Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
January 16, 2011

For anyone who possesses even the slightest familiarity with the life of Muhammad and the history of Islam the assertion that Islam is a religion of peace will win, let us say, on a scale of one to ten a score of maybe minus fifty. In confirmation whereof check the headlines of your daily paper. Today the joys of a Christian living in a Muslim land range from harassment and arson to kidnapping and extortion to targeted murders and massacre (cf. the All Saints Eve slaughter in Baghdad's Catholic Cathedral). At the present moment this holds true with a special force in Egypt and Iraq. But more and more it's beginning to seem that wherever the Crescent flag is flown, it's open season on Christians.

In Algeria not so long ago there were mass murders of Christian monks; in Nigeria, on the western edge of the vast domain that turns to Mecca in prayer, bombing attacks on Christian churches and Christian gatherings desecrated this past Christmas Day;    and at the eastern edge of the Prophet's domain, on the Philippine island of Mindanao, a Catholic church was bombed by Muslims during the Christmas Mass. And let's not forget the "Christmas present" for the U.S.A. that "the underwear bomber" sought-but fortunately was unable -to deliver as his plane began its descent over the city of Detroit. And now, just in time for Twelfth Night, the Iranian "mullahcracy" has announced the round-up of Christians in that tormented land, with two men officially described as priests sentenced to death for their complicity in converting Muslims to the Cross of Christ. Finally, and once again within the last few days, comes the shocking news of the murder of Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, Pakistan's largest province. Mr. Taseer, nominally a Muslim but secular, i.e., western, i.e. fundamentally Christian, in his understanding of justice, dared to come to the aid of a poor and uneducated Christian woman, Asia Ribi, a mother of five, who was sentenced to death by a local court for having failed, so it was alleged, to show proper respect for the Prophet Muhammed.  Governor Taseer's murder is shocking on several counts: first of all in its motivation as "payback" for the governor's agitation for the repeal of the law that punishes "blasphemy" with death, blasphemy being anything that can be construed as dishonoring the Prophet; moreover the governor was slain by one of the bodyguards sworn to protect him; furthermore the plan for the assassination was apparently known beforehand by other members of the guard, whose silence allowed the plan to go forward. But most shocking by far was the REACTION to the murder that was shown by MORE THAN FIVE HUNDRED OF PAKISTAN'S MULLAHS, Islam's revered spokesmen in matters religious, WHO SIGNED A PUBLIC STATEMENT ENTHUSIASTICALLY APPLAUDING THE GOVERNOR'S MURDER AND FORBIDDING THEIR CO-RELIGIONISTS TO PARTICIPATE EVEN TO THE SLIGHTEST DEGREE IN THE STATE-AUTHORIZED MOURNING. Talk about "the mercy of a mullah", an ancient proverb in the Middle East that is always good for a laugh. And what does all of this have to say about a "religion of peace"?

Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, paid with his life for his courageous dedication to justice in general and to justice in particular on behalf of a helpless victimized Christian woman, a dedication that compelled him to challenge entrenched legal practice and to defy the raging blood-lust of Islamist mobs. The beatitude proclaimed by Christ our Lord comes readily to mind "Blessed are they who suffer persecution for the sake ofjustice, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs" (Matthew 6:10). Requiescat.

The Wall Street Journal's detailed reporting of the murder of Governor Taseer offers valuable insights. May I share with you selected passages from the paper's reporting over the course of several days.
*          *         *         *         *
A Murder in Islamabad. an Editorial

Last month, Salman Taseer, the liberal-minded governor of the Pakistani province of Punjab, appealed to President Asif Ali Zardari to COMMUTE the death sentence of a Christian woman named Asia Bibi, a mother of five who had been convicted of blasphemy by a local court. On Tuesday, Tuseer paid dearly for his decency when one of his bodyguards murdered him at close range.

Taseer's assassination has aggravated a brewing political crisis that may soon lead to the collapse of Mr. Zardari's government.....

But Pakistan's deepest crisis isn't political.... It's moral. Ms. Bibi's only crime was to have been involved in a verbal altercation with fellow field hands after they had refused to take water drawn by her "unclean" Christian hands, an insult to which she allegedly replied in kind. That put her afoul of Pakistan's infamous blasphemy laws under which hundreds of Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus have been persecuted fordecades. Taseer was among the most prominent politicians in Pakistan to call for those laws to be amended.

Pakistan's radical Islamist parties-which have never had much success at the polls but know how to dominate a street-are now treating Taseer's killer as a hero. As for the rest of Pakistan, this is the time to honor the fallen governor by demanding the government release Ms. Bibi, rescind the blasphemy laws, and stand up to the murderers among them. [Emphasis added].
*          *         *         *         *
The Troubled Heart of Pakistan
By: Matthew Kaminski,
The Wall Street Journalfor Th ursday January 6, 2011

On central Mall Road, Governor's House sits back across a wide lawn. The white colonnaded mansion built for British rulers of the Punjab, whose pasty portraits hang inside, feels like a refuge and a throwback. A few days before Christmas, I visited Salman Taseer there. Though ensconced in a quiet office with limited powers, the governor of Pakistan's largest and richest province was deep in battle with religious extremists beyond the house's high walls.

