Blasphemy law : Speak now or forever hold your peace

Published: April 18, 2011
Put your hand in mine, say no to extremism, says this woman’s banners printed by Piler and Sathi Mazdoor Group. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Put your hand in mine, say no to extremism, says this woman’s banners printed by Piler and Sathi Mazdoor Group. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS


Blasphemy and its punishment, what can and cannot be justified in the name of Islam and whether the religion preaches reconciliation or intimidation. Such key issues were addressed at the Jashn-e-Faiz’s session “Charter of Compassion and Tolerance and Intolerance”.

“Any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate,” said Abbas Husain, a member of the Faiz Centennial Committee who talked on the principle of compassion. He said that we urgently needed to make compassion a luminous and dynamic force in our polarised world in order to break down political, dogmatic and religious boundaries.

“Each and every one [of us] has been equally affected by intolerance in our society and as a result, we have terrorism in the north, target killing in Karachi and bomb blasts all over the country,” he said.

So far in the country’s history, 45 people have been convicted of blasphemy, out of which 17 were psychiatrically ill. “Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put the other there,” he told The Express Tribune.

The session was open for public comment during which students and other visitors shared their views and grievances. One commenter, however, changed the perception of tolerance in our society. “I don’t think we have become intolerant. I think we have become more tolerant. We are now more tolerant to killings and more tolerant to injustice,” remarked Dr Taimur Rehman of Laal band.

“The session was interactive enough for me to develop my own opinions rather than [continue] relying on what is largely believed about the blasphemy law,” said a Karachi University student, Shaheen Ashraf.

Natiqa Fayyaz, a volunteer with the CFD, said religious topics such as the Blasphemy Laws always get “extreme reactions”. “But irrespective of what they [audience] believed in, it was good to see that people were listening to the speakers and giving their opinions or asking questions where they felt confused.”

Organiser Mohsin Sayeed said that the most important part of the seminar was that the laws were discussed openly rather than in “closed rooms or in hushed tones”. “This,” he felt, “was a beginning for sure”.

The openness of the discussion exuded the philosophy and ideology of Faiz. Bol, ke lab azaad hain tere

Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Apr 18, 2011 - 11:42AM

    How can sin be a crime?Recommend

  • zoya
    Apr 18, 2011 - 3:20PM

    very well said Abbas Hussain.Recommend

  • John
    Apr 18, 2011 - 4:32PM

    Tolerance of intolerance is not intolerance

    What is blasphemous ?

    Exhuming a ten year old girl’s corpse from Rawalpindi Muslim grave after more than a year because she was born in different faith or burning a few pages of Quran or a slander?

    What next, one can not chuck a computer containing electronic copy of Quran in garbage?

    PAK is assassinating Taseer and Bhatti again in her indifference. Recommend

  • MS - Mariya
    Apr 18, 2011 - 5:13PM

    @John: So now you come here with your intolerance?!?!? Always looking for stuff to add fire..Unlike you, people are open to discussion and talking about the law. They will find a way out of this mess but not you who seem to be always sprewing hate and intolerance about others.Recommend

  • MS - Mariya
    Apr 18, 2011 - 5:21PM

    Blasphemy law or No law,we Pakistanis need to come out on street for each other regardless of religion. The turn out at the last rally in support of Bhatti was encouraging yet disappointing at the same time. I definitely saw an increase in number of non muslims yet it wasn’t as high as the extremist rally held few weeks back. Lets keep talking and discussing rather than spewing hate like useless John. Ignore such characters as they are born to do evil only.Recommend

  • Muhammad Saleem Usmani
    Apr 18, 2011 - 5:59PM

    How is the speaker an authority to interpret Quran? Can anyone explain. Blasphemy’s punishment was endorsed by Prophet Peace be upon him, and is supported by Quran. The method of applying the law can be reviewed but not the law itself. If a person can be charged for disreputing a person of similar stature, then why not against Prophets peace be upon them. And why not a punishment endorsed by Prophet himself.

    Besides the speaker’s point of view is inconsistent. A person’s hatred with a prophet, peace be upon them, makes them commit blasphemy and not the other way round. Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim
    Apr 18, 2011 - 9:26PM

    There are more gods in Pakistan found in the pockets of both religious and political bigots.
    Than in the hearts of Pakistani men and women! Those who hold the Omnipresence of God
    with humility in their hearts are a small minority being hunted by the larger pack.Recommend

  • T R Khan
    Apr 18, 2011 - 9:26PM

    @Muhammad Saleem Usmani:

    Blasphemy alone was never endorsed by the holy Prophet (saw) for punishment. The punishment is not supported by the holy Quran, Allah say the punishment is in the hereafter. The law is against the Islamic teaching and simple logic.

    Our holy Prophet’s spiritual station cannot be tarnished by mere blasphemers. The holy Prophet (saw) is the pinnacle of all of God’s creation and He has promised a severe punishment in the hereafter.Recommend

  • safina
    Apr 18, 2011 - 10:02PM

    @ muhammad saleem usmani – can you quote the suras and ayats in the Quran in which you say “the Blasphemy law punishment endorsed by Prophet Peace be upon him is supported by Quran” please. and if you dont mind can you also provide an english translation and explanation. thanks. You may have trouble with this as far as my reading goes, there is no such verse. Recommend

  • Muhammad Saleem Usmani
    Apr 19, 2011 - 3:25AM

    @safina I don’t know which verses but i’ve heard that an alim has quoted them in his book.Recommend

  • Gupshup
    Apr 19, 2011 - 4:22AM

    You are correct, he will not be able to find the Surahs in the Quran to support his stance. However, I bet he will find a Hadith from Bukhai or Muslim that does support this. Then what?Recommend

  • Ikramuddin Akbar
    Apr 19, 2011 - 8:23AM

    There is a difference between an accountability of insulting the prophet of a religion and as a result retaliation through violence, No religion has any right to insult another religion’s prophet. So why are they insulting our prophet it’s because they are trying to ignite us and they know where to hit us that hurts us most, and they also know we don’t reject prophets who had been sent before the revelation of Islam and they are taking advantage of this. It’s their government’s responsibility to arrest that person and punish him appropriately.Have u ever heard a Jews insulting Jesus or a Christian insulting Moses.You will probably not. Recommend

  • Nuzhat Kidvai
    Apr 19, 2011 - 11:08AM

    People try to shout down others when on a weak wicket.
    The mullas are on a weak wicket, because they know, like do all Muslims who have read the Quran, that the Blasphemy law made by Zia & his mulla cohorts does not find legitimacy from the Quran or the Sunnat of the Prophet (PBUH).

    Zia’s Law on Blasphemy was created as a tool for political control that Zia needed. It is made in such a way that it can be used easily by any one to kill and get rid of an enemy. It only requires incitement to kill by accusing someone of Blasphemy. Persons using this law know they need to just accuse of Blasphemy and other people will kill for them.

    The reason why the mullas are so insistent about keeping this law intact is, because they do not want the law to lose its power as a killing tool. Recommend

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