Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The insanity of blasphemy laws

I've previously criticised Pakistan's outdated blasphemy law as a tool of religious persecution. But its worse than that. In addition to punishing those who fail to adhere to the prevailing religious orthodoxy, it can also be used to punish trivial behaviour with no religious component whatsoever - such as throwing away a pushy salesman's business card:

A doctor has been arrested on suspicion of violating Pakistan's contentious blasphemy law by discarding a business card of a man who shared the name of Islam's prophet, Muhammad, police say.


The case began when Muhammad Faizan, a pharmaceutical company representative, visited Dr Valiyani's clinic and handed out his business card. He said when the doctor threw the card away, he went to police and filed a complaint that noted his name was the same as the prophet's. Mr Shah said police were investigating whether the doctor should be charged with blasphemy.

"Buy my drugs or I'll have you arrested!" It would be funny, if someone wasn't facing a potential death penalty (whether legal, or extrajudicial) for it. But its also a perfect example of how blasphemy laws are abused by self-interested believers, and why countries should not have such laws.