Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

Compass Direct News reports that a young man has been charged with desecrating the Quran under Pakistan’s controversial ‘blasphemy’ laws after the Christian had an argument over rent with his Muslim landlord.

Religion News Blog has highlighted many similar reports on the use and abuse of Pakistan’s so-called blasphemy laws.

These blasphemy laws have been widely condemned in large part because they have been used as a tool for the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan.

In addition, false accusations of blasphemy are often used by Muslims in disputes not only with Christians and followers of other faiths, but also with fellow Muslims.

On many occasions violent mobs of Muslims have taken justice in their own hands by killing or otherwise harming those why have been accused of blasphemy.

The Pakistan Penal Code prohibits blasphemy against any recognized religion, providing penalties ranging from a fine to death. However, in practice, it is only applied to Islam. An accusation of blasphemy commonly subjects the accused, police, lawyers, and judges to harassment, threats, and attacks. An accusation is sometimes the prelude to vigilantism and rioting.

Calls for change in the blasphemy laws have been strongly resisted by Islamic parties.

Prominent figures like Salman Taseer (the former governor of Punjab) and Shahbaz Bhatti (the Federal Minister for Minorities) have been assassinated for their opposition to the blasphemy laws. […]

Those who are accused of blasphemy may be subject to harassment, threats, and attacks. Police, lawyers, and judges may also be subject to harassment, threats, and attacks when blasphemy is an issue. Those accused of blasphemy are subject to immediate incarceration, and most accused are denied bail to forestall mob violence.

It is common for those accused of blasphemy to be put in solitary confinement for their protection from other inmates and guards.

Like those who have served a sentence for blasphemy, those who are acquitted of blasphemy usually go into hiding or leave Pakistan.
– Source: Blasphemy law in Pakistanoffsite Wikipedia. Last accessed Tuesday, December 27, 2011 – 1:49 PM CET

Pakistan’s Penal Code dealing with blasphemy includes two special sections addressing alleged blasphemy by followers of Ahmadiyya. While Ahmadis refer to themselves as Muslims, theologically Ahmadiyya is considered a sect or cult of Islam.

Documentary on the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan


  • Climate of fear over Pakistan blasphemy lawsoffsite BBC News, Apr. 28, 2011
  • Q&A: Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy lawsoffsite BBC News, March 22, 2011
  • Pakistan: Religious freedom in the shadow of extremismoffsite Report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide
  • Pakistan: Repeal Blasphemy Lawoffsite Human Rights Watch calls on Pakistan to drop its blasphemy law

    Human Rights Watch urged concerned governments and intergovernmental bodies to press the Pakistani government to repeal sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which includes the blasphemy law and anti-Ahmadiyya laws. They should also urge the government to prosecute those responsible for planning and executing attacks against religious minorities.

    “Continued use of the blasphemy law is abominable,” Hasan said. “As long as such laws remain on the books, Pakistan will remain plagued by abuse in the name of religion.”

  • Pakistan: Use and Abuse of the Blasphemy Lawsoffsite Report by Amnesty International

    AI is concerned that a number of people facing charges of blasphemy, or convicted on such charges have been detained solely for their real or imputed religious beliefs.

    Most of those charged with blasphemy belong to the Ahamdiyya community but Christians have increasingly been accused of blasphemy, among them a 13-year-old boy accused of writing blasphemous words on the walls of a mosque despite being totally illiterate.

    The following case histories are supplied: Anwar Masih, a Christian prisoner; Arshad Javed, reportedly mentally ill, sentenced to death; Gul Masih, a Christian, sentenced to death; Tahir Iqbal, a convert to Christianity, died in jail while on trial; Sawar Masih Bhatti, a Christian prisoner; Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan, Muslim social activist; Chand Barkat, a Christian acquitted of blasphemy but continuously harassed; Hafiz Farooq Sajjad, stoned to death; Salamat Masih, Manzoor Masih and Rehmat Masih, three Christians.

  • Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws Pose A Growing Threatoffsite by Open Doors

    Thousands of Pakistanis who think and believe differently than mainstream Muslims are at risk of being slandered under the blasphemy law. Conviction under Section 295-C of the blasphemy law for derogatory comments about Muhammad is punishable by death or life imprisonment, which in Pakistan, is 25 years. Curiously, accusers in blasphemy cases cannot repeal the alleged derogatory comments without risk of being accused of blasphemy themselves.


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Other Countries

  • Laws Penalizing Blasphemy, Apostasy and Defamation of Religion are Widespreadoffsite Analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

    A new analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that as of 2011 nearly half of the countries and territories in the world (47%) have laws or policies that penalize blasphemy, apostasy (abandoning one’s faith) or defamation (disparagement or criticism of particular religions or religion in general). Of the 198 countries studied, 32 (16%) have anti-blasphemy laws, 20 (10%) have laws penalizing apostasy and 87 (44%) have laws against the defamation of religion, including hate speech against members of religious groups.

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This post was last updated: Dec. 11, 2012