Pakistan has been working with the Obama Administration in an effort to create an international blasphemy standard. Now one of its diplomats in Washington is accused of blasphemy herself. She has been accused of blasphemy by a businessman, an offense that carries the death penalty in Pakistan.
In violation of basic human rights, religious freedom, and free speech principles, Pakistan continues to prosecute anyone who utters a word that is derogatory to the Prophet Muhammad. This abusive charge was brought by a man who personifies the hate and intolerance behind the law. Businessman Muhammad Faheem Gill, 31, has been trying relentlessly to get Rehman charged and possibly put to death for simply speaking out against the law in a television interview in 2010. Gill was delighted that his efforts had finally resulted in a charge after three years of petitions. When police refused to file the charge, Gill went to the Supreme Court. He is entirely proud of leading the effort to execute people for simply speaking their minds about the laws of their nation. He is simply the face of the mob. Over fifty people have been killed after being accused of blasphemy since 1990.
Rehman has a stellar record, including the following journalistic and public interest credentials.
Sherry Rehman was the founding Chair of the Jinnah Institute, a non-partisan public policy think tank committed to the strengthening of democracy, governance and an independent national security project in Pakistan. One of its main priorities is re-gaining space for moderate voices in the context of an extremist advance. She co-chaired several track-two strategic dialogues with India, and was convener of a similar institutionalized dialogue process between Pakistan and Afghanistan. She lectures widely on strategic security challenges facing Pakistan, and was a key member of the Legislative Councils that govern both Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Sherry Rehman also served as Chairperson of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society.
Rehman is also an award-winning journalist from Pakistan with 20 years of experience in both the broadcast and the print media. Former editor of the “Herald” newsmagazine based in Pakistan, she graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College, USA, where she studied Government and Art History. In her capacity as a senior journalist, Rehman was the first Pakistani media person to be recognized by the UK House of Lords for independent journalism at the Annual British Muslim Ceremony in 2002.
While she is a patriot for her nation, we would be fortunate if Rehman would consider asking for asylum in his country where she would be able to continue her reform advocacy. There remain many progressive and modern intellectuals in Pakistan, but these charges are designed to create a chilling effect to keep them silent by Muslim extremists. As Pakistan turns more and more toward religious orthodoxy, voices like Rehman cannot be lost to the mob or hateful troglodites like Gill.