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Testing time for cricketer Prime Minister

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A High Court’s acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian lady, previously sentenced to death and forced to live in a secret location since 2009 for allegedly blaspheming Islam and its prophet, has brought a blood thirsty fanatical mob to the streets of Pakistan. 

This mob is now demandingBibi not to be allowed to leave the country at all. The motive of this crowd should be clear to Prime Minister Imran Khan whose leadership is put to test. Already the lawyer who defended the lady in the SupremeCourt has received death threat and left the country.

If Bibi remains in the country she will one day be killed by these fanatics and to provide security protectionfor her for 24 hours every day of her life is not only costly but also risky, because there are elements within the security forces in Pakistan who have sympathies with the protestors.

The Prime Minister should find a safe passage and a country for this victimised lady to emigrate, preferably with some financial assistance, saving thereby not only the prestige of his presidency and leadership but also the sublimity of Islam.

The world has seen since Khomeini’s controversial fatwa against author Salman Rushdie series of street violence, killings and destruction committed by Muslim religious fanatics who justify their action by claiming to protect Islam and its Prophet from being blasphemed. All that they have achieved instead is to create a wave of Islamophobia outside the Muslim world that is now threatening to destroy all Muslim minorities.

Compassion, forgiveness and tolerance are the outstanding characteristics of the Prophet of Islam.It was those values that later enabled Muslim rulers to build a cosmopolitan civilisation in Baghdad, Cordoba, Istanbul and Delhi. 

The convivencia model of Muslim Spain is an outstanding example of how people of different faiths lived together with mutual respect and tolerance.There was no place for religious fanaticism in that civilisation. It is shocking that none of the modern day Muslim fanatics has any knowledge of this golden past of Islam and its civilisation.

In the entire history of Islam no woman had insulted the Prophet of Islam more than Hind bint Utba and her family. She was an inveterate enemy of the Prophet and his message. After the battle of Uhud in AD 624 for example, in which Muslims suffered a setback, Hind sucked blood from the hearts of dead Muslims,cut their noses and ears to make necklaces and anklets. Even that woman was pardoned by the Prophet when Mecca surrendered to him.How can our modern day street-champions of Islam and their leaders ignore this chapter of the Prophet’s life? 

Compared to Hind what Bibi is alleged to have done in Pakistan pales into oblivion. The angry face of this mob has hidden the sublime face of Islam. In many ways today’s Islamophobes are the creation of this fanatical Muslim minority. This is the minority that harass and kill Coptic Christians in Egypt and destroy their churches. It is the same minority that blasted and destroyed the Bamian statues in Afghanistan and the ancient monuments in Syria.

Pakistan is a difficult country to rule. It was created in the name of Islam by a man who was the least practitioner of that religion.Yet, that country has produced some of the world renowned scholars not only in Islam but also in other sciences. It is the only nuclear power in the Muslim world. 

The country has great potential to become a world leader for Muslims. However, the challenge of religious fanaticism is a reality that has to be managed and won over by any leader. 

Imran Khan, although he did not secure his leadership convincingly at the polls, yet, he is surrounded by a progressive team of advisors and experts who could help the cricketer to lead Pakistan and overcome its challenges. Asia Bibi’s safety should be guaranteed. It is a test for Imran Khan’s prime ministership.

(The writer is attached to the School of Business and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia.)

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