Who will stand for the weak, the powerless and the downtrodden? Who will stand against injustice but for the rights of the minorities? And who will weep for them who gave it all for others? These modern-day knights slained by the dragon of intolerance, Sacrificed on the altar of bigotry and hatred. Will you weep? Will you light a candle for them? Will we keep the light burning bright. For the poor, the downtrodden and the fallen knights. (Fallen Knights by LGS)
Two days ago, Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistan Government Minister for Religious Minorities, was ambushed by three gunmen as he was on his way to attend a cabinet meeting after visiting with some poor constituents. The only Christian minister in the Pakistan Cabinet, his car was stopped by the gunmen who then opened the passenger door and sprayed the interior with bullets. The Taliban has claimed responsibility.
Just a month earlier, Salmaan Taseer, the Muslim Governor of Pakistani Punjab and a co-supporter of his views, was killed by one of his own bodyguards. Sadly, Taseer’s killer, although under arrest, has been feted by many as a hero; even by some of the police. Both Bhatti and Taseer were singled out for punishment because they were pushing for a reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, reform in the application of Syariah law and because of their support for the release of Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who is under death sentence under the Blasphemy law.
The Blasphemy Law makes it a capital offence to insult the Prophet Muhammad. Some may argue that this is against the principle of free speech but of greater concern is that Human Rights observers report that it is often invoked by one party to settle rivalries, feuds and disputes. In the case of Aasia Bibi, there was already a long standing feud between Bibi and a neighbor over some property damage. Then in June 2009, Bibi, who worked as a farm hand, was asked to fetch water for her fellow workers to drink. When she came back, some of her Muslim co-workers refused to drink claiming that being a Christian, she had made the water “unclean”. Some arguments ensue. Later a mob descended on her home and started beating her and her family. The police came to her rescue but after listening to the villagers, arrested and charged her under the Blasphemy Law. Bhatti and Taseer believed that the law had been misused to settle a score. Taseer had indicated that as Governor, he would likely pardon Bibi. Then he was assassinated.
Bhatti knew that he was a target. In fact, after Taseer’s assassination, he considered himself to be “the highest target right now”. Some of the country’s religious leaders had even publicly called for his death. He insisted on keeping to his work schedule and refused bodyguards, noting that it had done Taseer no good.
“I’m not talking about special security arrangements. We need to stand against these forces of terrorism because they’re terrorising the country. I cannot trust on security…. I believe that protection can come only from heaven, so these bodyguards can’t save you.” Bhatti said at the time.“
When informed by security officers that there was a plot to assassinate him, he did ask for a bulletproof car but strangely, he was never given one. He must have felt increasingly alone and exposed. He even made a video recording with instructions that it be sent to the BBC if he should be killed. He made a telephone call to a BBC correspondent before his death saying, ” They say there’s a terrorist plot to assassinate me. They’ve told me to be careful, but didn’t tell me anything else. I haven’t been given any extra security. It’s just the same as it has been since I became a minister. I have struggled for a long time for justice and equality. If I change my stance today, who will speak out? I am mindful that I can be assassinated any time, but I want to live in history as a courageous man.”
And so he gave his life for the cause of others. (“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13). Join me in remembering these brave men of principle and humanity, Shahbaz Bhatti and Saleem Taseer. One a Christian and another a Muslim, but both united in serving for the greater good of their community and especially for the disenfranchised and oppressed. Join me also in praying for their family and loved ones in this time of loss.
Post Script: Unfortunately, the move to reform the Blasphemy Laws seems to have been mortally wounded by Bhatti’s death. The government has reintegrated on the promise to push for reform. Without party support, member of parliament, Sherry Rehman, had to drop her reform bill and now she has had to disappeared from view due to concerns for her safety.
17 thoughts on “Fallen Knights”
I just read about this in the newspaper today. when in most parts of the world being in politics means you must surely be a crook, it restores hope to hear of these brave and courageous men. So few politicians can hold on to their principles once they get into office. So sad for them and their families, and the poor people they were trying to help, that they were assassinated.
that’s true. I forgot that aspect of being politicians in power who hold true to their beliefs and promises. A rare breed indeed and yet under appreciated. 😦
I don’t understand how that became a law in the first place. Why didn’t they just believe that if it made Allah mad, Allah would take care of it? Why all this controlling? It’s really disgusting and stupid. I am so glad to be a citizen of the United States. I can say whatever I want to say.
