This story is an excellent illustration of how absurd Pakistan’s blasphemy law really is: the lawyers aren’t accused of blasphemy for any actual blasphemy, but because they were protesting against a man named Umar, and someone passing by thought they were denouncing the caliph Umar, one of Muhammad’s companions. It would be funny, were it not lethal.
“Pakistani lawyers accused of blasphemy after protesting against police,” The Guardian, May 13, 2014 (thanks to Twostellas):
Pakistani police have registered a case of blasphemy against 68 lawyers who took part in a protest after a police officer detained one of their colleagues, officials say, the latest in a wave of such accusations flooding the country.
Analysts say the surge in accusations is a worrying sign that the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people is becoming less tolerant as militant ideas enter mainstream politics.
The colonial-era law does not define blasphemy, but the charge carries the death penalty. Presenting evidence can be considered a new infringement, so judges are reluctant to hear cases.
Judges who free those accused of blasphemy have been attacked and two politicians who suggested reforming the law were shot dead. Those acquitted have often been lynched.
Monday’s charges followed a protest in which lawyers shouted slogans against the senior police officer Umar Daraz for allegedly illegally detaining a lawyer in the Jhang district of central Pakistan.
“Lawyers were protesting against police, using foul language and the name of the inspector,” the district’s police officer, Zeeshan Asghar, told Reuters.
One of the companions of the prophet Muhammad, founder of the Islamic religion, was called Hazrat Umar.
A member of a far-right sectarian party complained that his religious feelings had been offended because the lawyers used the name “Umar” in their protest, and lodged charges with police.
You see here again that for the mainstream media, “far-right” is simply a term they use for anyone whom they dislike. So we have the absurd situation that people are “far-right” in the West for opposing Sharia blasphemy laws, and “far-right” in Pakistan for supporting them.
Mushtaq Chaudhry, a local lawyer, said his colleagues were not shouting slogans against the caliph Umar, but his police namesake.
“Our Bar Association has also passed a resolution that slogans were not raised against any sacred personality of Islam,” Chaudhry said.
Blasphemy accusations have spiked in Pakistan recently, according to a 2012 study by the Islamabad-based thinktank the Center for Research and Security Studies, with 80 complaints in 2011, up from a single case in 2001. More recent figures are not available.
Analysts say blasphemy allegations are increasingly used to settle feuds or grab property. There is no penalty for false accusations.
Pakistan has not yet executed anyone for blasphemy, but members of religious minorities say they are often threatened with such accusations.
Last week a respected human rights lawyer, Rashid Rehman, was killed after facing threats in court for defending a university professor whose students had accused him of blasphemy. It had taken the jailed professor a year to find a lawyer ready to defend him.
Police said the man who lodged Monday’s case was a member of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat, a front for a banned Sunni sectarian group linked to the deaths of hundreds of minority Shia Muslims and led by the politician Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi….