THINKING ALOUD: A creeping inquisition — Razi Azmi

Daily Times

Iqbal Butt’s fate is absolutely insignificant in a country where the governor of the largest province can be shot dead by his own bodyguard for merely suggesting that the blasphemy laws need to be revised 

An 80-year-old man, Iqbal Butt, who had been accused of blasphemy but released from jail after being found ‘not guilty’, has been shot dead, allegedly by the very mosque imam who had falsely accused him of blasphemy. In Iran, Yusuf Naderkhani was recently sentenced to death for converting from Islam to Christianity. A few years ago, in Afghanistan, Abdur Rehman was sentenced to death for the same offence, but was put on a plane to Germany under western pressure after being declared ‘insane’. Indeed, in any Muslim country, a Muslim would have to be completely insane to convert to another religion. Likewise, anyone would be mad to commit blasphemy intentionally in a Muslim country.
The Saudi constitution defines every Saudi citizen to be a Muslim and Malaysia makes it compulsory for all ethnic Malays to be Muslims. Muslim Malays can convert non-Muslims to Islam, but are forbidden to convert to any other religion themselves. There was the comical case of a Malaysian-Chinese woman who had converted to Islam in order to marry a Muslim (a legal requirement), but when she wanted to revert to Christianity after the breakdown of her marriage, she was prevented by the court from doing so.
In Pakistan, one Rana Asif Mahmood is on the verge of being forced to become an accidental Muslim, thanks to a clerical error, which must stand, because correcting it will be sacrilegious. Mehmood swears that he is a Christian and he was recently elected to the National Assembly as such from a reserved minority seat. However, he may now lose his seat because the National Registration Authority (NADRA) erroneously registered him as a Muslim since he has a ‘Muslim name’ (like most Pakistani Christians). And should he want to keep his parliamentary seat by insisting that he is a Christian, Mehmood may be liable to lose his neck, for that might invite the charge of apostasy. Apparently, he cannot keep both his seat and his neck! The conundrum is the result of NADRA rules that prohibit it from changing on its records, anyone’s religion from Islam to any other, though it is fine in the opposite direction.


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