Pakistan’s blasphemy law worries opponents of extremism

Source: Associated Press

By KATHY GANNON
Today

BARAKHAO, Pakistan (AP) — Two ornate minarets pierce the evening sky and frame the emerald green dome of a shrine to Mumtaz Qadri. He was hanged for killing a politician who criticized Pakistan’s blasphemy law — a measure that can bring a death sentence for anyone insulting Islam.

A marble-encased tomb holds the body of Qadri, a member of an elite police unit charged with protecting Punjab provincial Gov. Salman Taseer. But instead of keeping him safe, Qadri turned his AK-47 assault rifle on Taseer and killed him. With a smile on his face, Qadri then put down his weapon and was arrested, tried and hanged last year.

Qadri’s brother, Amir Sajjad, spends afternoons and evenings at the shrine, collecting donations for a mosque and madrassa, or religious school, to be built at the site on the outskirts of Islamabad. Millions of rupees have been collected, Sajjad said.

The shrine worries those in Pakistan who fear a growth of extremism. There have been brutal sectarian killings, violent demonstrations by clerics in favor of the blasphemy law, and threats to anyone who dares to challenge it.

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