Asia Bibi and the continued problem of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

The Supreme Court of Pakistan recently suspended the execution of Asia Bibi – the Christian mother-of-five convicted on alleged blasphemy charges that reportedly started over a glass of water. It sounds positive, as historically Pakistani courts seemed to be under enormous pressure whenever it came to blasphemy related cases. One of the judges of the same court, Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti, was assassinated in 1997 after he acquitted two Christians, Salamat Masih and Rehmat Masih, in a blasphemy case because of insufficient evidence. According to various reports, 1274 people have been charged with blasphemy between 1986 and 2010 – 51 accused have been murdered before finishing their respective trials. With that in mind, it is possible to see how the above potentially influenced the decision to uphold Asia Bibi’s death penalty conviction last year (without any credible evidence). The above numbers signify a horrific picture for the fate of anyone accused of breaching blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Whatever the courts decide about the case, the religious fanatics rarely allow them to survive. Not only are the accused at risk; but their supporters and lawyers are targets and killers are sometimes glorified. Under these circumstances, no one should think that Asia […]

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Ignorning young British Muslim voices damages the radicalisation debate

This Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the London bombings done by four men who professed to be Muslims, and carried out this attack in the name of Islam. Yet, the words of George Gordon Bryon could never have been truer: “History, with all her volumes vast, hath but one page.” The notion that history all too often repeats itself is both sad and shameful. Looking back a decade later, it is hard to indulge the fact that although our efforts may have increased, the violent ideology that caused the death of 52 people, has evolved and spread. Where there was just Al Qaida and the Taliban, we now have a so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and many other smaller death cults. The sad truth is that a decade on from the July 7 bombings, we are none the wiser as to what attracts Muslims, in particular young people, to travel abroad, and engage in some of the most brutal acts of violence under the guise of worthwhile deeds. In countering violent extremism, we have heard academics, security experts, political commentators, politicians and community activists take vastly different views on what are the drivers […]

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