted above any other religious minority group in Pakistan. Although 2% of the population are Christian, they account for 33% of those charged with blasphemy according to a detailed research report conducted by International Christian Concern. This clearly shows a disproportionate discrimination toward the Christian minority. Reading into the ICC’s special report on blasphemy cases in Pakistan, I discovered that 171 Christians have been accused of blasphemy since the law was enacted in 1986, 157 from the Punjab Province, 12 from Sindh and 2 from Kyber Paktunkhawa. As attacks on Christians have increased steadily over the decade, I can’t help but notice the totalitarian element to blasphemy. Given that the blasphemy law is increasingly being utilised to settle personal scores and vendettas it is obvious that in these instances, Christians are being discriminated against simply because of who they are as opposed to what they supposedly do.
One case study is the example of Adnan Masih, originally from Lahore and who was accused of insulting Islam’s prophet Muhammad in 2013. He continues to be imprisoned. On 7 October 2013 Adnan replaced his brother at the Diamond Glass store and had spotted a book written by the leader of fanatical group Jamat-ul-Dawa entitled ‘I asked the Bible why Qurans were burnt’. Having noting biased religious points of view against Christianity in the book he penned corrections. His colleague subsequently filed a report against Masih at a local police station and he was eventually arrested after the targeting of his family members forced him out of hiding.
Blasphemy is indeed contentious. The Federal Sharia Court issued an order in 2013 to ‘reform’ the blasphemy law, leaving many of the country’s Christians in increasing fear for their lives. December 2013 saw the FSC order Pakistan’s government to remove life imprisonment from the list of court punishments in dealing with blasphemy; thereby bolstering the death penalty for those charged under the penal code. It should be stated that the role of the FSC is to examine and ascertain whether the laws of the country are in accordance with Sharia. They do not have the Parliamentary prerogative of enforcing legislation.
Yet whilst the government has yet to implement the ruling of the FSC – if they ever intend to – it unmistakably places Christians in a sustained climate of heightened fear and uncertainty for the future of their faith in the country. There are no consequences for those levelling accusations of blasphemy and this impunity only furthers the manipulative use of this controversial law.
The legacy of blasphemy should never be undermined. International Christian Concern cites the example of ‘Asif’ who underwent a decade of separation from his family after he served 4 years of his blasphemy sentence in 2002. Upon his release, his fear of being recognised with his family and his desire to blur any connections with them forced him to live as a fugitive in order to ensure their safety. The families of those accused also carry the mark, a ‘legacy’ of blasphemy.
’Because people know I have been imprisoned for blasphemy, it is unsafe for me and my family to live together’’
(‘’Asif’’ – blasphemy victim)
To be tainted with blasphemy could well be the fate of any Christian in Pakistan. A fate initially leashed upon religious minorities in 1986 and one that shows no sign of slowing down, much less stopping.

The Killing of Farkhunda

I’ve put off this blog for many weeks. The Blasphemy issue throughout the Muslim world is tiring, open to be manipulated and utilised in order to settle personal scores time and time again. The tune of ‘blasphemy’ ricochets repeatedly with the same end result: imprisonment and/or death. Asia Bibi – my symbol of Christian persecution on this very blog – is a prime example. But however exhausting, however weary-worn it makes one feel, since there are tireless attempts and efforts to persecute, intimidate and subjugate innocent people through this blasphemy farce; then the effort to expose it should be matched and then some. At least that’s what I believe.
I specifically refer to Afghanistan’s latest prolific victim of blasphemy accusations. A 27 year old Islamic scholar’s life was not even given the dignity of being cut short, instead dragged out so agonisingly that it anguished those who watched brief snippets of her ordeal. A life that should never have been stripped away, had the mob of 150 predominantly seething men possessed a mentality of rationality; a need, wanton desire to demand at the very least evidence of the burnt Quran supposedly set alight by the hands of Farkhunda Malikzada.
