Atheist Suicide Bomber Kills Eighteen Agnostics in Sweden

In a frightening display of rising sectarian violence, an atheist suicide bomber blew himself up on a busy street in Stockholm three days ago; killing eighteen agnostics and wounding over thirty. Members of the ‘Swedish Atheistic Liberation Front’ (SALF) have claimed responsibility for the bombing. Declaring the attack as revenge against the explosive agnostic riots, which, last week, hospitalized several atheists and terrorized the atheistic community.

Swedish authorities have so far failed stem the rising levels of violence and growing sectarian divide. The prime minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, himself an agnostic, strongly condemned the attack, yet also called for restraint among the broader agnostic community. In an impromptu speech, the prime minister called on agnostics to not contribute to the violence, or launch vengeful vigilante attacks, saying that the proper authorities would see justice done.

Yet Mr. Reinfeldt’s message seems to be falling on deaf ears, prominent agnostic leaders and bloggers have already began urging retaliatory attacks in what is an ominous sign for the future of sectarian violence in Sweden. Sectarian divisions and violence have been increasing ever since the breakdown in talks between the mostly agnostic Government and the violently separatist SALF.

SALF, and the atheists they claim to represent, believe that there is no god, agnostics believe that there may not be a god. To outsiders, this difference in doctrine seems almost irrelevant; to believers it is a question of life or death. Therefore, such a small difference in doctrine can create such explosive hatreds, divisions and violence.

The spiraling violence has already purged once religiously diverse neighborhoods into homogenous sectarian strongholds of either atheists or agnostics. Strongholds, which, since the latest SALF terrorism, have begun exchanging nightly mortar fire in the escalating conflict that Swedish authorities seem unable to contain.

So far the United Nations response has been limited to broad condemnations of the violence from both sides; while Norway and Finland have been preparing for an influx of refugees and planning for the creation of possible peacekeeping buffer zones within Sweden in case the rising violence transforms into the civil war many expect. The United States, afraid of being embroiled in a long intractable conflict, have confined their involvement to verbal support for moderates on both sides of the sectarian divide. At this point, all one can do is put in concentrated thought that Sweden’s Atheists and Agnostics can reconcile before civil war breaks out and, together, realize the dream of one united Sweden.

Ryan Cresswell
Senior Editor Of The Lapine

Religious intolerance in Pakistan widespread: US

By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: While Pakistan was credited with having taken ‘some steps’ to improve the treatment of religious minorities, the International Religious Freedom Report, released at the weekend, described the general situation on this front in pretty negative terms.

The report, covering 2007, said, “The government took some steps to improve its treatment of religious minorities during the period covered by this report, but serious problems remained. Law enforcement personnel abused religious minorities in custody. Security forces and other government agencies did not adequately prevent or address societal abuse against minorities. Discriminatory legislation and the government’s failure to take action against societal forces hostile to those who practice a different religious belief fostered religious intolerance, acts of violence, and intimidation against religious minorities.”

It said, “Specific laws that discriminate against religious minorities include anti-Ahmadi and blasphemy laws. The Ahmadiyya community continued to face governmental and societal discrimination and legal bars to the practice of its religious beliefs. Members of other Islamic sects also claimed governmental discrimination.”

The report said relations between religious communities remained tense and social discrimination against minorities was widespread, accompanied by violence. Terrorist and extremist groups and individuals continued to target religious congregations. The report pointed out that freedom of speech in Pakistan was subject to ‘reasonable’ restrictions in the interests of the ‘glory of Islam’. The consequences for contravening the country’s blasphemy laws are death.

There is life imprisonment for defiling, damaging, or desecrating the Holy Quran and 10 years in jail for insulting another’s religious feelings. “These laws are often used to settle personal scores as well as to intimidate vulnerable Muslims, sectarian opponents, and religious minorities,” said the annual review of religious freedom around the world.

The report took note of the December 2006 Women’s Protection Bill for which it credited former president Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf, which amended the Hudood Ordinance and moved cases of rape and adultery to secular rather than Shariah courts. Musharraf also ordered the release of all women imprisoned under the Hudood Ordinance, resulting in the release of 2,500 women.

According to the annual review, most senior levels continued to call for interfaith dialogue and sectarian harmony as part of its programme to promote enlightened moderation and during the year held three interfaith conferences, one each in Lahore, Peshawar, and Karachi.

Promotions: Promotions for all minority groups appear limited within the civil service, particularly acute for Ahmadis, who contend that a ‘glass ceiling’ prevents them from being promoted to senior positions. The report also points out that there have been forced conversions to Islam, especially in Sindh where 15-20 Hindu families were forced to convert.

Sectarian violence is widespread. The report notes that as part of its overall public education reform programme, valued at $100 million, the US government provided substantial financial support to the government’s curriculum reform initiative, which included eliminating the teaching of religious intolerance.