PRESS RELEASE – 7th November 2014
British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD) are alarmed and deeply saddened to hear about the torture and murder of Christian couple Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi, in a village in the Punjab, Pakistan.
The incident occurred after a local, Yousaf Gujjar, alleged that Shama Bibi had burnt the Qu’ran. He then sent men to three mosques in neighbouring towns, while the couple remained locked in a room on his land. A large mob of villagers broke through the door, beating them “with fists and sticks” before dragging their bodies to a nearby brick kiln, where Masih and Bibi were burnt alive. The police, who had attempted to stop the mob, were immediately outnumbered.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have frequently been used as a cover for mob rule and barbarism. They prescribe harsh punishments for so-called crimes including the (alleged) desecration of the Qu’ran or (supposed) insults against the Prophet Mohammed, and can be used against anyone – although minorities like Christians and Ahmadi Muslims are particularly vulnerable. Since 1990, more than 62 people have been extra-judicially killed in relation to blasphemy cases, according to the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).
BMSD trustee Dr Shaaz Mahboob said: “We urge the Government of Pakistan to end the impunity granted to perpetrators of hate attacks against minorities. We also call upon them to abrogate blasphemy laws that have frequently been invoked in personal disputes, and grossly misused in order to subjugate minorities.”
Notes to the editors:
1. bmsd is made up of a group of Muslim democrats of diverse ethnic and social backgrounds, who support a clear separation between religion and the State.
2. bmsd’s mission statement: “To promote civic engagement, social inclusion, responsible citizenship and good governance particularly within constituent Muslim communities of Britain; in order to build an understanding of the shared values between all citizens to enable them to live in an inclusive, pluralist, secular and confident Britain.”
3. bmsd claims no mandate or false representative status. Our primary concern is democratic engagement not detailed theological analysis or debate. The level and depth of commitment to the doctrinal core and orthodoxy of the faith varies among Muslims as much as it does in members of other faith groups. bmsd founders wish to create a platform for alternative, diverse Muslim views, essential for a progressive, multi-layered, democratic identity that is not in conflict with itself or fellow citizens.
4. For details please visit http://www.bmsd.org.uk. For any further queries, please contact: Dr Shaaz Mahboob on firstname.lastname@example.org or Tehmina Kazi on 0207 242 8691.