A Pakistani Christian man has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, in a case which sparked fierce rioting in the eastern city of Lahore last March.
Sawan Masih was convicted of using derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed in a row with a Muslim friend.
Hundreds of Muslims attacked the city’s Christian Joseph colony, torching homes, when the allegations surfaced.
Allegations of blasphemy against Islam are taken very seriously in Pakistan, where 97% of the population are Muslim.
Several recent cases have prompted international concern about the application of blasphemy laws.
Sawan Masih’s lawyer said a judge announced the verdict during a hearing at the jail where the trial has been held, amid fears for his client’s safety if he attended court.
The 26-year-old Masih, who is a father of three, has consistently maintained his innocence during the year-long trial…
Critics argue that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are frequently misused to settle personal scores and that members of minority groups are also unfairly targeted.
Muslims constitute a majority of those prosecuted, followed by the minority Ahmadi community.
Any expectation of fairness in the use of a patently absurd law is misplaced. Not that I expect anything more from sectarian zealots. No matter which continent.
Flat-earthers who consider science untouchable and secular law untenable are stuck into definitions of culture that hasn’t changed since the Stone Age.
Dutch authorities have decided to approve a motion abandoning a law under which it is a crime to insult God.
A majority of parties in parliament said the blasphemy law was no longer relevant in the 21st Century…
The legislation, introduced in the 1930s, has not been invoked in the last half century. However, it still remains illegal under Dutch law to be disrespectful to police officers or to insult Queen Beatrix, the country’s monarch…
The BBC’s Anna Holligan, in The Hague, says that there was much debate about the issue after a Dutch court ruled that the far-right anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders should be allowed to criticise Islam, even if his outspoken opinions offended many Muslims.
In 2008, a coalition government decided against repealing the blasphemy law in order to maintain support from a conservative Christian political party.
But, sooner or later, even the opportunism of professional politicians will be overcome by freedom-loving voters. Eventually, people realize that most “coalitions” are arranged to share power – not principles.
According to a translation of a Russian news report that’s been kicking around the Web, some conservative believers see the image of the bitten apple as a symbol of Adam and Eve’s original sin in the Bible. Some have gone so far as to cover up the logo and replace it with an image of a cross.
Apparently no one has clued these folks in to the fact that Apple’s name and logo were actually inspired by the legendary piece of fruit that fell on the head of mathematician and astronomer Isaac Newton….
Why would that make a difference to some nutball fundamentalist?
New anti-blasphemy laws proposed in Russia’s parliament could conceivably prevent Apple from selling products with its own logo in the country…
If Apple does come to blows with the Russian church or government over its iconic logo, it could find allies within the country. Interfax news reports that the Russian political party Yabloko has been a sharp critic of the efforts to create what it calls a “clerical-police state” that is “deliberately fueling a conflict between the Russian Orthodox Church and secular civil society.”
Yabloko might have another good reason to come to Cupertino’s defense in Mother Russia — the party’s name is also the Russian word for “apple.”
A Catholic bishop has called for a blasphemy law in Germany, saying all religions deserved legal protection from attack in order to preserve human dignity…
“Those who injure the souls of believers with scorn and derision must be put in their place and in some cases also punished,” said Bamberg Archbishop Ludwig Schick…
He said there should be a “Law against the derision of religious values and feelings,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.
Satire magazine Titanic raised the topic of blasphemy and respect for religion last month after publishing an image of Pope Benedict with a yellow stain on his cassock in reference to the Vatican leaks scandal.
The Pope took legal action which succeeded in banning further printing of the image, although copies of the magazine already published were not removed from sale. Yet his legal argument was based on his personal rights rather than any protection of religion…
…The idea of a blasphemy law was slammed by the Green Party, whose parliamentary leader Volker Beck said satire and irony could not be banned…He said that ironic or satirical statements might not be popular among those targeted, but they could not be forbidden.
“Believers do not need any greater criminal legal protection against defamation, slander and attack than other social groups,” he said.
