Blasphemy: Intellectualising murder

The law is dangerous because it is used by people with guns to justify bullying people who are too poor to own them

Erum Haider December 08, 2010
A brilliant investigative reporter recently deduced that 94% of blasphemy cases have been filed against Muslims. Congratulations on your ability to do simple fractions. The blasphemy laws have indeed been used to target Muslims, Christians and Hindus. What is your point?

According to this gentleman, a paltry 130 people are languishing in jail under the blasphemy laws. Only 130? I mean, come on! More people die of hunger everyday in Palestine. Down with liberal America-lovers who don’t care about Palestine!

Moving on.
“Now, let’s have a look at the status of these eight Christians. Again the official data shows that only three are on death row, two have been sentenced to life imprisonment, while the remaining three are under trial.”

This just in! “Only” three Christians will be killed by the state this year folks! What is Asma Jahangir on about? Seriously? Three Christians? Think of the hundreds of innocent Muslim women and children killed in drone strikes. Why does no one talk about them? Down with Asma Jahangir who is on the payroll of the Pope!

We’re feeling awfully impotent these days, aren’t we? What with hating America and Israel but still really wanting the perks of globalization and all. Can’t we harass some ‘blasphemers’ please? Ok so it’s not in the Quran. But, there’s this one obscure tradition by Ibn Tahmiyya. So what if it’s not supported by Imam Malik, Imam Bukhari or Imam Muslim? Because clearly the other three didn’t come across that Hadith for a full century. Nonetheless, we can swear it is completely and totally undisputed the word of God!

This is the pinnacle of investigative reporting. A fraction. 122 divided by 130 equals 94 per cent. By George, I’ve got a story! Someone should write a book, ‘How to Intellectualize, Distract, Avoid and Completely Confuse an Issue.’

I’ve got an investigative report for the budding journalists out there. Go to this top-secret website called Search for ‘the Quran.’ A brilliant investigative journalist would be able find several translations of the Holy Book, in any language you would care to speak. Next, and this is the tricky part, find me a single Ayat where Allah says we must turn into murderers, and carry out His judgments without any instruction from Him whatsoever.

Incredibly, this top secret website will also give you copies of the Hadith of Imam Muslim, Imam Malik, and Imam Bukhari.

These three individuals are the most widely respected reporters and scholars of the Sunnah. Please, use your brilliant investigative skills to find us a single Hadith that supports killing poor, defenseless human beings (Muslim, Christian, or Hindu) for the crime of ‘blasphemy.’

For the mathematically-minded, I have a great statistic for you. An exclusive report from the top-secret police inspector of Punjab reveals that no less than 100 per cent of the 130 people currently in Punjab jails under blasphemy laws are… wait for it… poor.  Most of them earn a couple of hundred rupees a month. Aasia Bibi was a brick-kiln worker. She probably made less in a month than what you spend on lunch every day. Comparing her to an MIT grad is ludicrous. Tahir Iqbal, a cripple who worked as a mechanic for the PAF spent three years in jail before being poisoned in his jail cell. In 2005 the police locked up five children and three old women under accusations of blasphemy. Another mentally challenged individual spent fourteen years in jail under the blasphemy laws before she was released earlier this year. Imran Latif, the Muslim who was shot in November this year after he was released on bail from prison, was the brother of a shopkeeper.

When you start filling the prisons with children and mentally disabled people, it matters little if they’re Christian or Muslim. Can any brilliant investigative reporter show us anyone who isn’t completely defenseless - in the economic, social, and political sense - in jail under charges of blasphemy? Or are people simply picking on those who can barely afford to send their children to school, let alone fight legal battles in court?

The reason the blasphemy laws are dangerous is because they are used by people with a gun - to justify bullying people who’re too poor to own a gun, or too decent to use one. The blasphemy laws are mighty useful, for going after people (Muslim, Christian, or Hindus) with whom you have a land dispute, or who showed you attitude in the market the other day, or who insulted your mother.

It’s like a little gift from the legislature and the Sunni Ittehad Council to all those poor people venting their frustration on people even poorer and weaker than them. Jobless? Poor? Frustrated? Why don’t you go accuse that neighbor of yours with blasphemy? We promise that no matter how ridiculous, transparent or baseless your allegation is, the courts of Pakistan will make their life a living Hell.
Erum Haider A recent graduate from the University of Chicago WHERE she got an MA in Social Sciences. She is currently based in Karachi.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Qaiserz | 13 years ago | Reply We love our Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) but I just cannot imagine our Prophet telling his followers to kill a human being simply because he or her were critical or abusive towards him. The words of Jesus Christ resound here :when he was on the cross, "1.1 Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Forgiveness and turning the other cheek has been the standard laid down by our prophets. The said Blasphemy Law is truly man made as it demands blood of ordinary and often naive human beings
Fatima | 13 years ago | Reply This is a huge issue, a monster that cannot be defeated in one go and certainly not be seeing who yells the loudest. We must go systematically and step by step. There is certainly no room to rely on data that has potential to be even 1% incorrect. If anything happens, it will take a lot of debate and effort. However, lets take it one step at a time. It is not blasphemy for the Christian woman. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is not HER prophet..even if she meant to insult him - which she did NOT. You cannot hang her for insulting YOUR prophet. It does not apply to her. I can understand by some extreme stretch of the imagination, that it applies to muslims. Yes. But no way does it apply to non-muslims. Its downright ludicrous. I suppose common sense is not so common. Its like the Hindus putting us in prison just because we sacrifice cows. Remember that? Anyone? Anyone? Remember how they used that law to shove us in prison? It could so easily be misused as well. This is the SAME thing. It is akin to bullying. Let us not resort to that. We're better than that...are we not? Or have we clung to our religion, charging towards it with such fervor, that we surpassed it and find ourselves miles away in the wrong direction? So, first things first. At least for now, amend it to only apply to muslims. Then, perhaps we can define what blasphemy is, as a second step. Getting angry at someone named Muhammad certainly not it. A vast majority of this country are from rural areas...which still do not touch non-muslims or eat with them. We are a mere handful who can see this common sense. As a nation, this handful cannot escape from what our stance is - as a country. Quite a shame is it not? On a different note...I saw those protesters yesterday arguing for the prevention of amendment, inches from me. They were only protesting for fun. I do not think they take it so seriously. I think its true, Pakistanis just love protesting without thinking about it. Every time there is an issue pertaining to Pakistan and Islam, I raise voice, get attacked by various people...local and foreign for two opposite reasons. It is quite stressful. I am so tired of this. Why can we not show people the amazing hearts and goodness we hide deep inside? There is such beauty here, not found anywhere else. Its true. Why not show them?
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