Wearing stylish glasses and hair slicked back, he looked a youthful 66. Taseer was a local tycoon with unabashedly liberal tastes. He was unusual, too, in his willingness to openly challenge Islamist dictates. "They want to hold the entire country hostage," he told me. Most Pakistanis agree with him, he added, since "they vote for secular parties."

In recent tweets and public statements, Taseer had called for parliament to AMEND Pakistan's law on blasphemy-a "black law" in his words--that MANDATES the death penalty for insulting Islam. In our conversation, he saw little room for compromise with fundamentalists who fare badly in elections and resort to violence. "These are not people you mollycoddle," he said. "These are killers."

So, evidently, they are. After lunch this Tuesday in the national capital, Islamabad, Salman Taseer was gunned down by one of his security guards. The assassin told witnesses that he was angry over the man's stance on blasphemy.

No politician had so prominently defended SECULAR values in Pakistan since Benazir Bhutto. The former premier, an ally of Taseer was herself' slain three years ago by terrorists allegedly sent from the Islamist hotbeds along the western border with Afghanistan. In a joint statement issued before his funeral at Governor's House yesterday, SOME 500 RELIGIOUS PAKISTANI LEADERS PRAISED HIS KILLER and urged Muslims NOT TO MOURN TASEER'S DEATH....
[Emphasis added].
*          *         *         *         *
Leading Pakistani Politician Killed
By Tom Wright, January 5, 2011

A leading politician from Pakistan's ruling party was gunned down in a wealthy neighborhood of Islamabad on Tuesday by a member of his security detail after speaking out AGAINST the country's controversial blasphemy laws, an assassination that highlights the nation's struggle to contain extremism even among those CLOSE TO THE CENTER OF POWER.

Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, Pakistan's most-populous province, and a member of the ruling Pakistan's People's Party, died after a member of his security team fired multiple shots into his car at a shopping complex, police said.

His attacker, Malik Muntaz Qadri, who surrendered to police, admitted he was angered by Mr. Taseer's OPPOSITION to the blasphemy laws, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told local television.

Mr. Taseer had become A LEADING OPPONENT in recent weeks of a court decision to sentence a 45-year-old Christian farm laborer, Asia Bibi, [a mother of five] to death for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.

The case attracted international attention. Mr. Taseer had attacked the court's decision and recently been urging supporters on Twitter TO TAKE TO THE STREETS IN PROTEST AGAINST THE BLASPHEMY LAWS. His opposition had been condemned by lslamist political parties.

But Mr. Taseer's assassination by a member of an ELITE police unit shows how religious extremism PERVADES even segments of society that are close to the center of power, a result of decades of official Islamization stretching back to Pakistan's founding in 1947 out of a newly independent India.

Islamist political groups had called for Mr. Tuseer's ouster as governor over his opposition to the blasphemy laws and saw in his stance a Western conspiracy to roll back Pakistan's religious edicts and turn the country into a secular democracy. One party issued an edict condemning Mr. Taseer for blasphemy.... [And, according to The Economist, issue of January 8, many mullahs had been using their pulpits all over Pakistan to call for the governor's death]

Pakistan's religious laws were tightened under the rule of Gen. Zia-ul-haq, a military dictator who oversaw an Islamization of the nation's institutions such as the army and judiciary in the 1980's.

Since then, Pakistani authorities have charged SCORES of minority groups under the laws.

In no cases have the death sentences been carried out, with courts commuting sentences on appeal. [But, according to The Economist, January 8, "32 people charged or convicted under the law have been murdered "]

Pakistan's secular politicians have largely FAILED to unite to combat religious extremism out of fear of sparking a backlash, and in some cases have even courted extremist groups, analysts say....

Ms. Bibi was accused in June 2009 by local village women in Sheikhupura, a district of Punjuab province, of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad, which under Pakistani law can carry the death penalty.

Ms. Bibi, who is in jail, says the women hated her because she was a Christian and had gotten in a fight over their refusal to drink water she had touched. She is appealing the court's November decision to impose a death sentence.

MR. TASEER BECAME VOCAL IN DEFENDING HER, saying Mr. Zardari, the president, would overturn the decision if necessary. Mr. Taseer's supporters later placed wreaths on the spot where he died.
[Emphasis added].
*          *         *         *         *
Pakistan Killer Had Revealed Plans
By Zahid Hussain and Tom Wright
The Wall Street Journal, Thursday, January 6, 2011

The KILLER of a senior politician who spoke out against Pakistan's blasphemy laws HAD TOLD OTHERS about the PENDING attack but had STILL BEEN ASSIGNED TO GUARD his victim

The murder was widely LAUDED by Islamist groups and sympathizers, and news footage showed Malik Mumtaz Qadri, a member of an elite police force responsible for providing security to the country's top civilian leadership, getting a HERO's welcome and being SHOWERED WITH ROSE PETALS by supporters as he arrived at an Islamabad court Wednesday.

