Right-wing groups have taken a turn in defence of Rimsha in what appears to be little more than a desperate attempt to defend the blasphemy law in the face of public outcry. Realising that the Rimsha case has exposed the blasphemy law for what it is – a colonial-era law used as a weapon against personal or political enemies – these groups have crafted a careful response that calls for ‘fairness’ for Rimsha, but ultimately keeping the status quo.
PTI central spokesman issued a statement terming the man-made law as ‘necessary’, “adding that if someone indeed commits blasphemy he or she should be proceeded against under the law”. Naturally, Ansar Abbasi claims that the public outcry is part of a conspiracy, writing that the Rimsha case can help “pave the way to devise a foolproof procedure for registration of FIR under this law” and saying:
There is no reason to support the west-led campaign to quash the blasphemy law. Certain NGOs and some voices in the media, it is expected, would try to fuel the Rimsha case to target the blasphemy law as per the western agenda.
The heaviest defender of the blasphemy law, though, has been Maulana Tahir Ashrafi who has been making a weighty media push in defence of the law, telling reporters that “Strict action should be taken against all those accusing the girl if she is found innocent”. According to Ashrafi, “It is just like the law of jungle that 500 people approached a police station and got a report forcibly lodged with the police.” This has been widely reported in the foreign media.
Make no mistake, Tahir Ashrafi is no liberal preacher of peace and tolerance. He is not even a moderate like Javed Ghamidi. Tahir Ashrafi’s only purpose in the Rimsha case is to defend the blasphemy law. Remember the warning of Javed Ghamidi after Mumtaz Qadri murdered Salmaan Taseer:
“The blasphemy laws have no justification in Islam. These ulema [council of clerics] are just telling lies to the people,” said Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a reformist scholar and popular television preacher.
“But they have become stronger, because they have street power behind them, and the liberal forces are weak and divided. If it continues like this it could result in the destruction of Pakistan.”
Compare this to the argument of Tahir Ashrafi:
Blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal vendettas. And so, we demand a thorough and fair probe into the case involving Rimsha.
Tahir Ashrafi is careful to repeat in his English columns and statements to the foreign media lines like, “Pakistan belongs as much to the non-Muslims as to the Muslims,” but let’s take his newfound tolerance with a pinch of reality. Here’s how Tahir Ashraf spends his time when he’s not playing the part of tolerant cleric for the foreigners.
This raises serious questions. Does Tahir Ashrafi agree with his good friend Malik Ishaq and Ahmed Ludhianvi that Shia are blasphemers and should be murdered in cold blood?
Does he agree with his good friend Hafiz Saeed that Sufism is conspiracy of Hindus and Christians against jihad?
Maybe we should just consider Tahir Ashrafi’s own words warning violence against minorities:
I have heard people calling Tahir Ashrafi’s piece in Express Tribune as bravery. I might be more willing to believe that if Ashrafi didn’t have such a long record of supporting hate and intolerance. Don’t be fooled by this campaign of deception. They are not defending Rimsha because of a sudden change of heart. They are scared that Rimsha’s case has exposed the truth.