Two men in Pakistan have been sentenced to death on charges of Blasphemy.
Residents of Haroonabad in the country’s Punjab province, 34-year-old Riaz Ahmed and 38-year-old Ijaz Ahmed had claimed to have seen god in 2011. One of them was seen drawing photos of the Holy Prophet on his wall.
The complainant, a 27-year-old man named Qari Muhammad Ahmed says he ‘found the drawings in his room,” and lodged a case against the man.
According to the Islamic faith, God cannot be seen. Also, any imagery of either God or any of the prophets is strictly forbidden to avoid the practice of idolatry. These actions are considered blasphemous and according to the Pakistan law, blasphemy is punishable by death.
It is unclear whether their trial included the possibility that the men were mentally unstable or someone might have wrongfully accused them, but when it comes to the ultra-sensitive concept of religious blasphemy in Pakistan, rational thought usually flies out of the window.
In 2011 a teenager was accused of blasphemy during an exam. A year later, a young Christian man was arrested for sending a ‘blasphemous’ message via his cell phone while another Christian girl was prosecuted for throwing out burnt pages of the Quran. Fortunately, she was released but had to leave the country. This year, a man belonging to a minority Muslim sect was jailed for ‘pretending’ to be a Muslim.’
Most prominent case was that of one Aasiya Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted insulting prophet Mohammad, hence committing blasphemy and received a sentence of death by hanging in 2010.
Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti and Pakistani government politician Salman Taseer were both killed for advocating on her behalf and opposing the blasphemy laws.
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Malik Ghulam Qasim, defense lawyer in the Ahmed case, said that he would continue to fight against a law that could be easily misused to victimize innocent people.
"I tried my best to defend them,” Qasim said. "We seriously need to reconsider the blasphemy law and its enforcement," he added.
While Pakistan has strict blasphemy laws; however, this is the first time a death sentence has been given.
What is most disturbing about the sentencing is the reaction from the people of Pakistan – or lack thereof. Human rights activists, journalists and even ordinary folk commonly voice their condemnation or general opinion on social media but people on Twitter and Facebook have remained silent in this regard.
While a delayed reaction may surface soon, it has already been over 24-hours since the judge made his ruling. Usually a case like this causes quite the media hype on both online and television news.
Are the people really that afraid to raise their voice against blasphemy?