Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blasphemy Laws, their implication and Pakistani society

It is a matter of great concern that our religious leaders never played their role in guiding the Nation in the times of great confusions and turmoil, instead most of them fueled the religious thoughts of illiterate people to commit the actions which not only malign the Islam but also the laws attached to Islam. Was it not appropriate and a religious obligation for our religious clerics to guide people on the issues of Blasphemy which are hurting our society, Islam and even the law itself due to lack of clear understanding and knowledge in common public. I am not a cleric or a religious leader to deal with the religious point of view of laws but as a humble student , I would like to point out some social implications of the blasphemy issue and the laws.

Blasphemy laws does not refer to 295-C only, Many laws were included in constitution after much consideration time to time, such as 295-A, 295-B, 295-C, 298-A, 298-B and 298-C to safeguard the religious thoughts of people. The most important of them is 295-C which renders death penaly for using derogatory language for Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH). Later life imprisonment was abolished through an amendment, means death will be the only punishment under this law. A summary of laws is as under

The Laws as Pakistan Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860) says:

295-A is about acts Intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting Its religion or religious beliefs, it states
" Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the ‘religious feelings of any class of the citizens of Pakistan, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations insults the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both".

295-B contains punishments for defiling Quran e Pak, it states
“Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or of an extract there from or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life".

295-C is about making derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), it states
" Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine."

298-A defines punishments for uttering words to deliberately hurting the religious feelings of others, it states
" Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of any wife (Ummul Mumineen), or members of the family (Ahle-bait), of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), or any of the righteous Caliphs (Khulafa-e-Rashideen) or companions (Sahaaba) of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extended to three years, or with fine, or with both."

298-B is about the misuse of epithets, descriptions and titles, etc., reserved for certain holy personages or places, and is intended to stop Ahmdi or Lahori group from using these titles, this states

“(1) Any person of the Quadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation-

(a) refers to or addresses, any person, other than a Caliph or companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as “Ameer-ul-Mumineen”, “Khalifatul- Mumineen”, Khalifa-tul-Muslimeen”, “Sahaabi” or “Razi Allah Anho”;

(b) Refers to, or addresses, any person, other than a wife of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace bi upon him), as “Ummul-Mumineen”;

(c) Refers to, or addresses, any person, other than a member of the family “Ahle-bait” of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as “Ahle-baft”; or

(d) Refers to, or names, or calls, his place of worship a “Masjid”; shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to

three years, and shall also be liable to fine.

(2) Any person of the Qaudiani group or Lahori group (who call themselves “Ahmadis” or by any other name) who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation refers to the mode or form of call to prayers followed by his faith as “Azan”, or recites Azan as used by the Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

298-C includes the punishments for Qadiani's calling them Muslims or preaching their faith it says
" Any person of the Quadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name), who directly or indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
In addition to these articles of law 296 and 297 are also about religious protection to Muslims and other minorities which are about deliberately disturbing the religious assembly and trespassing or encroaching on burial places to hurt the religious feelings of others respectively.

Propaganda against Blasphemy Laws

As the laws stated above show that they are not designed specifically for Muslims (as propagated by non-Muslims and Christians), instead they are designed to protect the feeling of the people of all religions living peacefully in Pakistan.(excluding qadiani's and other murtideen groups). Secondly blasphemy law does not only include the punishments for Toheen - e Risalat, instead it has different punishments for different blasphemous acts. Unfortunately illiterate public in Pakistan often confuse all of them creating a mess thus paving path for critics to show the world that we are the most cruel people on earth.
       After the verdict of court on Aasia Bibi case whole world openly called the law an unfair law and a campaign was launched to repeal them or discard them. Our government under pressure from very first day from foreign powers as it has to beg the money from them to run the country due to its economic vulnerability, openly supported her and as a result Salman Taseer was killed which provided the world with yet another reason to oppose the blasphemy laws. I have always questioned the TV anchors, Producers and Editors that if a person gets killed by a religious bigot on pretext of blasphemy without a trial then why do we blame the blasphemy law for this? It is same as a person kills other on land dispute and we start blaming the law against land grabbers? Isn’t it silly?
As my little research and knowledge concerns no one is ever hanged in Pakistan as a result of trial on blasphemy laws, can those who advocate abolishing the law site a single example of any such incident. Yes there were people who were given various punishment and fines on various blasphemy issues. This law is to protect the feelings of all religions not only Muslims then why is the outrage over the laws? I found some very reliable and renowned Newspapers and Websites throwing irresponsible comments on blasphemy laws, some examples are

“The Blasphemy Laws in their present form have become a source of victimization and persecution of minorities in the country. Minorities suffer all manner of humiliation through false accusations made under these laws. In the present climate of hate, intolerance and violence in Pakistan, the Blasphemy Laws have become a major tool in the hands of extremist elements to settle personal scores against members of religious minorities, particularly Christians.” United Nations,

"How can Asia Bibi and others be saved from the gallows? The blasphemy law is a bad law enacted under pressure from extremists who threaten violence if the government does anything to lessen its impact or to ameliorate the lot of those who have fallen victim to it. A bad law will always come back to haunt us and that is why our ultimate aim must be its repeal." The Guardian, Saturday 13 November 2010.

