Blasphemy laws encouraging violence
The abuse of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws has reared its ugly head once again, and one ministry doesn’t expect anything to change for the better until the measures are reformed or repealed.
International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that 18-year-old Patras Masih, a Pakistani Christian, was arrested February 19th for sharing allegedly blasphemous content on Facebook. Before the arrest, a mob of hundreds of local Muslim radicals gathered outside the neighborhood of Shahdra, demanding the teen be arrested and publicly hanged.
ICC’s William Stark says more than 1,500 individuals in Pakistan have been accused of committing blasphemy over the past 30 years.
“Unfortunately, with that law being up there, what’s happened is it’s encouraged people in a way to take the law into their own hands,” Stark explains. “All we have to do is look at this mob that formed outside of Shahdra. What were they chanting for? What were they asking? They were asking for Patras to be hanged. So it is sad that these laws … being on the books have really encouraged the violent behavior around them.”
ICC believes the laws need to be reformed, or better yet, completely repealed.
“At the moment, really they’re just wielded as a weapon by people seeking to settle personal scores or actually incite religious hatred,” Stark observes.
“Without real reform,” he continues, “religious minorities, including Christians, will face more false blasphemy accusations and the extreme violence that accompanies them.”