Out-of-Control Pakistan Blasphemy Law Used to Oppress Christians, Others. By Jeffrey Imm


The ongoing imprisonment of Pakistan Christian woman Asia Bibi highlights the ongoing oppression of Pakistan Christian, other Pakistan religious minorities, as well as Pakistan majority Muslims, by the oppressive blasphemy law, used as a tactic to silence unpopular voices and to oppress others. As part of our commitment to our shared universal human rights, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) challenges Pakistan's blasphemy law and its use to kill, oppress, and intimidate others.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) chairwoman Katrina Lantos Swett and Mary Ann Glendon have gone to Pakistan to speak to Pakistan government officials to change the Pakistan blasphemy law. These USCIRF leaders state that the Pakistan "blasphemy law on its face flatly violates both freedom of religion and freedom of expression," and they call for the U.S. State Department to "designate Pakistan a 'country of particular concern' for its continued record of failure in protecting religious freedom."
In Punjab alone, Dawn has reported 262 cases of alleged blasphemous behavior.
We continue to appeal for the medical welfare and release of Asia Bibi, which has also been addressed by other human rights leaders, including the Pakistan Christian Post, Asian Human Rights Commission, Global Dispatch, British Pakistan Christians, Ahmar Khan, and others. The Asian Human Rights Commission has a very useful posting with additional contacts for emails for action, which R.E.A.L. has included in our ACTION posting to get the Pakistan government to act now on her medical condition and to release her from her unjust imprisonment.
Noreen Asia Bibi (known mostly as Asia Bibi) was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court in November 2010, receiving a sentence of death by hanging, based on a June 2009 argument with Muslim women who were upset with her for drinking the same water as them. A trumped up charge was made that she subsequently insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad, which she has denied but was the basis for her arrest, conviction, and imprisonment. Over 400,000 signatures have been placed on petitions calling for her release. Christian minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Pakistani government politician Salmaan Taseer called for her release and opposed the blasphemy laws, and they were both killed by terrorists. Her family remains in hiding due to terrorist threats.
We have reported on many other blasphemy cases: Christian pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother Sajjad (who were gunned down in the streets in Faisalabad). The two brothers had left a court hearing on on charges of "blasphemy," when they were gunned down on the court house steps, even when they had a police escort. There were rumors that they might be found innocent and released. Asia IT News reported that for days religious leaders had been "fanning the flame" of hatred against the two brothers.
We have reported on Rehmat Masih, Qamar David, Imran Masih, Ashraf Aslam, Robert Danish aka Falish Masih (who died in prison while being arrested for blasphemy), Munir Masih and his wife Ruqiya Bibi, and others.
We have reported on those Pakistan Christians fleeing for their lives, from such false "blasphemy" charges, such as Ms. Saiqa and Jehanzaib Asher.
With literally hundreds of cases, we cannot imagine how many we do not have specific names, places, and dates, to report on, as shown by the 262 cases in Punjab alone. One of our Pakistan contacts advises us that they are aware of dozens of blasphemy cases against Pakistan Christians with unregistered newspapers giving local coverage to such blasphemy cases, which extremists use to rationalize hatred and violence against the local Pakistan Christian community.
Our source states that people involved in recent Pakistan blasphemy cases have included Naeem Masih, Ejaz Taj, Shokath Haroon, Saiqa Mukthar, Kamran Victor, Nayab Wilson, Javed Joseph, Saima Bibi, all of whom need the support of the international human rights community. Pakistan Christians charged in trumped-up blasphemy cases are also facing fatwas against them declared by extremist Mullahs. The human rights community needs to continue to find ways to protect these people whose human rights are in immediate danger, as well as to find ways to press Pakistan to end its out-of-control blasphemy laws.
Pakistan majorities need to also realize that these blasphemy laws are not just a threat and a problem for Pakistan Christians, but are also used to oppress and threaten Pakistan Muslims minority and majority Muslims as well.
We have also reported on other minority (and majority) Muslims caught up in this oppression, such as Masud Ahmad (Ahmadiyya Muslim), four Ahmadiyya Muslim children arrested for blasphemy, and other Muslims such as British Muhammad Asghar, as a well as 60 year old Muslim woman, Akhtari Malkan, attacked for dropping a receipt on the ground which was built up as "throwing the Qur'an" on the ground, a factory owner killed for taking down a calendar and accused of blasphemy.
Blasphemy charges have been brought against well-known majority Muslim figures out of spite and hate, including Pakistan singer Junaid Jamshed, actress Veena Malik (initially sentenced to 26 years in prison before a Supreme Court stay), and even an Islamic studies professor. Muslim Dr. Muhammad Shakil Auj, a professor of Islamic studies in Karachi, had blasphemy charges filed charges against him with the police for blasphemy by a local seminary for being "too liberal". He never saw a court room as he was shot to death first. His name was removed from the university website hours after his death.
The out-of-control blasphemy laws in Pakistan are an offense to the universal human rights not only of Pakistan Christians and other religious minorities, but also an offense to all Pakistan people and the people of the world.
Responsible for Equality And Liberty supports and defends the universal human rights of all people, and it reminds Pakistan of its obligations and commitment under international law. We challenge the Pakistan blasphemy law as a direct attack on our shared universal human rights.
Pakistan is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) ratified as of June 23, 2010, as well as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Pakistan Blasphemy Law is in direct contradiction to its international agreement of ICCPR Article 18, which includes "1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion." The Pakistan Blasphemy law is in direct opposition to these shared universal human rights for the Pakistan people and for all people. Pakistan needs to decide whether or not it is a member of the nations of the world that respects human rights and dignity, or it is a clear and unquestionably self-declared rogue nation which rejects these global standards necessary for a free people.
R.E.A.L. urges the Pakistan government and the Pakistan people to end the oppressive blasphemy law which attacks the rights of Pakistan Christians and other religious minorities, and which is used as a method to harass and intimidate people with a grudge against a Pakistani in any identity group. These attacks on our shared universal human rights have to end. We urge Pakistan to realize the need for change and to become responsible for equality and liberty.

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