Reports about Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law have become a focal point in the international media. It is natural for the international media to view this issue so seriously mainly because of the way the Pakistani leadership, both the government and the opposition, has been giving it such importance. It is as if this law constitutes the complete teachings of Islam and without this law Islam will not survive in the world today. The prime minister has claimed that, “a Muslim cannot have two opinions on the blasphemy law and being a descendant of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), he cannot even think of amending it.” The opposition, including a number of religiously oriented political parties, has also adopted a similar position on the law. Although Pakistani politicians and religious leaders hope to achieve divine bliss through this law, it is bound to create a catastrophe. In our opinion, it constitutes sheer exploitation of the law in the name of Islam and its Prophet.
Circumstances in Pakistan clearly suggest that it is not the law, but the execution of the law which has created a volatile situation in the country. Our knowledge of history tells us that letters are not always capable of ensuring the purpose of the law. That is why history has coined the phrase “letter and spirit.” This is most relevant in the application of law, and especially in Pakistan where, according to reports, many people belonging to minority communities have been harassed under the guise of this law.
Mistreatment of the poor and weak has occurred n every society throughout history, but when it is done in the guise of religion, it naturally causes horror. Certain followers of religion, however, view any criticism of this horror as religion-phobia. In the case of Pakistan it would be called Islamophobia which, of course, is in abundance around us today. But shouldn’t one raise the question whether the way this law is being manipulated would indeed create fear among the minority communities? What would be the rationale for supporting a murderer? Love for the Prophet? A Prophet who was known for his love and kindness for the weak and destitute? A Prophet who went to visit an adversary when he came to know that the woman (a Jew) who used to place trash on his pathway was ill and counseled her? The woman was so moved by the behavior of the Prophet that she immediately accepted Islam. Does the blasphemy law in any way reflect teachings of the Prophet? In our opinion, if the upholders of the blasphemy law believe that they hold the truth, let them allow the truth to manifest itself through their behavior.
It is shocking to see people demonstrating in favor of a murderer who committed the crime in the guise of protecting the Prophet’s honor. Politicians, both from the government and the opposition, seem to have been persuaded by political expediency. Even lawyers are reported to have offered free service to the murderer, and now, according to newspaper reports, the law enforcing agencies cannot find a prosecutor for the case. This is completely unacceptable by any standard of Islamic behavior. Is there no room for a balanced view of Islam in contemporary Pakistan? According to the British newspaper, the Guardian, Javed Ahmad Ghamdi, an independent scholar from Lahore who held the view that there is no justification for a blasphemy law in the light of the Qur’an and Prophet’s teachings, is alleged to have fled from Pakistan because of his views on that law and other similar issues related to Islamic teachings. One of his followers, Dr. Farooq Ahmad, was gunned down by extremists a few months ago. What is happening to Pakistan? A nation established more than half a century ago with the dream that Muslims would regain their past civilization in the modern world by reviving Islamic teachings. Does the current state of affairs in Pakistan embody t any sign of that noble dream?
This question is related to the issue of patience, pluralism, freedom of speech and respect for human dignity. This issue also raises the question of the fundamental purpose of religion. In history religions have been the backbone of all civilizations. No civilization would have been possible without peace. Islam in particular, which literally means peace, not only established peace under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W); it also laid down the foundation of a glorious civilization. Is the situation in Pakistan contributing to the establishment of peace? How could one expect to establish peace if the minorities do not feel secure? How could a nation contribute to peace if the majority of the population goes for wild emotionalism in the face of minor provocations?
It is high time that the so-called Islamists in Pakistan in particular look at the situation in Egypt where their enemies are trying to create panic amongst the general public by suggesting that if the current people’s revolution in Egypt succeeds their counterparts will take over and impose their version of Islam on the people. The Islamists in Pakistan should know very well that Islam is not confined to the boundaries of Pakistan. Neither o is Islamophobia. It goes without saying that the picture of Islam that the Islamists depict in Pakistan will have an impact on the rest of the world.
Dr. Abdullah Al Ahsan,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST).
And Professor of History, International Islamic University, Malaysia.
9th February 2011.
 The Prime Minister claims to be a Syed; thus implying that he is a descendant of the Prophet.