Is Salman Taseer in his grave because some Christian-owned goats strayed into Muslim fields in the Punjab region of Pakistan? Did close to 100 churchgoers in Iraq and Egypt die because two abused Coptic Christian wives opted to convert to Islam in an attempt to sidestep their creed’s ban on divorce?

These seemingly absurd sparks ignited two of the higher-octane bonfires in a new wave in the persecution of minority Christians across the Islamic world in recent days.

But look closely and it emerges that what is claimed to have been done in the name of Allah is more often about raw political power and social control, either exercised by autocratic regimes or sought by extremist and fundamentalist breakouts – like Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and its imitators.

Taseer, the provincial governor in Punjab, was gunned down on Tuesday, allegedly by one of his own security detail, because of his outspoken defence of Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five who was charged under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws because of the terms in which she is alleged to have spoken about the prophet Muhammad amidst argument with her Muslim neighbours over her wandering goats.

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