Repeal Blasphemy laws – by Merlin Flower

After all those decades, one would think the colonial past is, right, a thing of the past. Yet, some things just liger on, clutching steadfast, regressively progressing every other day. While it’s not uncommon to see laws from the nineteenth century quoted across courtrooms in the subcontinent, it’s still rather pathetic to even argue about something like the blasphemy laws, legislations that have no business in any century, forget the particular present. To inherit something can’t be helped, but to carry on the mistakes is pardonable, you think?


Junaid Ahmed, studying in a seminary was beaten up and later arrested for, incidentally, saving the Quran by burning worn out pages. The anguish heaped upon a schoolgirl for unintentional misspelling, the attack on Hazara Shias in Quetta, the cowardly assault by masked men on the girl’s school in Rawalpindi, the arrest of Asia Bibi, and the resultant killings of Ministers Shabaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer, And, too numerous are the fraught cases, they numb the regions associated with pain.


There have been vociferous demands within Pakistan to repeal section 295-c which forbids defaming the prophet. To me the entire gamut of article 295 seems equally menacing and vile-not to forget the appendages of Article 298. Together, these laws, by their very existence are inimical to co-existence promoting, instead, intolerance and hatred against one another. I mean there isn’t even freedom to talk against the law, which, as it reads, are willing to punish anyone for ‘wounding the feelings of any person’- subsequently, this religious expediency is leading to combined shrinking of moderate voices. Is that why there are more voices arguing for reform of the anachronistic laws and not repeal, as should be the case?


Wake up. I do have serious doubts over a God, whose massive ego can’t stand some opposition, or the one who wants to bathe in praise all day long. In that case, some robots would have done the job. Ha, that means the first blame is to dear God for not having created some automatons singing ‘Hallelujah’ all day along. Anyway, suspect though, it has little to do with God, and everything to do with religion. Religion, being the subdued giant, is fine as long as kept private. Leave it to dictate how the world ought to be, it anoints itself to become a meretricious, vicious vestige of life in no time. And, why does the state promote  an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text  and why does it need a religion? How long can you let illusive assumptions fill the lacuna in reasoning abilities?


Well, there definitely is a problem when criminals like Mumtaz Qadri are celebrated as heroes. Rallies, and strikes in solidarity with him is just intensely sick, and also: why are these permitted in the first place?. (Have to add that by awarding the death sentence, justice has prevailed-well done to one of the real heroes,  Judge Pervez Ali Shah.)  Of course, this glorification of the rationally challenged is not privy only to Islam, Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria,  Dara Singh of India are testament to that.


Anosognosia or just denial, leave the intolerance to fester and you’d only be unfurling further damage. Conversion of accumulated intolerance will only increase with time. Good news: it doesn’t have to be. Beguiling though it may sound, the magnitude of the actual problem, in fact, isn’t that big. For, any government can easily turn around and repeal these draconian laws. Technically, pragmatically and realistically, it is as simple as that.  And, a government should be strong enough to deal with the temporary antagonistic repercussion of repeal-after all, often, a government needs to take difficult decisions, not necessarily popular ones. Isn’t there a close correlation between the will to do, and action taken? A weak government which shies away from its responsibility of protecting people (from drone and floods too, let me add), irrespective of race, sex, age and religion, reflects an exhibition of spineless existence. Wait for favourable circumstances, and they may never come. Consider.


Now, will the Government act?


-Merlin Flower, is an independent writer



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