The week in “blasphemy” news #38

Pakistan gives a life sentence to a son accused by his own father of “desecrating the Holy Quran”.

However, there’s also an unprecedented spike in the number of “blasphemy” cases receiving bail (well, three people in two weeks – but that’s a lot more than the usual zero). Is it possibly a sign of reform?

Meanwhile, anti-“blasphemy” protests by Sikhs continue in India, score a victory, and spread to Pakistan!

And in Indonesia, for the credulous and thin-skinned leader of the “Islam Defenders Front”, a random pattern on the sole of a flip-flop sparks hysterical outrage.

Pakistan: In 2013, a father accused his own son, Wakeel Husain, of “desecrating the Holy Quran“.

The son, Wakeel, has now been sentenced to life in prison for “blasphemy”, The Hindu reports:

Wakeel Husain, a resident of Kamoki, some 40 km from Lahore, had filed an application with police in 2013 alleging that his son Bilal had committed blasphemy.

Police arrested Bilal and registered a case against him.

Additional District and Sessions Court Judge Syed Faizul Hasan on Saturday handed down life imprisonment to Bilal.

During the trial, the prosecution produced the family members of Bilal as witnesses who testified against him.

Pakistan: For the second time in two weeks, we can report that persons accused of “blasphemy” in Pakistan have been granted bail.

Not only that, but this week two such accused have been granted bail!

This is a rare occurrence in itself, so the co-incidence of three such judgments in two weeks is really remarkable.

Last week, bail was granted to Pervaiz Masih, arrested in September after being accused of making “derogatory remarks against the Prophet”, despite their being “no evidence whatsoever” to this effect, according to his lawyer. He has bail for now but further hearings will be forthcoming.

This week, two “blasphemy” cases have been granted bail.

First, a woman called Walaiha Irafat was granted bail “post-arrest”. In this case she was arrested and has been behind bars since early in 2012! The Pakistan Tribune reports:

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, took up the plea of Walaiha Irafat on Thursday. Renowned jurist Asma Jahangir appeared on behalf of the petitioner.

She had been accused by complainant Abdul Manan Shah, a night-shift security guard,  in March 2012 under the Penal Code’s section 295-B (“defiling the Holy Quran”). The security guard said that while on patrol on March 3, 2012, he overheard Irafat’s neighbour, one Amir Arshad, “raising a hue and cry” (as the paper puts it), and upon investigation was told that Irafat had desecrated the Quran. The security guard and another witness supposedly entered her house and saw the defilement, though this was disputed by the defense who said that the supposed “witnesses” had never seen any such thing.

Initially, the petitioner had applied for bail but it was refused on July 10, 2012, because the judge said the charge was of a serious nature. The following two pleas for bail were also rejected. Later on, the Lahore High Court also dismissed a petition on August 28 this year.

Walaiha’s counsel told the bench that the petitioner was innocent and was suffering on account of pressure from external forces. “Being a Muslim, she cannot even conceive the idea of committing such a heinous crime.”

… Asma said: “The petitioner is suffering from mood disorders and she needs drug and psychotherapy. Her continuous confinement poses a serious threat to her life.”

The petition also states that Walaiha’s case falls under the first proviso of the Criminal Procedure Code’s section 497, which stipulates that a woman who has been refused bail shall be released if she has been detained for a continuous period of six months.

“Walaiha has been behind bars since March 3, 2012 and her trial has been under way for more than three years; hence, she is entitled to bail on statutory grounds,” reads the plea.

The applicant has also offered to furnish surety upon the satisfaction of the court. After hearing Asma’s arguments, the bench granted bail to the accused.

The second bail awardee this week is one Naveed John, a far more recent case (we reported his arrest last week, under his alternative given name, Naveed Masih). Christian Post reports:

… Naveed John, a Christian resident from the Maryam Colony in Sargodha, was arrested on Oct. 8 … John was arrested after police officers found a sword in his room that featured verses from the Quran inscribed into the blade. Family members told BPCA that police officials have demanded that they pay a bribe if they want John to be released.

But because the family refused to pay the bribe, the police have now accused John of blasphemy and have also registered an investigation report against him.