I initially heard of the fate of Farkhunda when finalising my year of studying abroad and didn’t have the time to follow up on the headlines that exploded concerning her murder. I did assume her to be an Afghan Christian or a member of a religious minority accused of setting fire to Quranic passages, in order to avenge a personal vendetta. The usual. However, I was startled to learn of her deeply devout Islamic beliefs and baffled as to how a caretaker at Shah -e Du Shamshira shrine in Kabul had managed to convince hoards of local men and women, that an Islamic teacher had torched the Quran; some of which would’ve known this young woman, her beliefs, her character.
Those who haven’t watched the BBC documentary of Farkhunda’s ordeal can do so through the link enclosed below. In the BBC’s ‘Killing of Farkhunda’ documentary, 9 minutes are dedicated to her slow murder but is more than enough of an insight into the sheer animalistic nature of her killers and the brutal mercilessness one innocent and helpless Afghan was surrounded by in the face of the murderous mob. They didn’t only disbelieve her pleas that she never burned the Quran but descended upon her, beating, kicking and hurling rocks and stones at her to the point where her niqab had torn away to reveal her bloodied face.
http://www.khaama.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Farkhunda.jpg
I remember looking at that iconic image that has become ingrained in my mind since and seeing a grief-stricken woman who I feel accepted her fate at that moment. I just feel she knew at that point she was going to die, The frenzy of pain in her eyes is unmistakable and I felt deep love and compassion for a woman I have never known.
Not content with the beating she had already endured, Farkhunda was accused of being ‘an American’ and dragged up to the roof of the Shamshira shrine, thrown off it, ran over by a vehicle and then finally set ablaze and for what? As penance for burning Quranic passages she never did? Blasphemy needs to be addressed. Or rather ‘blasphemy’ does. The world does right to produce the international outcry that it always does when the plight of Farkhundas come to light but the fiery fiasco is quick to simmer down, permitting those imprisoned through accusations of blasphemy to languish, allowing many to be be consumed by mob rule and to be murdered.
There is a deeper implication behind every blasphemy case. Whether we admit it or not there is an intolerant attitude and conduct towards those that are accused of defaming Muhammad, Allah or the Quran. It is approached and handled with absolutism, inevitably leading to extreme results. I always find hypocrisy in the usual claim that ‘Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance‘. Even though I will dissent any person who lauds all Muslims as being of a volatile and violent nature, we have witnessed repeatedly mass crowds worldwide of venemous people, chanting for the death of those accused of blasphemy. Farkhunda is just one recipient of such treatment and is not alive to defend Islam’s ‘peaceful and tolerant’ attitude towards her, when a man she debated with on Islamic grounds took offence at her viewpoint and used
‘blasphemy’ to lure hundreds of local people to reduce her to ashes. Such all too frequent treatment of all those who fall prey to blasphemy is no coincidence.
Nor can the argument that her fate was determined by ‘uneducated people, unaware of the teachings of Islam‘ be utilised here as many Afghanistani leading officials condoned Farkhunda’s killing. The official spokesperson for the Kabul police Hashmat Stanekzai said of the situation: ‘Farkhunda thought, like several unbelievers that this kind of action and
insult would get them US/European citizenship. But before reaching their target, lost their life‘. The Deputy Minister for Culture and Information Simiri Ghazal Hasanzada also approved the murder of a woman ‘working for the infidels’. The Chief of the Complaints Commision of the Upper Parliament Zalmai Zabuli posted a picture of Farkhunda’s face with the caption: ‘This is the horrible and hated person who was punished by our Muslim compatriots for her action. Thus, they proved to her masters that Afghanistanis only want Islam and cannot tolerate imperialism, apostasy and spies’. Of course there will be those in the public eye who denounced Farkhunda’s killing, I found Imams who both supported and opposed the crime. However, take note of the few examples mentioned, pay heed to their position in society and their stance on the murder.
