A Christian couple, named as Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, were charged for blasphemy for allegedly sending the text message to the imam of their local mosque against Prophet Muhammad.
In July 2016, a Christian man, Nadeem James was arrested. His friend accused him for sharing message ridiculing Prophet Muhammad in Whatsapp.
An anti-terrorism court in Bahawalpur, Pakistan sentenced Taimoor Raza for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in an argument in Facebook.
Very recently, three Pakistani Ahmedis have been ordered to be executed by trial court for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammad under the very strict blasphemy laws.
Blasphemy is an “act of insulting or showing disrespect to God, holy persons or sacred things.” Punishments for such crime is fines, imprisonment or death. While a lot of countries use to practice blasphemy laws, a lot of them repealed such laws considering religious freedom and personal choice.
Interestingly, as of 2012, 21 Muslim-majority countries namely – Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Maldives, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, the UAE and the Western Sahara practiced blasphemy laws punishable by death. On the other hand, 125 non-Muslim countries don’t practice blasphemy laws. There are still 87 nations which have hate speech laws covering insulting religion or religious group. Qu’ran doesn’t have any clear mention of punishment for blasphemy. In many places, Qur’an mentions punishment of treason or conspiracy against Islam and Muslims to be punishable by death. Many Muslim commentators have mixed treason with blasphemy.
If you go back to history during the times of Prophet Muhammad, there were many people who criticized Prophet and Allah in front of him. In majority of such incidences, he forgave them. In fact, all Arabs during Prophet’s time before becoming Muslims, use to severely criticize Prophet and Allah. This gave the Prophet scope and space for dialogue and debate. Prophet reverted people to Islam through dialogue and debate. While in cases of treason and conspiracy against Muslims and Islam, Prophet took extreme step of persecuting people with death. Muslims should understand and realise that scope for dialogue and debate is extremely important to scrutinise different dimensions of an issue. It is a proven fact, all the people who reverted to Islam, have done so through dialogue, discussion and debate. Muslims should give opportunities to people for debate and criticism about aspects of Islam. Muslims should use this as an opportunity to explain them the realities and remove confusions regarding such issues.
In many instances, blasphemy laws have been used against minorities. Ahmedis in Pakistan are a case in point. The question also arises as to why these three Ahmedis, Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmed and Ehsan Ahmed would insult Prophet Mohammad who they also consider their prophet? According to them, they tore down posters, where unbecoming words were written about Ahmedis. However, court did not listen to them and accused them of tearing down posters that were significant to Islam. That is considered an act of insult to Islam.
Ahmedis is the community that considers themselves as Muslims but denied that right by the statutes of Pakistan. It was in 1974, the constitution of Pakistan declared them as non-Muslim minority. In 1984, new laws were passed in enacting restriction on their religious freedom. The hatred for Ahmedis runs deep in Pakistan. Not only, the people of Pakistan, but also the establishment of Pakistan shows anti-Ahmedi bias. Recently, the son-in-law of the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, launched a contemptuous attack against Ahmedis in the parliament. “These people [Ahmadis] are a threat to this country, its constitution and ideology. This situation is heading towards a dangerous point,” he said.
Ahmedi community spokesperson said, “These statements create an atmosphere of fear. If these things are being said on the floor of the house, then what do you think will happen in the streets?”
Though thousands of people have been given death sentence but none of the have been executed yet, Pakistan should scrap such laws. Judiciary should push politicians not to use such laws to appease against minorities.
Time has come when Muslim scholars should think beyond traditionalism and understand that opportunities for healthy debate and discussion promote openness in society. This will give freedom to people to preach and practice what they believe. This will help Muslims and Islam to flourish instead narrowing the opportunity for understanding.