Public Comment

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law

Jagjit Singh
Friday April 22, 2016 - 05:03:00 PM

Last Monday, the Islamic scholar, Arafat Mazhar, gave an interesting talk at Stanford University to clarify Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

Mazhar has been on a personal crusade to educate the public on how the law has been hijacked and misinterpreted by self-styled imams to suit their own political agendas. Much to his amazement he discovered that the much revered imam in Pakistan who is responsible for the current interpretation of blasphemy, is not versed in Arabic, and could not therefore accurately interpret the original texts. It appears that in an effort to encourage group thought and create mortal fear for doubters or ‘apostates (non-believers),’ Pakistan deems a just punishment for insulting the prophet and apostates is death. Simply stated, – you blaspheme, you die. The option of life imprisonment was made defunct after a 1991 Federal Shariat Court judgement.  

According to Mazhar, the law’s original text forbade such punishment. Junaid Jamshed, a pop icon and widely heard Islamic evangelist, went viral on the Internet, in which his remarks were perceived as blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and his wife, Ayesha. He was sentenced to death but in spite of recanting in public and re-affirming his faith his death sentence has not been overturned.If this climate of intolerance continues, there is little hope of Pakistan surviving as a democratic society.