pakistani government official murdered for opposing law that punished ‘thought crime’

The body of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer is loaded into an ambulance in Islamabad earlier today. Photo: Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images

The body of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer is loaded into an ambulance in Islamabad earlier today. Photo: Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images

A Pakistani government official was assassinated today by a member of his own security detail because he opposed Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law. “Blasphemy” in Pakistan is considered any thought or spoken word that “insults Islam,” which is commonly interpreted as anything spoken against the Islamic faith, including converting to another religion or renouncing faith and becoming an atheist. The New York Daily News’ Sean Alfano writes:

Taseer’s outspoken stance against Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which calls for anyone insulting Islam to be executed, outraged his alleged killer, identified as Mumtaz Qadri, one of his guards, and intelligence official told The Associated Press.

Qadri allegedly bragged about gunning down Taseer, who was governor of Punjab province, the official said.

The blasphemy law has come under attack recently after a Christian woman received a death sentence for insulting the Muslim prophet Muhammad. No one convicted under the law has been executed, but more than 30 accused blasphemers have been killed by angry mobs, the BBC reported.

Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer was murdered because he opposed an ancient religious (in this case, Islamic) law that states anyone who thinks differently than what the Qur’an allows one to think should be executed. Taseer was not arrested for this crime and was not facing execution as is a Pakistani woman, Asia Bibi, for converting to Christianity. No, he simply questioned aloud whether Pakistan should be enforcing the law that calls for the execution of people who think differently like Bibi. He was killed for exercising his free speech – for opposing a law that punishes thought. He didn’t threaten anyone. He didn’t impersonate anyone. He didn’t defame anyone. He simply asked whether or not Pakistan should kill people for thinking, and he was murdered for it.

This is how religious fundamentalism and terror work. They threaten and pressure and scare politicians into conforming to an extreme religious position, and politicians can’t get elected (or survive) without pandering to the religious right, sending the country continually in the wrong direction. The sad thing is that this kind of religious fundamentalism and religious pressure is not limited to Islam or to Pakistan. There are those in this country who would argue that anyone who speaks against Jesus or Christianity or certain Christian doctrines should meet a similar fate, or at least not be allowed to serve in government.

This is what happens when religion and government combine in an effort to control thought.

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