Nadeem A. Butt
If you have wrapped some thing like fruit, samosa or sweet in a newspaper, if you deliver (throw) or print a newspaper which has any Quranic Reference or the names like Ibrahim, Kareem, Wakeel, Shafi, Ismail or even Dera Ismail Khan, Lala Musa, or Fazl-ur-Rehman, Mian Muhammad Bakhsh etc. (because they have direct or attributed holy names in them), or you some how express that Muhammad (SAWW) was a “Bashar” and not “Noor” or otherwise, then you should be worried, very worried, because it may cause you to be put to death or at least death trial which may haunt you for years. This is not just an assumption, this has actually happened to several people, Muslims or Non Muslims alike! Any crooked mind can go to police station and gave the meaning of his choice to the situation and lodge an FIR against you under Blasphemy Laws. Police do not really want to get into any controversy in religious matters so they normally file a case. Like wise local courts do not want to be at any mob’s watch, so either they delay or they normally announce punishment, then the accused has to go to the High or Supreme Court to get relief. This takes years out of someone’s constructive life – without bothering anybody!!! Is that what is really meant by any Religion of Nature or Laws in Its name?
Now coming to the Aasia Bibi and Blasphemy laws, I wonder the laws should be for the benefit of the common people not for the sake of power of a group or class. If the main idea behind the these laws are to save folks from the anarchy and enmity in the name of religion, then it should not be of any worries, but there must be some check and balances so that it could not be a tool to crush or silent someone. Though there are other laws which may be enough to stop violence and anarchy in the society and specific blasphemy laws may not be needed, but repealing them completely may not be possible for the Government at this time, so curbing them to benefit society is quite possible and in fact necessary even though it might be very difficult.
Let us see what the current law says …..Section 298:
Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
298 B and C are directed towards Ahmadies/Qadianis not to pose them as muslims “in any way, what so ever” that may cause 3 year imprisonment and fine.
Also 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings. 295-B forbids defiling the Quran. 295-C forbids defaming Muhammad. Except for 295-C, the provisions of § 295 require that an offence be a consequence of the intent of the accused. Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life. Defaming Muhammad merits death with or without a fine. If a charge is laid under 295-C, the trial must take place in a Court of Session with a Muslim judge presiding. (You may easily google more details of these laws if you need)
Here according to 295A,or 298A I believe all religions are entitled to complain against others who try to say something which is not in accordance with their certain beliefs, like a Christian may complain against a Muslim who expresses that he does not believe in divinity of Isa (AS), for hurting his religious feelings. Sunnis will be running against Shias and vice versa. Also to note that in 298 B and C, Ahmadies seem to be under a constant threat because all their practices were or are same as of Muslims (or perhaps they should devise new practices for Pakistan). And I do not understand how the law and justice will react if an Ahmadi/Qadiani under 295A and 298A, lodges a complaint against his opponents to hurt his religious feelings.
Now, you must be thinking I am saying something odd, yes, it is, and the question is if any odd or unnatural law can be Islamic? It actually seems as if intolerance has been legalized and promoted on purpose! Also such laws actually bar the healthy debate or preaching if we really take the law at its current face value. And let’s ask ourselves if The Holy Prophet of Islam (SAWW) was alive today, would he allow such phenomena as this one?
I do understand that it is almost impossible for the government to repeal these laws but they can refine or regulate or balance them without any hesitation, because to have a balanced law is clearly in accordance with the teachings of Islam. Here is what realistically the writer believes, Pakistan should do:
1- Invite all sections of people including Religious Scholars (included form Minorities), Lawyers, Historians, Journalists, Parliamentarians etc. and have a round table conference. And the proceedings should be recorded and should available for reviews and public awareness. And the media especially urdu print media must help to bring the peaceful Islam forth the world.
2- Upon the advent of a complaint, A retired Judicial or High Court Magistrate should be appointed (may be under the under the instructions of the Deputy Commissioner or RPO), who should form a sub-committee consisting of A Police Officer of at least SP or DSP Level and one member each from the accused and the accusing parties – or something close to this to be more transparent.
3- The Blasphemy laws must have no ambiguity and should be crystal clear, that what exactly makes it a crime punishable by law. There should be nothing like “in any way” or “what so ever”. And the Law should leave the room to differ from each other in the matter of faith.
4- Any Blasphemy must be done in public, and the accuser should be able to bring at least 10 witnesses to prove that the accused did the act of blasphemy on purpose and also insisted on the same. Writing a book or saying things on mass media which are not true and/or which are expressed to ridicule or to attack others’ faith or religious personalities which would definitely result in hatred and violence. Questioning or reasoning some teachings or replying an objection (within the limits of decency) must not be compromised in this process.
5- Any law must not be discriminatory or directed towards a specific community or minority, because you cannot promote tolerance if you allow intolerance against one and think that all others will be saved.
6- Also it is clearly in accordance with Islam and nature that there must be counter punishment for those who fail to prove their case and/or do not provide with enough witnesses – I would suggest 10, which might sound a little extra but a real culprit would definitely say things in public, without caring how many are listening or watching.
7- The punishment should start from the lower degree to higher – not the opposite. Because if someone does that and then realizes the mistake and seeks forgiveness and stops doing that again, should be forgiven, because this would not only be the victory of the decency and the truth and the society, but this would also be rightly according to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAWW). And if there is a culprit who really insists on his open blasphemy and starts causing chaos by his actions should be face some kind of penalties e.g. fine, offering social service, attending a certain school or getting proper education, social and media boycott … and if there is no chance of betterment then imprisonment or other sentence.
And last but not least, all the laws should confirm peace, sincerity, cooperation and tolerance in the society and must not promote any personal agendas, ethnic or religious clashes, mistrust and violence.
(During writing these lines, I heard that President has formed a committee to review the current laws and to see if there is an thing that is against Islam – My prays are with them).