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Into the pit

A 70-year-old man has been convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in Rawalpindi.

Muhammad Asghar was arrested in 2010 after writing letters to various people claiming to be a prophet, reports say.

His lawyers argued for leniency, saying he has a history of mental illness, but this was rejected by a medical panel.

Disgusting in every way. So what if someone wrote a bunch of letters claiming to be a prophet? What a harmless inconsequential who could possibly care action. Giving him a ticket comparable to a parking ticket would be a ludicrous abuse of state power; sentencing him to death is just off the charts. Ignoring his mental illness for the sake of sentencing him to death is another step down into the pit of sadistic shitness.

Mr Asghar, who is from Edinburgh, Scotland, was accused of writing letters to police officers claiming to be a prophet. He is thought to have lived in Pakistan for several years.

“Asghar claimed to be a prophet even inside the court. He confessed it in front of the judge,” Javed Gul, a government prosecutor, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

So what, you fucking fool. It doesn’t matter. He could claim to be Tinker Bell or Sasquatch or Elmer Fudd’s third wife; it wouldn’t matter. Pakistan has enough real crimes to pursue without squandering its time on the persecution of a religious fantasist.

But his lawyer told the BBC’s Saba Eitizaz that she was forcibly removed from the case by the judge and that proceedings were carried out behind closed doors.

His lawyer says she will launch an appeal against the verdict, which was delivered late on Thursday. Higher courts in Pakistan have been known to overturn blasphemy verdicts handed down in lower courts because of insufficient evidence.

Mr Asgharn has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and had treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh, but the court did not accept his medical reports from the UK, reports say.

He has been in jail since his arrest in 2010 and his lawyer says he has also tried to take his own life in jail on one occasion.

Oh it’s just too foul to contemplate.

Comments

  1. exi5tentialist says

    I agree that for Pakistan to co-opt a violent stereotype of islam to reinforce state oppression is a misuse of state power and a complete misuse of a religion. The consequences are very real for the victims.

  2. Al Dente says

    Competent medical authorities have diagnosed Asghar as a paranoid schizophrenic. The proper action of the court would have been to have him examined by local mental health professionals with an eye at further treatment. The death penalty for mental illness is completely barbaric.

  3. says

    Oh good, exi5, I’m sure everyone will be very impressed that you can bring yourself to agree that sentencing a mentally ill person to death for claiming to be a prophet is not admirable.

  4. exi5tentialist says

    Yes Ophelia. And by the same token, I’m sure everyone will be very impressed that you can bring yourself to agree the way the state of Pakistan has co-opted religion as an excuse to act in an oppressive and authoritarian way is utterly repulsive.

  5. Al Dente says

    Question for you, exi5tentialist, do you take special classes in being pompous and condescending or do they just come naturally to you?

  6. says

    No, actually, not by the same token, because regular readers here are not as naive about the whole issue as you (judging by what you’ve been saying here) are.

    And while we’re at it I don’t agree that this is “the state of Pakistan” co-opting religion. I think that’s a ridiculous interpretation. The state of Pakistan is all about religion. It’s officially explicitly formally constitutionally theocratic.

  7. exi5tentialist says

    You think that the way power relationships, capitalism and class play out in the state of Pakistan is “all about religion”? And you’re the one who’s calling me naive?

    As it happens, Britain is also explicitly formally constitutionally theocratic; but somehow a whole body of political, economic, sociological and class analysis has managed to explain the actions of the British state in somewhat more nuanced terms than, “it woz religion wot dun it.” Why not extend the same courtesy to Pakistan?

  8. Al Dente says

    Why not extend the same courtesy to Pakistan?

    Because while Britain may be de jure theocratic, Pakistan is both de jure and de facto theocratic. The bishops may flap and flail about same-sex marriage but nobody pays much attention. A Pakistani court has sentenced a man to death for blasphemy. How more de facto can they get short of actually executing the guy?