"Pakistan blasphemy law 'should be abolished" ' BBC, 20 July 2010.

"The Asiya case raises the fundamental question of how Pakistan’s minorities have been left unprotected since the passage of the blasphemy law. There may have been no hangings on account of the law but it has facilitated the spread of intolerance and populist rage against minorities, often leading to deaths"
Naseem Zehra, The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2010.

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday called on Pakistan to scrap a blasphemy law after the murder of the governor of Punjab, saying the legislation was a pretext for "acts of injustice and violence".
The Times of India,

”This is the same law that has subjected Pakistani Ahmadi Muslims to relentless and systematic persecution since 1984. Hundreds of Pakistani citizens belonging to various minority sects have been killed over the past decade under the guise of blasphemy law enforcement. As Shariah courts continue to hand down decrees to kill, stone and humiliate and the blasphemy laws continue to be used to impose death sentences as a punishment for freedom of expression, the situation with America's strongest ally remains dicey"
Washington Times,

Just read the above wordings published in Washington post you would find how poisonous is the propaganda being done over blasphemy laws, the same can be seen in the stuff of other prominent Newspapers pasted above. I wanted to paste some more news from Indian newspapers and some local newspapers and but a shortage of time a space has stopped me. The whole world is propagating against Pakistan on blasphemy laws but whom to blame for the debacle let us examine this below.

Misuse of Blasphemy issue and its repercussions to Blasphemy Laws

      As stated above I did not find a single controversial word in the constitution over blasphemy laws then why are we at the back foot over the issues. The reasons are quite clear, a guard who was given the duty of guarding a person killed him on pretext of blasphemy, and many Christians were killed in Gojra over charges of deliberately defiling Quran -e-Pak in July 2010. Government could not protect Christians who in return attacked Muslims and a war like situation remained in Gojra for many days. There are many examples of such incidents which I would include at the end but these two incidents are very important The disgusting part of the debacle are the support the Gojra incident initiators and Mumtaz Qadri received on their acts which plunged us beneath the depth of religious bigotry. Most of the Muslim clerics and general public is supporting the act of Mumtaz Hussain Qadri.
        The funniest part of the events is the support of Muslim clerics to Mumtaz Hussain Qadri fro killing Salman Taseer in a rally held in Karachi to protect blasphemy law. A rally to protect the blasphemy law and the advocates show their intent to kill people without taking them to court to have a trial on blasphemy law, what it means? Do they really need blasphemy laws in country? If they are advocating killing the people on their own then what is the need of this law and why are they playing politics over blasphemy law issue? Are these not double standards by our religious clerics? I am strong supporter of blasphemy laws therefore strongly condemn the killing of people without a trial making a mockery of blasphemy law. Supporting those people is itself a denial of the blasphemy law, which is pathetic. I think if we advocate the killer of Salman Taseer for supporting Aasia then why not to kill her relatives, her parents, her fellow Christian (as they are also supporting her ) and find an easy passage to Jannah? Supporting the people who killed many Christians in Gojra over defiling Quran is itself a denial of 295-B which gives maximum of imprisonment for life to the people deliberately defiling Quran -e-Pak.
        Facebook is another example of religious double standards in our society, I have learned that a page has been created to support the act of Mumtaz Hussain Qadri and it has millions of supporters increasing day by. I never used the facebook as I never found extra time (otherwise I would have) but after knowing the fact that this is the same facebook which arranged a contest to draw the caricature of our beloved prophet Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH), I would have stopped using it. But what to do with those people who are using the same facebook which contains blasphemous content, to advocate their hero for killing an alleged supporter of a blasphemer? Are they not supporting the biggest blasphemer of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), should we also kill them to show our love with the Holy Prophet (PBUH)?
Moreover it is also notable that non of the extra-judicialy killed blasphemer (alleged) had ever been killed by a Muslim cleric or maulana instead the history tells that they were killed by illiterate people. If the clerics consider the act of Mumtaz Hussain Qadri of showing dishonesty with his own master and killing him as an honour then why did Maulana Fazl ur Rehman or Hamid Saeed Kazmi not kill Salman Taseer to book a seat for Jannah? they all are playing politics with poor old masses of Pakistan.


This is a matter of great shame that these are not the Non-Muslims instead our own people who are to blame for making blasphemy law, the most controversial law of Pakistan. According to a report from Asian Human Rights Commission over 1000 people were alleged of blasphemy in between 1985-2009 and 30 of them accused of various farms of blasphemy had been killed before appearing in any of the court of justice. A study of killing of people using blasphemy as an excuse reveals some alarming fact as most of the people killed were from minorities especially Christian community. Will it not provide the opponents of Islam to open a propaganda campaign against Islam? I am also very sad on the role of a faction of Pakistani Muslim Clerics who are strong supporters of Taliban and they never condemned their brutal acts but they are talking of blasphemy. Can they tall the public that why do they not condemn the Taliban for killing innocent people inside Mosques? Is it not a blasphemous act to destroy a Mosque or a shrine of religious personality? Is it not condemnable?
It is also a matter of concern that people have been killed regularly on pretext of blasphemy, no matter how minor mistake have they made. Those who claim that they are the only advocates of the blasphemy law should answer the question that why are people killed for mistakenly on deliberately defiling Quran, if there is no death penalty for this crime under the blasphemy law? As a Muslim I strongly condemn any of the acts of blasphemy whether minor or major and strongly support the blasphemy law. But I plea the clerics to not to make a mockery of these Islamic Laws by supporting the people who deny the laws and themselves kill the people without giving them the fair chance of trial . I think it is a demand of time, our religious as well as political leaders should come forward to stop misuse of blasphemy issues as extra-judicial killings are creating bad name not only for Pakistan but also for Islam.

