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article imageOp-Ed: The dangers of blasphemy laws

By Aymen Zaben     Apr 23, 2013 in World
On March 9, 2013, a mob of more than 3,000 people rampaged through a Christian community located in Lahore, Pakistan. Angry Muslim protesters torched the community in response to a man named Sawan Masih allegedly blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed.
During the protest, Bibles and Churches were destroyed, as well as 200 houses torched, forcing countless families to flee their homes and businesses.
While Pakistani police took action to subdue the protesters from committing more harm than they already did, I am deeply bothered by the fact that not enough was done to stop these heinous attacks from occurring in the first place.
According to the Pakistani Penal Code, the law prohibits blasphemy against any recognized religion. Penalties for violating the law range from paying a hefty fine to being sentenced to death. This law is highly controversial, especially since it’s been used against minorities even when they’re innocent, such as in the case of Rimsha Masshi, an 11 year old who was taken into custody for blasphemy charges and later proven to be innocent. The mere fact that an 11 year old was taken into custody for allegations of blasphemy is bothersome to say the least.
What is even more bothersome, however, is the fact that allegations of blasphemy usually result in huge crowds taking the law into their own hands. Following blasphemy allegations, angry mobs attack entire communities and burn down homes, places of worship and even police stations where the accused is held. More disturbing of all is the fact that if a blasphemy allegation is made, it is hard or nearly impossible to get it reversed. Even if found innocent in a court of law and freed, there is a very high possibility that the person will be harassed or even killed.
It is no secret that blasphemy laws have been used as a weapon to settle scores and various disputes between people in Pakistan. All it takes is for a single person to allege that another person committed a blasphemy offense and all hell will break loose, especially if the person suspected of blasphemy comes from a minority group. Muslims are also held liable for blasphemy, but for minorities it’s a nightmare that involves entire communities being attacked and burned to the ground.
The fact of the matter is simple; blasphemy laws are dangerous, highly controversial and usually result in abuse. It is important that the Pakistani government repeal the law as soon as possible. Society cannot progress or evolve with the existence of such laws. People need to have the freedom to discuss ideas, perceptions and beliefs openly, freely and without fear of repercussions. Moderate Muslims in Pakistan must also take a strong stand against extremists who act as judge, jury and executioner. Allowing extremist mobs to attack an entire community because a single individual allegedly committed blasphemy is not only inhumane and dangerous, but also un-Islamic and very disturbing.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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