Government Officials Pushing on Blasphemy Law Revision

According to sources, government officials in Pakistan are pushing for a revision of the country’s blasphemy law
( [email protected] ) Aug 20, 2004 07:19 PM EDT

Since the ‘blasphemy law’ was enacted in Pakistan in 1986, many Pakistani Christians have been falsely accused of blaspheming Mohammed or the Koran, a crime punishable by death. However, sources say that government officials in Pakistan are pushing for a revision of the country’s blasphemy law, which could be a blessing to Christians in the country.

Commonly known as the blasphemy law, section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 stipulates that any person who ‘by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly’ defiles the name of the Islamic Prophet, Mohammad, is liable for blasphemy. In additional to a fine, he shall be punished with the death sentence or imprisonment for life.

According to the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), Pakistani believers are often falsely accused of blaspheming Mohammad or the Koran, and even those acquitted are subject to violence and even death at the hands of mobs.

In a recent interview, VOM Spokesman Todd Nettleton told Agape Press that many times Pakistani Christians are falsely accused, often in the midst of an argument.

“If there’s a dispute about property,” Nettleton said, “or if you’re upset about something, you just point the finger and say, ‘you know what? He blasphemed Muhammad.’ And the police come in and arrest them, and they’re out of the way.”

But now, Nettleton said, a proposed revision to the law calls for harsh penalties for anyone making a spurious accusation of blasphemy.

“One of the changes they’re looking at is to make it so that if you make a false charge, you will be punished as the person would have been punished if they were guilty of blasphemy,” he said.

Nettleton believes there is a good chance the proposal to revise the blasphemy law will be approved, which he says would be a major benefit to Christian believers. “Obviously that will make it a lot more difficult to use the blasphemy law against Christians and others just to settle a dispute,” he said.

However, according to reports, even if the law is amended, Christians will continue to be at risk in Pakistan, where militant Islamic forces continually initiate violence against them. But for the present, Nettleton asserts, the proposed revision to the anti-blasphemy law is greatly needed to correct a common injustice in the predominantly Muslim nation. Hopefully, he said, the change will make many people “think long and hard” before lodging a false complaint of blasphemy against a Christian.

Since its enactment in 1986, the blasphemy law has led to the imprisonment of hundreds of innocent people, while others have been forced to flee the country or subject to death at the hands of Islamic extremists under the pretext of punishing blasphemers. Over the years, many moderate Muslims have also fallen victim to the law.