“The police First Incident Report states that police found a sword in Naveed’s room inscribed with Kalma [Muslim proclamations]. It further states that a Christian should not be in possession of the Muslim sword and that knowledge of the sword in a Christian’s possession could stir Muslims to violence,” the BPCA report explains.

… John’s brother, Sakhawat Masih, explained to BPCA that even before his brother’s arrest, police officers came to their house and demanded payment in order to provide the Christian family with safety from the Muslim community. The police promised the family members that if they did not pay, police would take action against them.

And indeed, they did.

But Naveed’s bail has now been granted, reports Daily Pakistan:

Local court has granted bail to a Christian faith healer who is in custody under blasphemy law for having Quranic verses on a sword he used to treat his clients here on Thursday, a rare decision in a country where such charges are hugely sensitive.

Naveed John’s lawyers prayed to the court that a fake case had been registered against his client by local police. After hearing arguments from the both sides court accepted the bail plea and issued release orders.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, pardoned and then un-pardoned

India: A weeks-long anti-“blasphemy” demonstration by some Sikhs in northern India appears to have worked (which is, like, never a good sign).

They were protesting the pardoning of a Sikh leader for a supposed act of “blasphemy” dating back to 2007, and the Akal Takht (Sikh authorities) who issued the pardon have now retracted that pardon, specifically in response to the pressure. Economic Times reports:

Various Sikh leaders today hailed the decision of Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikh religion, which annulled its edict of pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda Sect Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, saying the move has undone the “highly objectionable” act committed earlier.

“It is a good decision taken by the Akal Takht. It has undone the mistake which was committed earlier (by pardoning Gurmeet Singh from blasphemy charges),” former general secretary of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) Kiranjot Kaur said…

… SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, “I welcome the decision of Akal Takht which was announced today.”

“The earlier decision of pardoning Dera Head had hurt the sentiments of Sikhs. Never had such thing happened when a sinner’s clarification was accepted and he was pardoned,” Bhaur said.

However, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said, “it has to be seen whether annulling the edict was as per Sikh Maryada (traditions).”

The edict initially made on 24 September was a “pardon” for the supposed transgression of “appearing in an attire of Guru Gobind Singh during a religious congregation”, First Post reports, and gives a little more background on the cause and process of the complaints:

The Akal Takht had pardoned the chief of Dera Sacha Sauda sect on the basis of a written apology he sent through his messenger.

In his apology letter, the Dera chief said that he could never think of copying the Tenth Sikh master Guru Gobind Sigh since he had a deep regard for all Sikh masters.

The Sect chief, who had been accused of impersonating Guru Gobind Singh, said he never compared himself with any spiritual master or saint and hence could not dare to copy the personality of a saint.

The Sikh community, hardliners, and various other outfits were upset at the Akal Takht’s move pardoning the Dera chief without him making a personal appearance before the temporal seat of the Sikhs.

As per Sikh rituals and norms, any guilty person cannot be pardoned unless he physically appears before the Takht.

Singh has expressed “surprise” at the revocation of his “pardon”, and continues to protest that he did not “impersonate” the guru.

There has also been further reflection this week in India on the recent murder (as we reported previously) of a Muslim father accused of eating beef in Dadri, as well as other acts of “cow protection” violence and radical Hindu nationalism generally.

Sikh protest in Pakistan against supposed "blasphemy" in India

Sikh protest in Pakistan against supposed “blasphemy” in India

India and Pakistan: Success breeds imitation! There have been ongoing protests by Sikhs in Punjab, India, about alleged “sacrilege” and “desecration” of holy texts, and further “incidents of disrespect to Guru Granth Sahib”. Times of India reports:

Chanting “Satnam Waheguru”, the protesters were sporting black turbans and held black flags as they passed through various marketplaces of the holy city. They went to the deputy commissioner’s office and recited “kirtan” for half an hour before giving a memorandum urging him to take stern action against the persons responsible for blasphemy.

