Saturday, January 31, 2009

One Man and Four Children Face Blasphemy Charges in Pakistan

You read that correctly. Four Children. Let's all just turn our heads and cover our eyes as we march inexorably forward into the past.

Four Ahmadi children charged with blasphemy

LAHORE: Five members of the Ahmadiyya community including four children were charged with blasphemy under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code in Layyah on Wednesday. The children, aged 16 and younger, were detained at about 8pm after a complaint by a local cleric. Police have registered a case (number 46/9) in the Court Sultan police station against Tahir Imran (16), Tahir Mahmood (14), Naseer Ahmad (14), Muhammad Irfan (14), and Mubashar Ahmad (45). A spokesman for the community denied the allegations saying they were intended to fuel religious hatred. “Victimising children with false accusations is the most condemnable use of the blasphemy law,” he said. staff report. [Emphasis mine]

And just so that we're clear on this, blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan. The death penalty for blasphemy was upheld by an appeals court in July, 2001. To wit --

A Pakistani appeals court last month confirmed the death sentence of a Christian charged with having made derogatory remarks against the Muhammad.

The case of Ayub Masih received international attention when Pakistani Bishop John Joseph of Faisalabad committed suicide in May 1998 to protest the verdict. The bishop shot himself in front of the court building after the verdict was handed down.

Ayub was arrested in October 1996 and sentenced to death in April 1998. He was charged with blasphemy under a section of the Pakistani penal code. Blasphemy, in the Pakistani definition, includes speaking or writing against the prophet Mohammed or Islam. It carries a mandatory penalty of death.

At the time of his arrest, tensions were mounting between the landless Christian peasants and the land-owning Muslims in the southern Punjab. Ayub was accused at the time of blasphemy during a dispute with a Muslim villager. Human rights activists claim that the accusation was a tactic used by Muslim groups to assure that Christians would not be able to reclaim land they held before being expelled from the area. [Emphasis mine]

Now, isn't this sort of thing taking lawfare to a ridiculous, and reprehensible, extreme? You must voice no opinions other than the approved opinions, lest you be put to death. And even if you don't blaspheme, well ... we'll just say you did anyway. Let the clerics, the shariah courts, and the executioner sort it out. Gee, that seems fair.

And as for the four children currently facing this nightmare? Well in Sudan, in the case of the Teddy Bear named Mohammed, didn't they just charge the British teacher -- and then deport her?

h/t Kartum Tachmukhammet

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