Blasphemy

The whole idea of punishment for blasphemy is stupid, but the actual application is for other reasons:

Then, as now, the attack was sparked by rumors of blasphemy—the bane of Pakistani politics and jurisprudence in recent years. Both times, the police failed to protect the Christians, or even stood aside. The sole mercy for the Christian residents of Badami Bagh is that they wereable to get away the night before. In Gojra, nine people were killed. The Badami Bagh incident, however, has its own set of local complications—including, it seems, the politics of a local steel traders’ election. Beset on several fronts, the Christians also fear that there may be forces trying to force them out in order to grab their property.

On Friday night, Kala Jee and the other residents area were told to flee. “The police came and told us to go away,” he says. “A big, angry crowd had gathered on the main road. They had sticks and chains with them. We left and spent the next two nights with families that lived elsewhere.” Once the community had been emptied of its residents, the crowd returned the next day, Saturday, looting, destroying and torching some 150 homes and at least two churches. On Sunday, the residents returned to survey the ruin.

Last Wednesday, according to Sabir and others, as the two friends sipped some hooch brewed locally, the conversation apparently turned towards each other’s religions. It isn’t clear what was said. Accounts within the community differ. “Imran called Sahwan a choora,” says Pastor Amir Gill, a local resident who says he witnessed the argument. The word is a pejorative used to insult members of Punjab’s Christian community, who suffer from as much a caste prejudice as a religious one. In Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and wealthiest province, most of the Christians are evangelical converts, formerly low-caste Hindus who were branded as “dirty” by Pakistani bigots. Many are able to find work only as sanitation workers, menial jobs reserved for those at the bottom of the social ladder.

Gee, people are using the charge to settle scores and gain property. Gee, it’s also about class. What a surprise that it’s not really about religion. Also:

Several sections of Pakistan’s Criminal Code comprise its blasphemy laws.[3] § 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object. § 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings. § 295-B forbids defiling the Quran. § 295-C forbids defaming the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Except for § 295-C, the provisions of § 295 require that an offence be a consequence of the accused’s intent. Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life. Defaming Muhammad merits death with or without a fine. (See below Sharia.) If a charge is laid under § 295-C, the trial must take place in a Court of Session with a Muslim judge presiding.[4]

§ 298 states:

Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

§ 298-A prohibits the use of any derogatory remark or representation in respect of Muslim holy personages. § 298-B and § 298-C prohibit the Ahmadiyya from behaving as Muslims behave, calling themselves Muslims, proselytising, or “in any manner whatsoever” outraging the religious feelings of Muslims. Violation of any part of § 298 makes the violator liable to imprisonment for up to three years and liable also to a fine.

Between 1986 and 2007, Pakistani authorities charged 647 people with blasphemy offences.[5] Fifty percent of these were non-Muslims, who represent only 3% of the national population.[5] No judicial execution for blasphemy has ever occurred in Pakistan,[6][7] but 20 of those charged were murdered.[5] By 2010, the total number of people charged under these laws had grown to about 1274.[8]

The only law that may be useful in countering misuse of the Blasphemy law is PPC 153 A (a), whoever “by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or incites, or attempts to promote or incite, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities” shall be fined and punished with imprisonment for a term that may extend to five years.

Hmm, if a mob burns a church wouldn’t that be blasphemy according to this definition? And here they note that the mob also burned Christian bibles which is considered true in Islam, so wouldn’t it also be blasphemous for Muslims? Obviously this is as much about power as religion.

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