  9. aziraphale says

    exi5tentialist, the British state is explicitly formally constitutionally Christian. If it followed the example of Pakistan, it would be constantly prosecuting Muslims for blasphemy. I hope we would not then be extending it any courtesies.

  10. exi5tentialist says

    @Al Dente

    Because while Britain may be de jure theocratic, Pakistan is both de jure and de facto theocratic. The bishops may flap and flail about same-sex marriage but nobody pays much attention. A Pakistani court has sentenced a man to death for blasphemy. How more de facto can they get short of actually executing the guy?

    Maybe they could invade another country and kill lots of its citizens – then have a thanksgiving service? You know, in a cathedral? With their God-appointed monarch in attendance?

  11. says

    I didn’t say “the way power relationships, capitalism and class play out in the state of Pakistan” is all about religion. I said the state of Pakistan itself is.

  12. exi5tentialist says

    exi5tentialist, the British state is explicitly formally constitutionally Christian. If it followed the example of Pakistan, it would be constantly prosecuting Muslims for blasphemy. I hope we would not then be extending it any courtesies.

    Oh I think I can safely say the British state has had a hand in executing far more muslims than the state of Pakistan in the last thirteen years. Our theocracy has a somewhat greater reach than theirs. And a bit more experience at inflicting despicable, brutal injustice.

  13. exi5tentialist says

    I didn’t say “the way power relationships, capitalism and class play out in the state of Pakistan” is all about religion. I said the state of Pakistan itself is.

    And yet, like all states, the state of Pakistan is in itself the playing out of all those things. But you see it as separate from them? The state of Pakistan is just a theocratic muslim thing to you?

  14. karmacat says

    This is so upsetting. Having schizophrenia is torture enough. And if you listen to a person with schizophrenia long enough you realize he is not completely connected to reality. He really believes he is a prophet and can’t say anything else.
    I wish I could ask why they think Mohammed wasn’t delusional when he claimed to be a prophet. I don’t think it would go over

  15. Al Dente says

    exi5tentialist @10

    Maybe they could invade another country and kill lots of its citizens – then have a thanksgiving service? You know, in a cathedral? With their God-appointed monarch in attendance?

    If that’s a rebuttal then you’re admitting that you don’t actually have a rebuttal. Or perhaps you don’t know what de jure and de facto mean and the difference between them.

  16. says

    I sort of did ask that on a thread at Muslims for Secular Democracy a couple of days ago. One of the many very dogmatic types had said Islam is perfect and it’s the later interpretations that are bad and wrong. I asked how he knew. He replied to some imaginary question so I repeated mine. No reply.

    I really would love to get a serious reply to that, but I’m not holding my breath.

  17. Omar Puhleez says

    @#!14:

    “I wish I could ask why they think Mohammed wasn’t delusional when he claimed to be a prophet. I don’t think it would go over.”

    As I recall, at a massive open-air rally for Pope John XXIII on his visit to Ireland, a man came running up to him from the crowd claiming for all to hear that he was Jesus Christ returned.

    Needless to add, the cops grabbed him straight away.

    Jesus Christ, I mean; not the Pope.

  18. Shatterface says

    Competent medical authorities have diagnosed Asghar as a paranoid schizophrenic. The proper action of the court would have been to have him examined by local mental health professionals with an eye at further treatment. The death penalty for mental illness is completely barbaric.

    The irony is that if Bronze Aged societies had responded to schizophrenics claiming to be prophets in such a barbaric manner we wouldn’t have Judaism, Christianity or Islam.

  19. Decker says

    state of Pakistan has co-opted religion

    It’s more a case of Islam having forcefully co-opted the state of Pakistan.

    Putting a 70 year old mentally ill man to death for claiming to be a prophet is utterly savage and brutal and should be denounced at every turn.

    You do ordinary Pakistanis no favour be engaging in juvenile whataboutery and adolescent sophistry.