There is a climate of intolerance towards those considered ‘Infidels’ or who have committed ‘Infidelic acts’ and the system under which Afghanistani leaders tackles issues such as blasphemy clearly isn’t challenged. Despite police presence during Farkhunda’s ordeal, where was the genuine effort to protect this innocent woman? Why weren’t provisions put in place to safeguard her while her ‘Quranic burning’ was investigated? Why was she allowed to be devoured by wild dogs? And if she had burned the Quran why is death – the symbol of lack of forgiveness -always the favoured option? All this is very telling and none of this is Islamic peace and tolerance. All those complicit in the killing of Farkhunda can never stand on moral ground in crying victim when people doubt and critisise the very principles they adhere to.
Justice hasn’t been served in Farkhunda’s case as it never is. Afghanistan struggles with determining right from wrong in a nation riddled with social, economic and religious corruption and this brutal theft of an otherwise youthful life is a prime example. Instead many women took to the streets of Kabul parading the coffin of Farkhunda and refusing any man to touch the case that contained the remains of her body, chanting ‘where were you the day Farkhunda was attacked and killed by hundreds of men?’
Rightly so.

Je suis Raif Badawi?

In some ways I feel relatable to Raif Badawi. I’m no Saudi-Arabian writer or activist but like him I set up my own blog and whilst it’s not entitled Free Saudi Liberals, I know for a fact that my forum in which I unashamedly lay bare my ex-Muslim familial roots, while publishing posts of persecuted Christians at the hands of mostly militant, fanatic followers of Islam; would undoubtedly label me as an offense to Islam – more than I already am. Like Raif.
At this point, very little that is new is to be said of Badawi – his treatment and the danger his family have escaped in fleeing to Canada. Nor will terms such as ‘unfair’ and ‘unjust’ be branded about here. I have learnt from an early age that many people are inflicted with injustice at some stage, sometimes a lifetime of it and I simply don’t believe in the concept of ‘just’. I am merely writing from the perspective of another blogger. My very decision to name my platform to speak my mind with ‘infidelsareus’ would be enough to have me flogged, locked away and perhaps ‘mysteriously’ disappear. I’m truly convinced of this.
Saudi Arabia’s form of political Islam, its purist wing of Sunni-Islam, its Wahhabism has severely curtailed the rights of its citizens and most prominently its non-Saudi, non-Muslim population. Saudi Arabia is a nation where its religious police are rife, on-hand like clockwork to enforce inhabitants to maintain an Islamic way of life. Or so they claim. Recently, a friend of mine returned to Saudi during the semester break. During the call to prayer he was spotted by the religious police, sitting on the curb of a pavement and chatting among a group of friends. They were approached and questioned why they were not praying and despite their vying with the authorities in claiming they had already prayed, they were carted to a nearby police car and escorted to the nearest Mosque. With the police bent over them in observation, the group were forced to pray all over again. Saudi is a stranger to freedom, its women prohibited from driving and dressed to the teeth in the abaya, a nation where the barring of males clad in shorts from entering public places such as shopping malls is enforced. Despite being in Malaysia as of last October my friend refuses to wear shorts above the knee in spite of the daily tropical heat.
What else should we expect then of Saudi when its authorities deem a man to be a heretic, an offence, a slap in the face to Islam? One charge of apostasy meets the criteria of an automatic death sentence and despite the recent regime ‘change’, Raif Badawi’s life continues to hang in the balance. What we should expect instead is an efficacious international outcry, a genuine commitment of world leaders rallying together to shame and pressure the Saudi regime into seeing how ridiculous, how draconian their government policies regarding civilian and religious rights are and to push for the release of this father of 3.
