Blasphemy: Intellectualising murder

Published: December 8, 2010

So what if the blasphemy laws are not supported by the most respected scholars of Islam?

A brilliant investigative reporter recently deduced that 94% of blasphemy cases have been filed against Muslims. Congratulations on your ability to do simple fractions. The blasphemy laws have indeed been used to target Muslims, Christians and Hindus. What is your point?

According to this gentleman, a paltry 130 people are languishing in jail under the blasphemy laws. Only 130? I mean, come on! More people die of hunger everyday in Palestine. Down with liberal America-lovers who don’t care about Palestine!

Moving on.

“Now, let’s have a look at the status of these eight Christians. Again the official data shows that only three are on death row, two have been sentenced to life imprisonment, while the remaining three are under trial.”

This just in! “Only” three Christians will be killed by the state this year folks! What is Asma Jahangir on about? Seriously? Three Christians? Think of the hundreds of innocent Muslim women and children killed in drone strikes. Why does no one talk about them? Down with Asma Jahangir who is on the payroll of the Pope!

We’re feeling awfully impotent these days, aren’t we? What with hating America and Israel but still really wanting the perks of globalization and all. Can’t we harass some ‘blasphemers’ please? Ok so it’s not in the Quran. But, there’s this one obscure tradition by Ibn Tahmiyya. So what if it’s not supported by Imam Malik, Imam Bukhari or Imam Muslim? Because clearly the other three didn’t come across that Hadith for a full century. Nonetheless, we can swear it is completely and totally undisputed the word of God!

This is the pinnacle of investigative reporting. A fraction. 122 divided by 130 equals 94 per cent. By George, I’ve got a story! Someone should write a book, ‘How to Intellectualize, Distract, Avoid and Completely Confuse an Issue.’

I’ve got an investigative report for the budding journalists out there. Go to this top-secret website called Search for ‘the Quran.’ A brilliant investigative journalist would be able find several translations of the Holy Book, in any language you would care to speak. Next, and this is the tricky part, find me a single Ayat where Allah says we must turn into murderers, and carry out His judgments without any instruction from Him whatsoever.

Incredibly, this top secret website will also give you copies of the Hadith of Imam Muslim, Imam Malik, and Imam Bukhari.

These three individuals are the most widely respected reporters and scholars of the Sunnah. Please, use your brilliant investigative skills to find us a single Hadith that supports killing poor, defenseless human beings (Muslim, Christian, or Hindu) for the crime of ‘blasphemy.’

For the mathematically-minded, I have a great statistic for you. An exclusive report from the top-secret police inspector of Punjab reveals that no less than 100 per cent of the 130 people currently in Punjab jails under blasphemy laws are… wait for it… poor.  Most of them earn a couple of hundred rupees a month. Aasia Bibi was a brick-kiln worker. She probably made less in a month than what you spend on lunch every day. Comparing her to an MIT grad is ludicrous. Tahir Iqbal, a cripple who worked as a mechanic for the PAF spent three years in jail before being poisoned in his jail cell. In 2005 the police locked up five children and three old women under accusations of blasphemy. Another mentally challenged individual spent fourteen years in jail under the blasphemy laws before she was released earlier this year. Imran Latif, the Muslim who was shot in November this year after he was released on bail from prison, was the brother of a shopkeeper.

When you start filling the prisons with children and mentally disabled people, it matters little if they’re Christian or Muslim. Can any brilliant investigative reporter show us anyone who isn’t completely defenseless – in the economic, social, and political sense – in jail under charges of blasphemy? Or are people simply picking on those who can barely afford to send their children to school, let alone fight legal battles in court?

The reason the blasphemy laws are dangerous is because they are used by people with a gun to justify bullying people who’re too poor to own a gun, or too decent to use one. The blasphemy laws are mighty useful, for going after people (Muslim, Christian, or Hindus) with whom you have a land dispute, or who showed you attitude in the market the other day, or who insulted your mother.

It’s like a little gift from the legislature and the Sunni Ittehad Council to all those poor people venting their frustration on people even poorer and weaker than them. Jobless? Poor? Frustrated? Why don’t you go accuse that neighbor of yours with blasphemy? We promise that no matter how ridiculous, transparent or baseless your allegation is, the courts of Pakistan will make their life a living Hell.


