Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia: Minorities in the Islamic world want equal rights

Pakistan: Europe's partner violating basic human rights

Minorities in the Islamic world want equal rights with the majority populations, and not only better protection from possible attacks by radical Islamic forces. This was reported by the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) on Thursday in Göttingen. "The international community's reaction to the murder of Pakistan's Minister for Religious Minorities is too shortsighted if it calls for nothing more than punishment of the assassin and better protection for Christians," asserted Ulrich Delius of the STP's Asia section. "Two months after the murder of 24 Coptic Christians in Egypt, European politicians are making the same mistake in Pakistan: making demands that lead to nothing, because the demands do not address the root cause of the violence. Pakistan must repeal its blasphemy law to ensure that the basic human rights of religious minorities are finally observed."

"Whether Bahá'í, Ahmadiyya-Muslim, Copt, Christian or Berber - all of these minorities in the Islamic world have this in common: they are deprived of their fundamental human rights and treated as second-class citizens. The violence will not end as long as they are not granted these basic rights," Delius fears. "The demand for just punishment of the assassin is unrealistic when the fear of reprisals renders judges in Pakistan unable to acquit even a defendant unjustly accused of blasphemy."

Christians, Ahmadiyya-Muslims and civil rights activists in Pakistan have been calling for the abolition of the controversial blasphemy law for a long time. Under the law, insulting the Prophet Mohammed is a punishable offense. It is routinely invoked by members of the Muslim majority population to gain the upper hand in personal disputes. Christians, for example, quickly find themselves in deep difficulties if they are accused of blasphemy under this law.

"Even though since the escalation of the war in Afghanistan hardly a week goes by without a leading western politician having a meeting with someone in the government of Pakistan, the misuse of the blasphemy law is mentioned only seldom," criticized Delius. "Obviously the exodus of traumatized Christians and Ahmadiyya is passively accepted simply because Pakistan is so strategically important."

When German Foreign Affairs Minister Guido Westerwelle met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani on 9 January 2011, he praised the dedication of the country in the battle against terrorism. Not once did he publicly mention the controversy surrounding the blasphemy law. On February 2, Gilani reaffirmed before the Pakistani parliament that he would hold fast to the law.