Another Sikh protest, over the border in Peshawar, Pakistan, took aim at the Indian government’s increasingly negligent attitude to religious minorities (other than Hindus), but also at the alleged “blasphemous” burning of a holy texts in Punjab. Dunya News reports:

The protesters, led by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister (CM) Pervez Khattak’s advisor Sardar Suran Singh gathered outside the press club and blocked the road.

The irked Sikhs raised slogans against Indian government and Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi. A mannequin representing Modi was set ablaze. The protesters said that no community other than Hindus is safe in India.

Pakistani Sikhs have demanded Modi to resign. …

… Earlier on October 12, a holy book, bir was desecrated in Bargari village near Faridkot’s Kotkapura area. The book was reported stolen in June from a gurdwara. On Sunday, pages of the book were seen torn and thrown in the street.

Following the blasphemous act, clashes between police and Sikhs have claimed at least two lives while nearly 70 are reported injured in Indian Punjab.

‘Khalistan’ movement led by Sikhs is also ongoing in India. Sikhs have demanded separation from India due to tensions in the past while the recent act has fueled the friction.

The Sikh community has raised pro-Pakistan slogans in Indian occupied Kashmir today. The community, in Baramulla of northern Kashmir took to the streets and burnt tyres as demonstration of protest against the desecration of the holy book.

The Kashmir Media Service reported that slogans “Kashmir banega Pakistan, Punjab bange Khalsa” were heard in the protests. The agitated Sikhs also raised anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slogans.

United States on Pakistan: The annual US State Department report on International Religious Freedom notes failures of many countries regarding freedom of religion and stresses the deleterious effect of ‘blasphemy’ laws on human rights. Pakistan receives particular criticism:

“In Pakistan, the government’s general failure to investigate, arrest or prosecute those responsible for religious freedom abuses promoted an environment of impunity. This environment fostered further intolerance and acts of violence … Government policies also failed to protect members of majority and minority religious groups,” said the report released by Secretary of State John Kerry.

“In addition, the persistent use of discriminatory legislation, such as blasphemy laws, including the government s failure to address false accusations of blasphemy and laws designed to delegitimise the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, meant that minorities were often afraid to profess freely their religious beliefs,” the report said.

However, the State Department has received much criticism for nevertheless failing to designate Pakistan a “county of particular concern”, a terminology that it shares with the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which in turn issues its own report on international religious freedom and which does list Pakistan as a “country of particular concern”. Breitbart reports:

In a press release Wednesday, USCIRF chairman Robert P. George acknowledged the State Department’s current nine CPC designations, while urging it to enlarge its list to comprise other glaring offenders of religious liberty.

“We also urge the State Department to further expand its CPC list to reflect the severe violations occurring in other countries, such as Pakistan, which USCIRF has called the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the U.S. government as CPCs,” George said.

… “The just-released IRF Report leaves no doubt that the egregious nature of the violations in Pakistan warrant a CPC designation,” George said.

“Now that the IRF Report has been released, the next step is for the State Department to promptly designate the worst violators as CPCs and to leverage those designations to press for much-needed reforms in those countries,” he said.

… Until now, the State Department has seemed unwilling to recognize the grave religious freedom abuses in a number of Muslim-dominated countries that the USCIRF considers CPCs: Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Tajikistan.

Indonesia: Some guy with seriously nothing better to do has reported some flip-flop sandals for “blasphemy”, because he sees the word “Allah” on their soles. WND reports:

Habib M. Iskandar Alkadri, a spokesman for the Islam Defenders Front, or FPI, in Indonesia is demanding the government respond immediately to the discovery that a brand of flip-flops or sandals appears to carry the name Allah on its soles.

Here’s the evil shoe:

It's circled therefore it must be true

It’s circled in red, therefore it must be true

Whether or not it was the designer’s intent, the controversial design on the shoe’s sole closely approximates the name Allah on the black flag, or Black Standard, carried by Islamic State fighters, its top line repeating the Shahada: There is no god but Allah. Mohammad is the messenger of Allah.


The Black Standard of ISIS bearing the Shahada, and the Arabic word “Allah”

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Title: The week in “blasphemy” news #38
Date Posted: October 23, 2015
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Category: Round-ups

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