Friday, November 9, 2012

Pakistan slowly melts

Meanwhile, grim signs in Pakistan. A family spent thirty years building one of the best girls schools in Lahore. The son of the family,a teacher in his thirties, was particlarly passionate about talking to many groups about astronomy.

But on 31 October the school was burned to the ground by a crowd who had heard it was accused of blasphemy. Lab equipment and computers were looted. Hundreds of library books – obviously with little use to the mob – tossed into the fire. Some even tried to pull the marble tiles off the floor

A teacher had inadvertently missed a page while photocopying, linking a sentence about the Prophet Mohammed to a chapter on begging.

This blasphemy law is devouring Pakistani society from within. It is an all-purpose tool in the service of intolerance. It has often been used against religious minorities, but Muslims are paying the price as well. The repeal of the law, unfortunately, is unlikely. Some voices critical of the law have already been silenced by intimidation and violence, such as the assassination of the governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer in 2011.

What a terrible story. A country of 190 million is slowly sliding into a civilizational abyss. I was in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and some of the northern areas about fifteen years ago, and even then travel to Karachi or even main roads toward the south was not advised.

The Islamist methods used against the west, such as suicide bombings and oversensitivity, are now having their worst effects at home.

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