Badawi was initially arrested on the basis of ‘insulting Islam’ in 2012 and eventually sentenced to 1000 lashes, 10 years prison sentence and a fine in 2014. Such a senseless act towards a man whose only crime entails a mentality in opposition to those plaguing the country as opposed to ruling it. It is about time that Saudi realises that its politicised Islam is an insult to the world, as I along with many others cannot comprehend the justification Saudi authorities use to create and further exacerbate its sectarian divide, tear apart families on a long-term or permanent basis and refuse to allow civilians to even offer a contradictory opinion – whether through Facebook pages, Twitter accounts or blogs. Fundamentally through any form of freedom of expression and conscience.
Which is exactly why this man is battered and bruised, separated from his family indefinitely, not knowing if he will live or die. All because he dared to enact a sense of conscience, an opinion: an unequivocal, undeniable right stripped from him under the banner of ‘insulting Islam’, rendering him depraved and treated as a common animal who is expected to dance with the strings of his puppeteer. Too many people within Saudi Arabia are hurting, lives wrenched apart and yet the international community while fully aware of this by now -given that the Saudi regime continues to wash its dirty laundry in public- continues to recline in silence. This political game of Realpolitik, of political realism, a silence due to seeing nothing of tangible benefit or gain to them continues to allow the treatment of Raif and similar global figures to continue. The longer this plays out the longer this Saudi father’s health will continue to deteriorate. He is already known to have hypertension, a condition where blood pressure is elevated in the arteries and given the first 50 of 1000 lashes administered on January 9, 2015, his health should be a further concern to the international community. At present there seems to be a hiatus in the subsequent administration of lashes but should they resume, as
Badawi’s wife asserts, there is a very high likelihood that he may be unable to survive them.
With the possible resumption of state-issued flagellation, a death sentence on charges of apostasy or even the slow deterioration of health due to beatings and perilous prison conditions, the world is on stand-by, hoping against hope for insurmountable international pressure to pile onto this detrimental regime. Raif Badawi stands as an example, a recipient of a brutal system. Who knows how many people, unknown to the world and represented by nobody, are locked away, suffering while blindfolded and gagged?
All for exercising their right to speak out against the atrocities people are facing. Raif’s blog was no insult to Islam. Raif’s blog courageously and compassionately aimed to be a voice for the voiceless, aimed to express solidarity against oppression and the obliteration of freedom, whilst under oppression himself and a freedom he no longer has, if he ever had it.
Why can’t the world reciprocate?

Iran’s Saeed Abedini: A Crime of Christianity

With the exception of the United States, most countries have remained silent while Pastor Saeed Abedini continues to languish in a prison cell, as has been his circumstance since the summer of 2012. I stumbled across his plight a few months ago when scrolling through articles on the CBN webpage. As I scoured through numerous articles detailing his suffering I couldn’t help but feel enraged and betrayed, at how such treatment of a man – whose only crime is his Christianity – could go largely unreported and unpublicised. His story is yet another example of not only political failure, but also a failure of Christendom. Yet again, global leaders have not significantly come together to draw attention to the anti-Christian actions of the Iranian regime, nor to pressurise Iran to abide by its own constitution which recognises Christianity as minority religion.
Global leaders, particularly those who claim to be Christian should not be afraid, nor gingerly approach the sheer discrimination and disregard non-Muslims in Islamic nations are facing, particularly as such leaders afford their Muslim populations ultimate freedom in order to practise their beliefs. Western leaders should be apt to state that if Iranians are awarded the right to practise their Muslim faith in non-Muslim territory, why can’t the same be said for Iran’s non-Muslims in Shia-dom?
Instead, Saeed Abedini’s situation has demonstrated once again that tepidness, that reluctance, that political correctness/weakness. That lack of courage and boldness of our David Camerons, our Barack Obamas, these so-called men of ‘faith’ to publicly express solidarity with the persecuted Saeed Abedinis of the world. To commit themselves to the freedom of these imprisoned minorities in order to deter Islamic regimes from repetitive discrimination, as opposed to rendering such oppressed people helpless; a tacit approval to intolerant authorities who are at liberty to beat, torture and maim those under their charge, who refuse to recant their faith in order to guarantee their survival .
