First Iran, Now Pakistan

While world attention focused on the violent upheaval in Iran, which led to the establishment of an Islamic republic there, a more gradual shift to Islamic orthodoxy was taking place in Pakistan. This less publicized transition to Islamic values, however, concerns West Asian Christians just as much.

Pakistan’s Council for Islamic Ideology, meeting in Karachi last month, adopted laws that represent a new phase in the country’s planned return to strict Islamic life. Earlier, on the anniversary of Mohammad’s birthday in February, President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq announced over national television and radio that Islamic law would begin serving as the criminal code of the nation. He announced legislation based on the Koran to deal with the crimes of adultery, theft, slander, and drinking. The new legislation replaces existing legislation based on English common law. Three days of special celebrations followed, with prominent Muslim religious leaders taking part.

There is much speculation among the Muslim majority and Pakistan minorities about the effects of Islamization of the Pakistani legal system. Christians are especially apprehensive. Will it cause restrictions on evangelism? Will Christians become, in essence, second-class citizens? Will the promised “protection of belief’ that is to be enforced along with Islamic law mean that Muslims are no longer free to leave Islam to embrace another religion?

Some Christians feel, for example, that a true Islamic state leaves no place for Christian teachers in the educational system. Government plans are that local languages, rather than English, will be substituted as the medium of instruction in English elementary and high schools within the next two years. This ...

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