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Pakistan’s ‘Blasphemy’ Laws Pose Growing Threat

Compass Direct News (CDN) its reporting that Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy” laws can put even children at risk, and Christians say the days when they could teach their offspring pat answers to protect them from accusations of disparaging Islam or its prophet seem to have passed.

Sajid Emmanuel, slain along with his brother the Rev. Rashid Emmanuel after they were about to be acquitted of blasphemy charges in Pakistan
(Photo: Life for All)

CDN cited the case of a 30-year-old Pakistani woman who grew up in Lahore said her Christian parents taught her formula answers to keep from falling prey to accusations under the blasphemy statutes, such as “I am a Christian, I can only tell you about Him.”

Now radical Islamists have begun influencing Pakistani society, and parents teach schoolchildren not to discuss religion, she said. “We just tell children, ‘Don’t talk about religion in school.’ This is shaky ground now.”

The CDN story went on to say that thousands of Pakistanis who think and believe differently than mainstream Muslims are at risk of being slandered under the blasphemy law. Personal vendettas from neighbors, co-workers and rivals are the most common reasons blasphemy law cases are filed, according to Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

“There are more victims from mobs and vigilantes than from the government itself, but the government bears responsibility because it does not protect the victims,” he said. “Pakistan is moving increasingly towards a state driven by fear of extremists, where even moderate politicians make conservative choices to appease Islamist threats, according to Sara Taseer Shoaib, daughter of Punjab Province Gov. Salman Taseer, who was murdered for his opposition to the blasphemy laws.

“Pakistan is definitely becoming more right-wing and extremist when it comes to religion,” she said.

The violence in Pakistan has continued unabated with a series of shocking incidents.

CDN said that suspected Islamic extremists in Faisalabad shot dead two Christians about to be acquitted of blasphemy charges on July 19, 2010. The Rev. Rashid Emmanuel, 32, and his 30-year-old brother Sajid Emmanuel were shot days after handwriting experts on July 14 notified police that signatures on papers denigrating Muhammad did not match those of the accused. Expected to be exonerated, the two leaders of United Ministries Pakistan were being led in handcuffs under police custody back to jail when they were shot.

Christian Lawyers’ Foundation President Khalid Gill said the two bodies bore cuts and other signs of having been tortured, including marks on their faces, while the brothers were in police custody.

“Most recently, 40-year-old Arif Masih, of a village near Faisalabad, was arrested from his house on April 5 after Muslims accused him of ripping pages of the Quran and writing a threatening letter ordering them to become Christians,” CDN said. “His brother claims that a neighbor fabricated the accusations in order to acquire property adjacent to that of Masih’s.

“Though the much-abused blasphemy law is punishable by death, at times vigilantes have taken matters into their own hands. At least eight Christians accused of blasphemy are estimated to have been killed since 1986. The number of Muslims accused of blasphemy and killed extra-judicially may be twice that figure.

“For secular-educated Pakistanis, the blasphemy law has come to symbolize the measure to which extreme Islam has overtaken society. In the span of three months, radical Islamists murdered two of the nation’s most outspoken leaders against the blasphemy law. On Jan. 4 Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province, was murdered, and on March 2 parliamentarian Shahbaz Bhatti, who as federal minister for minority affairs was the only Christian cabinet member, was assassinated in Islamabad.”

A third official, Sherry Rehman, a parliamentarian from Karachi, led an effort to reform the blasphemy law after Noreen was sentenced to death last year. Taseer, Bhatti and Rehman were the most vocal about injustices Noreen has suffered and their disapproval of the law.

“Rehman, in hiding since Taseer’s murder, is said to be next on the Islamic terrorists’ hit list,” added the CDN story.


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