Saeed is a former Muslim who converted to Christianity in 2000. While the minority faith is in theory recognised in the Iranian constitution, in reality Muslim converts suffer discrimination by Iran’s authorities. Converts are disallowed from worshipping or gathering together in fellowship in established churches, forcing many of them to instead opt for ‘house’ or ‘underground’ churches in order to practise their faith more freely. Abedini married his Iranian-American wife Naghmeh in 2002 and subsequently became prominent in the house-church movement in Iran, credited with establishing around 100 house churches in 30 cities. However, in the aftermath of Ahmed Ahmedinejad’s elective victory in 2005, a severe and repression crackdown of such a movement began which led to the Abedini couple returning to the US.
Saeed returned to Iran to visit his family and was apprehended by government authorities who threatened to kill him during an interrogation concerning his conversion, but was released upon him signing a pledge to cease all house-church activity throughout Iran. However, the present turmoil of the Abedini family was to begin in the summer of 2012, when Saeed returned to Iran yet again to visit family and resume his work in building an orphanage in the city of Rasht. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confiscated and placed him under house arrest until he was later transferred to Evin Prison. In January 2013 it was reported that Abedini would be trialled and could potentially face the death penalty. His charges consisted of comprising national security and attempting to sway the Iranian youth from Islam, though of course specific detail were never publicised, due to the fact that the sole and crucial reason Abedini was detained in the first place was on account of his Christianity. Saeed was transferred from Tehran to the Rajani Shahr Prison in November 2013, in addition to being completely cut off from any contact with his wife and two young children in the United States.
Rajani Shahr is a notorious prison within Iran, where inmate violence, executions and beatings are commonplace and therefore to remain in denial of the persecution and intolerance of non-Muslims throughout the Islamic world is unequivocally unacceptable. The fact that a Christian has been transferred to a prison entailing serious offenders, with harsh, penal and life-threatening conditions speaks for itself. Saeed’s immediate family in Tehran have spoken of his deteriorating health, of the denial of vital medical treatment for the infections brought about by severe beatings – all of which has mostly fallen upon deaf ears and international ignorance and inaction.
Abedini was refused treatment in Evin Prison due to being regarded as an ‘unclean infidel’. In early 2013, Saeed’s internal injuries became too much of a concern with doctors stressing they warranted immediate attention at a non-prison hospital. The Iranian regime ignored such warnings for almost a year, whilst his health continued to rapidly disintegrate. In March 2014, Abedini was granted treatment at a private hospital but was returned to prison without the surgery deemed necessary by expert opinion.
Pastor Saeed Abedini continues to experience physical and psychological trauma, shacked up in a penal prison, enduring systemic beatings and a witness to inmate executions. A man imprisoned for his faith and ignored by the international community at large. However, the crucial underlying fact remains: while the story of the Abedini family deeply moves and troubles me – a fellow Christian who has come to know her own version of persecution – Abedini’s story echoes every jailed Christian within the Muslim world. Christians in the Islamic world struggle for their survival while world leaders go about their daily lives, prioritising oil deals and signing policies concerning arms and weapons to the very nations that brutally repress the very citizens that share the same faith some of these leaders apparently follow.
I cannot imagine the misery and pain of his children, the uncertainty and dashes of hope his wife and family have been plunged in since 2012. The resilience, courage and faith displayed by his beautiful wife Naghmeh is truly remarkable and is a personal testament to true Christian faith and those persecuted believers around her. At this time where nothing is guaranteed, I will continue to uplift Abedini families in prayer and thought; realising the only crime such a people ever commit is the conscious decision to become a disciple of Christ.

