BLASPHEMY - LAWS THAT PENALIZE - WOMEN, GIRLS, & RIGHTS
Via AHRC - Asian Human Rights Commission
Pakistan - Update - Pending Aasia Bibi Blasphemy Case
Aasia Bibi handing over appeal papers against her death sentence to Salmaan Taseer.
By Waqar Gillani - January 5, 2014
Four and a half years after she was first charged with blasphemy, what exactly is happening with Aasia Bibi and her casePeople seem to have forgotten Aasia Bibi while she languishes in one jail or the other for the last four and a half years. Her appeal for review of her death conviction remains pending before the Lahore High Court. In June 2009, Aasia Bibi was asked by her co-workers to fetch water while working on a farm in Lahore's outskirts. Some of the Muslim women are said to have refused to drink it because they considered the utensil "unclean" after being touched by a Christian woman. An argument ensued where Bibi allegedly uttered derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). A few days later Bibi was charged of blasphemy and arrested from arrested in Ittanwalai village.
Bibi, a blasphemy accused under Section 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code, was sentenced to death by a local court in December 2009.
Under the blasphemy laws, a high court must confirm a death sentence from a lower court. Due to this legal procedure, many of those who are convicted remain on death row for years.
Talking on telephone with TNS, from an undisclosed location, Aasia's husband Ashiq Masih said, "She is scared. There is no hope for her release".
He recalled how a mob dragged his wife to a local police station, where she was jailed and charged with blasphemy. "She has not done anything," he maintained.
Bibi's husband and five children are living in hiding. Fearing violence from extremists, they prefer to hide their identity and often relocate their home. Last June, when they went to see her in jail in Sheikhupura, they were told that Bibi had been shifted to the Central Jail in Multan. This came as a surprise both for the victim's counsel and the family.
The case of Aasia Bibi gained prominence when Salmaan Taseer, then the Punjab governor, went to jail to meet her and to assure her of all possible legal help. Taseer had maintained that the case against Bibi was fabricated and based on wrong grounds. He had moved a request to the former president of Pakistan to pardon Bibi's sentence.
Taseer's open support for Aasia Bibi cost him his life. His police guard, Mumtaz Qadri, who thought Taseer was a supporter of a blasphemer, killed him on Jan 4, 2011 in Islamabad.
An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) awarded Qadri a death penalty in October 2011, nine months after he had committed the murder. His appeal against the conviction is also pending before the court.
About two months after the assassination of Taseer, the then federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was also killed in the country's capital for talking about the need to revise the controversial blasphemy laws.
Aasia Bibi's case had prompted widespread international attention. Pope Benedict XVI had also issued a condemnation statement.
"Taseer was the last hope for Aasia Bibi," says Nadeem Anthony, council-member of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). "The complainant of the case, a cleric of the local mosque in Bibi's village, is not a witness in the case. He believed what the local women told him. She was sent to jail and the case was lodged a few days after the alleged incident occurred."
The HRCP has documented scores of cases in which the blasphemy laws have been misused - to settle personal scores or to victimise the marginalised sections of society and religious minorities. The mere fact of being a Christian or an Ahmadi in Pakistan makes an individual vulnerable to the misuse of blasphemy laws.
"There are enough legal grounds which can help Bibi's release conditionally, if the appellate court hears her case at the earliest on humanitarian grounds. We have moved an application for this purpose," said S.K. Chaudhry, victim's counsel.
The hearing is expected in the coming weeks and Chaudhry hopes to get justice.
"In my view, Bibi is in jail quite unnecessarily," said Hina Jilani, a human rights activist, asking: "But even if her appeal is heard and she is set free by the court, who is going to protect her in the society?"
These past couple of years, Taseer's death anniversary has been marked by thin candle light vigils in his memory, as opposed to thousands of religious extremists congregating across Pakistan in support of his murderer Qadri, upholding him as a hero.
Jilani thinks it is quite unfortunate - "Our politicians are not taking such issues seriously. First, many people, if their sentence is overturned, remain on the mercy of the society where they are unsafe and continued to be victimised by extremist elements. There are serious concerns about the safety of such people."
