Update and apology: differing media reports of Pakistan lawyer’s research on blasphemy laws

by Michael Nugent on February 7, 2015

Earlier I linked to an article in the Express Tribune (Tribune.com.pk) that cited research about blasphemy laws cited by a Pakistan lawyer, at the appeal trial of the man convicted of murdering the Governor of Punjab.

I have since found an article in Dawn.com that gives a different account of this research, in particular whether it refers to blasphemy convictions in the past 14 years or blasphemy death sentences in the past 14 centuries.

I do not know which of these is accurate. I apologise to anyone who was misled by my original post, that cited only the first of the two articles.

The two articles

The Express Tribune (Tribune.com.pk) has an article titled: “115 sentenced all over the world for committing blasphemy, argues Qadri’s counsel

This article states that:

“As the hearing of the Salmaan Taseer murder case resumed at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday, convicted killer Mumtaz Qadri’s counsel  argued that over the past 14 years, as many as 115 people were awarded sentences across the world for committing blasphemy against religions other than Islam.”

However, Dawn.com has an article titled “Is criticising blasphemy laws blasphemous?

This article states that:

“The counsel claimed that in his research on the subject of blasphemy, he had found as many as 115 cases where alleged blasphemers had been put to death over the course of nearly 14 centuries. These included, he pointed out, Christians who had been executed in the name of religion in Europe.”

Impact of western blasphemy laws on Islamic blasphemy laws

The second article also says that Taseer’s lawyer:

“alleged that the west had double standards; on the one hand, they did not permit Holocaust Denial but on the other hand, they allowed things that hurt Muslim sentiments under ‘freedom of expression’.”

Atheist Ireland has consistently argued that one of the reasons for removing the Irish blasphemy law is its use by Islamic States to justify repressive blasphemy laws in their own countries. They point both to archaic blasphemy laws in many western States, and also to the new blasphemy law passed in Ireland in 2009.

Pakistan has already used the language of Ireland’s law at the UN, in its proposals to the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards calling for an international instrument preventing the defamation of religion.

Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, has advised Atheist Ireland to convey to the Irish Government:

“Of course you are right that the major damage done by this legislation is the international one. I wouldn’t expect any harsh verdicts being handed down in Ireland, but those countries that continue to have an intimidating anti-blasphemy practice like to quote European countries to unmask Western hypocrisy.”

This is the sequence of events that has led to the appeal this week in Pakistan:

  • Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, was convicted of blasphemy against Mohammad and was sentenced to death by hanging. She is still in prison.
  • Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, spoke out in favour of Asia Bibi, as did Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minorities Minister in the Parliament. Both politicians were then murdered.
  • Taseer was murdered by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, who said that he did it because Taseer was attempting to get a pardon for Asia Bibi.
  • Qadri was then found guilty by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of murdering Taseer, and was sentenced to death.
  • Qadri is now appealing that sentence.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michael Kingsford Gray February 8, 2015 at 5:02 am

A model example of how to admit that one was mistaken.
Others should take note.

2 Nialler February 8, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Apologising is really easy.

When you’re wrong or in any way in error – or possibly in error – it is easy to front up and admit it.

It saves enormous problems down the line as well.

It’s always the right thing to do.

3 Gurdur (Tim Skellett) February 10, 2015 at 4:13 am

Michael Nugent, your best bet is to contact @RazaRumi on Twitter to ask for clarification. You can also contact Dawn magazine itself, who are also on Twitter. Should you get no reply from either of these soon, let me know on Twitter (@Gurdur) and I shall give you another couple of names of people working in Pakistan to check with.

4 Gurdur (Tim Skellett) February 10, 2015 at 4:21 am

Also see my tweet here for follow-up replies to it:

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