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Religious Leaders Pledge to Launch Campaign Against Extremism

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Tahir Ashrafi. Courtesy PID

Marking Friday as ‘Day of Condemnation’, prayer leaders issue sermons slamming misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

Ulema across Pakistan on Friday marked a “day of condemnation” for last week’s mob lynching in Sialkot, stressing that only courts have right to punish any individual accused of blasphemy and no one is allowed to take the law into their own hands.

Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara was brutally lynched by a mob of hundreds, which then set fire to his body, after some employees of the factory where he was employed accused him of blasphemy. The incident has provoked nationwide outrage and calls for amendments to the blasphemy laws, forcing ulema to defend the controversial legislation and slam anyone who seeks to “misuse” them for personal gain.

In their Friday sermons, prayer leaders noted that all sections of society had rejected the extremist mindset that was visible in Sialkot last week. Special Representative to the P.M. (SAPM) on Interfaith Harmony Tahir Ashrafi subsequently told media that the leaders of all religions in Pakistan had agreed to launch an awareness campaign about the blasphemy laws, emphasizing that anyone who misused the religion for their own interests was a criminal.

He said the lynching of Kumara had embarrassed the entire nation, adding that anyone accused of blasphemy should be dealt with under law through a complaint lodged with police and court hearings. Anyone who makes blasphemy allegations for personal motives should be punished under the blasphemy law, he added.

He urged the chief justice of Pakistan to treat the Sialkot mob lynching as a “test” case and order a speedy trial so people who had “brought a bad name to Islam” would be punished. He urged the country to unite in establishing an atmosphere of peace and tolerance, saying consensus against terrorism and extremism would strengthen institutions.

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