Apart from politics, blasphemy in perhaps the most debated topic these days. Owing to the sensitivity of the issue and pace in its events, the news related to blasphemy hardly misses the headlines every other day in the mainstream media.
A simple allegation of blasphemy, sans evidence and witnesses, make a common person an extremely disgraceful yet well-known figure overnight.
Shama and Shehzad, Asia Bibi, Rimsha Masih, Junaid Hafeez, Mohammad Asghar and media bigwigs are few of the alleged blasphemers who have either been burnt alive in brick kiln, languishing in death cell, forced to leave Pakistan, incarcerated in solitary confinement, shot dead by the prison guard supposedly motivated by religion or sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia without fulfilling the basics of principles of natural justice.The blasphemy – no matter proven or otherwise – is a common factor which makes the aforementioned individuals exposed to public justice.
Blasphemy has often been used as an effective tool to settle personal scores, take out personal or professional grudge, wrapping an illegal act in the shroud of blasphemy or offsetting the loans etc.
It has been one of the most horrendous pieces incorporated in the penal laws of Pakistan.
Recent victim who has fallen in the trap is a singer-turned-cleric Junaid Jamshed who had been making headlines otherwise. Junaid Jamshed, being a Moulana, is implicitly immune from committing any sin. Even if committed, they presume, the chances of his forgiveness after repentance before Almighty are higher compared to a non-bearded practicing Muslim.
A video uploaded few days ago started making rounds on social media wherein Junaid Jamshed is making extremely outrageous remarks, deemed blasphemous by many, with respect to Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and one of his wives Hazrat Aisha.
The intensity of reaction to the video was so astonishing that the mentor, teacher and friend of Junaid Jamshed, Moulana Tariq Jameel, appeared in a prerecorded video distancing himself from the controversy. Some other clerics of different sects held protests against Junaid Jamshed calling for bringing him to justice for the blasphemous remarks.
As the video went viral on social media and mainstream media picked up the news, Junaid Jamshed appeared in a video shedding crocodile tears to extend an apology and asking for forgiveness for his “inadvertent mistake committed due to lack of knowledge”.
Junaid Jamshed may have erroneously made the remarks but why is he expecting reprieve without going through the course of law? The law which provides life imprisonment or death penalty for the alleged blasphemer and is propagated by the right wing as a divine law derived from Qur’an.
Many have been calling that the apology of Junaid Jamshed should be enough to purge him of the crime he has committed. This is where our collective hypocrisy is reflected when we keep mum on extremely flawed trial of Asia Bibi whose actual “blasphemous” remarks are not known to anyone. Shaista Wahidi, Veena Malik and Geo TV’s apologies were not taken into account. Muhammad Asghar’s and Rimsha Masih’s medical and psychological complications were not considered, while Junaid Hafeez has been deprived of his fundamental right to fair trial.
Whether law or moral vindication, both should be equal and enjoyable by anyone and everyone irrespective of his/her appearance, religious beliefs, and social standing.
Why a bearded Junaid (Jamshed) be forgiven for admitted blasphemy and non-bearded Junaid (Hafeez) be incarcerated with constant threat of being killed while in custody? Either Junaid Hafeez or likes of him be set at liberty or Junaid Jamshed be punished for his crime.
Seemingly, the clergy has made a separate code of conduct for them and for those who look different from them or do not conform to their religious teachings. Equal treatment bears no significance to them.
The bubble of blasphemy law had to burst tomorrow if not today. The religious quarters had been the most vocal clique who has vehemently opposed the amendment, let alone the repeal, of the blasphemy law. Today they are having a taste of their own medicine. The remarks made by Junaid Jamshed will be exploited by his own brethren who do not agree with his viewpoint while many will come out for his rescue unlike an alleged blasphemer, who does not enjoy such and is less privileged to solicit support of the powerful religious personalities.
The provisions pertaining to blasphemy are misconceived, misleading, often misused and most importantly incompatible within any legal system. Unless they are repealed, if not then their misuse qualifies for equal punishment, the hypocrisy will continue in the name of Islam. Though, the law is neither derived from Qur’an nor is it Islamic yet Mullahs are inclined to label it Islamic.