500 Pakistani Islamic scholars warn against mourning slain governor!

via Reuters published on January 5, 2011

ISLAMABAD, Jan 5 (Reuters) – Five hundred Pakistani religious scholarshave warned that anyone who expresses grief over the assassination ofa senior ruling party official who opposed the country’s blasphemy lawcould suffer the same fate.

Salman Taseer, a liberal politician close to President Asif AliZardari, had no day-to-day role in the central government. But hiskilling in broad daylight at a shopping centre in Islamabad reinforcesthe sense that the government is incapable of stabilising the Muslimcountry of 170 million.

The Punjab province governor was killed on Tuesday by one of hisguards, who was apparently incensed by the politician’s opposition tothe blasphemy law, in a parking lot at the block of shops popular withforeigners.

The scholars also noted the “courage” and religious zeal of thekiller, saying his action has made Muslims around the world proud.Human rights groups say the blasphemy law is often exploited byreligious conservatives as well as ordinary people to settle personalscores.

But it has widespread support in a country that is more than 95percent Muslim, and most politicians are loath to be seen as soft onthe defence of Islam. Taseer, however, was an outspoken critic.Thousands waved ruling Pakistan People’s Party flags at Taseer’sfuneral at his official residence in the city of Lahore, which wasattended by Gilani and other top government officials. Supporters alsowaved as a helicopter transported his coffin away.

In contrast, his accused killer, wearing a black hood, was transportedin a blue armoured police vehicle for an appearance in court. Somepeople screamed Allahu akbar (God is greatest). Others threw rosepetals.

The Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan group of scholars making the veiledthreat is actually from a moderate school of Islam in Pakistan. It isa vocal critic of Taliban militants who are violently opposed to thegovernment and its ally Washington.

The group is one of the largest representing scholars from themainstream Barelvi sect of Sunni Muslims. Although moderate, they havebeen leading protests in favour of the blasphemy law.The hardline stand taken by the moderates illustrates how difficult itcan be for Washington, which sees Islamabad as indispensable in itswar on militancy, to persuade Pakistani leaders to crack down harderon religious extremism.

“More than 500 scholars of the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat have advisedMuslims not to offer the funeral prayers of Governor Punjab SalmanTaseer nor try to lead the prayers,” the group said in a statement.”Also, there should be no no expression of grief or sympathy on thedeath of the governor, as those who support blasphemy of the Prophetare themselves indulging in blasphemy.”

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