Keep pushing against the blasphemy laws


Violence against religious minorities protest - The Nation

On November 25, 2010, Pakistan People’s Party MNA Sherry Rehman, submitted a bill to the National Assembly seeking amendments to the Blasphemy laws. Since then, the Islamist parties of Pakistan have been in a tizzy. Aside from the announcement of two major rallies – one on December 31 and the other on January 8 – we see that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) or the ‘top Islamic body’ of Pakistan as it is known has a response to Rehman’s bill.

I admit that I am wary of the Council. My skepticism stems from their reaction to what could have been a great achievement, the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill. Many claim that the legislature has not been implemented primarily due to the obstacles created by the CII. The Council labeled the bill as ‘discriminatory,’ argued that it would allow police to violate the ‘sanctity of the home,’ and also lead to higher divorce rates.  What it would have done is broadened the definition of abuse, and created protection committees providing legal care and medical facilities to victims of abuse. These are just a couple of the positive changes the bill would have brought.

Interestingly, in October 2009 when the bill was moved in Senate, it was a senior member of Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), who had raised the most vociferous objection to the Domestic Violence Bill. In November 2009, in a move noted by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan as ‘alarming,’ that same senior member of the JUI-F, Maulana Mohammed Khan Sheerani was given the valued and influential position of the chairman of the CII.

I bring up all that not to highlight the Domestic Violence Bill, which lies dormant and forgotten, as does most legislation that aims to help minorities. It is to return to the matter of the Blasphemy laws, and point out that while the CII’s watered down changes can be viewed as a counter-proposal, they can also be seen as a major success for Rehman. For it seems that those interested in maintaining the controversial laws sense a momentum for change that they cannot stop. To ensure a large turnout at the two rallies that I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the names of all their major players are being pushed. This includes all the leaders of the ‘outlawed’ parties, organisations that remain the same while thriving under new names. Be it the Jamaat ud Dawa, the Sipah Sahabah or whatever they are now called, Hafiz Saeed and his likes under one banner are ominously gathering in a show of strength. (The problems in allowing Hafiz Saeed to participate in a rally deserves a column of its own.) They could also find in this an opportunity to recover from the damage caused by the Wikileaks cable that revealed Maulana Fazlur Rehman to have kowtowed to former US Ambassador Anne Patterson for power in government.

It may be true that most opponents of the Blasphemy laws, and I include myself in this, believe that the law should be repealed, scratched altogether. However, an amendment or specifically, Sherry Rehman’s proposed amendments can be a good start. At the very least it brings some change, some initiative where there has been none for decades. As activist Beena Sarwar said to me, “Politics is about compromise, dialogue and negotiation too.”

Rehman has also stated that she hopes this will be only the beginning. In her moving piece titled ‘Stand up against the blasphemy laws’ as published in the Express Tribune, she wrote:

“This is the time to push for repeal of the blasphemy law in the legislature. If that does not work, just like the Hudood repeal bills did not when we moved them, we need to build positions and craft laws that amend these laws so they become toothless…”

I say let us be roused by Rehman’s appeal to stand together to make things better in whatever way we each can. This could be that bit of hope after which we are constantly clamouring.

For those who have not already done so, and are interested in studying the Amendments to the Blasphemy Laws Act 2010, it has been published with Sherry Rehman’s consent on Marvi Sirmed’s blog. To compare with the Council of Islamic Ideology’s changes, you can refer to this Express Tribune article.

25 Responses to “Keep pushing against the blasphemy laws”

  1. Dear Naveen, thank you for this post. I’d like to refer people not just to the text of Sherry Rehman’s bill which you’ve provided (via Marvi Sirmed’s blog) but also to the comparison of the existing law with what’s being proposed, tabulated by advocate Asad Jamal, that I’ve posted here:

  2. Where can i find about your opinion in favor to strike down the law ?

  3. In my honest view, striking down the law is not an option. However, death sentence is also outrageous. There should be a middle ground.

  4. The liberals have made the blasphemy law as a matter of life and death for Pakistan. This attitude of our liberal journalist is sick and disrespectful. This matter is global and should be looked with an open eye but the liberal community has gone conservative in this issue.
    Blasphemy law should have been dealt with one possible principle that whether the person held accountable for blasphemy has did it knowingly or unknowingly.If 2 or more witnesses give proof that a person has done blasphemy knowingly then such person should be treated exactly accordingly to our blasphemy law!
    However in case of exceptions like the case of blasphemy in Hyderabad by a dr the court should sincerely look at such scenario and forgive such people who’ve done it unknowingly! That’s in accordance with Islam in my opinion.
    The liberals have made blasphemy law a matter of life and death but it’s not. If someone desperatly does blasphemy he deserves punishment. And everyone should stand up on this stance.