Erum Haider

A recent graduate from the University of Chicago, where she got an MA in Social Sciences. She is currently based in Karachi.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Syed Nadir El-Edroos

    Have you factored in that many claim that google too is a conspiracy?Recommend

  • Mohammed Abbasi

    You blasphemer! You have blasphemed against Mullahism by this article – we do not need Islam of the Last Prophet pbuh – the Mullahs will take our hand and show us heavenRecommend

  • http://Faisalabad Mubarak

    Please note that Mullahs are looking for power and blood of innocent. Since God of real Islam is all Forgiving and Merciful therefore Mullahs don’t like this real Islam. Mullahs have invented their own ‘islam’ which has only one article of faith and that is Kill, Kill, Kill,……… and KillRecommend

  • Humanity

    Halfi Muslims of the land of pure should celebrate. They have the state issue certificate which will transport them across pul siraat like a magical rug.

    Wow — the demagoguery of the mullah-military-politic alliance and the zealots follow the blind blindly .. God help the misguided , crazy with hatred and rage!Recommend

  • Imran ghazali

    kudos to the Erum for writing this!!Recommend

  • Hasan

    Oh you forgot to mention ‘IJMA-e-UMMAT’ apparently Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rahman says that’s the biggest factor and cannot be overlooked. This nation where literacy is more than 50%, knows all about Qura’an and Sunnah. That is so amazing.Recommend

  • majid maqsood

    It is not a question of Muslims, Christian or Hindu but liberal Muslim world believe blasphemy law is controversial and it is mostly used in personal clashes for getting revenges, being a Muslim i am ashamed to see the handling of this blasphemy law, and after giving some controversial decisions by LHC, it seems that Court of this country is a party against this innocent woman.
    its not justification, if this law is also invoked for Muslim so it must prevails, Pakistan is a country of many sects and religions where some Muslims give Fatwa against other Muslim like they are Kafer or their killing is justified so blasphemy can also be used against Muslim to whom other Muslim thinks not true Muslim.
    its high time to repeal this controversial law and i believe no one can do blasphemy in this world so please make this World peaceful and beautiful. Recommend

  • parvez

    Your are one angry girl and justifiably so. Loved the write up.Recommend

  • Muhammad Shemyal Nisar

    A brilliant piece of writing, but I would suggest you to publish it those places where ordinary Pakistani would read it. That would be Urdu Newspapers. Otherwise it would always remain “propaganda” of English speaking elite to the normal Pakistanis.Recommend


    Well if juridical or social system has flaws you cant blame the law, By this context we should also repel the anti corruption laws because it is use for political motives. Recommend

  • Talat Haque

    Your questions are not likely to receive answers …………… people who make such unjust, cruel laws are in the business of consolidating their power ……………. it is done deliberately ……… but you have done what ought to be done – raising your voice against tyranny. Good writing.Recommend

  • Tania Saleem

    great job erum… i even gave u a five star rating ;)Recommend

  • Erum

    @Shoaib i’m sorry, did i say the judicial or the social system is flawed? what part of THESE LAWS ARE UN-ISLAMIC don’t you understand? please enlighten us. thanks.Recommend

  • Shahzaib

    Loved it!!Recommend

  • Evangeline Ekanayake

    Erum, I want to say how much I appreciate your voice in this. Am just a woman from Srilanka and a Christian. This issue isn’t merely about persecuted Christians, but is much wider and more sinister. Thank you for bringing this aspect to the fore and also for doing what only a Muslim could have done, in presenting an incisive reality check by way of Islamic scriptures, and a critique of the dangerous religious chauvinism and ironically “Un-islamic” brutality characterizing some religious leaders. Such types have also blotched the reputation of the Christian church and its gospel of Justice and mercy, when they use the Bible to justify their murderous invasions and support of brutality. One question. I’m really interested to know, How much of these views of yours actually filter down to those who really need to hear it? The clerics for instance? The mobs? the village folk? what do they read? Have you written stuff like this in Urdu? does any one say these things openly in Pakistan? would you be safe doing so? is there a powerful debate even in the public media accessible to ordinary people in Pakistan or is all the fire in cyber and in safe international media?

    More power to you!
    Evan Ekanayake

  • Nouman

    How brave. Shows how angry and frustrated you are upon this.

    What I suggest, when readers read the article like this and they like it. They should share it via email, FB or Twitter with their friends/fellows. All it takes is few clicks and you’re spreading the good word in no time. I do so.

    Johannesburg, ZA.Recommend

  • Ahmed Ilyas

    Ms. Erum, any law can become dangerous if it is not practiced in a wrong way… Its not the problem with the law, the problem is with its wrong practice… We should find new measures to ensure that blasphemy law is used wrongly… not repeal it.Recommend

  • Ahmed Ilyas

    @Mohammed Abbasi:

    Take it easy… Recommend

  • Milestogo

    Goodness is inside you.Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    The sentiments of Pakistani people towards blasphamey and the blasphamey law have spilled over into our personal lives, now anything that might have a small whim of blasphamy gets treated with hostility even though in reality, it might be nothing more than a healthy opinionRecommend

  • Humanity

    Aren’t the masked men holding the butcher and behead signs mocking and insulting Islam, the religion of peace, tolerance and forgiveness?


