In Pakistan, a Muslim mob has killed a seven-year-old girl and her baby sister (as well as their grandmother) in the latest carnage to defend the faith from blasphemy. The cause of the outrage was a simple picture posted on Facebook that was deemed offensive to Islam. The mob accused members of the Ahmadi sect, who live under continual discrimination by the Pakistani government and the threat of death from Muslims over their faith.
The violence later on Sudnay in the town of Gujranwala, began when a Muslim man accused an Ahmadi man of posting “objectionable material.” The picture showed the Kaaba – the cube-shaped structure in the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, but also showed a naked woman. That was enough for Muslims to not only file a blasphemy charge with the police but a mob to attack and burn down the homes of innocent Ahmadis. They ended up killing the girls, the grandmother, and causing another woman to miscarry her baby. Yet, such violence is viewed by these extremists to be the act of truly faithful Muslims and pleasing to God. It is such a disconnect with any form of recognizable morality that makes this crime so hard to even fathom.
I do not just blame the mob, however. I blame Pakistan for its codification of the prejudice against this sect and treating them as heretics. The country’s incorporation of religious tenets into the criminal code legitimates these acts of hatred. It is also another example of how there is no common ground over blasphemy.
Much of this writing has focused on the effort of the Obama Administration to reach an accommodation with allies like Egypt and Pakistan to develop a standard for criminalizing anti-religious speech. We have been following the rise of anti-blasphemy laws around the world, including the increase in prosecutions in the West and the support of the Obama Administration for the prosecution of some anti-religious speech under the controversial Brandenburg standard.
These cases reflect the true purpose of blasphemy laws: to silence minority sects and religious critics in the name of a “true faith.” Fortunately the effort of Hillary Clinton and others in the Administration to reach a compromise on blasphemy failed, though there continue to be efforts to create an international standard.
Four years ago, Muslims killed 86 Ahmadis. A large crowd watched as the homes of Ahmadis were looted and then burned. In the meantime, according to the article below, blasphemy charges are soaring in Pakistan from just one in 2011 to at least 68 last year.