Pew Research Center: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Several recent incidents have drawn international attention to laws and
policies prohibiting blasphemy – remarks or actions considered to be
contemptuous of God or the divine. In a highly publicized case last summer, for
example, a 14-year-old Christian girl in
As an extension of its continuing research on restrictions on religion around the world, the Pew Forum counted and categorized (“coded”) reports of the presence of these laws in 2011.5 The coding relied on 19 widely cited, publicly available sources from groups such as the U.S. State Department, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group.6 Although it is possible that more laws penalizing blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion exist than are reported by the 19 primary sources, taken together the sources are sufficiently comprehensive to provide a good estimate of the presence of these laws in almost all countries.7
This is the second time the Pew Forum has analyzed laws against blasphemy, apostasy and defamation of religion as part of its ongoing study of global restrictions on religion.8 However, the original study, which covered the period from mid-2006 to mid-2009, looked only at the number of countries that had laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation; it did not look at each type of law separately. In addition, the first study did not include hate speech laws. By contrast, this analysis uses a broader definition of defamation that includes laws against hate speech aimed at religious groups. Laws against the defamation of religion and religious hate speech overlap to some extent, but, in general, defamation refers to the disparagement or criticism of a religion while hate speech refers to words or actions that vilify, disparage or intimidate a person or group based on religion.
The previous study found that countries that have laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation also are more likely to have high government restrictions on religion or high social hostilities involving religion than countries that do not have such laws. This does not mean that laws against blasphemy, apostasy and defamation of religion necessarily cause higher restrictions on religion. But they do suggest that the two phenomena often go hand-in-hand: countries with laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion also tend to have higher government restrictions on religion and higher social hostilities involving religion.
In calendar year 2011, a total of 32 countries (16%) had laws penalizing
blasphemy (remarks or actions considered to be contemptuous of God).
Anti-blasphemy laws are particularly common in the Middle East and
In 2011, a total of 20 countries across the globe prohibited apostasy
(abandoning one’s faith, including by converting to another religion). Such
measures were in effect in more than half the countries in the Middle
East-North Africa region (11 of 20, or 55%) as well as in five of the 50
countries in the Asia-Pacific region (10%) and four of the 48 countries in
sub-Saharan Africa (8%). Laws against apostasy were not present in any country
in Europe or the
Laws against defamation of religion were far more common worldwide than laws against blasphemy and apostasy. As of 2011, 87 countries (44%) had a law, rule or policy at some level of government forbidding defamation of religion or hate speech against members of religious groups.
Laws against the
defamation of religion were most common in
In the three other
major geographic regions covered in this analysis, a third or fewer countries
had laws against the defamation of religion, including religious hate speech.
Such laws were found in 17 of the 50 countries in the Asia-Pacific region
(34%), 13 of the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (27%) and six of the 35
countries in the
This analysis was written by Brian J. Grim, Senior Researcher and Director of Cross-National Data, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Research assistance was provided by Angelina Theodorou, Research Assistant, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
1 The girl was released after an imam at a local mosque was accused of
planting evidence against her. See “Bail Allowed for Christian Girl Accused of
2 See “Christ Statue in Mumbai Prompts Blasphemy Spat,” The Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2012, http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2012/05/15/religion-journal-christ-statue-in-mumbai-prompts-blasphemy-spat/. (return to text)
3 See Friendly Atheist, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/06/19/an-update-on-sanal-edamaruku/; New Humanist Blog, http://blog.newhumanist.org.uk/2012/11/sanal-edamaruku-event-in-london-21_12.html; Free Thought Blogs, http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/11/19/where-is-sanal-edamaruku-now/comment-page-1/. (return to text)
4 See “Blasphemy in Democracy’s Birthplace? Greece Arrests Facebook User,” The Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 2, 2012, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/1002/Blasphemy-in-democracy-s-birthplace-Greece-arrests-Facebook-user. (return to text)
5 The Pew Forum’s latest findings on global restrictions on religion can be found in its September 2012 report “Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion,” http://www.pewforum.org/Government/Rising-Tide-of-Restrictions-on-Religion.aspx. (return to text)
6 For a full list of sources, see Appendix 1: Methodology of “Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion,” http://www.pewforum.org/Government/Rising-Tide-of-Restrictions-on-Religion-methodology.aspx#info. (return to text)
7 Although the sources used for this study did not indicate that the
8 See the Laws Against Blasphemy, Apostasy and Defamation section of the Pew Forum’s 2011 report “Rising Restrictions on Religion,” http://www.pewforum.org/Government/Rising-Restrictions-on-Religion(6).aspx. (return to text)
Photo Credit: © NADEEM KHAWER/epa/Corbis
Human Rights Without Frontiers
Christian fined beyond ability to pay; civil trial looms
Morning Star News (11.06.2013) - A judge in Upper Egypt found a Christian teacher guilty of defaming Islam today and levied a massive fine against her after prohibiting her lawyers from presenting a single witness during the trial.
