This is our archive of news items tagged Blasphemy.

 memo You'll find articles about that subject in each of the items listed, even if the term does not necessarily occur within the headlines or descriptive text.

Pakistani Woman Charged with ‘Blasphemy’ for Refusing Islam

Relatives who became Muslims try to force her to renounce Christian faith.

FORT ABBAS, Pakistan, March 12 (Compass Direct New) – A young mother has been falsely accused of “blaspheming” Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, because she rebuffed attempts by relatives who had converted to Islam to force her to renounce her Christian faith, family members said.

Police in Khichiwala, Bahawalnagar district, in Punjab Province, charged 26-year-old Shamim Bibi, mother of a 5-month-old girl and resident of the village Chak No. 170/7R Colony, in the Fort Abbas area, under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s “blasphemy” statutes after neighbors accused her of uttering remarks against Muhammad. She was arrested on Feb. 28.

Speaking ill of Muhammad in Pakistan is punishable by life imprisonment or death under Pakistan’s internationally condemned blasphemy laws.

The young woman’s brother, Ilyas Masih, and her brother-in-law, Shahbaz Masih, told Compass that she had been wrongly accused because she had resisted pressure to convert to Islam four days before her arrest.

“Nazeeran, sister of Shamim’s husband Bashir Masih, and her nephew Nadeem and niece Bella accepted Islam on Feb. 24 and called on her to do the same,” Masih said. “She refused, telling them that she was satisfied with Christianity and did not want to convert.”

He said the newly-converted Muslims persisted in trying to force her to convert, but she resisted.

“Shamim told them that she had complete faith in a living God, and that there was no reason for her to start ‘worshiping graves,’” Masih said.

That remark was not the one deemed “blasphemous.” Rather, on Feb. 27 her neighbors accused her of making derogatory remarks – as yet unknown – on a separate occasion about Muhammad while in her courtyard.

Ansar Ali Shah, a local prayer leader in Chak 170/7R Colony, claimed that Shamim Bibi’s neighbors, Hamad Ahmed Hashmi and Abdul Qayyum, told him and other Muslims that they had heard the Christian woman making derogatory remarks about Muhammad in her courtyard, according to the First Information Report (FIR No. 30/12) registered by the Khichiwala police station. But there is no indication in the FIR of what, exactly, Shamim Bibi was alleged to have said.

As word of the allegation spread, a large crowd of villagers besieged her house and demanded “severe punishment for the infidel,” claiming she had hurt their religious sentiments, sources said.

Shahbaz Masih, her brother-in-law, told Compass that Qayyum, one of the two men named in the FIR as witnesses, has denied hearing anything from Shamim Bibi that supports the charge.

“Qayyum told police that he wasn’t even present in his house at the time of the alleged incident and had come to know about it from Hamad, the other witness,” Shahbaz Masih said.

Hamad Ahmed Hashmi, a motorized-rickshaw driver, also was not present at his house at 3 p.m., the time of the alleged remark, Shahbaz Masih said, based on information gathered from Shamim Bibi’s neighborhood.

“Hamad transports schoolchildren and could not have been in his house at the time of the incident, as it was just after school closing hours,” he said.

Bahawalnagar Superintendent of Police Investigation Irfan Ullah acknowledged that one of the two witnesses had admitted to not being present at the alleged “crime” scene at the time of the alleged remark.

“Qayyum told us that he hadn’t witnessed the incident and his name had been included in the FIR by the locals, but still that does not prove that Shamim did not commit blasphemy,” Ullah told Compass by phone. “The other witness is standing by his claim, and she has produced nothing so far which can prove her innocence.”

He vehemently denied that police had caved in to pressure from local Muslims and had registered a case in undue haste.

“I visited the village twice, and so far nothing has come up that suggests that the people have accused Shamim wrongly,” Ullah said. “We registered a case against her on the directions of the district police officer.”

Bahawalnagar District Police Officer Salman Ali Khan could not be reached for comment.

Shamim Bibi’s family and her infant daughter, meantime, may have to wait for a long time for her return. While no one has been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, most are freed on appeal after suffering for years under appalling prison conditions.

Vigilantes have killed at least 10 people accused of blasphemy, rights groups estimate.

Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy law states: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

– Pakistani Woman Charged with ‘Blasphemy’ for Refusing Islam, Murad Khan, Compass Direct News, March 12, 2012 — © Compass Direct News. Published in Religion News Blog by permission.

BBC director general admits Christianity gets tougher treatment than Islam, other religions

The BBC director general Mark Thompson has claimed that Christianity is treated with less sensitivity than other religions because it has “pretty broad shoulders”.

