Why I Despair Over Pakistan’s Intractable Blasphemy Laws

Kimberly Winston of Religion News Service provides commentary on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws based on her recent trip to the  country:

Before leaving for Pakistan, I thought countries that enforce blasphemy laws — Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, among others — would eventually catch up to the rest of the world. Surely, it was a matter of time until they realized free speech must trump religious sensitivities.

My week in Lahore and Islamabad — also the scene of Easter violence over blasphemy laws — changed that. After visiting Christian churches and minority Muslim sects — each time passing barricaded metal gates, gun turrets and skeins of razor wire  — we met with an attorney who represents blasphemy defendants, sometimes all the way to Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

This attorney recited case after case he had personally handled in which people, usually Christians, were charged with tearing a page from the Quran or insulting the Prophet Muhammad and were sentenced to death.

Usually, he said, the accusers were looking to settle a personal score with the defendant or steal their wealth. The most notorious case is of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother and field worker facing execution for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the prophet.

But even this attorney — educated at an elite British university, wearing an expensive western suit and speaking English as well as I do — defended the laws.

You can read the full article here.