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Blasphemy Laws – A Hand Grenade Through History

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Dating back to almost a century, around 1927 the Victorians determined the fate of South East Asia that they must’ve never foresighted for its grave implication in the longer run. Blasphemy – in simple words is the practice of sacrilegious (verbal or non-verbal) activity with or without the intent to harm the feelings of those attached to the subject matter.

The religious intolerance, and active persecution of religious minorities (sometimes religious majorities as in modern Bahrain or the Pre-Dutch Indonesian kingdoms), has a long history. Not one region of Earth has been spared from having a brutal past which was filled with religious intolerance.

The modern doctrine of ‘religious toleration’ and freedom of speech was developed out of the European wars of religion, which was established as a result of the 30 Years War;  more specifically out of the Peace of Westphalia which lasted 30 years (1618 – 1648), during the Protestant Reformation and the ensuing conflicts between Protestants and Catholics in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Ended after the largescale slaying and slaughtering of millions of human lives.

It is needless to say that we are fond of what we believe, our faiths are profound to us and we overtime build a deep connection with the school of thoughts we are raised in. But the problem arises when ‘our’ attachments cloud our logics and ‘our’ sentimental affiliations, take over our conscience. There is indeed no problem in loving a holy figure and even assenting them on the highest mark of reverence, but the problem stems the moment one starts expecting that the same admiration & respect will come from all directions for the same figure he/she esteems as consecrated.

Over the period of human evolution, we have overcome many fundamental inanities that were previously extremely common to mankind, like intolerance, blood thirst, etc. Although still in many parts of the world extremist behaviour is not uncommon and has been the reason of massive wars, bloodshed, genocides and human right deprivation. Hence, it is not a surprise that those countries where criticizing religion is vilified and outlawed are the same countries that are the least tolerant ones in the world.

Blasphemy laws are commonly used around the world to persecute people for beliefs and activities that do not conform to the majority opinion on religious and sensitive topics, and to suppress criticism of religion and curb free speech from progressing. There is no way on earth (literally) that we can frame one widespread universal law that takes care of every religious sentiment, because the diversity in religions is beyond any stretch and what is holy for one religion is deplorable for the other. Therefore, the next practical choice the world of intolerant people had to opt for was selecting one majoritarian religion for their country and make a law surrounding their sentiments under which every citizen of that country would need to abide by it. No matter if they conform to it or not, that is as irrelevant to such state authorities as the rights of minorities.

When you frame a legislation that gingerly reduces the ability of humans to coexist and logically bear criticism, and have an objective view, it leads to the rejection of people whom are perceived as different from the majority, in terms of social or ethnic divisions or those who are nonidentical religious, political or sexual orientation, which ultimately can manifest itself in a wide range of actions from hate speech to physical injury or even violent homicides.

The terrible ways in which this law treats humanity can be seen in the number of accounts when the indoctrinated extremist mob lynches a person over religious feud. In India alone, cow vigilante violence which uses physical force in the name of “cow protection” has killed more than 50 people and injured 300+ and the number is only increasing.The “Holi Riot” of 1714 in Gujarat was also cow-related.

Pakistan is no saint when it comes to gunning down its citizens over religion. It actually is way ahead of India in figures of religious violence (inter religion & sectarian). Between 1987 and 2017 at least 1,500 people were charged with blasphemy and at least 75 people involved in accusations of blasphemy were killed.

The irony is that blasphemy laws which are in itself based on fallacy and are ‘misused’ too. Now one can imagine the consequences if something that is inherently wrong is misused further. Some law that is embedded in the crude feeling of humans and has already overtaken their full conscience will without a speck of doubt result in exploitation with the intent to hurt the wrongly accused since the accuser would be sure of the victim’s intense treatment. There have been countless incidents of false blasphemy accusation in Pakistan, one of which gained international popularity, the famous, Asia Bibi’s case.

An innocent Pakistani Christian woman, Aasiya Noreen, from the Sheikhupura District of Pakistan was wrongly convicted for blasphemy. She was lucky to escape her harsh reality but others are often not and have lost lives and homes to vigilantes.

Concluding my argument against blasphemy laws; the worst taint of human rights & freedom of speech, I’d like to ask you to imagine if one day a country starts idolizing pizza, yes! Pizza! Will eating our favorite food also result in murders and massacre too? Following the same track, it pretty much will!

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Naya Daur