The Blasphemy law: (From being unIslamic to Islamic)
November 27, 2010 23 Comments
Pakistan is again in the spotlight internationally, due to a controversial death sentence against a Christian woman. The woman was accused of blasphemy last year and has been prison since. Just few weeks earlier she was charged with ‘blasphemy’ under the article 295 -c of the constitution of Pakistan. The only crime she committed was act out of anger upon her discrimination by her fellow workers. Yes, it will cost her, her life.
The blasphemy law has been on and off the discussion table for some time, since its ‘renewal’ in the mid 1980’s, it has disturbed lives of many Pakistani citizens, even Muslims. Many individuals and human rights activists have protested against it, even demanded its repeal, but the manipulative religion-political fractions of Pakistan have always enticed the ‘Muslim emotions’ on this issue. They claim it to be an ‘Islamic’ law. Lets take some time to see what is Islamic about it.
The blasphemy law was first constituted in medieval Britain. From the 16th century to the mid-19th century, blasphemy against the Church of England was held as an offense against common law. Blasphemy was also used as a legal instrument to persecute atheists, Unitarians, and others. The law was considered ‘Biblical’ in that era.
Introduction of the blasphemy law in Pakistan:
The blasphemy law was first introduced to the Pakistan Penal Code in 1860 by the British government as the means to protect the Muslim minority against the Hindu majority but offering all religions equal protection (Section 295). Before that, there was no blasphemy law in the sub-continent of India. Hence it is safe to say that the law was derived from the British version of the blasphemy law with minor changes to be applicable within the sub-continent.
Re-birth of blasphemy law:
After the division in 1947, this law came in as a heritage, though it went somewhere in the background. In 1977, however, the dictator General Zia-ul-Huq began a process of Islamising the Pakistani constitution (with his version of Islam). In 1982, a presidential ordinance made defiling the Holy Qur’an punishable by life imprisonment (Section 295-A and B), whilst in 1991, General Zia made Sharia Law became the supreme law in Pakistan.
The death penalty:
Under pressure from religious extremists, the blasphemy law was again amended in 1986 to include defamation of the Holy Prophet, whether directly or indirectly, both in spoken and written form, as well as by way of impersonation (Section 295-C). For the first time, blasphemy also carried the possibility of the death sentence. In 1991, when the Federal Shariah Court rescinded the option of life imprisonment, the death penalty became an automatic punishment for anyone found guilty of blasphemy.
After its re-activation, Pakistani courts were filled with cases of blasphemy, Muslims charging minorities, even other Muslims for blasphemy. For a Muslim, blasphemy is a very emotional subject, hence many used this loop-hole on their enemies, murders were carried out in broad day light and the victim was convicted of blasphemy, which shadowed the murderer with the support from the local clergy.
Blasphemy law is an amenity provided by the state for anyone to settle their contentions. The law is man-made, derived from another intolerant imperial law not from the Holy Scriptures. Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion. Practice of such laws in an Islamic state and labeling them Islamic has hurt the cause of Islam and Pakistan.