    • @farhan vivik
      I agree with you about liberals being conservative. At this point, it becomes liberal fascism. No Offense. I agree that Death Sentence is controversial but a punishment is necessary. I just dived into Pakistani Twiiterarti and amazed how much conservative are liberationists.

      Affected persons of Pakleaks [Condemnable Incident] were demanding to report it spam and offensive. Some also asked that Govt should introduce a law for “online harassment” and “Privacy”. They got disturbed due to fake propaganda.

      According to them
      No body should have a right to harass and disturb the privacy of these individuals
      Any body should have right to say anything about Prophet S.A.W who is spiritual leader for billions and then even ask followers not to react

  5. Well written Naveen. I have myself managed to collect some thoughts on this matter, if time, then please read my post on the following link.

  6. 7 Farieha

    “The liberals have made blasphemy law a matter of life and death but it’s not.”

    What I fail to understand is that when people are killed in cold blood on charges of blasphemy, how is that not a matter of life and death…

    Mr Farhan, have you never heard of the cases where courts have acquitted people accused of blasphemy yet they’ve been killed out on the streets? Because certain people feel that the law should be upheld regardless of evidence, who believe a mere accusation is enough to justify murder and are willing to take the law in their own hands. So it is indeed a matter of life and death and has always been one.

    Death shouldn’t be part of the equation at all. Especially not in the law.

  7. 8 shah haseen musarat

    keep pushing against blasphemy law .let us stand up against these laws which denaid human rights and kills humanity

  8. 9 Omar bin Abdulaziz

    These laws are meant to protect the honour of our beloved Prophet (SAW) and the Quran. How can you possible think of repealing them???
    Wouldn’t you want to fight for the honour of the imam of over 1.5 billion people???
    Shame on you liberal rats!!!

      • 11 Ashfauq

        1- Dr. Khalid Zaheer ( like Ghamidi & others) have a very myopic view of Islam and Shariah Law. There has been numerous examples in the life of the Prophet (PBUH) that he himself gave orders for people who do not belief in Islam to punished to death for blasphemy.Hence Prophet (PBUH) himself has set an example for all such case in future.

        2- Abuse of a law does not imply that that law should be abolished. Plz tell me any law that is not abused in Pakistan one way or other? So sould all those law be abolished?

        3- Extra Judicial killing against any verdict for anything does not justify the same principle.

        4- As far as Universal Human rights are concerned, in Pakistan we are bound to introduce laws that are not conflicting to Quraan & Sunnah, even if those laws are not acceptable else where in the world. Whats the point of having our own country if we can’t make laws according to our own choices.

  9. 12 Farhan virk

    @Fareiha : teachings of Islam say that a person who hasn’t done anything should be innocent and incase held for some odd reason he should be freed. Now if someone kills such persons on road it isn’t because of Islam or blasphemy law it’s because of sick nature of the people. Such cases are a sad dilemma of our society ! But it doesn’t show that law did something’s nature of people struck by ignorant mullahs. No need to take this matter on your own shoulders! It’s global and should be solved globally. “Liberalists have gone conservative in this issue and need to become liberal”

  10. If anybody had studied the history of islam then may be you guys can have an idea that what is the importance of protecting the honour of our beloved Prophet Muhammad Peace be Upon Him, I totally agree with Omar bin Abdulaziz. this is another flaw of this corrupt man made “Democratic Capitalist System” that some of us wants this law to repeal.

    May Allah gives hidaya to all those ignorant muslims.

  11. 15 Saadie

    Umer please do highlight from where in history we can read about “importance of protecting the honour of our beloved Prophet Mohamed PBUH”

  12. 16 Farieha


    And what about the message of peace and tolerance in Islam. Or its teachings about wrongly accusing someone? Or false testimony or injustice? Or the protection of the rights of all and respect for other religions? Or the fact that it is by your conduct that you should spread the message of Islam and the Prophet (PBUH) and not by force. Nobody pays any heed to this. Why? It is said that always point the finger at yourself first and then at others.

    For all those who support the blasphemy law and the punishments it prescribes, where is the textual evidence that it is indeed from the Quran. For if it is not, how are you calling it Islamic or the word of God? Have you read it in the Quran yourself that you support it with such certainty? Or are you committing the folly you have been warned not to by religion, and are relying on hearsay?

    Disrespecting and dishonouring Islam and the Prophet (PBUH) is when one is involved in promoting things in the name of Islam which have no Islamic basis, and by following things blindly without establishing their authenticity.


