Pakistan’s Top Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Murder Case

From The Guardian:

A former police bodyguard revered as a hero by Pakistani conservatives for killing a politician who criticised the country’s blasphemy laws has had his death sentence upheld.
In ordinary circumstances there would never be any doubt about which way the supreme court decision would go: Mumtaz Qadri is unrepentent at having shot dead Salmaan Taseer, then governor of Punjar, as he left a restaurant in a busy Islamabad market in January 2011. But moderates have claimed the ruling is a sign of a change in official attitudes towards religious extremism.

In the months before his murder, Taseer had sparked anger among religious conservatives by taking up the cause of Asia Bibi, a poor Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad.

Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer and head of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, hailed the upholding of Qadri’s conviction for murder as a “brave decision” and “the first step in introducing some rational discourse on blasphemy”.

The only thing now standing between Qadri and execution is an appeal for a presidential pardon, which few expect to be granted.

You can read the entire article here.

Raif Badawi, Imprisoned Saudi Blogger, Is Awarded Free-Speech Prize

From the New York Times:

A Saudi blogger who was sentenced to prison and publicly flogged on charges that he had insulted Islam was awarded a major free -speech prize on Tuesday in London.

The blogger, Raif Badawi, was named the international co-recipient of Britain’s PEN Pinter Prize. He was chosen from a shortlist by the poetJames Fenton, who was the British recipient of the award in June. Mr. Badawi is serving a 10-year sentence after his conviction last year on charges including “violating Islamic values and propagating liberal thought,” according to English PEN, the writers group that bestows the prize. A Saudi court fined him one million riyals, about $267,000, and sentenced him to receive 1,000 lashes spread out over 20 floggings.

You can read the entire article here.

Christian Pastor Survives Knife Attack at Home in Bangladesh

A troubling development out of Bangladesh, via the Associated Press:

A Bangladeshi pastor survived an attempt on his life by three men who came to his home pretending to want to learn about Christianity, police and the victim said Tuesday.

The attempt follows two killings of foreigners last week in the predominantly Muslim country grappling with violence claimed by hard-line Islamic groups.

Keep reading here.

Why Repealing Blasphemy Laws Might Help Promote Religious Freedom

Brandon Withrow, writing for Religion News Service last week, explores how repealing blasphemy laws would help to promote freedom of religion or belief, quoting our own Michael De Dora:

“God is a lie.”

In some countries, uttering, scribbling or texting that statement will get you thrown in jail, beaten with a rod or possibly killed. The “crime” is blasphemy and Wednesday (Sept. 30) is “International Blasphemy Rights Day,” set aside by human rights activists to highlight the blasphemy laws on the books in 22 percent of the world’s nations, according to the Pew Research Center.

Among those countries frequently cited by human rights groups with the most aggressive laws banning free expression are China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

“Freedom of conscience is a fundamental right, and it must be valued, protected and advanced everywhere in the world,” says Michael De Dora, director of the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy — the organization behind Blasphemy Rights Day — and the center’s representative to the United Nations. The Center for Inquiry is a humanistic and First Amendment watchdog group based in Buffalo, N.Y.

You can read read the rest of Withrow’s article here.

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The Campaign for Free Expression is an initiative of the Center for Inquiry (CFI) to focus the public's attention and efforts on one of the most basic and foundational human rights: the freedom to express yourself. We hope you join us.