If ever the repugnancy couched in some religions or practices needed highlighting, then a recent legal event in Pakistan served this well.
AAP journalist, Kathy Gannon, reported from Pakistan that the country’s highest court had upheld its acquittal of a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who had spent eight years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy, and that this dealt a blow to radical Islamists who had staged violent mass protests last year calling for her execution. Bibi, her lawyer, and the Supreme Court judges who eventually freed her, have all received death threats from radical Islamists, and a small army of police and paramilitary rangers was on hand to guard the courthouse and surrounding area.
Other news sources report that the “blasphemy” was committed in 2009, when she was harvesting berries with a group of other women farmhands and was asked at one point to fetch water from a nearby well. She complied but stopped to take a drink with an old metal cup she had found lying next to the well. A fellow worker saw her and angrily told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink water from the same utensil from which Muslims drink, and that some of the other workers considered her to be unclean because she was a Christian, referring to the current caste system in Pakistan.
The court did not question the blasphemy law itself, which critics say is often used to settle scores or intimidate followers of minority religions, including Shiite Muslims. The report continued that blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere accusation can spark mob violence and lynching. A provincial governor who defended Bibi was shot and killed, as was a government minority minister who questioned the blasphemy law.
I have very strong personal opinions concerning this gross demeaning of the right of every person to hold and express opinions on moral matters. Blasphemy! That’s defined asthe act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence to a deity, or sacred objects, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable.
Whilst I am atheist, I respect members of all religions. Their beliefs are intensely personal and there is no likelihood that every member of every different faith lives in a prescribed, predictable way. Reverting to an apposite cliché, “live and let live” is my preference.
Certainly some religions are totally opposed to the lifestyles of others, creating disturbance and conflict when a minority population belonging to that faith attempts to impose its practices upon a contrasting majority which holds different tenets.
In some countries with a state religion, blasphemy is outlawed under the criminal code. However in some states, blasphemy laws are used to protect the religious beliefs of a majority, while in other countries, they serve to offer protection of the religious beliefs of minorities.
From the beginning of mans’ ability to think and communicate has been the need to understand life and nature. Those things which could not be fathomed out through educated pondering were ascribed to the actions of mythological unseen powers. The close proportions shown in the 2018 internet Statistics of World Religions Chart of the world following some type of religion, or none at all, are:
Christianity – 33%, Islam – 21%, Hinduism – 14%, Chinese religions – 6%, Primal faiths – 6%, Buddhism – 6%, Sikhism – 0.36%, Judaism – 0.22%, No religion – 16%
At the heart of blasphemy lies the belief in the existence and authority of some supreme being, placing followers in the position of believing, falsely, that they are commanded by some fictitious religious bigwig to behave in ways which would probably be contrary to their individually reasoned, sensible, ethical standards of behaviour.
In societies the underlying principles of conduct stem from how people act in a specific way towards others. A general observance of the “golden rule” of not doing to others that which you would not wish done to yourself. Such standards make up the rudiments of communal behaviour and attitude. But many adherents of religions which support blasphemy as an offence tend to behave in the manner of pack animals, gaining behavioural reinforcement by acting in the same way as the mob.
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