Pakistan’s apex court has admitted a petition filed against Islamabad’s ambassador to the US which accuses her of committing blasphemy. […] The petition, which was filed by a citizen of the central Pakistani city of Multan, claims that Sherry Rehman had committed a blasphemous act two years ago when she criticized the Islamic Republic’s blasphemy laws in a TV interview.
Rehman has been a critic of the controversial laws, which have been widely condemned by rights organization and deemed discriminatory. In November, 2010, Rehman submitted a bill to parliament seeking to reform the blasphemy laws and an end to capital punishment. Rehman has since faced death threats from Islamist militants.
Not only is it illegal in some parts of the world to say anything disparaging about the religion of Islam without being torn to pieces by an angry mob before the police even arrive, but it’s also illegal to even criticize the rule. I can appreciate the belt-and-suspenders approach.
Blasphemy laws were introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Activists say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are instead used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas.
Very tidy. Sounds like the Salem Witch Trials, only half a world away and about 400 years too late. And the great thing is that it’s not just regular citizens who suffer from arbitrary death-by-mob; politicians have also been killed for speaking out against the laws as well.
The combination of religious fanaticism and a lack of a strong secular rule of law is allowing this kind of phenomenon to spread relatively unchecked in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why President Asif Ali Zardari hasn’t done much to either stop it or change the laws may be because he feels safer pissing off the liberal elements of his population, knowing they’re less likely to riot and set entire swaths of the city on fire like their right wing counterparts. Still, if he wants his country to join the rest of the world in the 21st century, he might want to consider the wisdom of abandoning a set of laws that are best left in the 11th.