The Blasphemy Law

Religion and Politics

In Pakistan there is a blasphemy law that prohibits any insult or injury to any place of worship, the Qur’an, or any defilement of religious symbolic belief, including the prophet Muhammad. This law has been a part of the Pakistan’s Shariah government and any of these acts are punishable by a fine, life imprisonment, or even death.

On August 16, 2012, a young Christian girl was accused of blasphemy for tearing up a Qur’an (http://aje.me/1k6l0RE). For this crime she was imprisoned and is awaiting trial. According to some sources, this girl was suffering from a mental disability, which meant that she was unaware of the consequences to her actions. Despite this knowledge she was still held accountable and could potentially have been sentenced to death.

It is eventually revealed that the accuser in this case, an Imam (religious preacher) was in fact trying to frame the girl for committing a blasphemous act, and he was arrested and she released. This incident in Pakistan raised a lot of questions regarding whether or not this law should be a part of Pakistan’s legislation. According to one article in al-jazeera (http://aje.me/1hkd3Vb), there have been roughly 1200-4000 blasphemy cases since 1986.

This law is meant to protect religious beliefs and doctrines that are imbedded in Sharia law, or Islamic law. Yet, in the same article by al-jazeera (http://aje.me/1hkd3Vb), there is no definition of blasphemy in the Pakistan Penal code. This leaves the law open to interpretation and manipulation by religious fundamentalists, inciting public censure. The public’s reaction to defilement of anything that is considered sacred, is often antagonistic to the accused and at times results in a mob mentality that has been viewed over and over again in the media, such as the reaction to YouTube videos about the prophet Muhammad and even recently, a British man in Pakistan claiming in letters to be a the prophet (http://aje.me/1gbpiGh).

Attempts to change this law have been met with resistance and violence. Those advocating change have also been assassinated, like Salman Taseer (governor of Punjab) and Shahbaz Bhatti (federal minister for minorities) (http://aje.me/1hkd3Vb). Many religious fundamentalist groups support the law, and make any change harder to implement. Although many people are still fighting to start making those changes, because of a mob mentality and religious groups supporting it, cases like that of Mohammad Asghar (http://aje.me/1gbpiGh), the man claiming to be a prophet, are still being held accountable, regardless of their mental state, for their blasphemous actions, and in his case, he is now sentenced to die.

To me, it seems almost sad that a law such as blasphemy still exists where in other parts of the world; freedom of speech is considered a right. Defilement of property, people and laws, are what should be held as criminal acts, but not because they are a part of a religion. Doesn’t this almost make it seem like supporters of this law do not have enough faith in the strength of their own beliefs, that they must sentence a person to die for saying they are a prophet or for making poorly produced videos? My first reaction is to laugh at them, because their actions do not affect my faith or that of any other. Instead this whole situation seems almost childish, where a bully makes fun of another child and they fight. But if the child ignores the bully, then only the bully looks silly. (ANR)

Al-Jazeera. 2012. Pakistan leader orders ‘blasphemy girl’ probe. Retrieved from
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2012/08/201282085643993256.html
http://aje.me/1k6l0RE

Al-Jazeera. 2012. The price of blasphemy in Pakistan. Retrieved from
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/08/201282714106498222.html
http://aje.me/1hkd3Vb

Al-Jazeera. 2012. Angry protests spread over anti-Islam video. Retrieved from
http://www.aljazeera.com/video/middleeast/2012/09/20129130543708779.html
http://aje.me/1mEdorj

Al-Jazeera.2014. Pakistan sentences man to die for blasphemy. Retrieved from
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2014/01/pakistan-sentences-man-death-blasphemy-2014124104727553298.html
http://aje.me/1gbpiGh

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