Posts Tagged ‘Blasphemy’


Pennsylvania teenager faces jail time for “desecrating a venerated object”

Blasphemy in the U.S.???

Reader jsp called my attention to what seems a gross inequity in punishment, something that shouldn’t be happening in America. A teenager photographed himself in a compromising position with the statue of Jesus on a church lawn.  I’ve seen dozens of such pictures, and not just with Jesus, but it was the Jesus bit that got him in trouble. First, the picture and then the story, both from KRON 4 News in San Francisco:

desecration

EVERETT, Pennsylvania (KRON) — A Pennsylvania teenager is facing criminal charges after posting pictures to Facebook of him simulating a sex act with a statue of Jesus.

The young man posted that he took the pictures in late July at the statue of a kneeling Jesus in front of the “Love in the Name of Christ” Christian organization in his hometown of Everett.

The criminal charge, which will be heard in family court, consists of “Desecration of a Venerated Object.”

Pennsylvania law defines desecration as “Defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise, physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the action.”

The teen, whose name has not been released, could face up to two years in a juvenile jail if convicted.

For crying out loud, what is that law doing on the books? “Venerated object?”, really? Let’s see them try to convict somebody for burning a Bible or the Qur’an under that law. While what the kid is doing doesn’t really qualify as “free speech,” the most it could be is trespassing, and he should just have been let off with a warning. Now he’s going to court and could go to jail (I predict he won’t).

But that law is unconstitutional. For instance, I suppose I could say that I venerate Hitchens’s book God is Not Great.  If somebody damages it, could I take them to court? If I couldn’t because “venerated objects” apply only to religious objects, then that’s a violation of the Constitution.

This is America, not Saudi Arabia. Religion gets no pass. There is no damage here, and maybe a bit of trespassing, but desecration? Give me a break.

Because the piece was published in San Francisco, you can guess what the comments are like. Here are two:

Screen shot 2014-09-10 at 4.27.16 PM


Blasphemy is Bullshit

It is a clear demonstration of an imaginary deity’s impotency and incapacity to do its own bidding when humans have to make edicts to defend its alleged hurt pride. Blasphemy laws are more about the insecurity of the believer than an attempt to protect a god. Any god in need of such human intervention is a god not worth its salt.

People all over the planet are being threatened, imprisoned, tortured and killed by religious fanatics for daring to make comment about the veracity of religious magical thinking.  This is one of the worst aspects of accepting mythology as fact.  It turns humans into mob-ruled ideological monsters willing to destroy the lives of others in protecting their own doubts and fears.

Replacing freedom of expression and speech with legally binding penalties for a myriad of subjective notions is a recipe only benefiting tyrannical religious/political systems.

I urge all rational and reasonable people to strongly oppose any attempts at having blasphemy initiated into law anywhere on the planet.

 

David Nicholls
(Former) President
Atheist Foundation of Australia


Man jailed for 10 years in blasphemy case
From the Newspaper

pakistanprison_670

A Pakistani policeman guards a jail entrance. — File Photo

CHAKWAL: After a trial spread over 14 months and conducted in an uneasy environment, Additional District and Sessions Judge Raja Pervez Akhtar jailed a blasphemy accused for 10 years and imposed a fine of Rs200,000 on Tuesday evening.

The verdict left the lawyers of both groups baffled and they now intend to go to the Lahore High Court — one would file an appeal for getting the sentence quashed while the other would file a review petition.

Convict Ghulam Ali Asghar, a resident of Chinji village in Talagang tehsil, was booked on Nov 17, 2011, on a charge of blaspheming the Holy Prophet (PBUH) by misquoting a Hadith in Punjabi language.

Judge Raja Pervez Akhtar acquitted Ghulam Ali Asghar of the allegation levelled under 295-C (the section which forbids blaspheming the Holy Prophet [PBHU]), but imprisoned him for ten years under 295-A (which forbids outraging religious feelings) and also imposed a fine of Rs200,000. The convict will have to undergo an additional jail term of six months if he does not pay the fine.


Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan: Blasphemy is a Crime Against Humanity
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 2011
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 2011
Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan thinks that blasphemy should be banned as a crime against humanity. And when he says “blasphemy” he seems to have in mind specifically “whatever offends Muslims.” So basically, absolutely anything can be banned so long as it offends enough Muslims who complain loudly enough.

What Prime Minister Erdogan wants to do is make certain thoughts and beliefs crimes. The only reason he has for this is the fact that certain thoughts and beliefs are offensive to some Muslims. Is that a reasonable foundation to make something a crime, though? Not in any civilized society. So why is Erdogan trying to make Turkey less civilized?

If Muslims have the power to ban some thought or word or belief by claiming offense, can I have that right too? Can I claim that their protests offend me and then have those protests banned? Can I claim that their Qur’an offends me and so have it banned? If not, then this isn’t really about protecting people’s freedom of belief; instead, it’s about protecting religion from being criticized or challenged.