Dimyana Obeid Abd Al-Nour escaped jail time, but she was fined 100,000 Egyptian pounds (US$14,270), far beyond her ability to pay.
She is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, her father, Ebed Abd Al-Nour, told Morning Star News. He said his daughter did nothing wrong.
"I am very upset right now by the sentence," he said. "My daughter is innocent and should not have been given such a sentence."
He then became overcome with emotion and declined to comment further.
Al-Nour a 24-year-old, first-year teacher in Egypt, made less than US$300 a month before she lost her position in the wake of the accusations against her. Her family is poor, and she could be sent to jail for failure to pay a court-ordered fine if unable to find the money.
Muslims created a clamor in the courtroom that put intense pressure on the judge, said a human rights advocate who was surprised that the guilty verdict did not send her to prison.
"I personally was expecting a prison sentence, but thank God she was only given a fine," said Mohammed Noubi, a human rights advocate with the Luxor office of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). "There was a lot of pressure and uproar inside the courtroom."
On April 10, three elementary schoolchildren at Sheikh Sultan Primary School in the village of Al-Edisat, Luxor Province, along with their parents and some teachers, complained to the school administration that Al-Nour had made blasphemous comments while teaching. Two days earlier, while teaching a class about history and religion, she discussed pharaoh Amenhotep IV, later known as Akhenaten, who did away with all other Egyptian gods in favor of sun worship in ancient Egypt (see Morning Star News, May 15).
Al-Nour also reportedly expressed her admiration for the former head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the late Pope Shenouda III, in class. In some versions of the alleged incident, she also made comparisons between Shenouda and Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Three students said she made a gesture expressing disgust with Muhammad.
When the complaint was made, a group of head teachers and parents, known as the School Council, conducted an investigation into the allegations. They found there wasn't any reliable evidence that Al-Nour had committed any offense, according to EIPR sources.
When the students were questioned, three of them said she had said or done something wrong. But the three students' versions of what gesture Al-Nour allegedly made and what she allegedly said did not match up, according to EIPR. Also, the rest of the students in the class, 10 in all, said Al-Nour was blameless and never even mentioned the late pope or Muhammad.
A survey of the staff at the school revealed that she was widely respected by her colleagues, according to EIPR.
The School Council's report was turned into the provincial governor's office and to the legal department of the local office of the national Ministry of Education, which then conducted its own investigation; like the School Council, it found no crime had been committed. By chance, a school inspector happened to be monitoring the class Al-Nour was teaching but found nothing wrong with her instruction.
The case likely would have been dropped, but two attorneys representing the parents of one student went directly to the prosecutor's office, obligating officials to conduct their own investigation. In what are known as "hisba cases," Egyptian law allows citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who has transgressed the "exalted right of God." Many blasphemy cases are filed in such a manner.
In court, Al-Nour's lawyers were prepared to bring three crucial witnesses, including Mustafa Mikki, principal of the school. In an interview with the Coptic weekly Al-Watani, Mikki, a Muslim, said that those who brought the charges against Al-Nour were "fanatics."
He also confirmed that none of the stories of the three children who accused Al-Nour matched. But the judge in Al-Nour's case, Muhammad Al-Tamawy, would not let Mikki or anyone else testify on her behalf.
Noubi, who has helped Al-Nour's legal team for EIPR, said that in addition to the fine, Al-Nour has now been referred to a civil court, as one of the complaining parents has filed a lawsuit against her. In order for damages to be awarded in the civil case, Al-Nour first must have been convicted of a crime. It is unknown how much money is sought in the civil case.
Al-Nour, who has attended only one of her hearings, remains in hiding. According to EIPR, the courtroom and surrounding area was swarming with conservative Muslims protesting against her during the hearing she attended.
