This is a guest post by Susanna Craig
I lay my cards on the table from the outset. I consider the term blasphemy to mean ‘the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.’ And whilst I choose to not do this myself, as a believer, I believe that the Almighty is supremely well placed to protect Himself and does not require my help. Indeed I consider it blasphemous to even think let alone act to ‘help God.’ He does not need my help, I need His.
As a Christian I am further bound by the teaching of Jesus: ‘Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. This is not as some wrongly choose to believe a closing down of discussion around poor behaviour but a reminder that it is God who will judge us and should be seen with the Golden Rule ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’ Jesus is teaching us to be merciful, compassionate and forgiving.
What does this have to do with the Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan, and another mob (because there have been many before and no doubt will be again without reform) demanding the ‘death of a blasphemer’ in this case a Christian, Asia Bibi? Rather a lot in my humble opinion since Jesus/Isa is a Prophet of Islam and the Qur’an is as littered with calls to be merciful, compassionate and forgiving as the New Testament. I believe therefore it is incumbent upon Islamic scholars and of course I am delighted and not surprised that Dr Usama Hasan has publicly supported Asia Bibi, to re-educate the Muslims of Pakistan with the teachings of Islam.
The 1986 clause ‘to punish blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad with death or life imprisonment’ is apparently and appallingly believed by Pakistani Muslims to be in the Qur’an rather than an addition by General Zia. Such dangerous ignorance cannot be allowed to continue. The fact that politicians are afraid to tackle this and for obvious reason; the murders of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti who were brave enough to speak out on this case, clearly are sobering reminders of the price to pay for challenging the mob. However it must be done. To be so afraid of standing up to allegedly ‘God fearing people’ for fear they will kill you, is a contradiction in terms.
I am a teacher and we teach children that ‘bullying is wrong’ and that we have ‘a zero tolerance on bullying’ and yet in Pakistan the bullies reign supreme. And in Britain it appears we are prepared to abandon our values and Asia Bibi, in case we ‘offend’ anyone already living here, who would find her mere presence so ‘hateful,’ that they would ‘have to’ take violent and illegal action to protect their ‘precious’ views. There is no ‘right’ in this country to not be offended. People choose to be offended. They can just as easily choose not to be and live by the laws of this land, a land they choose to live in.
We have been fighting a war on extremism now for many years. It would be bad enough if Pakistan was the only place we had to be concerned about. However Blasphemy Laws are used by all extremists as an excuse to persecute the vulnerable and or their enemies. Whilst they exist in many countries, they are most commonly enforced in Muslim countries on minorities including ‘the wrong sort of Muslim.’ In countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, hideous numbers are executed every year.
We must continue to robustly challenge the ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know.’ We must defend our precious, secular, liberal democracy. Where Blasphemy Laws exist in secular, liberal democracies we should lead the way and abolish them, in order to assist the abolition in fascist, theocratic dictatorships. We must support the brave Theologians who must take on this challenge to regain their faiths from the misguided, before it is too late.
I agree with Archbishop Philip Richardson of New Zealand ‘my God is bigger than needing to be defended by the blasphemy libel law.’