I wrote the following article for the Pakistan desk of the Asian Human Rights Commission -- it was subsequently published as a AHRC Statement
EGYPT/PAKISTAN: A vote for sanity in Egypt -- a lesson for Pakistan
January 12, 2011
The act of solidarity by Egyptian Muslims towards Egyptian Copts is a glowing example for countries and communities around the world. And it must be particularly noted that Pakistan could be one of the main beneficiaries of this attitude.
As Egyptian Copts prepared to attend mass at churches across the country, thousands of Muslims, including relatives of the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, acted as human shields to protect the celebrating, and terrified Copts, from the terrorist attacks by extremists. The Muslims chanted the slogan: "We either live together, or we die together." The concept was inspired by the Egyptian artist and marathon runner, Mohamed El-Sawy.
The Copts are native Egyptian Christians, a major ethnic and religious group in Egypt. They constitute the largest Christian community in the Middle East
In the midst of sectarian violence the world over and the assassination and threats of assassination to anyone in Pakistan that strays from the demands of the fundamentalists, sanity has prevailed in Egypt. Following a devastating terrorist bombing at a Coptic church in Egypt which killed 21 people and injured 79 others religious tensions rose in the country. The bombing was carried out with the intention of causing rifts and rioting between the Egyptian community and the various religious groups that inhabit that land. There were indeed, riots as the Copts stormed the streets and vandalized a Mosque. It was an act of violence and it was exactly what the fundamentalists wanted. Then, on the event of the Coptic Christmas Eve sanity prevailed.
Following the assassination of the Provincial governor, Salman Taseer, rallies have been held in Karachi in which the speakers, fundamentalists and extremists, called for the death of anyone acting in support of amendments to the country's blasphemy laws. Salman Taseer's assassin Mumtaz Quadri, is being feted as a national hero and speakers declared that if the government of Pakistan proceeded with his prosecution "Thousands of 'Quadris' would emerge from their houses and avenge him".
Pakistanis across the land must take note of the selfless actions of the Egyptian Muslims and emulate their bravery. It is time for the liberals and moderates to stand up to the extremist fundamentalists and say: "This is not what Islam is all about. Islam is a religion of peace!"
And furthermore, the government of Pakistan, the ministers and the law makers must also rise up in support of the people and prove that they are well and truly in charge of the country. Anyone fermenting religious hatred and openly advocating violence against those opposing the fundamentalists must be charged under the relevant sections in the Pakistan Penal Code. It is against the law to incite people to violence and to threaten them if they refuse to comply. This is not a new law that has just come into being; it is an established ruling which the officials of the police and government ministers are conveniently turning a blind eye to in the guise of political expediency.