Since then, she has been too sick to attend any of the hearings, according to human rights activists and her family. Al-Nour was arrested and held for two days, until her family was able to post bail with the help from the church.
Noubi said her lawyers plan to appeal.
The accusations against Al-Nour reflect a growing trend in Egypt of disproportionate use of the nation's blasphemy statutes against members of Egypt's Christian minority since the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi came into power in June 2012, according to human rights advocates.
Asian Human Rights Commission - AHRC
PAKISTAN - MENTALLY RETARDED CHRISTIAN GIRL IS ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF BLASPHEMY - MOTHER & SISTER MISSING AFTER ARREST
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-146-2012 - 19 August 2012
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a minor Christian girl, Miss Ramsha, 11, was arrested on the charges of blasphemy when she burned some copies of newspapers which were collected from the garbage. The Muslim population of the slum area attacked her house and beat her mother and sister and also burned some houses of Christians. The police arrested the mother and her two daughters and immediately sent Ramsha to Adiala prison illegally as according to law minors below the age of 15 years cannot be sent to prison or detained in police lockup. After her arrest police took the custody of her mother and sister and their whereabouts are unknown. Police say that both mother and daughter are in the protective custody because of the apprehension of their killing by the Muslim activists. However, the Christian community suspect that they were handed over the Muslim activists and that their lives may be in serious danger.
The Christian population has already vacated the area. The Christians living in other slums area are also scared and demanded from the authorities for their protection but no action has been taken about their protection.
Miss Ramsha, 11, mentally retarded, daughter of Misraf Masih, was residing at Hameera abadi, sector G-8, Islamabad with a sizeable number of Christians, and was collecting used papers from the garbage for night cooking as there is no gas connections and poor people depend on burning wood. When, after sunset she was burning the copies of newspapers, collected from the garbage, a Muslim lady entered her house and started shouting that Ramsha is burning the papers from holy Quran. At that time her elder sister, Mashal, 14, was at home and her father and mother were out for their work. At this moment both sisters told the Muslim crowd, which was gathered after listening the shouting from Muslim lady, that the papers were from garbage and those are from newspapers but the crowd started beating them and suddenly their mother also arrived and she was also beaten. The other Christian residents also tried to settle the issue but they were beaten as well. Both sisters and her mother received injuries and in the meanwhile the owner of the house, a Muslim man, arrived and called the police in an effort to save the Christians.
Police took the mother and her two daughters into custody. A first information report (FIR) was filed in the Ramna police station in which Miss Ramsha was made the main accused of blasphemy. But police arrested all the three. Seeing the tension in the area as Muslim activists on the instigation from the mosques started attacking and burning the Christian houses, Ramna police immediately sent the minor to the notorious Adiala prison and kept her mother and sister in the women police station for some time. When activists tried to gather outside the Ramna police station, the police shifted both mother and sister to some unknown place and according to police this action was taken for their safety. But the father of the victims and other Christians are suspicious and it was accused that both mother and daughter have been taken away by some militants.
The Christians from different slums areas of the Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, have started leaving their communities and apprehend that their houses would be attacked and burned. The Islamabad administration has yet not taken any action to protect the Christian population.
It is also accused by Christian population that some powerful persons want to grab the Christian dominated areas for commercial purposes and use by Muslim activists.
Currently, extreme militant Muslim organisations may use blasphemy laws as a way to pressure and oppress religious minority groups. So far, the government has failed to protect the lives and property of the minority community. Although there is formal protection in place for religious minorities in the Constitution and although the blasphemy law has made it compulsory that no police officer below the rank of Superintendent of Police can investigate the charges, these statutes are rarely respected.
Religious minority groups in Pakistan remain vulnerable due to the continued use and abuse of blasphemy charges, despite section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The police, who fail to follow the code and who operate under the directives of extremists in the community, must face strong legal action. Charges of blasphemy are still met with the death penalty in Pakistan.
The deliberate institutionalisation of Islam’s status as protected and predominant promoted the perpetuation of religious intolerance by Islamic fundamentalists. According to data collected through different sources at least 1030 persons were charged under these anti-blasphemy clauses from 1986 to August 2009, while over 30 persons were killed extra-judicially by angry mobs or individuals.
Militant Muslim organisations are using blasphemy as a tool as the best way to keep religious minority groups under pressure and even forcibly take land. The State is failing to protect the lives and property of the minority community.