“I am the prime minister of a nation, of which most are Muslims and that has declared anti-semitism a crime against humanity. But the West hasn’t recognized Islamophobia as a crime against humanity — it has encouraged it. [The film director] is saying he did this to provoke the fundamentalists among Muslims. When it is in the form of a provocation, there should be international legal regulations against attacks on what people deem sacred, on religion. As much as it is possible to adopt international regulations, it should be possible to do something in terms of domestic law.”

He further noted, “Freedom of thought and belief ends where the freedom of thought and belief of others start. You can say anything about your thoughts and beliefs, but you will have to stop when you are at the border of others’ freedoms. I was able to include Islamophobia as a hate crime in the final statement of an international meeting in Warsaw.”

Source: Today’s Zaman

Erdogan’s comments here are ambiguous – almost to the point of being incoherent, which may be the point. After all, the less clear you are the harder it is for critics to pin you down on what you are saying. This is important when you’re talking about criminalizing belief and thought.

When he says “You can say anything about your thoughts and beliefs, but you will have to stop when you are at the border of others’ freedoms,” does he mean that you cannot say anything about others’ beliefs, or merely that you cannot say anything critical or negative about others’ beliefs?

His statement “Freedom of thought and belief ends where the freedom of thought and belief of others start” is clearly a reference to the idea that “your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose starts,” but the analogy is strained to say the least. You swinging your fist causes demonstrable harm once it reaches my nose, but what demonstrable harm is created by a belief or a thought?

Of course apologists for censorship and oppression like Erdogan will never even try to demonstrate that thoughts or beliefs cause real harm. Since the goal is simply to protect Islam from critique, all they need to do is show that someone, somewhere is offended. That’s certainly easy enough to do.

What’s significant, though, is the fact that Erdogan thinks that Islam in particular or even religion generally need to be protected at all. It’s significant that he wants to make blasphemy a crime which implies that he thinks his god needs to be protected. This all means that he and like-minded believers all regard their religions as weak and impotent. That’s why the need the police powers of the state for protection.

Via:- Austin Cline


Rao Abdur Raheem: The Militant Lawyer Who Wants Disabled Christian Girl Dead
‎Via:-| Richard BartholomewGo to full article

From the Guardian:

A lawyer representing the man who accused a Pakistani Christian girl of blasphemy has said that if she is not convicted, Muslims could “take the law into their own hands”.

Rao Abdur Raheem cited the example of Mumtaz Qadri, the man who last year shot dead a politician who had called for reform of the much-abused blasphemy law.

…Raheem said he had taken on the case for free because he was convinced that Masih should be punished. “This girl is guilty. If the state overrides the court, then God will get a person to do the job,” he said.

I’ve written about Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, and their baleful consequences, previously. The current case, however, is particularly egregious; the accused girl, Rimsha Masih, reportedly has a learning disability. Raheem, however, is unconcerned about this: her medical assessement, he claims, was “illegal” and should not be taken into consideration.

In December 2010, Raheem created a self-described “lawyers’ forum”, called the Movement to Protect the Dignity of the Prophet; according to the New York Times, the group produced a petition in support of Qadri which was signed by a 1,000 lawyers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Members of the group also reportedly ”greeted Mr. Qadri’s… court appearances by throwing rose petals”. The NY Times noted:

…The lawyers’ stance is perhaps just the most glaring expression of what has become a deep generational divide tearing at the fabric of Pakistani society, and of the broad influence of religious conservatism — and even militancy — that now exists among the educated middle class.

They are often described as the Zia generation: Pakistanis who have come of age since the 1980s, when the military dictator, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, began to promote Islam in public education and to use it as a political tool to unify this young and insecure nation.

Raheem has also turned his attention to the internet and the US embassy; the Express Tribune reported in May that:

Margalla police station registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Facebook and three other websites under sections 295-A and 298-A of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) on the directions of Additional Sessions Judge Kamran Basharat Mufti. The application had been submitted by the Namoos-e-Risalat Lawyers Forum (NRLF).

One of the complainants, Advocate Rao Abdur Rahim, told The Express Tribune that they had been informed in July 2011 that Facebook and a few other websites had been posting ‘blasphemous’ posts on their websites and the material was being uploaded from inside Pakistan.

…”We gave three applications: one against Payam TV for telecasting a movie ‘Yousaf’, one against Facebook and three other websites and one against the US embassy in Islamabad for organising a gathering of gays and lesbians,” the petitioner said.

Yousaf is actually an Urdu television serial, telling the Koranic version of the story of the Biblical Joseph. Episodes can be found on YouTube.

Raheem has a Facebook page, consisting for the most part of jpegs of urdu documents. His group also has a Facebook page, under the spelling “Namos E Risalat Lawyers“, where a booklet in support of Pakistan’s blasphemy law has been posted. Hypocritically, both pages carry material condemning the violence of militant Buddhist monks in Burma (a subject I looked at here).

