Historical evidence suggests that the societies which lag behind in development, due mainly to wide-spread ignorance, are more susceptible to be attracted to self-appointed agents of God. These agents dictate illiterate minds and create an atmosphere of cheap passions in order to thrive on it. The same thing is happening these days on the issue of blasphemy. The offense of blasphemy is punishable under the law but the justice requires that before condemning anybody to the sentence of death, the requirement of due process of law should be fulfilled. However, those who have their own axe to grind do not let the law take its course. and announce the conviction and the punishment making it impossible for the courts to discharge their function. They glorify the criminal acts in the name of the faith in the same way the extremists try to justify their acts of mass murder of the hapless civilians.

Moreover, no one other than a certified and qualified mufti can interpret religion under the teachings of Islam and issue religious decree but it seems that in the highly polarized society of Pakistan, every Tom, Dick and Harry has assumed the role of a mufti and has started inciting murder.  It sounds as if these self-appointed muftis have acquired the license to kill anyone by declaring people infidel. According to news outlets, several clerics in Pakistan have issued fatwas against former Pakistani minister Sherry Rehman and declared her an infidel for calling for changes in the blasphemy law, prompting civil society activists to register a complaint with police.

Media reports said the imam of Sultan Masjid, one of Karachi’s biggest mosques, declared Rehman a ‘kaafir‘ [infidel] and ‘wajib-ul-qatl‘ [must be killed] while delivering a sermon after the Friday prayers on January 7, 2011. The mosque has close ties to the Saudi Arabian government and Wahhabis. Islamic fanatics who organized a massive rally in Karachi on January 11 also issued a pamphlet that named Sherry Rehman as a person who “has invoked the religious honor of Pakistan’s Muslims” for calling for changes in the blasphemy law. The threats came days after a police guard gunned down Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer for criticising the blasphemy law.

Following this fatwa, civil society activists in Pakistan filed a complaint against the imam of Sultan Masjid at the Darakhsan police station in Karachi. The complaint was registered on behalf of Sherry Rehman, a senior leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, Salmaan Taseer’s son Shaan Taseer and journalist Ali Chishti. In the complaint, the civil society activists alleged that the imam of Sultan Masjid had also lauded Mumtaz Qadri, the policeman who assassinated Salmaan Taseer. Chishti told the media that civil society groups feared for Sherry’s life following the murder of the Punjab Governor. The civil society activists said they were proud to be Muslims but rejected murdering people in the name of Islam.

Some political analysts are comparing today’s Pakistan with Taliban ruled Afghanistan. As expected, the courageous Sherry Rehamn has told media that she wont leave the country following any such threat. She wants any rewritten version to shift the burden of proof from the accused, who she says frequently face prosecution witnesses who have “tailored their evidence on prejudice or malice.”nInstead, all blasphemy charges should automatically be tried by the high courts to prevent possible miscarriages of justice. The new law should include penalties for false accusations. The blasphemy law has become a political card radicals play to manipulate public opinion in a devout and “largely pacifist country.”

Please also read:

“Issuing fatwas is a mufti’s job and I am not one.”

In Realm of Religion, Women Lose Out