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The act of reviling, ridiculing, or being disrespectful or irreverent of, by words or conduct, God, religion, a religious doctrine, a religious icon, or anything considered sacred is blasphemy. It is a crime under common law. The offence is one of strict liability. Thus, “intent to commit an act of blasphemy is irrelevant; all that matters is whether the accused did in fact publish the material that is the subject of prosecution.”

The blasphemy law was brought in the penal code by British in 1927 and made it a criminal offence to commit in sub-continent “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious belief”. The law did not discriminate between religions.

The blasphemy in Pakistani law was retained and the British blasphemy law was implemented after the independence until Zia military regime1. This law was amended in 1986 and death penalty for anyone found guilty of defaming Islam was introduced.

Ten cases were reported in fifty-eight years from 1927 to 1985 but since then more than 4000 cases are reported. The Pakistan penal code states about Blasphemy law under section 295-A, “Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” So according to this article of penal code who ever insult the religious beliefs of other person commit a crime and should be punished.

It is not being distinguished that only non Muslims should be convicted under this article but there is no such case in the history in which a Muslim is charged under this article and is punished. In Pakistan, Blasphemy law had always been exercised upon non-Muslims, which shows that this law had always been used to suppress non-Muslims and shows the narrow mindedness of religious clerics in Pakistan. Where is the Freedom of speech in this case? If we assume that these are the reasonable restrictions imposed by law then neutral person can say that these restrictions can be reasonable for Muslim citizens of the state but not for non-Muslim citizens. According to the article 20 of Constitution of Islamic republic of Pakistan2, it is clearly written that every citizen shall have right to propagate his religion but then article 298-C of P.P.C. states that Quadiani group is not allowed to propagate his faith. These two laws seem contradictory to each other. . A neutral person can say that Blasphemy law is the violation of the article 20 of the Fundamental Rights section of the Constitution. In the case of Asia Bibi 3in 2009, who was Christian woman and charged with blasphemy and punished with death penalty and restraining the president from pardoning.

According to Islamic principles of Justice and Sharia, two witnesses are mandatory to punish a person for a crime. But according to the judgment handed down by Lahore High court on October 29, 2010, “To constitute offence under Section 295-C of P.P.C.; number witnesses are not required and it is not necessary that such abusive language should be made loudly in public or in a meeting or at some specific place, but statement of single witness that somebody had made utterance for the contempt of the Holy Prophet (SAAW) even inside the house is sufficient to award death penalty to such contemnor.”

It means that there is a conflict between the Islamic principles and the constitution of Pakistan. So we can infer than that blasphemy law is manmade law. If we study the history of this law then we shall be able to know that British in the sub-continent introduced this law 4and they did not made it on the basis of Holy Scriptures of Islam so it is a man made non-Islamic law and it can be reformed. It is not a pure Islamic law, which cannot be subject to amendment. But religious clerics have made people so much extremist that no one even hears anything about Blasphemy law as they think that this is a core part of Islam and their religious belief. That extremism was the cause of the murder of Salman Taseer 5who just said that this is a “Kala Qanoon”. 6The context of his viewpoint was that this law always had been misused because there are so many loopholes in the implementation of this law.

               There is difference of opinion even in the Muslim sects.  Some Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad   was   “Noor7   but   other   say   that   he   was   just   an   ordinary   man.   Now According  to  the  group  who  said  Muhammad  (SAW)  was  “Noor”,  it  is  disrespectful  to  say him an ordinary man. Do the group who say him an ordinary man commit blasphemy according to 295-C of PPC This is how this law had been misused against minorities using the emotions of innocent Muslims who had no idea that they are being a part of what annoys Allah. “Whoever hurts a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys God.” (Bukhari) 8and Quran says “But if they turn away from you (Oh Prophet remember that) your only duty is a clear delivery of the message (entrusted to you)” (16:82)

Moreover, the Holy Quran and Sunnah, ostensibly, form the premise of Article 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and without revisiting what they actually say about blasphemy, the only challenge that might be successful against this law would be to have its procedural aspects modified. So is it possible then, that the Almighty, who has thus exalted the status of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), left us without any guidance on how to deal with speech or actions that attempt to disparage him? Could the Quran be silent on a matter of such grave importance? Have Allah left us to rely on the Ijma9 and Qiyas 10of the clerics who came some two centuries after the Prophet (SAAW)? Indeed not. The Quran also mentions the most important case of blasphemy ever committed against Mohammad (SAAW). The Quran says in Surah Al-Massad:

“The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish. His wealth and gains will not exempt him. He will be plunged in flaming fire. And his wife, the wood-carrier, will have upon her neck a halter of palm-fibre.”

