Blasphemy law is not above criticism
Pakistan’s highest court recently ruled that criticising the country’s highly controversial blasphemy law is not in itself illegal.
According to this report, the Supreme Court decision is seen as an important development by the Barnabas Fund, a group which campaigns against the persecution of Christians around the world.
The group said:
The Supreme Court’s statement that criticism of the blasphemy laws does not amount to blasphemy is a significant victory.
The Barnabas Fund added that the verdict is a significant first step towards giving more Christians in Pakistan some freedom of speech.
While the path to full protection against the accusation of blasphemy for Pakistan’s Christians is a long one, the freedom to allow high-level debate within Pakistan itself could mark the beginning of another step forward.
The judgment from the Muslim-majority court stemmed from the appeal made by Mumtaz Qadri, a police commando who was sentenced to death for the killing of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, in January 2011.
Qadri shot Taseer dead after the latter criticised Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Before his death, Taseer visited Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who was jailed and sentenced to death for supposedly insulting the name of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 2009.
In his appeal, Qadri justified the killing of Taseer, saying “he was convinced that Taseer had committed blasphemy when he criticised the blasphemy law, calling it a ‘black law.'”
In Pakistan, blasphemy is punishable by death. This harsh law has caused the imprisonment of 150 Christians over the last 30 years.
At present, 14 people, including Bibi, are facing the death sentence due to Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn