ASIA/PAKISTAN - The blasphemy law is politicized and is an attack on religious freedom

Wednesday, 8 November 2017 religious minorities   religious freedom   blasphemy   local churches   islam   political islam   civil society   politics   asia bibi  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - "The Pakistani government is not seriously addressing the issue of the abuse of blasphemy laws and the urgency of eradicating Islamic extremism from Pakistani society. It is time to take bold action to combat religious extremism and the first step is to repeal or reform the blasphemy law": this is the appeal sent to Agenzia Fides by Christian lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a humans rights promoter in Pakistan and defender of several cases of innocent victims of the blasphemy law.
Commenting to Fides on the recent tragic cases, Gill recalls that a 23-year-old Muslim student Mashal Khan, from Mardan, was killed in April for having posted content deemed "blasphemous" on the web and for having expressed critical views on Islam.
The lawyer recalls that "the brutal lynching of the Muslim student could have been an opportunity to relaunch the debate on the revision of blasphemy laws, but this attempt also failed".
A few days ago - Gill recalls - it was the third anniversary of the death of Shama and Shahzad Masih, a couple who were burned alive on November 4, 2014 after a false accusation of blasphemy; while Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, waits for the Supreme Court of Pakistan's judgment and also "Pakistan's judiciary is not making a good impression and seems to be affected by the pressures of extremist groups", notes the lawyer.
"Islamic extremist groups are now turning to political parties in order to achieve their goals", he observes, and they defend the blasphemy law fiercely. "In this way, the blasphemy law - he says - is politicized in view of the 2018 general elections and this is also why it will be difficult for the court to set a date soon for the hearing of Asia Bibi's appeal" .
"Blasphemy law is a real attack on the religious freedom of all those who have contrasting opinions with regards to Islam. Many note that both Muslims and non-Muslims are equally victims of the blasphemy law abuses; but for Muslims, it is only those who express criticism towards Islam. And, if a Christian person is accused of blasphemy, he will not be spared and his death will be sought. There is also the risk of mass punishment or revenge against the entire Christian community to which he/she belongs, as occurred in several tragic episodes", he concludes. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 8/11/2017)


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