Sharia law has no credibility in a modern educated society. I don’t care whether the theocrats are Catholic or Southern Baptist, Orthodox Jews or Muslims, providing justice by religious ideology should remain catalogued in history books as an aberration leftover from the Dark Ages.
Why do religions fear words so?
A court in Kuwait has sentenced a man to 10 years in prison for endangering state security by insulting the Prophet Muhammad and the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in messages on Twitter.
Hamad al-Naqi was also found guilty of mocking Islam and provoking sectarian tensions.
Mr Naqi, a Shia Muslim, had said his Twitter account was hacked and that he did not write any of the messages. Some Sunni activists had demanded that he be sentenced to death for blasphemy.
An amended law endorsed by the Kuwaiti parliament last month stipulates capital punishment for any Muslim who, through any form of expression, insults God, his prophets, messengers, the Prophet Muhammad’s wives or the Koran, unless the defendant publicly repents.
If the defendant repents, a sentence of at least five years’ imprisonment will be imposed. Repeat offenders will receive the death sentence…
About a third of Kuwait’s 1.1 million citizens are Shia. The emirate’s Sunni-led government is concerned Shias may launch protests demanding more democracy and an end to discrimination, mirroring those in majority-Shia Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia’s predominantly Shia Eastern Province.
They don’t appear to be concerned in the least about freedom of thought or speech, though. Would you expect anything different from a monarchy supported by theocracy?
Think what we get to look forward to – between the FBI looking over our cyber shoulder at Tweets and blog posts and the all-American possibility of fundamentalist crazies and their flunkies in politics attaining complete control of the federal government some day?
Micro-blogging website Twitter has been restored in Pakistan on Sunday night, after an almost day long ban.
Sources have confirmed that Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has spoken to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who ordered concerned authorities to unblock the site.
Micro-blogging website Twitter had been temporarily banned across Pakistan on Sunday by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Express News correspondent Suhail Chaudhry had reported that the access to Twitter was blocked due to an ongoing “competition” of Prophet Muhammad’s caricatures…
Earlier, PTA Chairman Dr Mohammad Yaseen said the regulator was asked by the Ministry of Information and Technology to block the website in the country…
Pakistan’s government had asked Twitter to stop a discussion on Prophet Muhammad, which was considered derogatory, Yaseen said, adding that “Twitter refused our request…”
The PTA blocked the access to Twitter directly from the upstream links without notifying the ISPs, said Wahajuz Siraj, convener for Internet Services Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK).
Here’s where the tough questions come in – at least if you can get your head beyond the definitions of nationality. On one hand, of course, any nation has the right to manage communications as they see fit. That’s modified by international conventions and protocols – most of which are designed for throughput and don’t involve questions of content. The basic definitions of sovereignty supersede ideology.
But, then, we’ve decided the United States has the most advanced system of governance in the world – even though our own government tries their best to renege on the concepts all the time – for our own good, you understand. Because of our political ego, we presume we have the right to tell everyone else to do what we say they should do – and they should realize we’re right. Guess what? Everyone else also feels they have a right to come to their own conclusions.
I believe there isn’t a more productive and honest system than democracy as most of us understand it. That doesn’t include the crap filters in Congress, the CIA, NSA or the White House who think they can make our decisions for us. Well, the same right holds true for foreign governments.
The whole dialectic gets straightened out long-term in the marketplace of commerce as well as the marketplace of ideas. That’s why I’m confident in democracy, in free expression, in the freedoms that science offers through testing and re-evaluation and growth instead of tight little ideologies and religions.
Things change. Never enough for this week’s flavor of anarchy. But, they change.
The government in the Indian state of Meghalaya has confiscated textbooks showing pictures of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette and a can of beer.
The book has been used for primary classes and has caused a furore in the north-eastern state, where more than 70% of the population are Christians.
State Education Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh said legal action against the publishers was being contemplated.
The controversial picture of Jesus was discovered in cursive writing exercise books being used at a private school in the state capital, Shillong…
The minister said that…his government has taken speedy action by seizing all the copies of the textbook from schools and bookshops.
