The plot thickens


The Rimsha Masih case
The tables have turned in the Rimsha Masih case. A couple of days ago, prayer leader Khalid Jadoon was baying for a stern punishment for the girl. Now, he stands accused of blasphemy himself. There are two ways of going about the whole thing. One, the liberals can be their petty, insulated, cycloptic selves and relish the poetic justice of the whole situation. Another is for them to try helping to actually rectify the system by using the instance to lend perspective to the nation’s clergy.
In Jadoon’s case, all that was sufficient to arrest him was the word of a witness who alleged that he added some burnt pages of the Qur’an to the ones Rimsha supposedly had to strengthen the blasphemy charge. And, if enough people believe this, he stands the risk of being killed before the court of law pronounces a judgment on the issue.
This incident should show even the far right that no one is safe from clunkily drafted, easily misused laws. Not even the self-appointed guardians of the faith. Not even those who are the first to wield the pitchforks.
There needs to be a blasphemy law. No one has the right to do anything that is offensive to our Islamic faith. This might seem like a violation of free-speech to someone reading this in the west but the prohibited areas of hate speech even in the west are somewhat arbitrarily set. All countries have the right to declare sacrosanct what is sacred to them; if this seems obscurantist to the west, then so be it.
But the existing laws in Pakistan – man-made laws, these – can be changed. They should be subject to debate without those proposing amendments being scared of retribution for even suggesting a change.
Rights activists are making much of the fact that Rimsha Masih is a mentally challenged minor. And, yes, this is a glaring case. But we need to ensure that the laws are not misused even in the case of sound-minded adults. That the blasphemy laws should not become the recourse for those who want to settle absolutely unrelated disputes, in this case, allegedly, the desire to evict the Christian residents from the area.
The love of the Qur’an should be pure. We should not let petty hatred sully it. That would be blasphemous.