Pakistan May Amend Its Blasphemy Law… Without Correcting the Actual Problem

There’s no shortage of stories of religious critics getting killed in Pakistan. While the penalty for blasphemy could be a fine or imprisonment, death is always on the table. And all of that is assuming vigilantes haven’t beaten or slaughtered you first.

BlasphemyPakistanArgue

It’s about time the nation amended its blasphemy law. While a full repeal would obviously be preferred, at least we can celebrate changes in that direction, right?

Not in this case. Al Jazeera reports that the Islamabad High Court has urged parliament to amend the law… but not to eliminate the death penalty for blasphemers. Instead, the judges want people making false accusations of blasphemers to face the death penalty, too. More death!

In a lengthy 116-page order, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui suggested that parliament amend the law to require the same punishment of the death penalty for those who falsely allege blasphemy as for those who commit the crime.

“Currently, there is a very minor punishment for falsely accusing someone of blasphemy,” the judgement said.

Under the existing law, the false accuser faces punishments ranging from two years in prison to life imprisonment.

Mehdi Hasan, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, welcomed the Islamabad court’s move seeking amendment for the law.

“This law is being misused by people to take revenge against their opponents, and it is very easy to charge anyone for blasphemy,” he told Al Jazeera from Lahore.

It may be true that these witch hunts are led by people seeking revenge, but the amendment misses the main problem entirely. People who want to go after their enemies will always have recourse. The problem with the blasphemy law isn’t that it’s one tool at the disposal of someone seeking revenge. It’s that the law punishes thought.

Even if the amendment goes through, the underlying idea that blasphemy deserves punishment remains intact. As if actual criticism of Islam deserves the death penalty. As if it’s okay for the government to kill people who dare to question religious beliefs… as long as the person actually said it.

Blasphemy is frequently in the eye of the beholder, anyway. Someone making a joke about Allah could be accused of blasphemy by someone whose intentions are “pure” and the revised law would do nothing to solve the problem.

What a joke.

As long as blasphemy remains a crime, Pakistan will continue to see blood shed in the name of religion.

(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Amy for the link)

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