Charlie Hebdo: A Freedom of Speech Myth

By now, after the second caricature depiction of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad to emerge from within Europe, the illusion that the West is a genuine practitioner of freedom of speech should be thoroughly shattered. Recent history has revealed the consequences of a Muhammad cartoon publication, as evidenced by the Danish Jyllands-Posten case, resulting in the usual repercussions across the Muslim world. Flag burning, embassy storming and murderous chants; culminating in scores of non-Muslims – namely Christians – being killed in the name of free speech. Charlie Hebdo is of no exception.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo publications, multiple examples of vengeful violence has and is taking place particularly within Islamic nations. Pakistan demanded those behind the publication to be put to death, hundreds of Gazans attempted to storm the French cultural centre in Gaza city, threatening the lives of the staff with: ‘leave Gaza you French or we will slaughter you by cutting your throats!’ and minority Christian sects have been targeted – most publicised in Niger, with 70 reported churches decimated and an unreported number of Christians butchered. Who can truly know the current atrocities being committed towards non-participatory, innocent civilians throughout especially the Islamic world as many enraged and senseless Muslims embark upon a bloody and relentless rampage all in opposition to freedom of speech.
A freedom that in actuality is a myth, a dying concept the West has not wholly been entitled to in the recent decades. The inevitable violence unleashed per Muhammad depiction or comment deemed offensive to Islam has served a warning to freedom of speech, acting as a deterrence to many queries, disagreements and fault found with Islam being published into the public domain. Free speech limited to publicly interpreting Christianity and Judaism for example whilst enshrining Islam. I cannot recall the last time a caricature of a big-nosed Jew incited vengeful wrath into the Jewish community. Moreover, how often is the name and portrayal of Jesus Christ slandered in the media, books, magazines and films we watch; where in scene after scene, openly vulgar behaviour is demonstrated inside Churches? Does this result in Christians worldwide torching the American flag, physically maiming or depriving people of life? Instead such depictions have become subconsciously and consciously accepted and internally normalised – widely recognised as an expression of freedom of speech regardless of being in disagreement of such a portrayal.
Islam has become an exception to the rule, thereby invalidating the very concept of free speech. For example, despite the condemnation of the murder of 12 Parisians, global politicians and other influential figures have been apt in labeling the Muhammad cartoon as an act of provocation, as though a drawing conducted by a pen could ever justify the employment of a gun.
 
 
When watching a CNN news clip in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo, an interview was being conducted with a French Muslim Councillor and the trait of self-victimisation was prevalent throughout. Like many Muslims of his thinking, he did not condemn the murder of 12 Parisians, let alone speak out against the anti-Christian reprisals worldwide. Instead he cited the usual Islamophobia as the context from which the gunmen reacted. However such cries of Islamophobia are invalid as he failed to recognise that Islam is generally not openly berated and challenged by the European media, as Christianity is for example. He also failed to consider that since billions of people are adherents of religion, it opens up a forum for scrutiny, queries and disagreement as different ideologies and philosophies continue their search for a world truth. It is also interesting to note that Muslims do not cry Islamophobia upon any depiction of Jesus they may deem offensive, despite Him being a Prophet in Islam. Clearly Jesus has become associated too deeply with Christianity in the West and therefore freedom of speech is abided by when Jesus is the object of the concept.
All this serves to molly-coddle and exempt Islam from being publicly depicted by its non-adherents, laying the foundation for a limitation of speech.

Pakistan: Blasphemy To No End

There is no end to Pakistan’s blasphemy, no end to the depravation religious minorities are undergoing on a daily basis. I have been away from blogging for some time – partly due to university work but mostly due to the mental exhaustion and weariness one feels after reading, seeing and hearing about case after case after case of Christian torture, beating, murder . Although I write about a story that occurred a few weeks ago, even deciding to write about it years later would make no difference. The Islam I have ever known continues to persecute non-adherents mercilessly. The country of Pakistan has long become synonymous with religious intolerance, hatred and sectarian violence to the point where the difference between the testimonies of Asia Bibi, Shabhaz Bhatti and now Shehzad & Shama Masih is non-existent. For increasingly so, the blood of Pakistan’s Christians are being spilt in the name of blasphemy.
