The Moment

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Mian Khursheed / Reuters

Taseer's assassin, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, shouts out religious slogans as he is hauled away by Islamabad police

Death by violence is so common in Pakistan that it's only human to become inured to the bloodshed. But the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the country's most populous province, Punjab, stands for something much more than the killing of yet another politician: two sorely needed virtues in Pakistan, tolerance and compassion, have been struck down too. Taseer was shot — 26 times according to police — by one of his bodyguards because he opposed local blasphemy laws that can punish any criticism of Islam with execution, and because he supported the cause of a Christian village woman so jailed. For his stance, Taseer was accused by radical Muslims of himself being a blasphemer whose life could justifiably be taken. The manner of his murder reveals a truth that many Muslims still deny: this is not a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West, but an internal conflict between moderates who advocate inclusiveness and extremists who preach hatred. For Pakistan that struggle is titanic: the winner will determine if Islam in the country retains its soul, or loses it.