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Blasphemy law use on rise, led by Pakistan: US group

Updated Mar 13, 2014 10:14pm


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Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the 180 million population are Muslims. — Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the 180 million population are Muslims. — Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/

WASHINGTON: Governments around the world are increasingly invoking blasphemy laws, with Pakistan by far the country that jails the most citizens for allegedly attacking religion, a US report said Thursday.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government advisory panel, voiced fear that the rise in laws banning blasphemy was leading to punishment of people who merely express different religious views or who have been falsely accused.

The report found Pakistan used its controversial law at a level “incomparable” to anywhere else, listing 14 people on death row and 19 others serving life sentences for alleged blasphemy against Islam.

Pakistan has never carried out the death penalty for blasphemy, but the report charged that the law, and the lack of procedural safeguards, has contributed to an alarming number of mob attacks and vigilante violence against minorities.

Egypt has seen a rise in use of such laws since the 2011 overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, the report said.

Citing local activists, the report found blasphemy cases involved 63 people in 2011 and 2012 and disproportionately targeted the Christian minority.

The US commission opposes blasphemy laws, saying they “protect beliefs over individuals.”

”This trend of greater usage of blasphemy laws will surely lead to increased violations of the freedoms of religion and expression,” said Knox Thames, the commission's director of policy and research.

“Governments will jail people, and extremists may kill others in the defense of undefined notions of religious sentiment,” he said, calling blasphemy laws “inherently problematic.”

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue for many Muslims. In Islam images of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) are forbidden.

Pakistan in the past has urged the United Nations to make blasphemy an internationally recognized offense.

The commission report also highlighted Bangladesh's arrests of three self-professed atheists last year and said Indonesia has arrested more than 120 people since 2003 for blasphemy, although they generally have not been prosecuted.

While blasphemy cases took place mostly in the Islamic world, the commission noted that Russia last year enacted a blasphemy law after punk band Pussy Riot put on a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin inside a cathedral.

The report also pointed to Greece, where a man was arrested in 2012 for blasphemy after mocking a late Orthodox monk on Facebook.


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Comments (13) Closed

AHA Mar 13, 2014 10:58pm

The ease with which religion can be used to abuse and hurt people makes me terribly frightened of religion.

I believe in Allah who is Rehmaan and Raheem.

But I am terribly scared of those who believe in Him.

Saba Mar 13, 2014 11:59pm

@AHA: I read some place: I have no issues with God. It's his fan clubs I cannot stand.

Mark Mar 14, 2014 01:13am

Wait for the conspiracy theorist to go bonkers now here commenting about why USA this and why USA that.......they wont look at their own faults. Any how the point is "who is listening to whom"

Khalid Mar 14, 2014 01:18am

Pakistan has become a laughing stock of the world. I am ashamed to belong to a country where children grow up learning "mine is better than yours" as far as religion is concerned. We do not respect any religion except ours and at the same time become extremely sensitive anyone says anything about our religion. Why can we not respect other religions?. Why should blasphemy laws only apply to Islam?. Should we not extend that law to every other religions as well?. I have been brought up to respect ALL religions and sects and just can not understand the hypocrisy.

EQ8Rhomes Mar 14, 2014 01:35am

REPEAL blasphemy laws. It is a weapon for the powerful to oppress common people. It will go, but Pakistanis need to decide when they will behave in a civilized way in disagreements. Everypweron jailed is a liability to Pakistan and its economy. I am surprised that a culture steeped in economics and finance can't see the stupitdity of blasphemy laws!

Karachi Wala Mar 14, 2014 01:46am


"@AHA: I read some place: I have no issues with God. It's his fan clubs I cannot stand."

I could not agree more with both of you.

Feroz Mar 14, 2014 10:32am

Insecurity can destroy an individual by compelling him to act irrationally, when a nation suffers from it there is no need for guessing the result. It is human intellectual bankruptcy that humans are here to protect God and not the other way round. When religion is used as opiate, senses go numb.

Frankenstine Mar 14, 2014 01:35pm

again the problem lies in our Judicial system.. the corrupt Judiciary... here a Civil Judge takes Bribe and gave his verdict... had our Judicial system been alright I dont think we see much misuse of Blasphemy Law..

Yaseen Mar 14, 2014 02:02pm

I remember studying in our text books, Pakistan - Fort of Islam!

Ha Ha What a joke!

Sameer Mar 14, 2014 04:18pm

@Khalid: Pakistan needs 18crore people like you.

Pin2 Mar 14, 2014 05:45pm

To those who ever had a doubt, this is the proof that Pakistan is the fortress of Islam and Pakistan ka matlab is la ilahaillallaa.

Pakistan's initiative to ensure no insult comes to pakistan is commendable and inshallah rest of the muslim world will join us soon to make the world a place where no one can look at Islam with mailee Ankh!!

allaisa Mar 14, 2014 11:34pm

@Khalid: If you apply this blasphemy law to other religions then probably 90% of people in Pakistan will have to be jailed!

Kamil M Mar 15, 2014 12:53am

Blashpemy law should apply only to those who purposely and wantonly want to hurt the feelings of people for practicing their religion, be it Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism etc. An example of this would be the author, the satan, of the satanic versus who knew full well that the feelings of more than a billion people professing Islamic faith will be hurt and he did anyway.