  20. Katherine Woo says

    “co-opted”

    Lol. I love the smell of leftwing paternalism in the morning.

    Funny how Islam lends itself to being “co-opted” into a consistent pattern of misogyny, homophobia, corporal punishment, indiscriminate terrorism, and suppression of free expression from Indonesia to West Africa and beyond.

    But ek5y, let’s at least be honest, hard leftwing atheists like you love religion because it is the only force that can challenge liberal capitalist democracy. You are so angry about the failure of utopian communalism (i.e. leftwing totalitarianism) in the 20th century that you are now willing to tear down society by any means necessary.

  21. says

    Hard leftwing atheist?

    Well, I’ll give you the leftwing, given the token blather about capitalism, although I suspect that’s window dressing. But atheist?? Where’s there any sign of that? I think exi5 is a hard theist, not a hard atheist.

  22. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    the state of Pakistan has co-opted religion as an excuse to act in an oppressive and authoritarian way

    In the case of blasphemy laws Pakistani politicians passed them to curry favour with the people. THat’s the kind of oppressive and authoritarian thing which goes dowm a treat with the muslim Plain People of Pakistan, according to many surveys. In fact, Pakistanis appear to approve of killing blasphemers so much that they approved of the murder by one of his bodyguards of a provincial governor who merely said blasphemers shouldn’t be executed.

  23. Omar Puhleez says

    Exi5@#1: “I agree that for Pakistan to co-opt a violent stereotype of islam [sic] to reinforce state oppression is a misuse of state power and a complete misuse of a religion. The consequences are very real for the victims.”

    ‘Pakistan’ (however defined) has co-opted a ‘violent stereotype’ of Islam in order to oppress people, presumably Pakistanis.

    Or, the Pakistani state has decided to work cooperatively with a violent idea of Islam. The violent idea helps the Pakistani state, and v.v. But violent ideas are only real when guiding the actions of violence-prone people. Otherwise, they have no reality.

    It would appear that the idea you are trying to propagate is that Islam is inherently peaceful, and that violence is not inherent in it, and is a corruption of it.

    Likewise ‘stereotypes’ are ideas and preconception, that are distortions of reality and get in the way of accurate perception of it.

    Am I right in that? Is that what you are driving at?

  24. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @5. Ophelia Benson :

    The state of Pakistan is all about religion.

    Indeed – absolutely so.

    Pakistan means “land of the pure” the whole nation was created from India when it gained its independence specifically to be an Islamic state for Muslims and this partition resulted in enormous suffering, violence and torment for hundreds of thousands -millions of individual human lives.

    Ironically (correct usage?) the river that gave India its name – the Indus – is now located in Pakistan not India.

    So the formation of Pakistan in the first place was a needless act caused by religious zealotry so Muslims could get their way and their own special place to enforce their own awful laws and customs.

    (Yeah I think some Muslims laws and customs are awful – no, I don’t think Muslims are anything other than individuals and certainly don’t think they deserve to be mistreated in any way whatsoever. Islam the religious ideology = bad, Muslims = individual people. That really hard for some to grasp?)

    A colossal mistake really. Pakistan shouldn’t have been created I believe and how different would history be if it hadn’t been. Imagine – the series of wars India and Pakistan fought not happening, the nuclear brinksmanship of the two rival nations – not happening, the sheltering of Osama bin Laden for over a decade and the Pakistani support and even creation of the Taliban – not happening. If only.

    (OTOH I guess we ended up with two cricket elevens. Mind you imagine a side that had both Imran Khan and Sachin Tendulkar in it, Wasim Akram and Harbajhan Singh bowling together!)

    Now Pakistan which was created in religious strife and hatred and bloodshed is murdering again. This time an mentally ill man with about the same silly delusion that the original “prophet” Mohammad had. Terrible news and I hope the execution can be stopped, the mentally ill “prophet” given the help he needs and the nation of Pakistan can evolve into something far better than it currently is.

