Pakistan has instituted Sharia law in the Swat Valley.  As this BBC article explains, the move has serious implications for the religious and personal freedom:  

“The head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Afrasiab Khattak, says the move is pushing Pakistani society towards religious totalitarianism.”

Other developments described in the article include:

  • The planned creation of a Department of Vice and Virtue which recalls the worst excess of the Taliban. 
  • Civil workers must pray five times a day
  • Music sales will be curbed
  • Cinemas have been closed
  • Women cannot be examined by male doctors
  • Males cannot coach women athletes
Salman Ahmad, a Pakistani-American Muslim who is a musician, a UN Goodwill Ambassador, as well as a friend of mine wrote me this despairing email about the affairs in his home country:

“Pakistan is experiencing a moment of truth.  A corrupt and incompetent political leadership  is facing an enemy which has brainwashed itself to kill and die in the name of God. Pakistan is the battle ground and its poor people are caught in the crossfire.  If the Taliban wont kill them it’ll be the Pakistani army or the US drone attacks.   Islamic law is just an excuse for gangsters, drug runners, murderers and fanatics to have a safe haven for themselves.”

Salman made a remarkable documentary called: The Rockstar and the Mullahs about the restriction of music in areas dominated by religious fundamentalism, so he is well aware of what is at stake .  Salman’s remarks also remind us that ultimately the people of Pakistan feel trapped and afflicted by all sides including America.  Let’s hope that the United States can have a smart new approach to Pakistan and Afghanistan that will result in those countries becoming modern Islamic Republics rather than revert to the religious barbarism of the 1990s.   

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