Disclaimer: The above article is purely a work of research but advocates my own opinion. This is one of the blasphemy series articles, the others are the misuse of blasphemy issue in Pakistan for personal reason and the role of Pakistani Media during the recent blasphemy row. I have deliberately missed the references, If anyone needs any reference He/She can ask for the same. Please forgive me for mistakes and errors in the post.


Shahid Majeed said...

Thanks for reading and understanding the post, I think when people stop debating on issues of national interest the society dies, but at the other hand the debate should be constructive and purposeful. So thanks for encouragement.

Shahid Majeed said...

The reason for why I differentiated the term Toheen e Risalat from other blasphemous acts is obvious, different punishments for different acts of blasphemy. Unfortunately in Pakistan people have been killed on pretext of various acts of blasphemy although they were minor acts. I strongly believe that a blasphemer of Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH) should be given death penalty as the law defines but this right is only reserved to court or the state, no individual can be given the discretionary powers to kill other without any solid proof, rest is up to God who knows better than anyone.

ReeBz said...

Dear all the acts you described are in short "blasphemous acts" and should be enlisted as blasphemy.Different acts should have different punishments.I agree.
I agree with you that Qadri must not had taken this issue in his hands.He is no one to kill anyone as if everyone starts doing same then there will be no need of courts.

But do you agree that maloona Asiya really committed blasphemy?I mean you are saying that courts are there to decide such issues,right?I therefore cant understand why do you advocate Asya then?As Asya was proved guilty by court not by any individual.(If I am not wrong,you at my blog were advocating her and left an impression that people are trying to trap Asya by misusing the law)(if i remember wrong then I m heartily pardon)

ReeBz said...

Moreover even if you differentiate Tohine Risalat from other blasphemous acts,Asya did a crime which simply comes under "Tohine Risalat".She should be hanged!

You said:"Unfortunately in Pakistan people have been killed on pretext of various acts of blasphemy although they were minor acts."

Can you please tell me since after the creation of Pakistan how many people have been hanged by this law?There are thousands of people who were charged with blasphemy but very few were put to death.

There is therefore,no sense in talking about this law being misused in Pakistan.

Now the case has taken a turn as Salman taseer has been assassinated,but earlier it was only Asya case and it is confirmed that no one tried to trap her.She really is a criminal.We ought to trust our courts, cause we have no other option.
You also showed trust on courts in your this post,by highlighting that individuals have no right to take anyone's life on the account of blasphemy!

Shahid Majeed said...

Secondly, as it is evident from the post I did no say single time that the law is misused, instead I have said that the blasphemy issue is being misused in Pakistan by killing people extra-judicially. The recent example is the killing of Christians in Gojra on charges of defiling Quran e Pak. As I have said at the end, I would write a separate post to discuss the events including killings of people of blasphemy charges (so you would find a lot of examples there).

Shahid Majeed said...

Hmmm blasphemy is a sinful crime and law against this crime is blasphemy law, One is a crime other is the law which punishes the crime in order to stop it. so I think they are two different terms with different meanings. I did not find any misuse of law instead I found the charges of the sin blasphemy have been regularly misused for killing people. So a person wrongly hanged by a court and a person killed by a mob on charges of blasphemy to me are things apart. No one is ever hanged by a court of justice in Pakistan, so it is hypocritical to blame the law for being misused.
The same is the difference between toheen e risalat and toheen masjid or toheen e quran, they are acts of blasphemy but have different punishments in law for different intensity, so they should not be taken as the same.

I personaly feel that Slaman Taseer should not have gone to that extent supporting a women already declared culprit by a court but at the other hand he should have been taken to court for doing so. His murder is not justifiable in any context; if we gave a slightest justification of his murder then we will help those who only believe in the terror and hatred.

dinopak said...

You should see how the 'clerics' distort facts to prove their view of Islam

The facts they fabricate are totally baseless

Shahid Majeed said...

I have read it; you have done a great job. I believe distortion and misinterpretation of Quranic verses is itself a grave sin. It is not new, those religio-political mullahs are doing it for their gains, they have done it at numerous occasion. In early Zia's era these were the people who were manipulating the Quranic verses to inspire people to fight for USA, even some mullahs went on to say that USSR were the dajjals. This is why I did not prefer to discuss on the religious and legal side of the issue, so let the lawmakers decide it.