Pakistan, Iran top global list of countries with blasphemy laws
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Pakistan, Iran top global list of countries with blasphemy laws

THE ISLAMIC Republic of Pakistan has been ranked second on United States government list of countries that implement blasphemy laws counter to human rights principles, being beaten only by Iran.

The report entitled Respecting Rights? Measuring the World’s Blasphemy Laws published by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom ranked nations according to the relative severity of their blasphemy legislation, with a high ranking indicating “that these states’ prohibitions on blasphemy most run counter to international law principles.”

According to the report, 71 out of the world’s 195 countries have some form of law against blasphemy, a crime defined as “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.”

SEE ALSO: Pakistan taken to task over abductions, muzzling rights watchdog

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Map indicating the relative severity of blasphemy laws in countries across the world. The harshest laws are largely concentrated in Muslim-majority states. Source: USCIRF

The Asia-Pacific and Middle East and North Africa regions each accounted for a quarter of all the countries that impose blasphemy laws, followed by Europe (22.5 percent) Sub-Saharan Africa (15.5 percent) and the Americas (11.2 percent).

The strictest five countries – Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Qatar – all have Islam as their state religion.

Pakistan and Iran impose the mandatory death penalty for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

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Members of the Awami Workers Party hold pictures with the name of student Mashal Khan, who was beaten to death by fellow students after a dormitory debate was followed by accusations of blasphemy at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, during a demonstration in Karachi, Pakistan, on April 18, 2017. Source: Reuters/Akhtar Soomro

Just this week, a 32-year-old intellectually disabled man was killed in Pakistan after he was accused of insulting Islam. While he had been acquitted of the charge due to his condition, two men shot him “because he had committed blasphemy,” reported Dawn.

The report also notes the “many state-sponsored human rights abuses”, particularly against “non-conventional thinkers” and members of minority faith communities in Pakistan.

One such case is that of Asia Bibi – a Christian woman accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in an argument with Muslim women, a charge she denies.

She had her sentence temporarily suspended in 2015.

In April, a Pakistani university student was beaten to death by an angry mob after he was perceived to have posted blasphemous material on Facebook.

Elsewhere in Asia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand also criminalise insulting religion.

The Philippines was listed amongst the lowest on the ranking, indicating its blasphemy laws are the “most adherent to international law principles” after only Spain and Ireland.

SEE ALSO: Indonesian religious ministry to propose tougher blasphemy laws

Indonesia’s blasphemy laws, meanwhile, have recently been in the spotlight with the high-profile jailing of former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in May, after the Christian-Chinese politician was found by a court to have insulted Islam.

The double-minority figure, who had previously enjoyed high approval ratings in the Muslim-majority Indonesian capital, became the target of mass, hardline Islamist rallies calling for him to be jailed or even killed for speaking about the Quran.

Despite international criticism of Indonesia’s blasphemy legislation, the country’s religious ministry is currently preparing a bill to toughen punishments and expand the definition of blasphemy crimes.