Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

Pakistan’s profane blasphemy laws

Islamists are using the country's sharia laws to persecute minorities

A poster depicting Asia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy in Pakistan (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

An eight-year-old Hindu boy is currently in custody in the southern Punjab. He is the youngest person in Pakistan to be charged with blasphemy. The boy, accused of urinating in a local madrassa, was released last week on bail — in retaliation, a Muslim mob vandalised a local Hindu temple. Meanwhile, on Thursday, a day after the temple attack, a transgender person was arrested on blasphemy charges in Abbottabad, around 100 miles north of the capital Islamabad, for allegedly burning the Quran.

These are but the latest in an unrelenting spree of blasphemy cases, a victimless crime that carries the death penalty in Pakistan. Indeed, this punishment is reserved solely for offending Islam, with sacrilege against Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and other religions carried out with impunity. These latest cases underline how the blasphemy law continues to be used to hunt down the most vulnerable, which could range from women demanding basic human rights to religious minorities. Even denying Islamic supremacy and claiming that all religions are equal has led to blasphemy cases, with progressive and dissenting Muslims also targeted.

Many of the Quran burning allegations are either fabricated or carried out by someone mentally unsound

Sending texts, sharing poetry, giving homework, producing films, making footballs, removing stickers and drinking water are some of the acts that have been deemed blasphemous in Pakistan. Even reading the Quran, performing Islamic rituals or calling yourself Muslim is sacrilegious if you belong to the Ahmadiyya sect, making Pakistan the only country where one can be imprisoned — or even sentenced to death — for practising Islam. Where the officially excommunicated Ahmadiyya Muslims are legally barred from practising Islam, even Shia Muslims are victims of state persecution, with efforts made in the Sunni-majority country to outlaw their beliefs as blasphemous. Before the eight-year-old Hindu was charged with blasphemy, a three-year-old Shia Muslim had been investigated for organising an Islamic gathering.

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