Reuters has a report about a group of 700 Pakistani lawyers in the Punjab who are vigorously promoting support for the concept of “Death for Blasphemy” and are part of a consortium whose mission is to ensure that those that are accused are then charged, tried, and execute … no exceptions.
A little-known alliance of hundreds of lawyers in Pakistan is behind the rise in prosecutions for blasphemy, a crime punishable by death that goes to the heart of an ideological clash between reformers and religious conservatives.
The group, whose name translates as The Movement for the Finality of the Prophethood, offers free legal advice to complainants and has packed courtrooms with representatives, a tactic critics say is designed to help it gain convictions.
The stated mission of the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Lawyers’ Forum and its leader Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry is uncompromising: to use its expertise and influence to ensure that anyone insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammad is charged, tried and executed.
“Whoever does this (blasphemy), the punishment is only death. There is no alternative,” Chaudhry told supporters crammed into his small office behind the towering red-brick High Court building in the eastern city of Lahore.
Should I name and shame?
Of course, and so here is the guy behind all this. His name is Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry and he leads the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Lawyers’ Forum.
As you might guess, Mr Chaudhry was the defence lawyer for Mumtaz Qadri who was recently executed for murdering the governor of the Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, back in 2011. The defence was that the governor had dared to criticise the utterly absurd blasphemy laws, and so the murder was fully justified. He lost his case and Mr Qadri was executed a couple of weeks ago for that 2011 murder, but was then hailed by ten of thousands as a hero.
They have been busy
Sadly this legal campaigning has successfully created a climate of fear and intimidation …
Since Khatm-e-Nubuwwat was founded 15 years ago, the number of criminal blasphemy cases filed in Punjab, the group’s home base and Pakistan’s most populous province, had tripled to 336 by 2014, according to police figures.
It fell to 210 in 2015 as stricter provincial rules were applied, but critics said the number was still too high.
Chaudhry told Reuters he had personally been involved in more than 50 criminal blasphemy cases, and said his group had grown to 700 lawyers in Punjab, where the majority of blasphemy cases are heard.
“If they hear of a complaint, the lawyers will come to the person and offer to take the case for free,” said a policeman, who asked not to be named to avoid reprisals.
“Sometimes they arrive with people and encourage them to make a complaint.”
Blasphemy, the “crime” with no victim
The very concept of Blasphemy is completely and utterly meaningless, and so what we really have here is a religious tool that is used to gag and silence any and all criticism of utterly absurd ideas.
Some might indeed passionately and deeply believe specific things, but when you find that even the very expression of doubt stirs up a blood lust to slaughter innocent people, then clearly vocal criticism of such ideas must be deployed.
There are several sections of Pakistan’s Criminal Code that together make up its blasphemy laws.
- § 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object. – so who gets to define what is and is not sacred?
- § 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings. – how do you actually legally measure religious feelings?
- § 295-B forbids defiling the Quran. – it’s a book, paper and ink, there is nothing magical about it. If you own a copy, what happens to it should never be the business of the state.
- § 295-C forbids defaming the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Except for § 295-C, the provisions of § 295 require that an offence be a consequence of the accused’s intent. Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life. Defaming Muhammad merits death with or without a fine. – that puts all Christians in the firing line, from their viewpoint Jesus is God and Muhammad is a false prophet. § 295-C is in itself an infraction of § 295, § 295-A and also § 298
- § 298 states: Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both. – once again we are back to legally measuring religious feelings
- § 298-A prohibits the use of any derogatory remark or representation in respect of Muslim holy personages. – Ah yes, an Islam only clause; not a surprise.
- § 298-B and § 298-C prohibit the Ahmadiyya from behaving as Muslims behave, calling themselves Muslims, proselytising, or “in any manner whatsoever” outraging the religious feelings of Muslims. Violation of any part of § 298 makes the violator liable to imprisonment for up to three years and liable also to a fine. – The Ahmadiyya hold a variation of Islamic belief that the Sunni majority do not agree with, so they have specific laws that prevent members of this other variation of Islam calling themselves Muslim … yes really. So who gets to decide what is and is not the right type of Islam? Well here we discover it is the majority.
There is quite rightly a lot of criticism of the Blasphemy laws in Pakistan and deep concerns that they are being abused by people who simply level a charge of Blasphemy in order to settle a personal score against somebody. That all however ducks the real issue which is the fact that Blasphemy laws are not simply being abused, but instead Blasphemy laws are an abuse.
Not everybody is a complete religious lunatic in Pakistan, and so far the number of people actually executed by the state for Blasphemy has been zero, but many of those accused have been murdered by mobs of religious fanatics who simply ganged up and slaughtered people accused of blasphemy – that is not uncommon.
Monty Python nailed it
Satire and mockery is the only appropriate response when faced with such barbaric immoral thinking …