web analytics
October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

Last year the governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer, was shot dead for merely suggesting the blasphemy laws should be changed.
Rimsha Masih

Rimsha Masih
Photo Credit: AsiaNews.it

The ordeal of Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian arrested on charges of blasphemy, is far from over. In Pakistan, an allegation of blasphemy can be enough to result in the accused being killed even in the absence of a trial or evidence.

Masih, age fourteen, was charged under Pakistan’s notoriously draconian blasphemy laws, with burning a copy of the Quran, and held for three weeks in Rawalpindi prison.

There are serious flaws in the case against Masih. Not only is she a minor, but there are also reports that she has learning difficulties and is not of full mental capacity. To complicate the matter further, a local imam has also been arrested on claims that over he framed the girl after an ongoing dispute with her family.

Despite this, blasphemy allegations continue to elicit such passions in Pakistan that authorities could not risk sending Masih home; and a number of her neighbours, fearing reprisals after mosques disclosed her address, have fled their village.

Blasphemy is such a contentious issue that despite being released on bail, Masih had to be taken by an armoured vehicle to a military helicopter and then transported to an undisclosed location where she is currently in hiding. Police fear that if Masih is allowed to return to her village, a vigilante mob would attack her.

These fears are not unfounded. A lawyer for the prosecution warned that if Masih were not convicted, such a scenario was likely. Last year the governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer, was shot dead for merely suggesting the blasphemy laws should be changed. Weeks after Taseer’s assassination Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic who was Pakistan’s only Christian member of the Cabinet, and who opposed the blasphemy laws, was also killed.

Far from causing revulsion, these assassinations were largely welcomed by militant groups and their supporters. Taseer’s assassin was lauded not just by radicals, but by those who would be expected to oppose mob “justice”: lawyers. Instead of being outraged, the young lawyers association of the Punjab offered to defend Taseer’s killer pro bono.

Minorities, being subject to almost half of all prosecutions under the law despite comprising about only 3% of the overall population, have particularly suffered under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which is drafted in broad terms and states:

Article 295

B – Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.

C – Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

Politicians who want to challenge the law are routinely killed or intimidated, making the government keen to pursue – rather than curtail – blasphemy laws.

In 2009, in an effort an that is still current, Pakistan sponsored UN Res. 1618, to persuade the United Nation to adopt a law that initially would internationally criminalize questioning or discussing Islam, but was then changed to state “religions.” The U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, broke years of silence on the topic to sponsor an official three-day, closed-door meeting on the Resolution in Washington D.C. just last December.

Pakistan, has also started monitoring internet and text communications in Pakistan, to ensure that people are not sending, searching, or looking up material that could be considered insulting to Islam.

This is the impasse: No one in Pakistan is willing to challenge the blasphemy laws. Those who do are assassinated. Mob justice is rampant in such cases, with the issues becoming highly charged and little attention being paid to the facts. The implications for those accused of such crimes are devastating.

Masih has no future in Pakistan. To ensure she can live her life, the British Pakistani Christian Association is currently lobbying the British government to grant her asylum so she can escape the strictures of religious fanaticism in the country.

In Pakistan, the mere allegation of blasphemy imposes the life sentence of a death sentence.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

About the Author: Shiraz Maher holds a degree in History from the University of Leeds and an MPhil in Historical Studies from Cambridge University. After leaving university, he worked as a journalist, reporting on terrorism, radicalization and the Middle East. His writings have appeared in the Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Guardian, New Statesman, Prospect, Wall Street Journal and Standpoint.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Do you know where your vegetables grow?
Not So Kosher Shemittah L’Mehadrin
Latest Indepth Stories
Eller-102414-Cart

I had to hire a babysitter so that I could go shopping or have someone come with me to push Caroline in her wheelchair.

Bills to restore the balance of power in Israel will be fought by the not-so-judicial left.

Widespread agreement in Israel opposing Palestinian diplomatic warfare, commonly called “lawfare.”

Chaye Zisel Braun

Arab terrorism against Jews and the State of Israel is not something we should be “calm” about.

Peace Now Chairman Yariv Oppenheimer

The Israeli left, led by tenured academics, endorses pretty much anything harmful to its own country

We were devastated: The exploitation of our father’s murder as a vehicle for political commentary.

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Torah scroll which my family donated will ride aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

More Articles from Shiraz Maher
us-troops-leaving-afghanistan.jpeg

Herein lies the problem in Pakistan. The political class is simply unwilling to confront the Taliban which operates freely across much of the FATA region. Instead, they make political capital from criticising the drone program operated by the United States which targets terrorists in FATA. It is true that drones can sometimes be a blunt and clumsy tool, but in the absence of any will by Pakistani authorities to chase down the terrorists operating in FATA, this program is the only lifeline available to residents there who oppose the Taliban.

Rimsha Masih

Last year the governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer, was shot dead for merely suggesting the blasphemy laws should be changed.

Fears for the future of religious minorities in Egypt were accentuated earlier this month when it was announced that the last synagogue in the country would be closed down. The Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, which had operated in Alexandria, was the last functioning center of Jewish life in the country. It is now clear that its cavernous halls, built in the nineteenth century, will not be open to worshippers hoping to mark Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services this year.

It needs to be clearly understood America’s civil space program is just as much an instrument of national power as the US Navy or the State Department. It is to be hoped that the President and Congress will in the future recognize this fact.

The latest anti-prostitution campaign in East London typifies an Islamist strategy, which is to create parallel communities for Muslims that do not interact with their non-Muslim neighbors. Islamists use these initiatives to present themselves as active members of the community, often picking on legitimate and understandable concerns. Their aim is to win new recruits and further their divisive agenda.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/pakistans-blasphemy-laws/2012/09/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: