As reported by the Associated Press:
Pakistani police say they have arrested a 16-year-old Christian boy on blasphemy charges after he “liked” an “inappropriate” photograph on Facebook of the Kaaba in Mecca, one of the holiest sites in Islam.
Senior police official Akhtar Ansari said Wednesday the arrest was made this week in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province.
He says police have sent the boy to jail pending trial.
Ansari says police made the arrest after being alerted of the Facebook post by a Muslim, who said he found it insulting.
Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting Islam can be sentenced to death. However the laws are also sometimes used to settle personal scores and target minorities.
You can read more on the story here and here.
Vatican Radio reports that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has urged Pakistan to revoke its draconian blasphemy law. From the article:
The commission based in Geneva, in its periodic report on Pakistan released on August 26, stated that misuse of blasphemy laws is surging in the heavily Islamic country.
The Commission based in Geneva “takes note of the state’s efforts to prevent the abuse of blasphemy laws”, but also expresses concern about “efforts for the broad and vague definition of crimes against religion under articles of the law”, which consists of some articles of the penal Code of Pakistan, and notes “the disproportionate use of those laws against individuals belonging to ethnic and religious minorities”.
The UN Committee in its report, expressed concerns relating “the high number of blasphemy cases based on false accusations with no related investigations and prosecutions, the judges who judge cases of blasphemy face intimidation, death threats and murders.”
You can read the full article here.
Writing in the Daily Times, Nasir Saeed details the disturbing oppression of Christian in Paskistan, calling on the government of Pakistan, politicians, the judiciary, and religious leaders to” take responsibility to stop vigilante justice and the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law”:
Unfortunately, Christians are under a constant threat because of continuous misuse of the blasphemy law against them. Over a petty dispute anyone can accuse another person of blasphemy, without thinking of consequences that are often devastating. We have seen several dreadful instances of this in the past. There is a long list of such atrocities, but to mention a few there are a few that stand out in their enormity of the injustice that was done to Christians. Never can be forgotten the horror of Sanglahill, Joseph colony, Korian and Gojra, where apart from destruction of churches and houses, eight Christians, including children, were burnt alive. Who can forget the Christian couple Shama and Shahzad who in 2015 were killed and then burnt in a brick kiln furnace over unproven charges of blasphemy?
There has been no evidence in any case that anyone had actually committed blasphemy. Nobody has ever been questioned with regard to making false blasphemy claims. This not only encourages the perpetrators but also strengthens their belief that their faith permits them to ‘avenge’ blasphemy, that it is according to the teachings of Islam, and they are not committing any crime. Instead they see it as if they have performed their moral and religious duty in an Islamic state.
The blasphemy laws are written ambiguously and vaguely, and it is not clear what is considered blasphemous, and who will determine whether blasphemy has been committed or not. There is also a need to understand whether blasphemy — if the accusation is proven to be correct — has been committed inadvertently or intentionally. But unfortunately no such measures are ever taken into consideration even though they are important for a fair trial and for justice to be done. People have their own standards to consider blasphemy, and it could be anything that ‘offends’ the accuser. There are also several sections of the blasphemy law, and each section has a different penalty, but because of government’s lack of interest, people have taken the ‘duty of protecting religion’ upon themselves, and they have just one punishment for all offences: the death penalty. If the accused is caught by the so-called vigilantes of religion justice will be done there and then. And that happens despite the Supreme Court’s judgement that nobody has the authority to assume the role of a judge, jury and executioner in a case in which someone is accused of blasphemy.
You can read the full article here.
Kimberly Winston of Religion News Service provides commentary on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws based on her recent trip to the country:
Before leaving for Pakistan, I thought countries that enforce blasphemy laws — Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, among others — would eventually catch up to the rest of the world. Surely, it was a matter of time until they realized free speech must trump religious sensitivities.
My week in Lahore and Islamabad — also the scene of Easter violence over blasphemy laws — changed that. After visiting Christian churches and minority Muslim sects — each time passing barricaded metal gates, gun turrets and skeins of razor wire — we met with an attorney who represents blasphemy defendants, sometimes all the way to Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
This attorney recited case after case he had personally handled in which people, usually Christians, were charged with tearing a page from the Quran or insulting the Prophet Muhammad and were sentenced to death.
Usually, he said, the accusers were looking to settle a personal score with the defendant or steal their wealth. The most notorious case is of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother and field worker facing execution for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the prophet.
But even this attorney — educated at an elite British university, wearing an expensive western suit and speaking English as well as I do — defended the laws.
You can read the full article here.
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.