The common theme between the verses noted above is that, while the highest condemnation has been heaped on anyone reviling or attempting to revile the Holy Prophet (SAAW) and eternal damnation promised for the perpetrator, neither a direct order (amr) has been given to impart a punishment nor a set punishment prescribed — not even for Abu Lahab!(4)

However, Article 295 is repugnant to the Quran and Sunnah and, as long as it remains on the books, it will be a direct negation of the verse “Wama arsalnaka illa Rehmatan-lil-alameen” (We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures.) (21:107) By not prescribing harsh penalties, the Almighty prevented this exalted status of Mohammad (SAAW) from being undermined.

This is not only the issue of Pakistan but of the whole Muslim Umma. The blasphemy law so considered the pure Islamic law is very much different in Islamic countries and is implemented in different ways.

In Saudi Arabia On 13 June 2007, Sabri Bogday, a barber from Turkey, appeared at a General Court at Jeddah on a charge of blasphemy. Bogday confessed to "swearing at Allah." The Court (three judges) sentenced Bogday to death. Bogday appealed the verdict but his appeal was denied. He appealed to the Appeals Court but his appeal was denied. He appealed to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah. The king allowed the appeal upon Bogday's repentance and his plea to Allah for forgiveness. Bogday returned to Turkey on 27 January 2009. In this case the king pardoned him on his own discretionary power. It is a matter of thinking then that can a Muslim king then interfere in Islamic laws? If not then the above case shows that blasphemy is not a pure Islamic law.

Another case On 3 September 1992, Sadiq Abdul-Karim Malallah was publicly beheaded by sabre in al-Qatif in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province after being convicted of apostasy and blasphemy. Malallah, a Shia Muslim from Saudi Arabia, was arrested in April, 1988 and charged with throwing stones at a police patrol. He was reportedly held in solitary confinement for long periods during his first months in detention and tortured prior to his first appearance before a judge in July 1988. The judge reportedly asked him to convert from Shia Islam to Wahhabi Islam, and allegedly promised him a lighter sentence if he complied. After he refused to do so, he was taken to al-Mabahith al-Amma (General Intelligence) Prison in Dammam where he was held until April 1990. He was then transferred to al-Mabahith al-'Amma Prison in Riyadh, where he remained until the date of his execution. Malallah may have been involved in efforts to secure improved rights for Saudi Arabia's Shia Muslim minority.This case depicts that such blasphemy laws are basically made to suppress the minorities of the state.

In Egypt the article 98(F) of the Penal Code, as amended by Law 147/2006 states the penalty for blasphemy and similar crimes:

“Confinement for a period of not less than six months and not exceeding five years, or a fine of not less than five hundred pounds and not exceeding one thousand pounds shall be the penalty inflicted on whoever makes use of religion in propagating, either by words, in writing or in any other means, extreme ideas for the purpose of inciting strife, ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it, or damaging national unity.”

The heavenly religions are Islam, judasim and Christianity. In 2001, an Emergency court sentenced Salaheddin Mohsen, a writer accused of blasphemy, to three years in prison with hard labor for allegedly writing literature against Islam. The court also ordered that all of Mohsen's
books and publications be confiscated for containing "extremist" ideas. Mohsen's books promote secular thought.

So there is no death penalty mentioned in their constitution for blasphemy and the Fatwas of Sunni sect of Muslim mostly come from Al Azhar university of Egypt but then why there is a difference in such matter.

