Sadly Pakistan appears to still be living in the 7th Century, they have demonstrated this with the sentence handed out to 25 year old Hazrat Ali Shah last Wednesday. The AFP press release states …
Hazrat Ali Shah, 25, was convicted of blaspheming against the Muslim Prophet Mohammed and the Koran during a quarrel in his village in northern Pakistan in March 2011.
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population are Muslims, and under the country’s penal code insulting the Prophet Mohammed can be punished by death.
“The additional session judge Azar Khan has passed a sentence on him (Shah) of capital punishment and imprisonment for 10 years under the charges of blasphemy,” Syed Zamurd Shah, the district and session judge in the northern city of Chitral, told AFP.
He said that the sentence was announced on Wednesday after people from the village gave evidence against Shah.
The death penalty was added to the blasphemy law under Islamist military dictator General Zia-ul Haq in 1986 but as yet no-one has been executed for the crime.
Wait what! … how is that going to work, are they going to lock him up for 10 years and then murder him?
Blasphemy, as a concept is quite frankly insane and completely irrational, there are two very fundamental objections:
- It breaches a very basic human right – Freedom of thought. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which is legally binding on member states of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, freedom of thought is listed under Article 18, and Pakistan signed up to that on 23 June 2010. This death sentence is a sentence against Pakistan itself.
- The entire concept of Blasphemy is relative, from the viewpoint of every single belief, every other belief is Blasphemy. For example no Muslim would accept the Christian belief that Jesus is God, and so every Muslim in Pakistan is a Blasphemer, could the US now use that as justification to nuke the lot of them?
The tragedy here is that the Blasphemy laws within Pakistan are structured to give an exclusive privilege to one specific variation of Islamic belief and so all other variations of Islam and all non-Islamic variations are openly discriminated against. Beyond that, the laws themselves commonly subject anybody who is accused to threats and attacks. No need for any actual Blasphemy, just start a whisper and you will soon have a mob baying for blood.
Only a week or two back, a girls school was burned to the ground and the headteacher arrested and thrown in jail, not for something he actually said or did himself, but simply because one of his staff made a typo in some homework. That accidental typo turned out to be Blasphemy. He was kept locked up and was charged with Blasphemy, and was only release on bail yesterday … yet he had no direct involvement and is a pious Muslim himself. In a climate like that, nobody is safe.
The very concept of simply mouthing the wrong words, or the simple association with somebody who might have utilized such an incantation is all you need, and apparently merits death. The belief, the core concept itself, must be robustly challenged if anything is to actually change. Striking the insane Blasphemy laws off the statute books in Pakistan will not help, because a whisper will still trigger mob action by religious lunatics.
The real challenge is that the concept is not a fringe idea, and is not limited to a few fanatics, the majority of Muslim scholars today hold to the traditional view that apostasy is punishable by death. Several contemporary Muslim scholars, including influential Islamic reformers have rejected this, arguing for religious freedom instead, but while they remain a minority, this utterly barbaric form of religious driven murder and oppression will continue to prevail.
In the end, if Allah is indeed very sensitive and gets so damn offended, then his followers should simply leave it up to him to smit those that offend him, his followers should not be required to wash their hands in blood.