  • Kutta Burger


    The piece you’ve pegged your post on has an obnoxious, apologist tone. Agreed. The blasphemy laws need to be amended heavily, if not repealed. And the judicial and penal systems need to ensure that no laws, especially those that are based on religion, aren’t misused.

    So we agree on the spirit of the matter. But I have an issue with the core of your argument. You’re arguing that Islam itself does not prescribe death as punishment for insulting the prophet. I’d suggest looking at the Kitab-ul-Hudood in Abu Dawood’s hadith collection. (This book falls within the few thousand hadith verified by Abu Dawood and other reviewers after him as authentic, out of a total of several hundred thousand.) In addition, there are several incidents narrated well before Ibn-e Taymiyya’s work that back the claim that Prophet Mohammed prescribed or recommended death as punishment for insulting him. Just saying.

    It’s a losing battle if you’re going to play on the same pitch as those who’re using religion to persecute and murder people. These laws should be repealed not because they’re against religion or a certain interpretation of it, but because they’re arbitrary, unjust and highly vulnerable to abuse. You’re never going to win if you’re going to legislate on the basis of revealed scripture.Recommend

  • Hasan

    @Kutta Burger:
    Ibn-e Taymiyya’s work that back the claim that Prophet Mohammed prescribed or recommended death as punishment for insulting him

    I would like to see that. If you can give me a reference.

    Coming back to the laws, there is no evidence either from the Qura’an or from Sunnah that punishment for blasphemy was ever imposed on anyone. Clerics claim on the Conquest of Mecca, The Prophet (peace be upon him) executed many blasphemers. I have written a detailed account on this particular issue. You can read it here:

    The case of Ka’b bin Ashraf again wasn’t the case of blasphemy at all. It was an act of treason for which he was executed and same with Abu-Rufi.

    The problem with our nation is that, 1) it is illiterate (majority), 2) it lacks interest in religious knowledge (hence the clergy has taken over) and 3) They have limited sources of researching in religion.

    What ever the cleric say, they have to believe its true. Since the clerics have numbers in their congregations, anyone who speaks logic is dubbed either an apostate or a blasphemer.Recommend

  • Fatima

    This is a huge issue, a monster that cannot be defeated in one go and certainly not be seeing who yells the loudest. We must go systematically and step by step. There is certainly no room to rely on data that has potential to be even 1% incorrect. If anything happens, it will take a lot of debate and effort.

    However, lets take it one step at a time. It is not blasphemy for the Christian woman. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is not HER prophet..even if she meant to insult him – which she did NOT. You cannot hang her for insulting YOUR prophet. It does not apply to her. I can understand by some extreme stretch of the imagination, that it applies to muslims. Yes. But no way does it apply to non-muslims. Its downright ludicrous. I suppose common sense is not so common.

    Its like the Hindus putting us in prison just because we sacrifice cows. Remember that? Anyone? Anyone? Remember how they used that law to shove us in prison? It could so easily be misused as well. This is the SAME thing. It is akin to bullying. Let us not resort to that. We’re better than that…are we not? Or have we clung to our religion, charging towards it with such fervor, that we surpassed it and find ourselves miles away in the wrong direction?

    So, first things first. At least for now, amend it to only apply to muslims. Then, perhaps we can define what blasphemy is, as a second step. Getting angry at someone named Muhammad certainly not it.

    A vast majority of this country are from rural areas…which still do not touch non-muslims or eat with them. We are a mere handful who can see this common sense. As a nation, this handful cannot escape from what our stance is – as a country. Quite a shame is it not?

    On a different note…I saw those protesters yesterday arguing for the prevention of amendment, inches from me. They were only protesting for fun. I do not think they take it so seriously. I think its true, Pakistanis just love protesting without thinking about it.

    Every time there is an issue pertaining to Pakistan and Islam, I raise voice, get attacked by various people…local and foreign for two opposite reasons. It is quite stressful. I am so tired of this.

    Why can we not show people the amazing hearts and goodness we hide deep inside? There is such beauty here, not found anywhere else. Its true. Why not show them? Recommend

  • Qaiserz

    We love our Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) but I just cannot imagine our Prophet telling his followers to kill a human being simply because he or her were critical or abusive towards him. The words of Jesus Christ resound here :when he was on the cross, “1.1 Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Forgiveness and turning the other cheek has been the standard laid down by our prophets. The said Blasphemy Law is truly man made as it demands blood of ordinary and often naive human beingsRecommend