Mr. Qadri shot Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab province, at a shopping complex in an upscale part of Islamabad Tuesday and later told police he was angered by Mr. Taseer's efforts to abrogate the country's strict blasphemy laws.

Officials familiar with the investigation said it appeared the murder was ABETTED by the OTHER security guards, raising concerns about the counir 's elite security services being penetrated by Islamic extremists.

Mr. Qadri had previously been REMOVED from a branch of the police dealing with counterterrorism due to concerns about his Islamist leanings, and had himself ASKED to guard Mr. Taseer, a senior police official said.

Preliminary investigations revealed that Mr. Qadri informed other police officers of his plans, the official said. Police detained six other guards from Mr. Taseer's security detail and are investigating their possible involvement.

Officers responsible for Mr. Qadri's assignment were also detained for questioning over whether they allowed him to join Mr. Taseer's detail despite knowing of his association with radical Islamists.

Investigations are focusing on Mr. Qadri's links with Dawat-i-Islami, a radical Islamist group that has been at the forefront of protests in recent weeks against efforts to change the blasphemy laws, the police official said.

Mr. Taseer's death has exposed a deep fissure in Pakistan society between liberal politicians with Western lifestyles and religious leaders who hew to an Islamist view of the world and are GAINING influence. Some analysts speculated that the high-profile murder could be a part of a wider conspiracy to SILENCE LIBERAL VOICES.

In the past, there have been some cases where military personnel have been found aiding Islamists. At least two policemen have reportedly carried out suicide attacks, including an incident a few years ago in Karachi in which a policeman blew himself up at a Shiite mosque.

India has charged that officers of Pakistan's spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, were involved in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Thousands of people gathered for Mr. Taseer's funeral in his native Lahore on Wednesday, including Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, who was close to Mr. Taseer, vowed to bring those responsible to justice. He didn't attend the funeral for security reasons.

The killing drew international condemnation. U. S. Hillary Clinton said in a statement, "His death is a great loss."

Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper, said in an editorial. "The governor of Punjuab has been an outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws and he paid the ultimate price for his rejection of the cancer of intolerance that has aggressively eaten away at this country for over three decades now."

Islamists posted thousands of messages on Facebook in SUPPORT of Mr. Qadri. "Pray for the ascension of Qadri to heaven, " read one.

Many religious leaders, even those from so-called MODERATE groups, were ANGERED by Mr. Taseer's support in recent months of a 45-year-old Christian farm worker, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court in November for blasphemy for insulting lslam.

"EVERYBODY is in FAVOR of Mumtaz Qadri," said Raghib Hussain Naeemi, A LEADING CLERIC in Lahore, 'EVERYBODY is thinking that Salmaan Taseer was on the WRONG side. HE'S STANDING WITH THAT PERSON [BIBI] WHO COMMITTED BLASPHEMY."

The Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat, another religious group, said in a statement signed by more than 500 clerics that Mr. Qadri was a 'TRUE SOLDIER OF ISLAM," and warned Muslims NOT to mourn Mr. Taseer's death. "It is a warning to ALL intellectuals and politicians who want to CHANGE Islamic laws," the statement said.

Jamaat-e-Istami, one of Pakistan's MAIN Islamist POLITICAL parties, also said the assassination was justified.

"IF the government had REMOVED him from the governorship, there wouldn't have been the NEED for someone to SHOOT him," it said in a statement....

CLERICS HAVE OPENLY CALLED FOR MS. BIBI'S DEATH in recent weeks, with one putting a $6,000 bounty on her head. She remains in jail and is appealing her sentence, saying women in her village who reported her to authorities were motivated by hatred of her Christian beliefs and were attempting to settle scores.

Other segments of society, including TALK-SHOW HOSTS, HAVE ALSO JUSTIFIED  MR. TASEER'S KILLING

After appearing in court Wednesday, Mr. Qadri was remanded into custody but has yet to be charged, the Associated Press reported....
[Emphasis added].
*          *         *         *         *
[A subsequent report in the Journal for January 11 stated that "When Taseer's assassin was presented at an anti-terrorism court, no public prosecutor showed up out of fear for his safety." The same report states that eight hours before Governor Taseer's assassination he posted his last "tweet," citing the words of the poet Shakeel Badayuni: "My resolve is so strong that I do not fear the flames from without." May he rest in peace].
*          *         *         *         *
And this just in:
Cairo Recalls Vatican Envoy After Remarks By Pope
The Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Egypt recalled its ambassador to the Vatican after Pope Benedict XVI demanded that certain countries, including Egypt, do more to ensure Christians can practice their faith without discrimination or violence. The pope also asked that Pakistan repeal its blasphemy laws.

Cairo's move came on the same day an off-duty policeman opened fire on a train in Southern Egypt, killing a 71-year-old Christian man and wounding five others, including the victim's wife and three other women, Egypt's interior Ministry said. All the victims are Christian, the ministry said.

Hossain Zaki, a spokesman for Egypt's Foreign Ministry, described Pope Benedict's remarks as "unacceptable" and charged him with interfering in the country's internal affairs.
*          *         *         *         *