Pakistan has draconian blasphemy laws on the books. The latest bizarre turn in their use is that the Pakistani ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman has been accused of it.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been used as political weapons to intimidate and harm people that the religious nuts in the country dislike. It carries the death penalty if one is convicted. The law is an abomination that should have no place in a society and major figures in the country have recognized this. But it is vigorously defended by the religious fanatics who are so influential in that country. A governor of a Pakistani province was murdered for speaking out against the laws and his murderer was hailed by many.
As a member of the Pakistani parliament in 2010, Rehman had advocated for changes in the blasphemy laws and it is likely that she has been targeted for that reason. In this case, a viewer of a TV program in which she appeared said that she had ‘disparaged’ prophet Mohammed and brought blasphemy charges against her, even though there was nothing that she said that seemed to justify that claim and it seems unlikely that a savvy politician would gratuitously say something that explosive in such a context. But now the Pakistan Supreme Court has allowed the petition for blasphemy to go forward.
Pakistan has all the potential to be a modern country and yet it is being held back by religious fanaticism and relics of the past, such as its blasphemy laws. In fact, the entire sub-continent of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka all have the potential for great economic and social progress if they can just remove this albatross of religion hanging around their necks.