Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi

Help may be coming for Christians in Pakistan who have been under threat from the nation’s blasphemy laws, in which a mere accusation can bring about summary execution by street mobs enforcing their interpretation of the Quran.

The penalty under Pakistani law for insulting Islam is death, but mobs have been imposing the penalty without waiting for the judicial process to finish.

That has opened the door for Muslims with a personal grudge against someone – often a Christian from the 1 percent minority – to make false accusations and let the mobs loose.

But now there’s a move among senior government officials to halt the abuse of the system.

It comes as part of the backlash over the mob killing just weeks ago of Mashal Khan, a student at Abdul Wali Khan University who had faced “trumped-up charges” of blasphemy, according to a report from Morning Star News.

While police later confirmed Khan had not committed blasphemy, and “the university administration had plotted the mob violence against its own student for publicly criticizing the institution,” the vicious attack prompted shock and horror.

“House of War: Islam’s Jihad Against the World” conveys what the West needs to know about Islam and the violent, expansionary ideology that seeks the subjugation and destruction of other faiths, cultures and systems of government

“The brutal lynching, which went viral in social media and received extensive coverage in national media, sent a wave of shock and panic through all sectors of society. It once again brought into the spotlight the controversial laws that since 1980 have claimed the lives of more than 65 persons, including Christians, in extra-judicial killings and mob violence,” Morning Star reported.

Expressing alarm were Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others, including the nation’s supreme court, which ordered an investigation.

Just days later, three women shot and killed a man in the Pasrur area after accusing him of having committed  blasphemy 13 years ago.

Lawyer Saiful Malook said those guilty of mob violence against blasphemy-case defendants need to be taken to court themselves.

“The state must set an example for all those who think they can take the law into their own hands and kill anyone in the name of the prophet or Islam,” he told Morning Star.

Malook represents Aasiya Noreen, also known as Asia Bibi, who has been on death row for nearly eight years in one of the longest-running blasphemy cases ever in Pakistan.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which has defended Bibi, noted just last week that the chief justice in Pakistan refused a request for an early hearing in her case.

The Christian woman was accused of blasphemy during an argument with Muslim co-workers over a drinking glass.

In the U.S., Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Chris Coons, D-Del., have authored a resolution calling on Pakistan to set her free.

Paul said at the time, “It’s time for Pakistan to immediately release Asia Bibi and put a stop to the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.”

Morning Star reported Pakistan’s National Assembly two weeks ago approved a resolution calling for the law to be amended to add safeguards against any abuse of the procedure.

“This House unanimously condemns the barbaric and cold-blooded murder of Mashal Khan and resolves to ensure that strong safeguards are inserted into the blasphemy law to prevent its abuse through such atrocities in the future,” the resolution says. “This House condemns all those who take the law into their own hands and engage in vigilantism, resulting in loss of innocent human lives.”

Morning Star reported that at the same time, the Senate called for amending the statutes to provide punishments to those who concoct blasphemy accusations against others.

“Only the state can rein in such religiously motivated violence,” lawyer Riaz Anjum told Morning Star. “These back-to-back incidents should be an eye-opener for our political leaders that no one is safe from these laws, and it is about time that the state moves to set things right.”

Pakistan People’s Party Sen. Farhatullah Babar said it’s clear the law needs to be fixed.

“The barbaric killing of Mashal Khan, the torturing and burning alive of the Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan and other such violent actions should make us think about concrete measures to prevent the misuse of the blasphemy law,” he told Morningstar. “We need to revisit this law.”

There is, however, a deep divide in Pakistan over blasphemy punishments, and it appears to be getting deeper.

WND reported only weeks ago a worldwide Christian ministry that operates in dozens of Muslim-dominated countries warned a new effort was under way to enforce blasphemy laws around the globe.

“House of War: Islam’s Jihad Against the World” conveys what the West needs to know about Islam and the violent, expansionary ideology that seeks the subjugation and destruction of other faiths, cultures and systems of government

Of concern to Muslim countries are online postings.

“The aim is not simply to remove anything posted on the Internet deemed offensive to Islam, but to find out who posted it and prosecute them,” says the non-profit charity Barnabas Fund, which assists persecuted Christians globally.

Pakistan’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, has already said he wants to extradite anyone overseas accused of Islamic blasphemy, the group said.

“In fact, the Pakistan government is asking Internet providers to tell them the names of people posting such material.”

Reuters reported Khan has boasted that his nation is getting cooperation from Facebook to have such material on social media “removed or blocked – and that anyone posting such material be punished.”

Kahn said Facebook and other service providers “should share all information about the people behind this blasphemous content with us.”

Barnabas Fund said it’s alarming that Pakistan, historically a U.S. ally, “is seeking to introduce what is in effect a global Islamic blasphemy law that prohibits any Internet material critical of Islam.”

The ministry pointed out that someone accused under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws might not be extradited from a Western democracy, but if he travels to any Islamic nation, he could be arrested and sent to Pakistan.

“This also, of course, potentially impacts anyone who writes online about the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world. At the very least it is likely that Internet companies such as Facebook and Twitter will set their IT systems to remove anything that constitutes Islamic blasphemy. This means material about persecution of Christians in the Islamic world could also be removed, despite having been published in the West. Even something on a church Facebook page could be removed,” Barnabas Fund said.

“Make no mistake, this is a serious attempt to introduce a global Islamic blasphemy law, and one that will not only increase the persecution of Christians but also make even reporting the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world much more difficult. It will inevitably lead to self-censorship. Internet companies such as Facebook need to realize that there is a huge problem of anti-Christian hatred and persecution in the world and that their actions in suppressing reporting of this are, for want of a better word, ‘Christianophobia,'” the report said.

WND reported a year ago a movement in Pakistan recognizes its blasphemy laws are out of control.

Barnabas Fund said then a tribunal was set up to investigate riots in Gojra in August 2009 that killed eight Christians after an unsubstantiated claim of blasphemy.

The tribunal recommended a review of the country’s blasphemy law.

“The 325-page report, produced by a former Lahore High Court judge, highlights five provisions in the law relating to Islam which should be revisited both to prevent misuse and to ensure that it aligns with Article 25 of Pakistan’s constitution, which stipulates the equality of all citizens,” Barnabas Fund said.

But the report noted that before going to parliament for approval, various schools of Islamic thought and the Council of Islamic Ideology will be consulted on the changes.

The report said that between July 28 and Aug. 1, 2009, a mob of more than 800 Muslims raided a Christian settlement in the town of Gojra in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Approximately 60 houses were burnt down and eight Christians were killed, seven of whom were from one family.

Barnabas Fund said the attack was regarded as retribution for an alleged charge of blasphemy following gossip that a Quran had been burned during a wedding ceremony.

“Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians” provides documented accounts of attacks on Christians worldwide, and it tells of the perseverance and courage of men and women who suffer abuse because of their faith in Jesus Christ

 

 

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.