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Sep 24 2013

An eye for an eye?

Pakistan has terrible blasphemy laws in which a person can get the death sentence for “desecrating the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad, mosques or Islamic beliefs.” Because these are pretty loose definitions, it means that the law can be used to settle personal scores and to target one’s enemies by finding the most trivial issue and making it into a blasphemy charge.

We even had Pakistan’s ambassador to the US being accused of blasphemy because someone took offense at something she supposedly said about Mohammed on a TV program. Her real crime seems to have been to call for changes in the country’s blasphemy laws.

But rather than reform the laws, this report says that the “Council of Islamic Ideology, top body of clerics tasked to ensure compliance of state laws with principles of Islam … has proposed death penalty for people who level false accusation of blasphemy against others”, arguing that misuse of the blasphemy law is itself blasphemy!

While the intention may be to deter false blasphemy charges being levied, raising the stakes in this way does not solve the main problem because blasphemy is still being validated and the death sentence for blasphemy is still on the books. And since the people who bring the blasphemy charges are often religious leaders, I cannot see people accusing them of making false accusations for fear of retaliation.

The whole concept of blasphemy is a medieval one that should have no place in any country in the 21st century.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    left0ver1under

    Case in point, Naushad Valiyani.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40628977/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/t/pakistan-doctor-arrested-blasphemy-suspicion/

    The whole concept of blasphemy is a medieval one that should have no place in any country in the 21st century.

    Is “god” so pathetic, weak and helpless that it can’t punish blaphemers itself? If so, then it isn’t worth believing in. Or maybe “god” does nothing to blasphemers because it doesn’t give a hoot.

    Or, most likely, it doesn’t exist, in which case religion has NO place in the law.

  2. 2
    Mano Singham

    Thanks for the link. The charge against Valiyani is absurd beyond belief.

  3. 3
    machintelligence

    A modest suggestion for reducing the number of blasphemy charges:
    When a blasphemy claim is filed, both the accused and the accuser are arrested and held in jail until the trial.
    The accused is executed if found guilty.
    The accuser is executed if the defendant is found innocent.
    In any case only one walks out alive.
    I would wager the number of charges drops dramatically.

  4. 4
    tubi

    I’d like to see that done here, frankly. If we’re going to be barbaric and maintain the fiction that capital punishment is a worthwhile thing to keep on the books*. then make it mean something. If a prosecutor has enough evidence to get a conviction in a capital case, so be it. But if the accused is found not guilty, or the conviction is later overturned**, then the prosecutor goes to death row.

    That’s how it used to be done in ancient China, at least according the the Judge Dee books I’ve read.

    *It isn’t, obviously.
    **This would require some kind of independent, powerful, and incorruptable review process, which I realize is not likely.

  5. 5
    twosheds1

    While I agree your system would reduce the number of blasphemy charges, what if you made an honest mistake in accusing someone? Perhaps if your accusation was found to be deliberately false you should be punished. An interesting exercise, but ultimately pointless, since blasphemy is so ridiculous anyway.

  6. 6
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    The whole concept of blasphemy is a medieval one that should have no place in any country in the 21st century.

    Absolutely 10% agreed and seconded. Quoted for truth.

    What I cannot for the life of me understand is why so many commenters and bloggers on FTB more broadly, (including at times you too, Mano Singham), seem to have such a soft spot for Islam and such hatred for some of its harsher more blasphemous critics.

  7. 7
    Mano Singham

    Can you give examples of my ‘soft spot for Islam’ and hatred for some of its critics?

  8. 8
    David Hart

    While I’m sure it was a typo, it was an excellent one – I’m going to have to remember ‘Absolutely 10% agreed’ if ever I want to do some damning with faint praise :-)

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