Blasphemy law and conviction in Pakistan: The Facts and Fiction which Pope Benedict and every one else must know:
- In many societies blasphemy in some form or another has been an offense punishable by law. In the Christian religion, blasphemy has been regarded as a sin by moral theologians; St. Thomas Aquinas described it as a sin against faith. For the Muslim it is blasphemy to speak contemptuously not only of God but also of Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]. The Mosaic Lawdecreed death by stoning as the penalty for the blasphemer. Under the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (reigned 527-565) the death penalty was decreed for blasphemy. In the United States many states have legislation aimed at the offense. In Scotland until the 18th century it was punishable by death, and in England it is both a statutory and a common-law offense. It was recognized as the latter in the 17th century; the underlying idea apparently was that an attack on religion is necessarily an attack on the state. This idea probably has been the reason why penalties have been laid down for blasphemy in some secular legal codes.[Encyclopedia Britannica]
- The anti blasphemy law was introduced in Pakistan 23 years ago, after prolonged debates, discussions among legal, religious experts, for years which was later approved by the elected parliament for with some changes introduced on the recommendation of judiciary. All aspects including judicial, religious, cultural, social and human aspects were kept in view by the those entrusted with the task. TheFederal Shari’ah Court interpreted 295c, to include all the prophet of Allah [ie, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus till Muhammad, peace be upon them all. Hence blasphemy against Moses or Jesus Christ bears same punishment as against Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]. No country in the world can boast of such a comprehensive blasphemy law.
- During last 23 years, total 964 cases were registered under this law:
a. Against Muslims 479 cases, 50% of total.
b. Christians, 119 cases, 12%
c. Ahmadi’s [a deviant group] 340 cases, 35%
d. Hindus 14 cases 1.5%
e. Others 12 cases, 1.2%
3. Which religious group is most affected? Muslims 50%, Christians are only 12%.
4. Not a single person has been hanged through judicial process under this law, the conviction by lower courts were set aside by higher courts after judicial process, due to lack of evidence etc.
It is totally absurd to say that this law targets minorities, the statistics show 50% accused were Muslims, Christians being only 12%.
Misuse of any law can not be overruled, we know there are false cases registered for murder, robbery, corruption, rape etc, no one has ever demanded that these law should be dropped. Always efforts are made to improve upon the judicial and investigation process to nullify the misuse of any law.
The case of Dr. Afia Siddiqui is worth mentioning. She was kidnapped form Karachi in 2003 along with her three children, taken to Afghanistan, tried in USA courts: “She was alleged to be carrying inflammable materials and maps of potential targets in the United States “in jars” in her handbag. How big these ‘jars’ were, and how many kilogrammes of explosives were being transported in them was not mentioned to astounded readers. We were also informed that the next day, Dr Siddiqui had been shot in the abdomen “at least once” by an American soldier in self-defence after coming under fire from Dr Siddiqui who had come rushing out from behind a curtain where she was being held “unrestrained” for questioning, and picking up an M4 service rifle that had been left “at his feet” by an American warrant officer, had fired at him. And that but for the timely deflection of her shot by an Afghan interpreter she should have killed the American!!!! Dr Afia Siddiqui is accused of crimes ranging from buying blood diamonds to planning terrorist attacks to being the vilest person on earth. Yet, she was charged in court with what can only be called an impossible crime.
Finally the Pakistani neuroscientist Dr.Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years of imprisonment by a US federal court inManhattan, after she was “convicted” of firing at US troops inAfghanistan while in their custody and other six charges brought against her. The world is silent on this human tragedy, but hue and cry to repeal the blasphemy law of Pakistan to save a woman convicted by local courts. What a dichotomy, hypocrisy and dual standards.
Many European countries have law against ‘Holocaust Denial’, is it not against freedom of speech? But it is right of every country to devise laws which they think are beneficial for their people.
Why then hue and cry against Anti Blasphemy law?
It must be understood well that Muslims [practicing or non practicing] love Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] and Qur’an more than their lives.
While disciples of Prophet Jesus Christ [peace be upon him] deserted him at the time of crisis [Mt 26:56,Mr 14:50
] , the companions of Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] remained steadfast in critical times and even laid down their lives. Muslims believe and also love all Biblical prophets from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses till Jesus Christ [peace be upon them all], though there is slandering against them in Bible[Genesis;Chapter5-15, Genesis;19:30-38, Genesis;9:20-27, 2 Samuel;11:4, 6-25, 1 Kings 1-11 and 1 Kings;11:4-7, 9-11].
The members of the household of Prophet [peace be upon him] and his pious Companions [Sahaba], especially Four Rightly Guided Caliphs [Rashdun] are next in respect and love. While Christian West has the tradition of slandering their prophets, it is unthinkable in Islam. On the pretext of freedom of expression it can not be allowed to happen come what may!
Every one must respect the law of the land and sentiments and sensitivities of local population. West has abandoned the Bible and law, they have allowed gay marriages, according to the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, no law can be made repugnant to Islam [Qur’an and Sunnah]. This is our country every one must respect the law. Any law can be misused, but there are safeguards, in the tiers of judiciary, that’s the reason in 23 years not a single person was hanged. Asia Bibi, who was convicted in lower court shall get justice, the judicial process must be allowed to be followed.
Mr.Salman Tasir, the so called liberal governor of Punjab took law in to his own hands by rejecting the verdict by lower court, option of appeal in higher courts still exist. He went to police station, held a press conference, declared Asia Bibi as innocent calling it as black law, this was loose talk by a responsible official. Later he retracted and clarified that he was not against the blasphemy law but the execution methodology, which even Dt.Tahir ul Qadri also mentions. But the perceptions do not get changed quickly. President of Pakistan and Governors enjoy immunity, a common man can not hire expensive lawyers to sue Governor Salman Tasir [enjoying immunity], even clear verdict by Supreme court of Pakistan about President Asif Zardari have not been implemented so far. If there is no respect of law, people take law in their on hands, as happened in this case. He violated the law, showing disrespect to court verdict like his beloved President creating ugly circumstances culminating to his death. If we don’t respect court decisions, people shall take law in their own hands, no one wants mob justice or killing on roads. Had the rulers established respect of law, equal for all citizens, some one could have gone to courts, where Mr.Salman Tasir would have been heard about allegations against him and set free if found innocent. [We have precedence of 2nd Caliph Omar Khattab (r.a) personally appearing in courts to face charges, but Rulers of Islamic Republic of Pakistan are the absolute monarchs enjoying immunity from law, with billions of dollars in Swiss banks and properties abroad.]
- Every one, including Pope Benedict, instead of criticizing, asking to repeal the law and demanding to leave the convicted blasphemer, they should arrange good legal team to contest the case in courts. If she is innocent she will get her freedom. Higher courts exercise stringent criteria of witness and benefit of doubt is fully granted to the accused in Islamic law, the reason of no one ever punished under this law in 23 years.
- Beware, the Muslims and People of Pakistan can not tolerate non sense on the matters of their beloved Prophet [pbuh], Holy Qur’an, honourable members of household of Prophet [pbuh] which includes the mothers of Believers and the four pious rightly guided Caliphs under any pretext.
- The Blasphemy law should be amended to include appropriate punishments for those who slander honourable members of household of Prophet [pbuh], the mothers of Believers and the four pious rightly guided Caliphs.
- This should be done gradually after detailed consultations and incorporating all sections of society.
- Finally the law should be approved through referendum and incorporated in constitution.
[Aftab Ahmad Khan, Lahore, Pakistan]
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