Anti Blasphemy: What Went Wrong

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Blasphemy, Pakistan, Islam, Holy Quran, Anti BlasphemyTwo human beings, accused of burning and throwing a copy of the Holy Quran in garbage, were beaten and torched to death by an enraged mob in Kot Radha Kishan, a town 60 kilometers away from Lahore. These two, Shahzad and Shama Masih were a Christian couple; parents of three and expecting their fourth child. They were bonded laborers in the very brick kiln whose furnace turned them to ashes on November 4th.

Drawing condemnation and demands for better security of the vulnerable minorities, this horrific incident also ignited the debate for the amendment in the controversial Anti-Blasphemy law present in the Pakistan Penal Code. Chapter XV mentions the laws against offenses relating to religion, in which article 295 dates back to the 1860s British era. In 1982, President Zia-ul-Haq introduced an ordinance that added a section to this law. Section 295-B states: “Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or of an extract there from or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.” PPC295C was inserted in 1982 with punishment of life imprisonment or fine for insulting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Later, an amendment to this law was made in 1986 to reflect punishment as death or life imprisonment.

Since its implementation, the law has been severely misused for individual monetary or political gains or to suppress and intimidate the members of minority groups. Incidents as meaningless as a spelling error by an eighth-grader, or throwing away of a business card, or chanting slogans are twisted and tainted to give the impression that a blasphemy has been committed. Such accusations are often a mask to cover up other ongoing disputes. And because the nature of the blasphemy issue is an extremely sensitive one, the claimed culprit ends up imprisoned and under threat until any decision by the court.

The aim behind formulating this law was to prevent people from taking matters into their own hands and serving justice to the accused blasphemers as they pleased. The whole intent and purpose of having a law to deal with an offence through legal means appears to have lost its credibility and it is the crux of the whole problem that surrounds the Blasphemy Law in the country. According to a CRSS report, no one has ever been executed for blasphemy under court orders. Instead, a plethora of incidents have been reported when the suspect has been mercilessly tortured and killed by angry individuals and violent mobs.

Derived from Islamic jurisprudence, the Anti Blasphemy law needs proper understanding and implementation rather than amending or repealing it altogether. A clear-cut definition of what counts as blasphemy, scrutiny of the witnesses and the proofs they provide; security for the suspect from vigilante mobs is need of the hour. State and state alone must dole out punishments according to the court verdict. Vigilantism can only be prevented through swift justice. An equally fitting penalty should be crafted for people who lodge fake blasphemy cases and for those who take matters in their brutal hands.

Turning into a crowd of ruthless killers, in the name of protecting a religion whose followers wish peace to each other with every greeting, is nothing short of sacrilege. Burning people for unproven allegations of insulting the very man (PBUH), who would plead for the wronged ones amongst ‘them’ on the Day of Judgment; is it less of a sin than what you accused them of?

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Is a budding research intern at PKKH, Khoulah, a Mass Communication student aspires to be a successful writer and photojournalist one day. She tweets @theKhoulah and blogs at khoulah.wordpress.com

Discussion4 Comments

  1. Becoming less than a muslim or anything but a muslim is what has gone wrong.

    Animals do not a precise the law and desecrating the love and compassion, a sense of righteousness and fairness that was taught by prophet Muhammad pbuh.

    A corrupt police and an equally corrupt benign version of Islam being preached.

    Why did the Police who desecrated the Quran in La hire during he PAT clampdown face the same punishment?

    These are people disengaged from society unemployed hungry disillusioned who have lost all trust in a pathetic government but more importantly faith.

    We need change in Pakistan or get suck into self destruction from within even if the matchstick that has sparked this fire comes from elsewhere.

    Disgusted with Pakistan today but still maintain hope.

    Change yourselves then your family and change he one to your right your left and in front of you.

  2. Blasphemy is not an Arabic term; several terms are used in Islamic religious literature for the concept of blasphemy. These include insult, abuse, vilification, denial, concoction,curse, accuse, and defame.

    Blasphemy is defined in section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code in the following words: “Use of derogatory remarks, etc. in respect of the holy Prophet p.b.u.h. by word, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by importation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiling the sacred name of the Holy Prophet p.b.u.h. and shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall be liable to fine.

    This concept of blasphemy and the prescribed punishment are both contradictory to the Qur’an and the Prophet’s conduct. The Qur’an prescribes restraint, and distancing from the blasphemous persons or situations. The emphasis is on restraint and forgiveness. A study of the following verses should bear this out:

    “When ye hear the signs of Allah held in defiance and ridicule, ye are not to sit with them unless they turn to a different theme.” [Qur’an 4:140]

    “And when they hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say: “to us our deeds and to you yours; peace be to you.” [Qur’an 28: 55]

    “Hold to forgiveness, command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant.” [Qur’an 7:199]

    “Have patience with what they say, and leaves them with noble (dignity).” [Qur’an 73:10]

    “And the servants of Allah . . . are those who walked on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say ‘Peace'” [Qur’an 25:63]

    “Allah is with those who restrain themselves.” [Qur’an 16: 128]

    “. . . But they uttered blasphemy . . . if they repent, it will be best for them, but if they turn back, Allah will punish them.” [Qur’an 9:47]

    The Qur’an set strict limits on punishment for any and every crime.

    “And if you punished, let your punishment be proportionate to the wrong that has been done to you; but if you show patience, that is indeed the best course. [Qur’an 16:126]

    “The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto: but if a person forgets and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah.” [Qur’an 62:40]

    “Twice will they be given their reward, for that they have persevered, (and) they avert evil with good.” [Qur’an 28:54]

    The law as presently formulated is a naked and blatant transgression against the Qur’an. It trespasses Hadood Allah- the limits set by Allah and the Prophet’s conduct. Allah forbid, we have no authority to consider Allah and the Last of His Messengers in any way deficient or inadequate in dealing with blasphemy or to take it upon ourselves to try to outdo them. This approach is uncalled for, indeed, blasphemous. Pakistan happens to be a so-called Islamic state, yet there is no law to take cognizance of such trespasses.

    Shahzad and Shama Masih were a bonded laborer, with limited resources and therefore had no access to Qura’n or can purchase one.

    Bonded labor is forbidden in Islam. A slave has equal and same needs as that of a free person. Therefore their needs is to be taken care off. Read the biography of Umar Bin Khattab (ra).

    Burning of Human beings are forbidden in Islam. By committing such an act the perpetrators have committed shirk as its the right of ALLAH Alone to burn or not to burn anybody.

    The perpetrators have committed 3 murders therefore they should be prosecuted of committing

    1) Blasphemy
    2) Shirk
    3) Taking law into their own hands
    4) Murder
    5) Other issues not yet identified

    There may be other backers not yet identified.

    Hang all of them when found guilty or forgiven if the relatives of the victim agree and compensated generously.

    If forgiven by relatives, yet they should be punished for blasphemy and shirk.

    Peace.

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