Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The world has lost a great voice

A couple days ago, on the ninth, both Pakistan and the world lost one of its greatest voices for freedom and equality. Brought down by the very men entrusted to protect him, Salmaan Taseer, died as he had lived, in defense of equality for his fellow humans.

Salmaan Taseer was a man who would not stand down from what he believed in. He was an intellectual, a newspaper publisher, a writer, an entrepreneur, a politician and above all else, a humanist. He had established both the First Capital Securities Corporation and The Worldcall Group, both of which allowed for Pakistan to more effectively join the global economy and networks.

Under the dictator Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, Salmaan Taseer published pamphlets that spoke of the virtues of a return to democracy. For this he was imprisoned for over six months where he was kept in solitary confinement and shackled to the ground. But even during this, he stood resolute, as was shown by the single message he was able to get out to his wife, "I’m not made from a wood that burns easily."

After his release he went on into politics, first by becoming member of the Punjab Assembly from Lahore (the capital of Punjab Province) in 1988 and in 2008 he was elected governor of Punjab Province. It was here that he was able to further his talents for aiding humanity.

After the May 28th assault and suicide bombings of two Ahmadi Mosques, an event with killed a total of 95, 85 of whom where Ahmadi, and injured over a hundred others, Salmaan Taseer visited the injured in the hospital. This was done at risk to himself as the Ahmadi have been marginalized by those who believe their form of Islam to be blasphemous. Yet Taseer had no thoughts of this, he only saw his fellow human beings suffering and in need of aid.

During the massive flooding that Pakistan saw during the Summer, Salmaan Taseer went to various businesses asking for their aid and financial support. He then went on to aid in constructing shelters and consoling those who had lost everything.

There are many other examples of Taseer's acts of humanism, but there was one he had fought for especially hard. One that would eventually, cost him everything. Salmaan Taseer fought to change the harsh blasphemy laws enacted by the very ruler who had him imprisoned. He recognized the laws as unjust, and when Asia Bibi, a mother of five was sentenced to hang for an accusation of taking the Prophet's name in vain, he spoke out against the accusations, the law and his fellow human's treatment of one another.

Salmaan Taseer knew that the Islamic Fundamentalists wanted him silenced yet he would not stand down. He knew he was in the right and would not let terror and ignorance have its way. And for this, his ardent stance for a more equal treatment for the various religions within Pakistan, he was shot twenty-six times by one of his own police escorts.

But as his son, Shehrbano Taseer, stated so bravely in his recent editorial for the New York Times:
"There are those who say my father’s death was the final nail in the coffin for a tolerant Pakistan. That Pakistan’s liberal voices will now be silenced. But we buried a heroic man, not the courage he inspired in others."
And that courage will live on, in his supporters, his family and everyone in Pakistan as well as around the world who dream of a future where one can be open about their faith, or perhaps even lack there of. I will leave the closing remarks to Salmaan Taseer's son, Shehrbano Taseer:
"My father believed in our country’s potential. He lived and died for Pakistan. To honor his memory, those who share that belief in Pakistan’s future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win."
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1 comment:

Infidel753 said...

Thank you for collecting so much information on this man's heroism.

To honor his memory, those who share that belief in Pakistan’s future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win.

And that is the way to defeat the bloodthirsty theocrats. Show them that even when they murder people, they can't intimidate the living into surrender.

Taseer joins the ranks of Theo van Gogh, Pim Fortuyn, Ali Dashti, and many others from the Muslim world whose names most Westerners would not know, who were murdered for speaking the truth and confronting this evil. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie, Ibn Warraq, Christopher Hitchens, the Danish cartoonists, and many others live under threat of death for the same reason. But the theocrats can't win unless we submit by falling silent.