Biden’s Call for Tolerance Welcome in Wake of Rising Tensions
Washington, DC – Vice President Joe Biden made a short trip to Pakistan today, where he called on leaders to fight extremism. His visit came in the wake of the assassination of Governor Salman Taseer, who was murdered by one of his security detail after speaking out against the nation’s blasphemy laws. Human Rights First today praised Biden’s remarks and issued the following statement from Tad Stahnke: “As Governor Taseer’s murder made painfully clear, Pakistan must address the extremism that is dividing the country. Unfortunately, it is not alone. Growing religious violence is destabilizing other nations vital to U.S. security interests, including Egypt and Iraq, and violence targeting religious minorities of all kinds, including Jews, Christians, Muslims and others, threatens the social fabric of other key partners, such as Nigeria, India, Indonesia and parts of both Eastern and Western Europe. Vice President Biden’s remarks today demonstrated the United States’ continued leadership in the push for greater tolerance and respect for the rule of law around the world. We now urge President Obama to build on those words with his own as the State of the Union approaches and the eyes of the world are focused on him.” Last week, in a letter to President Barack Obama, Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino urged him to address recent violence sparked by religious hatred during his upcoming State of the Union address. Massimino called on President Obama to make clear America’s commitments to protecting religious freedom and combating religious violence. She also noted the Obama Administration’s continued leadership in efforts to defeat a United Nations resolution supporting a global blasphemy law. She wrote that national blasphemy laws, such as the Pakistani law challenged by Governor Taseer, damage rather than advance efforts to combat religious intolerance and promote an atmosphere of fear, intolerance and violence. For example, in its recent report Blasphemy Laws Exposed: The Consequences of Criminalizing “Defamation of Religions”, Human Rights First detailed more than 50 recent cases from 15 countries that provide a window into how national blasphemy laws are abused by governments.