    If the teachings of Islam say that somebody should not be charged with a crime they have not committed, but you know that you have a system so corrupt and people so incensed when it comes to blasphemy, that whether a person is innocent or not is not important, what do you do then?

    It is a fact that people accuse others of blasphemy falsely because they know it is such a controversial issue that nobody will dare contest the allegation and thus their revenge on a person will be guaranteed. We live in a society where religion is misused, and we know it, yet we allow it to happen and will happily see people hanged or killed. And somehow nobody feels they will have to answer for this.

    What we need is open debate and questioning. It is imperative to question.

  13. @Naveenaqvi
    Dear Madam,
    i read the article you recommended, good use of words but denial of this law was still unseen in that post. 3) If Muslims wish to have a
    blasphemy law, they cannot be
    stopped from having one,
    especially given the fact there are
    laws in the Western countries
    protecting the honour of their kings
    and queens and the reverence
    associated with the tragedy of the
    This point shows the importance of having this law.
    The only strategy i advised was to make 2 different categories that person did it knowingly or unknowingly. Incase he did it unknowingly he should be freely acquitted with respect. That’s my point. Hope you agree. Please read my first comment carefully. Thanks

  14. @Fareiha : don’t mind. But you speak too much and that too without assertive influence. 🙂 let’s suppose everyone agrees, blasphemy law is lifted. Tomorrow one Qadyani places huge sign boards in my city saying our Prophet s.a.w was not last Prophet. Maz Allah. A christian extremist like Terry Jones makes small newsletters and distributes saying bad things about Prophet and Quran. What you propose is that we should sit quietly watch the scenario and enjoy the scene. 🙂
    Those who don’t love Prophet can watch it. But i can’t :@ i’ll stand up and give my life.That’s what love is all about.
    P.s don’t speak too much or else you may be held in blasphemy case too? Who knows when you might cross the line!

    • Farhan Virk, I’ve allowed your comment, but please refrain from making threats to other commentators. Your intimidation tactics are not appreciated.

    • 20 Jaafer Naqvi

      “P.s don’t speak too much or else you may be held in blasphemy case too? Who knows when you might cross the line!”

      Virk sahab: sir salute ha app k jazba e emaani ko! 🙂 beshak Rasool ullah(saww) app ko dil sa du’wain de raha honga :)) matlab k waah 🙂

  15. @Naveenaqvi: Sorry if you thought i threatened. Am extremely sorry but one might cross limits while getting emotional so every time one speaks about blasphemy law one should be very careful. It’s not a household issue. One might cross limits it can be even me. So such debate should be done by accurate and precise use of language. You’ve the right to remove my comment madam if you thought i was threatening! I’m extremely sorry again

  16. 22 Farieha

    Right, and you speak with a lot of “assertive influence” by moving away from facts, taking the discussion to would-be scenarios, and mentioning Qadiyanis and Christians in particular to create more hate?

    How tolerant and sensible of you. Really commendable.

  17. 23 ruhan nasir

    Dear Naveen,

    Great stuff again, HATS OFF TO YOUR COURAGE AND HONESTY! Yes we do need to push further to change these inhumane, hideous, and barbaric laws in Pakistan.

    A note for Farhan Virk, My Friend no Ahmedi says Holy Prophet was not the last prophet, he indeed was the last prophet ( Seal of all the prophets). Now I guess in this age and time COMMON SENSE PREVAILS!!!

    I humbly recommend to read about other faiths and then pass your judgements. I will not take the tone you have taken with Naveen or in posting your comments….what is that phrase?……words speak louder than……..?

  18. 24 wendeth

    It’s not an Islamic thing anymore, it’s about the truth and people can’t seem to tell the truth. Just because you have two “witnesses” that does not make it so. In the case of murder or abuse there is physical evidence to weight with the verbal, but in the case of blasphemy there is hardly any evidence in the cases which have brought so much popularity in the last several years.

    There are very few people in that country of any faith who would be stupid enough to actually commit blasphemy in that country; this is just common sense folks and I think that is something which needs to be weighed. The biggest irritation is how I hear Pakistani’s whining about the mistreatment of Muslims in non-Islamic nations simply because they are the minority….and yet…..

    I was fortunate enough to live and love living in Pakistan for quite some time. I lived in a typical neighborhood, had a regular job, worked along side the common Pakistani and I know that it’s not the majority of folks who would be so cruel to say someone committed blasphemy just because…..but I also am not naive enough to think that if I’d made the wrong person mad, or just someone who noticed I was gori and hates the U.S. that they may not have yelled at the top of their voice I should be put away.

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