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New York, March 3, 2011 -- U.S. Muslims were among the leading voices of condemnation Wednesday following the assassination in Pakistan of Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan's federal cabinet.
Bhatti was shot dead in his car March 2 by assailants who left leaflets at the scene identifying themselves as "Taliban al Qaeda Punjab."
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) said it was "outraged" by the brutal murder of Bhatti, who was Minister of Minorities in the Pakistan government.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, also expressed outrage at the attack. "We stand in solidarity with fellow Christians who live as threatened minorities in their homelands," Kinnamon said. "Shahbaz Bhatti was a courageous advocate of Christians and other minorities in Pakistan. We express our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray God will give courage to others to defend oppressed peoples in that country."
Kinnamon will be among those addressing a "Faith Under Fire" rally in New York's Times Square Sunday to oppose the hearings of Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) to investigate radical Islam. Critics say the hearings will "demonize" all Muslims.
In a message to Dr. Sayyid Syeed, ISNA's director of Interfaith and Community Alliances, Kinnamon thanked ISNA for its "powerful and compassionate statement."
"We will continue to do all we can to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community in the U.S., even as you express such wonderful solidarity with the Christian community in Pakistan," Kinnamon told Syeed.
Bhatti had quietly challenged Pakistan's blasphemy law, which he said was "being misused to victimize the innocent people of Pakistan." Bhatti knew his attacks on "the forces of intolerance" made him a target of intolerant extremists. Four months ago he recorded a farewell statement to be broadcast in the event of his death.
Syeed met with Bhatti months ago to make clear ISNA's position that "it is the responsibility of Muslims to ensure the safety of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries."
In a recent interview with the Voice of America, Bhatti said, "It is time that the people of different faiths and the Pakistani nation stand united against the forces of intolerance, against the forces of violence."
Sayyid said Bhatti's statement, although coming from a Christian, "is more in line with Quranic teachings than those Muslims who misuse blasphemy laws to justify murder and is more the reason to reject these laws. These laws fly in the face of Quranic teachings."
ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid said, "The Quran teaches Muslims to respond to those who blaspheme the Prophet and other sacred symbols of Islam with that which is ‘better.’ ‘Good and evil cannot be equal; repel evil with something which is better and verily he between whom and thyself was enmity may then become as though he had always been a close, true friend, (Quran 41:34).’ Surely murder can not be that which is better."
on the Pakistani government to repudiate any law or action that infringes
upon the ability of any person to freely practice their religion in
urged Muslim scholars in
“We ask that the government takes
every measure necessary to secure the rights of religious minorities in
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