Mahruf Zaidi, a young boy from Pakistan, recently posted a very offensive tweet stating that the prophet is a pedophile. This gained lots of coverage on Twitter, with people taking screenshots of the original tweet. The tweet stands deleted now. A hashtag has trended on twitter #BlasphemousMarufZaidi. Considering, the Blasphemy laws are stringent in Pakistan; he has gotten death threats for the same.
“Blasphemy” is punishable by death under the law, and accusations often followed by mob brutality with fatal consequences. Critics say that the cases that minorities figure so prominently in the cases show how the rules are unfairly implemented.
A vast majority of Pakistani people support the idea that blasphemers should be punished. Still, there is little understanding of what the religious scripture says instead of how the modern-day law is codified. Many believe the code, as ordered by the military government of General Zia-ul Haq back in the 1980s, is, in fact, right out of the Koran and hence is not human-made.
Changing the blasphemy laws has been on the list of many popular secular parties. None has made much headway – mainly because of the sensitivities over the matter and because no major party wants to offend the religious parties.
Chapter XV of Pakistan’s Penal Code contains several sections that establish blasphemy and religious defamation statutes: Article 295-A criminals “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by abusing its religion or religious beliefs”; Article 295-B outlaws the defaming of the Quran; Article 295-C forbids the use of demeaning remarks about the Prophet; Article 298 prevents people from saying anything that had the conscious intent to hurt religious feelings; and article 298-B punishes any misuse of epithets, descriptions, or titles held for certain holy personages or places.
From 2010 onwards, the government has been proactive in its blocking of online “blasphemous” content. For example, the Pakistani government blocks blasphemous content on Youtube. The social-networking site Twitter has also been subject to blocking and complicit in the censoring of material on its platform. In May 2012, Twitter was blocked temporarily, and again in September that year. In May 2014, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority demanded the removal of some material, much of which mocked Islam and other religions, claiming that it was “blasphemous,” “unethical,” and violated Pakistan’s Penal Code. Twitter used its Country Withheld Content tool, which blocks content in a particular nation, to comply and prevent several dozen Twitter accounts. After the international protest, including by the IHEU, in June, Twitter reinstated access to tweets and the accounts it had blocked. And now, following the Penal Code clauses’ adaptation into the likewise draconian cybercrime laws, death sentences are being delivered out for content that is posted online, resulting in silencing of progressive voices online and the removal of anonymous accounts.
Twitter users have tried to detract the trending hashtag by #btsarmypakistan #BTSARMY #ImranKhanResignKaro #ImranKhanKhulwaoPUBG. The trend first started when a twitter user, @mahnoorspam_, caught the attention of Maruf’s tweet. Hardliners have protested and want the strictest punishment to follow out.
Is capital punishment for blasphemy justified? A bigger question looms as an innocent life could be lost. The solution is rooted in the restoration of true Islam based on a proven model of success and reformation of Muslims. Muslim leadership must be more responsible for protecting the rights of religious minorities in Muslim majority nations. In 2009, His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam Mirza Masroor Ahmad delivered a landmark oration in Frankfurt, Germany, where he urged religious freedom, ending: “The followers of any religion should be able to practice their religious customs freely; otherwise if the government will interfere with religion, in this civilised world, such interference will negate their claim to being secular and discharging the rights of others.”