The latest news from Pakistan lends further support to the impression that it is coming further under the sway of vigilante Islamic groups that are terrorizing those who offend their delicate sensibilities.
In this case, a 12-year old Christian girl and her family are in police custody following reports that she ‘desecrated’ pages from the Koran, either by burning them or tearing them up. It is not clear if they are in policy custody for the offense or to protect them from furious mobs demanding that she be punished more severely. Blasphemy laws in Pakistan allow for life imprisonment for violations, but mobs have not found that sufficient or quick enough for them, instead meting out summary death to those they see as offenders.
Many Christian families have fled the area in fear of these Islamic mobs. While some have suggested that the girl has some mental disability and thus should be excused even if she did destroy pages of the Koran, the real problem is these blasphemy laws that encourage a sense of entitlement among the most narrow-minded and vicious religious elements.
In this respect, this news report (ironically in a Pakistani newspaper which uses the standard reverential ways of referring to Mohammed) of a recent German court decision that permitted a far-right group called Pro Deutschland to brandish cartoons of Mohammed in demonstrations in front of mosques is to be welcomed. The court said that, “Simply showing the Mohammed cartoons does not qualify as a call to hatred or violence against a specific segment of the population.” Unfortunately, Pro Deutschland’s slogan “Islam does not belong in Germany – stop Islamization” suggests that they too are sectarian and in favor of suppression of beliefs that they don’t like. Although there were fears of violence, the demonstrations seemed to have gone off peacefully.
In general, I have noted a less hysterical reaction among Muslims in the western countries to what would formerly have been considered blasphemous offenses worthy of death. I think it may be due to the awareness that they cannot control how god or Mohammed is depicted in those countries and that if they take the law into their own hands, they will be punished severely.
Unfortunately those constraints do not apply in countries like Pakistan.