By Our Reporter
More than 500 Muslim leaders have signed a declaration against Islamic terrorism, violence committed in the name of religion and called for the protection of basic rights of Christian minorities.
AsiaNews reported that the “Islamabad Declaration” was signed 6th January, 2019 in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, during the “Seerat-e-Rehmat-ul-Alameen (SAW) Conference”, organised under the auspices of the Pakistani Ulema Council (PUC).
The source explained that the initiative represents a turning point in the history of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which has been marked by attacks against minorities such as Christians as well as “infidel” Islamic sects like the Ahmadis and Shias.
The document, according to AsiaNews, also contains a special reference to Asia Masih, better known as Asia Bibi, a Christian mother initially sentenced to death on blasphemy charges but later acquitted after nine years in prison.
Her case, which is again under review following a campaign by radicals, must be heard with absolute “priority”.
The charges date from 2009 when the farm labourer fetched water for her fellow workers. After sipping from a cup, two Muslim women refused to drink from a vessel used by a Christian and demanded she converted to Islam.
When she refused, a mob to later accused her of blasphemy by insulting the prophet Mohammed. She was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death in 2010.
According to the Independent UK, the case outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, where two politicians who tried to help her were assassinated.
The document consists of seven points and contains elements relevant to religious freedom.
In point 1, the resolution condemns murders committed “on the pretext of religious belief”, noting that this “is against the teachings of Islam”.
The declaration goes on to say (point 2) that no religious leader has the right to criticise the prophets, and (point 3) no Islamic sect must be declared “infidel”. Hence, no Muslim or non-Muslim can be deemed worthy of extrajudicial killing. All believers, whatever their religion or sect, have the constitutional right to live in the country following their cultural and religious norms.
From this comes (point 4) the right for religious groups to organise autonomously with the consent of local administrations. Any material (books, pamphlets, audio) that incites religious hatred should be banned (point 5).
The “Islamabad Declaration” recognises that Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country; therefore, (point 6) “it is the responsibility of the government to ensure protection of life and property of non-Muslims living in Pakistan.”
Similarly, the government must deal firmly with anyone who threaten the sacred places of non-Muslims living in Pakistan.
The last point (7) the government must implement the National Action Plan against extremism.
To counter violence, the clerics have decreed that 2019 will be the year “to annihilate terrorism, extremism and sectarian violence from Pakistan.”
Finally, they deplore fatwas against public servants noting that any adventurism by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in matters of religious freedom cannot be tolerated.
The resolution states that non-Muslims living in Pakistan must enjoy the same rights as everyone else and that the government of Pakistan must protect the basic rights of minorities.
AsiaNews contributed to this report.