Bravo to those guys and your poem is moving and wonderful.
I guess all these religious zealots never even read the book they so assiduously try to protect, The prophet himself said that all of those who believe and worship the monotheistic God of Abraham are brothers.
The world would be better off if all religion was murdered before one more human life is sacrificed on its altar.
I will certainly join you in prayer Squirrel. It seems there is no limit to the depth of ignorance and hatred in this world.
There is so much hate and we have so few that are willing to speak for the right. I pray for the families and for more Knights. Wrong is wrong regardless who you believe in or if sadly you believe in no one or thing.
Hi Lone Grey Squirrel
Not to be bias, but people in that part of the region,
namely Pakistan and Afghanistan are especially intolerant
of other people’s differences and beliefs.
Even the slightest provocation or perceived “slight” will send the whole village after your head.
Here, the lowly are really downtrodden and law of the land still holds court. Often times, the wrath of God is
“invoked” in every scenario that threatens to “change”
the status quo.
Hunger breeds Anger,
And Anger breeds hatred,
With Hatred comes violence,
And Violence is born out of ignorance.
Methinks that the people of Pakistan are hungry in the first place. Hungry for food, hungry for education, hungry for
happiness and true spirituality , ….If all their hunger could be cured, the land would be a much happier place. And there would be less bigotry so to speak……Just my two
I suppose in the context of the modern world, it does seem difficult to understand but anything in the hands of fanatics lead to ….well, fanatical practices. Christianity has seen its own fanatics in the form of the Spanish Inquisition and more recently in groups like the Ku Klux Klan. But I always believe it is not about religion but about narrow self interests. Those that defend Islam in this way are often really defending their position and their privileges. On the other hand, total freedom of speech also means that the voices of hatred can also get an airing. Sometimes that can be a problem too.
Is it about religion or is it really about narrow self interests and tribalism? Sure, crimes have been committed in the name of religion but crimes have been committed in the name of monarchs, nationalism, communism, socialism, revolution (that’s Gaddafi’s excuse), progress and even atheism. All are just tools to promote self interests and to protect or advance personal privileges and advantages.
Thank you. The side of good and reason need their heroes too. Let’s not make these two men just part of the casualty statistics but recognise what they stood for, recognise their vision for a better future for all people.
Indeed we should pray for more knights like these. It does not seem humanly possible but we hope that God will raise such people up. Pakistan needs a lot of help for their people to understand the concept of living together as one diverse community instead of a divided and discriminated one.
I agree that the root of the problem is found in the issues of poverty, lack of opportunities in education and employment and life. The bigotry and tribalism arises out of looking out for oneself. I do not judge cause, we are fortunate to live by grace in better circumstances. I do feel deeply that the Pakistan government has failed their people by acting so powerlessly against the extremists forces and allowing their poison in the education, legal and political realms and indeed pervade all aspects of daily life. It is shameful that the government is not able to build on the sacrifices of their own ministers in this case and rally against the foe.
This is important. I mourn with you. Thank you for the passion, the grief, the love, the sense of loss that had you post this for us, for all.
Blasphemy laws. What a truly horrifying example of why there is such a need for separation of church and state.
I am reminded of verses in Dylan’s ‘Blowing in the Wind’ when I read this post – so incredibly sad what humanity does to humanity. Your own poem is very touching LGS and a real tribute to those courageous men.
Thanks, kat. I’m glad you understand my feelings about this.
Actually, I feel that it is no different from how Communist China for example confiscated properties and sentenced people to death for being intellectuals. No matter what the system, if we are not vigilant, there will be attempts to introduce laws that victimise the minority. In the U.S., the treatment and internment of Japanese citizens during WWII is another example. It does not have to be about state and religion – any excuse will do.
When you mentioned “Blowing in the Wind”, I have to wonder whether all those American and Vietnamese deaths during that war, what was it for? In hind sight, did the communist boogeyman feared by America ever materialise? Vietnam today is no longer even viewed as a threat but a business opportunity. Could we have reached the same point without all that pain and death?
Though you are correct in al you mentioned …Religion is the longest lasting scourge that refuses to go away because people are so easily by what they think is the unknowable. if God is so unknowable how is it that the fucked up manipulators of a man made organization so easily know the mind of God?
Man need religion like he needs more death by bubonic plague.
Remember one of the very last sayings of Siddarta…”,,,,find your own path…”