This parody report (and yes, it is a parody: no portly, white-bearded man in a red coat has been arrested for blasphemy in Pakistan) bitingly highlights the vicious and lethal absurdity of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. “Santa Claus arrested for blasphemy in Sargodha,” by Kunwar Khuldune Shahid in Pakistan Today, December 28:
Sargodha – Staff Report: A joyous, portly white-bearded man, wearing spectacles, a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots, was held on blasphemy charges in Sargodha on Tuesday night. The old man, identified by the police as one Santa Claus, is said to have been uttering blasphemous chants while carrying a bag full of what seemed like gifts for children, Khabaristan Today has learnt.
The following day an angry crowd ransacked the lockup setting fire to Santa’s bag and the gifts. Some members of ASWJ (Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat) chanted “Kafir Kafir, Shia Kafir!” slogans for Santa while the Khaatim-e-Nabuwat brigade shouted “Qadiyaniat Murdabat!” outside the police station.
Blasphemy laws in the country have been the target of criticisism owing to their severity and for the fact that they are open to abuse. Renewed focus on the laws has been witnessed since the Rimsha Masih case.
Santa is believed to have been seen tiptoeing inside houses, climbing down chimneys and distributing gifts. While none of this was seen as peculiar, the fact that the old man was heard chanting “Merry Christmas!” and singing “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way” is being cited as evidence of blasphemy.
Religious experts had issued a fatwa against wishing anyone “Merry Christmas”, since that basically connotes accepting Jesus Christ as the son of God, which of course is incompatible with Islamic teachings.
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in the country and critics believe that the blasphemy laws are quite often misused to settle personal vendettas. Accusations of blasphemy have resulted in vigilante killings by mobs in the past. Human rights activists have been urging the government to reform the laws, under which the culprit can be sent to jail for life or even sentenced to death.
Speaking exclusively to Khabaristan Today, Santa denied accusations of being an Ahmadi or a Shia and identified himself as a mythical figure who makes a list of children around the globe, dividing them in synchrony with their behavior, delivering presents, that include toys, and candy to the well-behaved ones, and occasionally coal to the naughty ones on Christmas Eve.
Answering questions about the blasphemy charges Santa said, “Well I honestly don’t get the blasphemy laws in all religions. I mean technically every person who does not adhere to your religious beliefs basically is blaspheming. So where do you draw the line?” Further discussing the laws he said, “So every person who doesn’t believe Jesus to be the son of God would blaspheme according to Christian beliefs and everyone who does believe that would blaspheme according to the belief system of every other religion. Do you get why the blasphemy laws don’t make much sense?”
The enraged mob then broke inside the police station, bringing their sticks and rods to give their collective verdict and the ensuing punishment for blasphemy.