“We are deeply hurt by the insensitivity of the publisher. How can one show such total disrespect for a religion?” asked Dominic Jala, the Archbishop of Shillong…
The Catholic Church in India has banned all textbooks by Skyline Publications from all its schools.
Doesn’t it warm the cockles of your heart to see such understanding and tolerance for all
rational religious points of view?
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
Secular campaigners in the Irish Republic defied a strict new blasphemy law which came into force today by publishing a series of anti-religious quotations online and promising to fight the legislation in court.
The new law, which was passed in July, means that blasphemy in Ireland is now a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000.
It defines blasphemy as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted”.
Justice minister Dermot Ahern has said that the law was necessary because while immigration had brought a growing diversity of religious faiths, the 1936 constitution only extended the protection of belief to Christians.
But Atheist Ireland, a group that claims to represent the rights of atheists, responded to the new legislation by publishing 25 anti-religious quotations on its website, from figures including Richard Dawkins, Bjork, Frank Zappa and the former Observer editor and ex-Irish minister Conor Cruise O’Brien…
Michael Nugent said…”We believe in the golden rule: that we have a right to be treated justly, and that we have a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised society, people have a right to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.”
Religious folk who require their ideology to supersede rational civil and political law must learn to stand on their own two feet – and join the 20th Century even if they haven’t reached the 21st.
Societies grounded in civil liberty and fairness must turn citizens free from the Dark Ages if they are to deserve loyalty.
I’m not sure which piece of unpopular Irish news is being buried by which: the announcement of a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty, or the shuffling through of a law creating penalties for blasphemy, an offence that has never properly existed in the Irish state.
Never did anyone suggest we needed tough blasphemy laws. Until the justice minister, Dermot Ahern, decided we needed to fill the “void” left by our lack of one…
In 1999, there was an attempt to prosecute a newspaper for a cartoon mocking the church, but the judge in that case noted that he could not prosecute, because there was no definition of what legally constituted blasphemy. Well now there is. And it concerns itself with what might or might not cause “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of [a] religion” (note, not just Christianity, as was the case with English blasphemy law: this is, at least, equal opportunities idiocy).
As Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland has pointed out:
“The proposed law does not protect religious belief; it incentivises outrage and it criminalises free speech. Under this proposed law, if a person expresses one belief about gods, and other people think that this insults a different belief about gods, then these people can become outraged, and this outrage can make it illegal for the first person to express his or her beliefs.”
So Irish law has now enshrined the notion that the taking of offence is more important than free expression. If something might cause a motivated group to be “outraged”, rather than, say, cause them to live in fear, then it is illegal, with a fine of up to €25,000 payable.
The arrogance and opportunism of that common breed of lawyer/politician often defies belief. How can these dunderheads come up with such crap – and pretend the populace as a whole is hammering at the doors of legislative birth for redress?
More lies and deceit from the class that profits the most from crime.
Last fall, a judge in Lahore’s high court declared the mujra dance “vulgar” and banned it from being performed on stage.
Some here say the government is cracking down on easy, “immoral” targets in an attempt to appease religious hard-liners like the Taliban. Islamist militants are believed to be responsible for a recent wave of bomb attacks in Lahore, targeting cinemas, theaters and cafes where young men and women fraternize together…
In late March, the Lahore high court banned two female singers from recording new albums after ruling that they sang sexually explicit lyrics…
But there is one person in Lahore who openly mocks the conservative establishment: painter and restaurant owner Iqbal Hussain.
Though he said he has received multiple death threats from Islamist fundamentalists, Hussain continues to be Pakistan’s most vocal defender of prostitutes. All of the models portrayed in his paintings are sex workers…
The small, soft-spoken painter has turned the house he grew up in, an old four-story building with ornate wooden balconies, into a popular restaurant for tourists and wealthy Pakistanis. On one side of the house there is a brothel, on the other side, the 17th century Badshahi Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world…
The painter claimed that on religious festivals, the brothels and dance halls in his neighborhood overflow with customers.
“They come from the northern areas with their turbans,” Iqbal said, laughing. “All coming to this area. They’re not going to the mosque … but to the brothels!”
See. Christianity doesn’t have the market cornered on hypocrisy.