Over my fourteen years working in civil society, raising awareness about the plight of disadvantaged groups stands out as the most frequent request those disadvantaged groups make of us. With terrible news coming out of Pakistan, this week has been no different.
You may have seen the desperate story. Mohammed Asghar, a British man from Edinburgh with a history of mental health problems – diagnosed, in fact, as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in 2010 – was later the same year arrested in Pakistan for crimes of blasphemy. His offence was to write a series of letters to a lawyer and politician claiming to be a prophet. Last Thursday, at a court in the city of Rawalpini, Mr Asghar was sentenced to death for that crime.
It is a desperately sad fact of life that the disadvantaged and the misunderstood often have to endure more obstacles in life entirely due to the sorry state of the conditions they seldom manage to transcend. Because of this, ignorance of, and prejudice towards such people and such groups ought to be seen as a cultural crime against humanity. It must end. Conversely, we must do everything in our power to work towards a more tolerant approach to those ‘not like us’. With this aim in mind, and in solidarity with our fellow mental health campaigning groups, LFG has therefore decided to maintain a dignified silence on the tragic unfolding of events in Pakistan. Islam is a religion much maligned, with ignorance of its status as a religion of peace and tolerance on the increase, and ‘islamophobia’ growing into a real and significant problem in the UK and elsewhere.
As for the issue of schizophrenia: please join us, Stephen Fry, Catherine Zeta Jones, Britney Spears and Tulisa for the big
#schizophreniaawarenessweek running 6th – 10th October. We’re getting rather excited! Are you?