The Telegraph reports

In a wide-ranging interview about faith and broadcasting, Mr Thompson disclosed that producers were faced with the possibilities of “violent threats” instead of normal complaints if they broadcast certain types of satire.

He suggested other faiths had “very close identity with ethnic minorities” and as a result were covered in a more careful way by broadcasters.

“Without question, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms’, is different from, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms and I am loading my AK47 as I write’,” he said. “This definitely raises the stakes.”

In the interview posted online for the Free Speech Debate, a research project at Oxford University, Mr Thompson said he was a “practising Catholic” who believed that the “truths of the Christian faith” were objective rather than subjective.

But he said Islam was a religion “almost entirely” practised by people who already may feel in other ways “isolated”, “prejudiced against” and who may regard an attack on their religion as “racism by other means”.

The interview was posted online by the Free Speech Debate — a research project at Oxford University.

The Daily Mail says

Mr Thompson was making his comments during a wide ranging interview about faith and broadcasting, which included the furore provoked by the Corporation’s decision to screen the controversial show Jerry Springer: The Opera on BBC2 in 2005.

Hundreds of Christians rallied outside BBC buildings before and during the broadcast to protest about what they saw as blasphemous scenes such as Jesus Christ wearing a nappy.

At least 45,000 people contacted the BBC to complain about swearing and its irreverent treatment of Christian themes.

Many said that no one would have dreamed of making such a show about the Prophet Mohammed and Islam. […]

[Thompson] said that Christianity was ‘an established part of our cultural-built landscape’ which meant it was ‘a pretty broad- shouldered religion’.

He conceded that the broadcaster would never have aired a similar show about Mohammed because it could have had the same impact as a piece of ‘grotesque child pornography’. […]

He added: ‘The point is that for a Muslim, a depiction, particularly a comic or demeaning depiction, of the Prophet Mohammed might have the emotional force of a piece of grotesque child pornography.

‘One of the mistakes secularists make is not to understand the character of what blasphemy feels like to someone who is a realist in their religious belief.’ […]

Mr Thompson said the fatwa against Salman Rushdie over his novel The Satanic Verses, the September 11 terror attacks, and the murder in Holland in 2004 of film-maker Theo van Gogh, who had criticised Islam, had made broadcasters realise that religious controversies could lead to murder or serious criminal acts.

Last year the BBC’s own research showed that the broadcaster uses “derogatory stereotypes” to portray Christians.

When blasphemy is a crime

The United Nations General Assembly may soon vote — not for the first time — in favor of a resolution opposing the “defamation of religions.” The idea, which may sound appealing at first blush, is particularly championed by Islamic countries, which would like to go even further and have the condemnation enshrined in international law.

But a new report by Freedom House, a Washington-based human rights organization, demonstrates how such policies have too often been used by countries to suppress freedom of speech and freedom of religion, leading to serious human rights abuses.

See also: Free Speech and Radical Islam [Read more...]

Pakistani Christian Sentenced to Life under ‘Blasphemy’ Law

Pakistan A young Christian shopkeeper was sentenced to a life term in prison and fined more than $1,000 last week following a dubious conviction of desecrating the Quran, according to Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace.

A conviction for blaspheming Muhammad (Section 295-C) is punishable by death under Pakistani’s notorious blasphemy laws. Widely condemned by the international community as easily invoked to settle personal enmities, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have come under review in recent months, but to no avail. [Read more...]

Taking aim at God on ‘Blasphemy Day’

Blasphemy Day Outraged by nations that want to execute blasphemers and propelled by a deep belief in the freedom of expression, Lindsay is forging ahead with his “nothing is sacred” movement.

Wednesday marks the first organized observance of Blasphemy Day, a series of events, exhibits and lectures unfolding in a host of mostly North American cities that are part of a larger Campaign for Free Expression. [Read more...]

Islamist Lawyer Threatens to Kill Pakistani Charged with Blasphemy

Pakistan A Pakistani Christian charged with abetting blasphemy against Islam was denied bail for his own safety last week after an Islamist lawyer allegedly threatened his life in a court hearing.

Insulting Islam is a dangerous activity in the conservative nation of 170 million, but with the spread of the Taliban, non-Muslims fear their very existence will make them a target to fundamentalists. [Read more...]

Blasphemy law ditched by the Dutch

Netherlands flag A controversial anti-blasphemy law is being scrapped by the Dutch government.

In scrapping the law the cabinet is meeting the demand of parliament where a majority of parties argued that offering religious groups an extra layer of legal protection is outdated.

As an alternative the cabinet is now seeking to strengthen anti-discrimination laws against groups whatever their background, thus taking the religious component out of the equation. [Read more...]