Iran is a constitutional, Islamic theocracy. Its official religion is the doctrine of the Twelver Jaafari School. Iran's law against blasphemy derives from Sharia. Blasphemers are usually charged with "spreading corruption on earth", or mofsed-e-filarz, which can also be applied to criminal or political crimes. The law against blasphemy complements laws against criticizing the Islamic regime, insulting Islam, and publishing materials that deviate from Islamic standards.

In February 2009, the Iranian government launched a campaign against Mohammad Mojtehed Shabestari, a Shia Muslim cleric, for blasphemy. Shabestari's blasphemy was to say in a speech: “If in a society the three concepts of God, power, and authority are mixed up, a political-religious despotism will find strong roots. ... and the people will suffer greatly.”

In 2002,  Hashem Aghajari, a member of the Shia majority, a history professor, and a veteran who lost a leg in 1980-88 war against Iraq, gave a speech in which he called for  political  reforms. The authorities arrested Aghajari, charged him with blasphemy, and jailed him. A court convicted Aghajari, and made death the penalty. In June 2004, the Supreme Court substituted a charge of "insulting religious values" for the blasphemy charge, and imposed a jail term of three years among other penalties. Aghajari was released on bail on 31 July 2004. So it is clear that there are differences in law which is called the pure Islamic law.
In Afghanistan's Penal Code of 1976 addresses "Crimes Against Religions" but leaves the issue of blasphemy to Sharia12. Sharia permits the authorities to treat blasphemy as a capital crime. The authorities can punish blasphemy with death if the blasphemy is committed by a male of sound mind over age 18 or by a female of sound mind over age 16. Anyone accused of blasphemy has three days to recant. If an accused does not recant, death by hanging may follow.

This implementation of blasphemy law is little different from other Muslim countries. The accused is given 3 days to recant, which means that there is some possibility of forgiveness if accused recant.

In October 2005, Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, a journalist and an editor of a women's rights magazine, was sentenced by a tribunal to two years in prison for blasphemy because he questioned the harsh punishments imposed on women under Sharia, and because he said conversion from Islam should not be a crime. Nasab was released in December 2005 after his sentence was reduced on appeal.

The whole point behind discussing all the Muslim countries blasphemy law is that there is no standard for blasphemy.

We can infer that if Prophet (SAAW) had cleared to us that we cannot hurt any non Muslim of a Muslim state and we are doing that so we are disobeying Prophet (SAAW) . if there was any exception that we cannot hurt any non Muslim until he or she commits blasphemy but there is not mentioned any. In furtherance of the same point we cannot find any event at the times of Prophet (SAW) in which the blasphemers were punished to death. In some verses of Quran it is stated that “There is no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)

Reading and understanding all the referred Hadiths and Verses of Quran one can infer that there is no clear saying about the punishment of blasphemers and blasphemy is law is then manmade law.

The pure Islamic law which can also be called God law is the same all the over Muslim states and implemented in the same manner at all Islamic places. Those laws are undisputed. So a law which is manmade and implemented falsely is very harmful for the Muslim umma. The blasphemy law in different Islamic countries with different sects would create then a huge conflict between the sects. The country with majority of one sect will then implement such laws which would be blasphemy if the other sect acts normally in their natural way which is mostly happened nowadays.

The main theme is that such laws are dangerous for the unity of Muslims. Every third person would be a blasphemer according to the other sect person. This would make the situation increasingly explosive and volatile. Furthermore, the blasphemy law in its current shape can be manipulated and abused to serve both personal and political ends.

There needs to be focused and sustained reassessment of the blasphemy law across the world. Such a reassessment needs to emanate from within the respective societies in which the law is being implemented. Considerable role needs to be played by the civil society in such societies; as the civil society apparatus has the institutional backing required to channelize any prospective change in the blasphemy law. This would facilitate the individuals who wish to bring changes in the blasphemy laws. Sections of society that are against the blasphemy law, need to realize that the only feasible way forward is of inclusion of the religious scholars and their adherents in the process of change. This essentially means that a religious rather than a ‘secular’ solution is the answer to the problem. This would help in isolating the extremist elements that support blasphemy law, and diminish their influence in the law-making process.

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Written By: Turi

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