Blasphemy that is non-sensical when screamed from the mouth of a vengeful Muslim to evoke the Blasphemy Law – a blasphemy unto itself. There will be no end of accusing Pakistan’s Christians of blaspheming against Muhammad, against Muslims and against Islam itself. So long as hatred remains towards non-Muslims throughout the Islamic world, the much revered construction that is the blasphemy penal code will remain in force. Remain in force to be used to throw countless people into jail, rejecting their every appeal, whilst mistreating them and their families. This irrevocably changes the lives of the accused’s families, as they perpetually run for their lives, continually at risk of being hunted down like the animals they have become in their own country.
As many of you already know I have long become accustomed to this wretched Blasphemy Law, rendering me numb upon any case-study I stumble across. But as world leaders converge in combating any negative portrayal of Islam, as billions of aid pours through the Middle East and beyond, it is utterly incomprehensible to turn a blind eye to the treatment of Shehzad & Shama Masih, a young Christian couple beaten and burned to death. This couple was accused of desecrating Quranic pages and were dragged by a local mob, where they were then subsequently tied up, legs broken and burnt to death. Such treatment of these parents of three (with a fourth child on the way) should trigger the question of why, when billions of aid pumped into Pakistan to develop and benefit the nation – why Western leaders and the wider Christian world in particular – fail to actively show their opposition to such anti- Christian behaviour, particularly] when such aid is still essentially Christian aid.
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One cannot help but feel blind anger at the lack of Pakistani government action in addition to international response. The beating and burning of any Muslim mother of three, whilst four months pregnant would no doubt spark global outrage ,with Obama himself probably racing to the nearest podium to be heard first. Instead the lack of authoritative action against Christian persecution is becoming severely dire. As Father James Channan, coordinator of the United Religions Initiative and director of the Peace Centre of the Dominican Order in Pakistan, stated: ” Our present government has the worst record of not punishing the culprits of these cases. All of them are set free after a short time. There is a big question for us: Where is justice?”
Dr. Nazir S. Bhatti remarked in a letter to Obama that the U.S. Administration — the custodian of human rights, liberty and freedom of speech and expression around the world — did not even bother to condemn the horrific murder of the Christian couple by Islamic extremists in Pakistan. Moreover, the U.S. State Department has never uttered any comments at all about Christian persecution or the genocide of Christians.
There is no end to blasphemy in Pakistan. My question to global leaders is this: why do you think the Pakistani government pardons Sunni criminals, whilst Asia Bibi is detained in prison, deprived of her children? Why can Pakistani police be bribed to dismiss murder, theft, domestic violence whilst one accusation of blasphemy against the nation’s Christians see them immediately arresting and detaining them indefinitely? The brutal reality of the situation is that Western leadership do not recognise the three million Christian Pakistanis who live in constant fear of the growing intolerance and hostility against them, nor have they made the connection between the concentration of blasphemy accusations in the Punjab province, a region home to two million of Pakistan’s Christians.
Moreover, the fundamentalist 725 Madrassa schools of Pakistan have become an influential power supporting the blasphemy laws. Total Madrassa attendance stands at 1.5 million students. These religious schools are producing a particular world-view called Alem-e-kufr (the World of Infidels) whereby the concept of these religious schools is: “The world is divided into two antagonistic parts: the Islamic world, and the infidel world. With little common ground between them both, clash is eternal, natural and unavoidable, because the forces of evil and forces of good are predestined to be at war. The West is after us, they want to destroy Muslims, Islam and our culture.”
The general silence on Pakistani blasphemed Christians is excruciating, tacitly approving and allowing this barbaric behaviour to thrive. Given the circumstance, scores more of Christian couples, children and the elderly will continued to be smeared with this life-threatening penal code. A code that relishes in the spilling of non-Sunni blood. A law that holds no reverence for age. A law that takes away the concept of life before it is even born.
There is no end to the blasphemy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.