  25. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @12. exi5tentialist :

    I think I can safely say the British state has had a hand in executing far more muslims than the state of Pakistan in the last thirteen years.

    Your extraordinary evidence for this extraordinary claim would be – what precisely?

    Citation very much required.

    FYI. Great Britain has no capital punishment under law. Sharia law hands out capital punishment for “crimes” such as adultery even when the woman has being raped and for apostasy and in this case notably blasphemy.

    Our theocracy has a somewhat greater reach than theirs.

    Our “theocracy” eh? It appears that you don’t know that word actually means and need to find out.

    Not sure where you’re living but the USA, UK, Australia, Israel, Canada and other Western nations are actually NOT theocracies. They are democracies governed by secular constitutional laws although with some very minor symbolic religion represented in a couple of the cases – but the word of the priests in these nations is NOT law nor government decree.

    The Vatican is a rare example of a Christian theocracy – but these are much more common in the Islamic world notably Iran, Saudi Arabia and, oh yeah, Pakistan. All nations where what the religious leaders says is what goes. (Other descriptive terms such as Republics in the case of Iran and kingdoms in the Saudi case also apply as well.)

    And a bit more experience at inflicting despicable, brutal injustice.

    Really? Rubbish!

    Citation again required to support this extraordinary and even laughable (and of dubious meaning even) claim.

    Even if that were true – which it ain’t – are you saying that that makes Pakistans’ brutal,despicable injustice okay in this case? Tu Quouque fallacy.

  26. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    PS. If exi5tentialist meant this :

    “I think I can safely say the British state has had a hand in executing far more muslims than the state of Pakistan in the last thirteen years.”

    It now occurs to me that exi5tentialist intended that to apply to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and drone strikes so on that some points to note :

    1. These were US not UK instigated and run conflicts with the UK playing a supporting role – along with Australia and other nations in the Coalition.

    2. War isn’t capital punishment. Drones may kill but it isn’t “execution” that’s happening its war. Just an updated modern form of it. There are many worse and more destructive to all civilians ways to fight war than with more targeted though still imperfect strikes via UAVs.

    3. Nitpick but Pakistan isn’t a state but actually a nation. More significantly, Pakistan has caused a lot of its own problems here having at various times both co-operated with and opposed the military operations against the Jihadists because of its own complex and contradictory domestic political reasons. Pakistan has failed to deal with the problems its own policies and intelligence service have created such as the Taliban and has to bear its fair share of the culpability here as well.

    I’d also note that most of the Muslims killed were terrorists or supporters of terrorism fighting to brutally impose their own bloodthirsty,misogynist, homophobic and intolerant ideology on innocent people and hurting more Muslims especially moderate ones than anyone else. Have you perchance heard of Malala Yousufzai and what the Muslims you’re talking about here did to that schoolchild and her friends?

  27. exi5tentialist says

    War is execution. Drones are execution. The UK is guilty. The US is guilty.

    Pakistan is a nation. The state of Pakistan is a state. That’s why when I refer to Pakistan I say “Pakistan”, and when I mean the state of Pakistan I say “the state of Pakistan”. When you talk about Pakistan in your third point you mean the state of Pakistan. Coincidentally, when islamophobes say Pakistan, they usually mean islam. That’s one of many reasons why I think it’s important to differentiate.

    Citation needed for stats on proportion of muslims put to death by the US and UK in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Iraq who were terrorists. Please make that your next post.

    Have I ‘perchance’ heard of Malala Yousufzai? Yes. I now her name and her story. Do you know the names and stories of all the muslims whose lives have been taken away by British and US violence? No. Nor do I. Perchance, we don’t.

  28. Shatterface says

    Off the top of your head, name the people who died on 9/11.

    Not the ones who hijacked the airplanes whose faces grace the posters on your bedroom wall but their actual victims.

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