Pakistan’s Law Minister was forced to resign today as part of a deal with fundamentalist Muslim protestors who were upset that he changed a law requiring elected officials to swear a specific oath to Muhammad.
Zahid Hamid tendered his resignation in the wake of deadly protests that lasted about three weeks. The protesters claimed Hamid changed the “Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath,” thereby undermining their Islamic beliefs and committing a blasphemous act.
Mr. Hamid, the Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs, presented his resignation to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to bring the country “out of a state of crisis”, Radio Pakistan reported.
The resignation came as part of an agreement reached between the government and the protesters overnight. The deal came after a two-day face-off in Islamabad and other parts of the country between protesters and security forces that saw at least six people killed and hundreds injured.
So what did Hamid actually do?
Copies of the Elections Act 2017 that circulated online showed a wording change (from “I solemnly swear” to “I believe”) that turned an oath about the Prophet Muhammad into a mere declaration of belief. The oath would also no longer apply to non-Muslim candidates.
If that doesn’t sound like a big deal… well, you’d be right. If the charges against him are correct, Hamid was simply making sure lawmakers weren’t forced to treat Muhammad as a prophet if they didn’t want to. Yet, in a country like Pakistan where religion and government are intertwined, that simple maneuver created a firestorm of controversy that left several people dead and forced the cancellation of school in many areas.
Hamid has since apologized and said the change was due to “clerical mistakes,” according to CNN.
After reading the oath in a video shared on social media, Hamid said: “I further want to say I love Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) from the depth of my heart.”
He added: “My family and I are prepared to lay down our lives for the honor and sanctity of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).” PBUH is an acronym for Peace Be Upon Him.
The protesters not only killed people as a result of this “clerical mistake,” but they also broke into Hamid’s house and threatened his family. All because an oath was altered ever so slightly to be more inclusive and secular.
We may think of ourselves as above all that, but think about the outcry we hear when candidates taking an oath of office (or immigrants accepting citizenship) refuse to say the words “So help me God.” Or who take that oath on the Constitution instead of the Bible. (Or, dare I say it, the Qur’an.)
We haven’t seen any violence in conjunction with that, but the pressure to play along with the Christian majority is part of our government, too.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Philip for the link)