Like new trends that take over the world with a storm, there is a new hot trend in Pakistan: Smile, You’ve been Blasphemed!
How this works is that ones takes offence to the most idiotic and frivolous action and frames the other with blasphemy. Don’t believe me? Last year, a shopkeeper taking down a poster from his store was charged with blasphemy because it had some religious verses written on it. You can also charge the other person with blasphemy if you simply don’t like him, or his smile or his ridiculous yellow shirt.
While Pakistan certainly takes the lead in practicing (read abusing) the Blasphemy law, many other countries are no strangers to it either. Quite a few European nations still have it as part of their penal code. Brazil can punish blasphemy up to a year of incarceration or fine.
Britain led the way at one time with their particularly creative way of torturing the heretics; the last person to be executed (hanged) however, was a twenty-year-old Thomas Aikenhead in the year 1697! That was over three hundred years ago.
One would wonder why this archaic law still exists in today’s modern world, and yet it is still here. Here are some Blasphemy cases from around the world:
1. Can’t drive but jailed!
Two teenage boys in Bangladesh were dragged into the streets, beaten by activists and then jailed for posting derogatory remarks against Islam on Facebook.
Apparently what one writes on social media shake one’s faith like a 9.0 Richter scale earthquake. The earthquake and its tremors were so strong that they (not 18 yet) were sent to JAIL. Not to a juvenile correction center but straight to jail. I am sure after this treatment they will start to think differently – Not.
2. Veena Malik’s 2nd marriage lands her on blasphemy plate.
Here is the scenario: mock wedding on TV with her real-life hubby, Qawwali playing in the background (something normal in Pakistan), a smiling host, and BAM! Everyone slammed with blasphemy the next day. Fast forward to November 2014, they ALL now have been sentenced to jail for 26 years by (of all the courts in Pakistan including the monkey court) the Anti-Terrorism Court.
I bet even terrorists are going ‘Huh?’ on this one!
3. Gutter pani, not holy pani.
India is relatively more relaxed about blasphemy and religion. Except, when it comes to the caste system (Indians, don’t make that “hawww” face!) There haven’t been that many official cases. There was however one not so long ago involving a Roman Catholic Church. The priest claimed that the water dripping from the feet of a Jesus statue was a divine miracle. Sanal ‘smarty pants’ Edamaraku debunked the miracle by proving that the water was coming from a clogged bathroom drain. He was booked under blasphemy and eventually had to flee to Finland.
Interesting that some people would rather have sewage water and call it holy just to cling on to false miracles. I shudder to think what happened to those who drank it. On another note, the leak “miraculously” plugged itself and stopped soon afterwards.
4. A list without the Saudis? Impossible!
Raif Badawi asked for tolerance, women’s rights amongst other things, which were deemed insulting to Islam by clerics and critics alike. His sentence presently stands at 10 years, 1000 lashes and a Million Riyal fine.
He will be lashed 50 times (nonstop) after every Friday prayer, every single week, till the 1000 lashes have been completed. This will take place outside al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah. It does not matter if his back doesn’t heal or if he feels any pain or if his back starts looking like minced meat, he will be whipped regardless.
No, this is not a scene out of Game of Thrones.
5. Beat to death? Yes! Atheism? No!
Again that darned faith-shaking Facebook. In a not so smart move, an Indonesian man on an ill-fated January day in 2012 posted his personal opinion that God does not exist. He was sent to jail because atheism is “a violation of Indonesian law under the founding principles of the country.”
Yes, because THAT is more jail-worthy than sending hundreds of deranged people who beat three people to death just because they were Ahmadi.
6. Get your mind checked, in Jail.
A seventy-year-old man named Bakri Abdullah, in Indonesia, again, was sentenced to a year in jail for blasphemy as well because he claimed to be a prophet who had visited heaven in 1975. Instead of giving him the much-needed psychiatric help, he was sent to jail. After which I am sure he came out thinking he was three prophets and not just one anymore and perhaps maybe even started adorning a costume.
7. War-torn Palestine.
In Qalqilyah, you’d think they have other things to worry about than a person with a different train of thought, but nope. Waleed Al-Husseini was arrested for blaspheming against Islam on Facebook (damn you, Facebook!) and personal blog posts.
Even though he was let go, for quite a while he was picked up routinely by secrets agents and tortured by them, or tickle-me-pinked as they probably thought.
8. Brick…I mean women of the wall.
Israel generally protects the rights of religious freedom; however, there have been some limits placed regarding decorum of the Western Wall. It has to be segregated, and there are constraints on the religious clothing worn by women. Up to 2013, the women were not even allowed to carry a Torah or wear prayer shawls. Member of the Women of the wall (WOW), a feminist group were arrested regularly for blasphemy. Anat Hoffman was arrested for “disturbing public order” due to her loud reading and was stripped, dragged fifteen meters on the floor till her arms were bruised, then thrown into a cell without a bed but with three other prisoners which included a thief and a prostitute. The food was thrown in through a small window. All this for saying out loud “Sh’ma Yisrael.” It was not even like she was singing “Another Brick on the Wall” or twerking there!
9. Equal rights for all in Secular Iran. *snickers*
There are so many cases and so many have been executed that it will be hard to choose just one from the never-ending, growing list. Let’s go with the one who made it out alive.
Youcef Nadarkhani was a Christian convert who was sentenced to death for having converted to Christianity and worse, becoming a pastor.
He was told to return “to the religion of his ancestors.” When he did not listen, he was charged with numerous fake charges, his wife was arrested and his lawyer was reportedly banned from teaching in Iranian Universities and from practicing law as well as being jailed.
After playing hide-and-seek and coming and going out of jail, he was finally released due to international pressure, and was able to save his neck from being paraded on a crane in the middle of the city.
I suppose after being one of the very few who got out alive, he left the room looking like this.
10. Y U do dis, Karnataka?
India may not have blasphemy laws but the south-west state of Karnataka announced that clicking “Like” on a blasphemous post (BURN Facebook BURN) could land you in jail for three months before you could even get to see a magistrate. Taking it a little further, they said anyone uploading, forwarding, sharing, liking and retweeting (good to see you on the hate list Twitter) something would also end up in jail.
So, if you see something and your fingers starts to twitch, do this:
P.S. Also stay clear of anything and everything Ricky Gervais.
11. Et tu, Tunis?
In post-revolution Tunisia, the General Director of Nessma Tv was prosecuted and fined for “violating sacred values” when he depicted God as an old bearded man in an an animated film Persepolis.
12. What’s in a name?
Even though there are numerous other cases, I’ll end this list with Pakistan.
Sixty-eight lawyers in Punjab were charged under blasphemy this year. Why? Because they told a policeman off, who just happened to share his name with the second Caliph, Omar, and his feelings and oh-so-sensitive-heart were hurt.
So, let’s understand this, they insulted HIM, the policeman, but because he has the same name as the caliph, it meant that they were somehow insulting the Caliph.
In all this a lesson is to be learnt: if you have something to say, keep it in your head, and whatever you do, stay clear of FACEBOOK, the blasphemy maker!