Blasphemy law: Nabeel Masih, a Christian teenager, has been arrested for liking the Kaaba's picture on Facebook

We need to realize that the blasphemy law in Pakistan is used to cleanse neighborhoods, to vent personal hate and bigotry, to gain power, to gain control

It’s the year 2016, and one would have thought that by now things like blasphemy would have been a thing of the past. For centuries it was used and abused by queens, kings and states alike to gain power over the people.

Even things like profane cursing and swearing were once considered blasphemous and punishable under the Profane Oaths Act 1745 (Great Britain).  It was not uncommon for punishments to be particularly brutal like in the case of Quaker James Naylor.  In 1656, under the Second Protectorate Parliament, he was sentenced to flogging, branding and piercing of his tongue by a red-hot poker. 

By 1883, everyone was starting to realize how this law was mainly used as a way to gain control over the people. As a result, there were only 5 prosecutions between 1883 and 1922.

In fact, the last person to be sent to prison for blasphemy in the UK was John William Gott on December 1921.

Like I said, we are now nearing the end of 2016 and it still continues in our part of the world. We still haven’t wisened up.

Nabeel Masih, a young teenaged boy from Chak 66, Bhai Pheru, District Kasur was arrested and charged under sections 295/295A under the Pakistan Penal Code a few days ago.

295 is ‘Injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class.’

295-A is ‘Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’

Those do sound heinous. So what had Nabeel done?

He had clicked “like” on a picture of Khane Kaaba on Facebook.

As expected, since the word blasphemy was uttered, his family had to go into hiding because in Pakistan, many people prefer to take matters in their own hands, especially when it comes to religion. They tend to think that they are the single handedly chosen ones to avenge all the wrong doings - by using violence.

Nabeel’s family is being hunted by neighbors, acquaintances and people they don’t even know so they can be killed for what he did. In case you have forgotten, his crime was to click ‘like’ on Facebook.

I don’t even know why it comes as a surprise. Have we forgotten 4 months pregnant Shama Bibi and her husband Sajjad Maseeh? The bonded laborers who had their legs broken so they could not run, then thrown on top of a brick kiln where they were burnt alive in front of 1,200 people.

Their crime? They had taken a loan from their owner. Yes owner, not employer and he felt that they would not pay him back. So he falsely accused them of blasphemy and let the self-appointed God’s army do the rest.

Better violently and cruelly murdered than not pay him back?

Have we forgotten Mandi Bahauddin?

Have we forgotten Asia Bibi? She was also falsely accused to settle a dispute and has been behind bars for something she did not even do, for over 7 years.

I do admit that this is not sentiment shared by the majority of people in Pakistan. If that were the case, there would be no people left. But the ones who do, their number is high and disturbing enough to make an impact and spread.

Jahaalat hai

“Islam does not teach this”

“Islam teaches that to kill one is like killing all of mankind”

Yes, we all know this but it is quite clear they don’t. And to get them out of “jahalaat” en route to education and enlightenment, is still very far off. What do we do till then? Wait as minorities are knocked off one by one like dominoes?

We need to realize that the blasphemy law in Pakistan, whether we like it or not, whether we agree to it or not, is one of the most abused laws. It is used to cleanse neighborhoods, to vent personal hate and bigotry, to gain power, to gain control, etc.

A truly religious person content with himself and his faith would never resort to violence anyway. He would not even need such laws.

It’s high time we learnt that and just stopped looking at people based on their religion and just started seeing them as simply people.

Islam does not need saving. People do.

Shamila Ghyas is the author of the Aoife and Demon series. She also writes for Khabaristan Times, The Nation, Express Tribune, Dawn and other publicationsFind her on Twitter and Facebook

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