There’s also a YouTube channel related to the group, under the name “nrlfp50″ (The booklet on the group’s Facebook page includes a reference to a website, “nrlfp.com”, which is currently defunct). One of the videos posted is footage of a rally in support of the murderer Qadri:

UPDATE (2 September): Rimsha had been handed over to the police by a local imam; the AFP reported on 24 August:

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the imam of the mosque in the Islamabad suburb of Mehrabad, insisted he had saved the girl, Rimsha, from mob violence by handing her to police but said the incident arose because Muslims had not stopped local Christians’ “anti-Islam activities” earlier.

Yesterday, it was reported that Chishti “has called for the law to be followed to its conclusion, even if that means the girl is executed”. However, his enthusiasm for having alleged blasphemers executed may perhaps now have cooled somewhat:

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti appeared in court on Sunday after witnesses claimed to have seen him adding pages of the Qur’an to a bag of ashes Rimsha Masih had been carrying away for disposal last month in order to strengthen the case against her.

…Tahir Naveed Chaudhry from the All Pakistan Minority Committee said it had always maintained that evidence was planted on her.

“And now it is proved that the whole story was only designed to dislocate the Christian people,” he said. “He must be prosecuted under the blasphemy law as it will set a precedent against anyone else who tries to misuse that law.”

Rao’s bloodlust, though, remains undiminished:

“Our case is totally separate from the case against Chishti,” he said. “The man who accused him of adding pages from the Qur’an also confirmed that Rimsha burned a book containing verses from the Qur’an.”


Girl accused of blasphemy for a spelling error
Published: September 25, 2011

Eighth-grader expelled from school; mother forced to move from city.

ABBOTTABAD: It may have been a mere misplaced dot that led to accusations of blasphemy against a Christian eighth-grader, whose miniscule error led to her expulsion from school and uproar amongst local religious leaders.

Faryal Bhatti, a student at the Sir Syed Girls High School in Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) colony Havelian, erroneously misspelt a word in an Urdu exam while answering a question on a poem written in praise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The word in question was ‘laanat’ instead of ‘naat’ – an easy error for a child to make, as the written versions of the words are similar.

According to the school administration and religious leaders who took great exception to the hapless student’s mistake, the error is ‘serious’ enough to fall within the realm of blasphemy, Saturday.

Spelling out her punishment

On Thursday, Faryal’s Urdu teacher was collecting the answer sheets from her students when she noticed the apparently offensive word on her pupil’s sheet. The teacher, Fareeda Bibi, reportedly summoned the Christian girl, scolded her and beat her. Her punishment, however, did not end here. When Faryal’s class fellows learnt of the alleged blasphemy, the teacher brought the principal’s notice to the matter, who further informed the school management.

In the meanwhile, the news spread throughout the colony. The next day, male students of the POF colony school as well as certain religious elements took out a rally, demanding the registration of a criminal case against the eighth-grader and her expulsion from the area.

Prayer leaders within the community also condemned the incident in their Friday sermons, asking the colony’s administration to not only take action against Faryal but her entire family. In the wake of the increasing tensions, Managing Director POF Colony Havelian Asif Siddiki called a meeting of colony-based ulemas and school teachers to discuss the situation. The girl and her mother were asked to appear before the meeting, where they explained that it was a mere error, caused by a resemblance between the two words. The two immediately apologised, adding that Faryal had no malicious intentions.

In a move that was apparently meant to pacify the religious elements clamouring for action against the teenage ‘blasphemer’, the POF administration expelled her from the school on Saturday. Faryal was not the only one who got in trouble for her spelling error, however, as her mother, Sarafeen Bhatti, who was a staff nurse at the POF Hospital Havelian for several years, was immediately transferred to POF Wah Cantonment Hospital.

Decision applauded

While talking to The Express Tribune, Maulana Alla Dita Khateeb of Gol Masjid praised the decision of the POF colony administration, claiming that he had personally seen the answer sheet in question. He further went on to say that he had met the girl himself, who had apologised for the word used in error.  Asked whether the incident still fell within the realm of blasphemy and whether Faryal deserved expulsion when she had misspelt the word unintentionally, Khateeb said that although he was unclear about the intentions of the girl, the word she had used was sacrilegious.

The managing director of POF Colony was not available for comment.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2011.


Iran: Female Blogger Receives 50 Lashes

Posted 15 September 2011 23:41 GMT
Written byFred Petrossian

These are the words Iranian blogger Somayeh Tohidloo wrote [fa] in her blog after receiving 50 whip lashes in Evin Prison on September 14, 2011:

Be happy, for if you wanted to humiliate me, I confess that I feel my entire body is suffering with degradation.

Somayeh TohidlooSomayeh Tohidloo

Somayeh was active during the 2009 presidential election in the campaign for Mir Hussein Mousavi, and she was jailed for 70 days in 2009, after a mass protest movement erupted in Iran. She was released after paying bail, but the flogging sentence was eventually upheld.

Green City writes [fa]:

Here is Iran, where Somayeh Tohidloo, a PhD-graduate is lashed while a $3 billion dollar fraud [over a Lake Urmia] happens, and nothing is done to punish the fraudulent acts.