ON-Lion Letter

"To remember Pakistan’s Shahbaz Bhatti is to be inspired by a ray of goodness and hope amidst the gathering darkness in that country," according to Nina Shea in a March National Review Online article.


It has been three years since Pakistan’s minister of minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated on March 2, 2011, in broad daylight in that nation’s capital, and still no one has been convicted," Shea writes.  "The trial for the murder of the country’s only Christian cabinet member started last month but is hampered by death threats to the prosecuting attorney, the complainant, and the witnesses."


Shea is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., and directs its Center for Religious Freedom (CRF).  Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation supports CRF.


Shahbaz Bhatti "was a heroic resister, an indefatigable and peaceful proponent for civil rights both within the government and through the non-governmental All Pakistan Minorities Alliance that he founded," she continues.  "While a student, he had become a committed activist on behalf of religious freedom and it was for this cause that he was murdered.


"Shahbaz rightly saw that, by adopting blasphemy laws, the state had given Islamist extremists an upper hand.  These protean laws allow the most extreme voices to determine the limits of public discourse and they provide a particularly effective legal weapon for targeting religious minorities," Shea notes.


"[O]ur leaders should firmly press Islamabad for the decriminalization of blasphemy," she concludes.  "As Shahbaz Bhatti knew, rather than placate extremists, the blasphemy laws legitimize the drive to control belief and expression, silence the moderates, fan religious resentments, and set up religious minorities as fair game."
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