The jury and the executioner: Misusing the blasphemy law for personal vengeance

Jan 30, 2018

By Raza Habib Raja

A few days ago, I came across a headline that shook me to the core. A student killed his principal in Charsadda, on the pretext that the man had committed blasphemy by merely reprimanding him for his absence from school.

The student had skipped school to attend the infamous Faizabad sit-in. The fact that the dharna was supposedly conducted for the protection of the finality of prophethood, and his principal indirectly rebuking him for attending it, was enough for the student to justify killing him.

Over the past several years, I have witnessed several incidents in which blasphemy was used as a pretext for framing and killing individuals. There have been instances where people have used the blasphemy law to accuse someone, and sometimes vicious mobs have simply bypassed the need to use the law and have meted out violent “justice” by themselves. I still remember a few years ago, when a violent mob burnt a Christian couple alive under suspicion of blasphemy. And of course, the horrific incident of Mashal Khan’s lynching is also fresh in our memories.

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3 comments on “The jury and the executioner: Misusing the blasphemy law for personal vengeance

  • @OP – Misusing the blasphemy law for personal vengeance

    Do blasphemy laws have ANY legitimate use???

    Surely their very nature, is to exercise the vengeance of god-delusions and priests on critics!

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  • Blasphemy against ideologies is also included in legislation!

    A recent example is this Polish legislation!

    While I would certainly defend Poles against sloppy descriptions of NAZI death camps in Poland as “Polish Camps”, this law goes waaayyy beyond that!

    Poland’s Senate has approved a controversial bill making it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in the Nazi Holocaust.

    The bill, which sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term as punishment, must be signed off by the president before becoming law.

    President Andrzej Duda says Poland has the right “to defend historical truth”.

    It passed in a late-night sitting of the upper house of the Polish parliament with 57 votes to 23, with two abstaining.

    The country has long objected to the use of phrases like “Polish death camps”, which suggest the Polish state in some way shared responsibility for camps such as Auschwitz. The camps were built and operated by Nazi Germany after it invaded Poland in 1939.

    But the more contentious point raised by the bill is whether it will outlaw references to acts of individual complicity by Poles with the Nazis – something historians say there is clear evidence for.

    That would indeed be trying to re-write history through the lens of bias-blinkers!

    The French, the Italians, and others, freely admit that there were NAZI WW2 collaborators in their populations, so there is no good reason why the Poles should not be able to discuss their history in a similar manner!

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  • Meanwhile – I wonder if this “radical” cleric will be arrested for blasphemy?

    Saudi women should not have to wear the abaya, a long loose-fitting robe used to cover their bodies in public, a top religious cleric has said.

    Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said women should dress modestly, but this did not have to mean wearing the abaya.

    Saudi women are currently required to wear the garment by law.

    The cleric’s intervention comes amid moves to modernise Saudi society and relax restriction on women.

    “More than 90% of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world do not wear abayas. So we should not force people to wear abayas,” Sheikh Mutlaq said on Friday.

    It is the first time a senior cleric has made such a statement, which may form the basis of Saudi law in the future.

    Sheikh Mutlaq’s intervention has generated intense reaction online, with people expressing both support and opposition.

    Women who do not wear the abaya in places where they may be seen by men who are not related to them face being chastised by the religious police.

    In 2016, a Saudi woman was detained for removing her abaya on a main street in the capital of Riyadh, Reuters news agency reported.

    However in recent years Saudi women have begun wearing more colourful abayas that contrast with the traditional black, and open abayas worn over long skirts or jeans are also becoming more common in some parts of the country, Reuters says.

    It is aimed at giving more freedom to Saudi women, who face strict gender segregation rules, and follows the historic lifting of a driving ban in September 2017.

    In the same month, women were allowed to participate in Saudi Arabia’s National Day celebrations for the first time.

    Last month women were permitted to watch football live in stadiums in some cities.

    Last year, Saudi Arabia also announced that it was lifting a ban on commercial cinemas that has lasted more than three decades. The first cinemas are expected to open in March this year.

    Up until now, such sports and entertainment venues have been men-only areas.

    There are many things that Saudi women are unable to do without permission from the men in their lives.

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