On an ordinary day an ordinary man rose to extra-ordinary heights of fame after riddling the body of a man of authority with bullets. Mumtaz Qadri killed the then Governor of Pubjab Salman Taseer while acting as his bodyguard from Pubjab’s Elite Police Force.
The reason: Blasphemy
Salman Taseer’s media statement, where he called the Pakistan Penal Code’s Blasphemy Law “Black”, was considered Blasphemy against Holy Prophet Muhammed (S.A.A.W) and his teachings. Many hardliner clerics declared Salman Taseer “Wajib-Ul-Katal” and despite Taseer’s clarification of the statement the tension did not diffuse. On January 4, 2011 an ordinary bodyguard took the bold step in the name of Islam and shot Salman Taseer 26 times at point-blank range with a submachine gun.
If this was the only case of Blasphemy, it might have garnered huge attention for several years to come but that was not the case. Blasphemy law has been used many times in the past to kill people and it is still being used as a threatening tool. The eighth-grade student that was accused of Blasphemy based on spelling error is just one of the more recent cases of the mindless application of this law.
Before moving forward, let us look what the law actually states. As per Pakistan Penal Code, the Blasphemy Law (295-C) states that:
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
The law clearly states that whoever, directly or indirectly, insults Holy Prophet Muhammed (S.A.A.W) in any way will be punished by death or life imprisonment. The law fails to elaborate what comes under ‘directly or indirectly’ and leaves it to reader’s interpretation. One can consider the use of the letter ‘O’ instead of ‘U’ in Holy Prophet’s name as an indirect insult and thus punishable by death because after all, the law does say ‘defiles the sacred name’. The other problem is, people will not wait for the court’s judgment and perform capital punishment on the spot themselves without delay.
The Blasphemy law does not differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims, neither among old and young. It has been formed on the basis of the dominant Hanafi school-of-thought that is followed throughout Pakistan. The Hanafi position, however is contrary to Penal Code’s 295-C and Imam Hanifa himself had given a different clarification of the Blasphemy law.
As narrated by Imam Khatabi in the book ‘Ma’alim al-sanan’ by Abi Dawud:
Imam Abu Hanifa said “non-Muslim will not be killed on the basis of Shatam-e-Rasool. The crime of shirk that he is already committing, that in itself is a much bigger crime”.
One of the most prominent scholars after the first generation of Hanafi school-of-thought, Imam Ibn Abidin had covered all popular opinions and issues of the Muslims from Hanafi point of view in his book “Radd-Ul-Mukhtar”. This book is used as an authority to issue fatwas and investigate into matters that require religious explanation. Imam Ibn Abidin explains that a non-Muslim can only be killed in Hanafi belief if the subject is habitual offender and in a rebellious manner persistently tries to set himself against the Muslims as a sarkhish. In case of a Muslim offender the Hanafi opinion is that he is to be given a chance to repent as in the case of apostasy. If he does repent, spare him and if he continues to offend then kill him.
In the 19th century about 450 Hanafi scholars had consensus/Ijma regarding Blasphemy law and Maulana Mansoor Ali writes in his book “Fatah-Al-Mubeen” that as per Hanafi opinion only habitual offenders in blasphemy may be killed on the orders of the judge. One time offenders are not to be killed as per authentic Hanafi position and punishment can only be given by the relevant authority.
The clarity of the Blasphemy law is already provided by various scholars throughout history from the dominant school-of-thought in Pakistan. Despite that we continue to follow a form of the law that is contrary to our belief. The extreme interpretation of the law, as part of Pakistan’s Penal Code, is the root cause of mayhem that is taking place in the name of religion. Anyone can kill anyone who even hints at Blasphemy as per the killer’s interpretation.
The case is similar where Mumtaz Qadri is concerned. Despite Salman Taseer’s explanation that he is firm believer in Islam and the Holy Prophet, his terming of Blasphemy Law “Black” was taken as an unpardonable insult to Holy Prophet and Mumtaz Qadri, apparently a believer of stricter form of Islam, not just took the bold step of killing the person he is supposed to protect but welcomed the death sentence that was handed down to him by the Anti-Terrorist court.
Over 20 years of religious brainwashing has resulted in dangerous circumstances for youngsters to learn and grow. The ideas are getting dangerous and protection to the killers by the masses is a cause of worry. Mumtaz Qadri is not just supported by the band of Mullahs but throngs of lawyers throw petals on him whenever they see him and a long line of legal petitioners are using any method possible to get him released. The recent ATC ruling on the death sentence has been challenged and the same people who are supposed to upload the law of the land are vying to get free a person who murdered openly an old man based on religious misinterpretation.
Pakistan needs to put its house to order by not just correcting the incorrect laws but also make sure to implement proper justice system, reverse the brainwashing of the masses and downplay politics in all major sectors of economy and bureaucracy. Correcting the Blasphemy law however will be the hardest challenge of all.