The BBC is apologizing after assuming blasphemy should be punished by asking viewers “What is the right punishment for blasphemy?”
The BBC’s Asian Network provoked outrage after Muslim activist Shazia Awan asked viewers “what is the right punishment for blasphemy?” in a video posted to the networks Twitter account.
Assuming that blasphemy should be punished, Awan asked:
What is the right punishment for blasphemy? I want to talk about this because Pakistan have asked for the help of Facebook to crack down on blasphemous content on the site.
Facebook have even agreed to send a team out there for help. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he supports this crackdown.
On the party’s official Twitter account, it’s called blasphemy an “unpardonable offence”. Do you agree with this? Is this the right way to handle blasphemy?
What is the right punishment for blasphemy?
— BBC Asian Network (@bbcasiannetwork) March 17, 2017
(On Twitter, Awan identifies herself as both a Muslim and a feminist, displaying a profound confusion about what it is to be a Muslim, and what it is to be a feminist. For the record, one cannot be both a Muslim and a feminist; it must be one or the other. Islam, like Christianity, is a patriarchal, misogynistic belief system that explicitly reject equality between the sexes.)
After Awan’s disturbing assumption, and a big backlash from viewers angry that someone from the BBC was assuming blasphemy should be punished as a crime, the network issued an apology via Twitter, declaring:
We never intended to imply that blasphemy should be punished.
Blasphemy is defined as the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for a religious deity, or showing irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things.However, a lack of reverence for religious nonsense is often a sane and healthy response to the irrational. While individuals who have fallen victim to religious delusion may deserve pity and empathy, the nonsense that makes up the stuff of religious belief deserves no such concern.
Indeed, most reasonable people recognize that religious belief constitutes a clear and present danger to the human species. Currently it is dangerous, even deadly, in many parts of the world to express the simple fact that there is no convincing evidence for God, or to draw a picture of a certain holy figure.
The current situation in Pakistan is not unique. Many Muslim dominated countries punish blasphemy. For example, in Saudi Arabia, atheists are considered terrorists, and atheism is prosecuted as a crime, with lengthy prison sentences or death for anyone “calling for atheist thought” or “calling into question the fundamentals of Islam.”
Such a state of affairs is an affront to humanity, and should be both intolerable and repugnant to all good people.
Blasphemy laws represent an immoral and unjust infringement upon religious liberty and freedom of conscience that often legitimizes vigilantism, mob violence, and the persecution of minorities.
Blasphemy laws not only violate the human right to freedom of expression; they also protect religious beliefs and practices, as well as religious institutions and leaders, from legitimate, and often necessary, criticism.
Bottom line: Any law prohibiting blasphemy should be of deep concern to all those who cherish free-speech, rational thought, and civilized society.