Pakistani Playwright Presents Play on Blasphemy Law

Monday, April 2, 2012

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

A Pakistani Christian playwright will present “295-C": a play concerning his nation's notorious blasphemy law.

Adeel Salman's play raises awareness about a law which mainly targets religious minorities, especially Christians.

Section 295-C states: "Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death ..."

The law can be traced back to 1927 when Pakistan's British colonial rulers made it a criminal offense to commit “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious belief". The law was kept after Pakistan gained independence in 1947 under Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Between 1927 and 1985, only 10 blasphemy cases were heard, but when the death penalty for defaming Islam was introduced in 1986, there have been more than 4,000 cases, mostly against non-Muslims who represent only three percent of Pakistan's population. Although no judicial execution for blasphemy has yet occurred, more than 80% of those charged were eventually murdered by Pakistan's Muslim majority.

The most recent victim of 295-C is Aasia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy in 2009; she remains in police custody where she is reportedly tortured while her family lives in fear for their own lives.

However, anyone supporting Bibi by advocating for an a repeal of 295-C puts their own lives at risk: in January 2011, Salman Taseer, the Governor of Lahore, was shot 23 times by his own security guard, who was then hailed as a hero; two months later, the Minister of Minority Affairs, Shabaz Bhatti, was also murdered by Muslims.