24 February 2013

Pakistan: where it's a blasphemy to be against the blasphemy laws

If the case against Shehrbano "Sherry" Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., is indeed going to proceed, this will create a perfectly closed logical loop, a Catch-22 situation that is exactly what any Muslim (or other) religious fundie could only dream about.

And what is the alleged crime of Ms Rehman? Here it goes:

Police in the Punjabi city of Multan filed a blasphemy case against Rehman following a complaint by a local businessman named Muhammad Faheem Akhtar Gill.

BBC Urdu reported that Gill claimed Rehman committed blasphemy during a television appearance in November 2010 in which she was discussing the need to reform and ease Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws.
According to the article, Pakistan is the country with the strictest (read "most inhuman") blasphemy laws in the Muslim world.
The blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which are believed to be the strictest in the Muslim world, are a relatively recent phenomenon. When General Zia al-Haq seized power in 1979, he sought to gain support among religious radicals (as well as the conservative middle class) by accelerating the pace of Islamization and through the introduction of Shariah law.

However, what specifically constitutes blasphemy can be subject to broad interpretation, and therein lay many problems. Hundreds of Pakistanis are currently languishing in prisons for allegedly violating the blasphemy laws -- many are religious minorities; others were likely the victims of trumped-up charges.

“[The blasphemy law] was designed as an instrument of persecution,” Ali Hasan Dayan, of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, said. “It's discriminatory and abusive.”

However, death sentences in blasphemy cases have consistently been overturned on appeal, although several of the accused have been murdered in prison while awaiting sentencing.
Once it is finally established (by a precedent such as Ms Rehman's case) that it's a crime to question the blasphemy laws, the laws become invulnerable to any possible attempt to change or throw them out.

And what about vox populi? Apparently, quite happy with this turn of events. Blasphemy laws provide an endless source of entertainment to the public, it looks like:
An angry crowd of people in Pakistan burned a man to death over allegations he committed “blasphemy” by publicly burning the Islamic holy book, the Quran.

According to police in the Ahmedpur East area of Bahawalpur, in Punjab province, the man was seized from a police station and lynched in front of thousands of onlookers, before police could even question the suspect. He was savagely beaten and then had petrol poured over his body and incinerated.
And don't think the example above is chosen to score a cheap point, because:
According to sources, 51 people accused of blasphemy were murdered before their respective trials were over.
And so it goes.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

Regretting defiing opposition to blasphemy laws as blasphemy is probably also blasphemy. Be glad you don't live in Pakistan.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Guilty as charged ;-)

And yes, I am. Hag Sameach!