In Pakistan, being an atheist apparently makes you a terrorist:
In relation to uploading blasphemous content on social media, Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) Counter Terrorism Department and secret agencies have arrested two suspects from Karachi.
According to FIA sources the arrested, Ayaz Nizami alias Abdul Waheed and Rana Nauman, have admitted to having contacts in Holland, USA, UK and Canada from where they got financial and technical assistance.
The suspects were using a Dutch SIM for uploading blasphemous content on WhatsApp. Cyber Crime Circle Islamabad has registered an FIR under section 7/17.
Since blasphemy is a crime punishable by death in Pakistan, #HangAyazNizami hashtag has been trending on Twitter over the past 24 hours thanks to a number of social media-active faithful trying to encourage the authorities to stay strong and focused on the greatest problem facing the otherwise stable, prosperous, and democratic nation of Pakistan.
Nizami sounds like a man with – under the circumstances – death wish:
Ayaz Nizami is an ex-Muslim and ex religious scholar. As he belongs to a muslim family,He developed a strong attachment towards his faith and wanted to pursue religious studies after conventional schooling…
Studying Islam deeply and closely opened his eyes and he realized Islam and other Abrahamic faiths are nothing diving [sic; divine] but a mere creation of human brain and are a bi-product of culture and civilizations in the world especially the Middle East. After realizing the reality of faith, he took it upon himself to educate and enlighten his fellow countrymen and share his findings with them. his mission is just to spread the truth and knowledge without seeking a reward or having any hidden agenda.
In 2012 He has a major role in starting and maintaining the Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan. He started a Urdu website name Realisticapproach.org in 1st January 2013 with the help of a team of like-minded people and wrote several articles that highlights the dark side of religion.
In response, the dark side of the religion is now trying to kill him.
Alongside the court cases, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government launched a campaign to rid social media of any content considered insulting to Islam at least any posted by Pakistanis.
The government petitioned Facebook and Twitter to identify Pakistanis worldwide who are found posting material considered offensive to Islam so that Pakistani authorities can prosecute them or pursue their extradition on charges of blasphemy tantamount to a death sentence.
That’s nice. Over to you, Facebook and Twitter. But let us not be flippant – blasphemy laws are in vogue again. A few days ago, the Canadian House of Commons passed by 201 to 91 a motion by the government (Liberal) backbencher Iqra Khalid, which ostensibly targets racism and Islamphobia. While the motion itself is usual parliamentary fluff calling for another committee, in Toronto Sun, Anthony Furey reminds us that “While to ill-informed social justice warriors, rejecting Islamophobia just means the common sense courtesy of not ripping off a woman’s hijab in the grocery store, that’s not what it means for many millions of people across the Muslim world… The bigger problem is this whole exercise is about getting a Western liberal democracy to grant recognition to weaponized language used around the world by Islamists to shore up their intolerant political agenda.” Sixty-two per cent of Canada’s one million Muslims already support some form of Sharia law in Canada. But the main action will be taking place in the United Nations’ fora – the arrests of Pakistani blasphemers have not been accidental and coincidental:
Earlier this week, ambassadors from (most) Muslim countries met in Islamabad, in order to deliberate upon the fast expanding issue of blasphemous content (across the West world), being disseminated through the print and social media. For all intents and purposes, this was the first ‘high-level’ meeting, aimed at generating consensus about the approach of the ‘Muslim world’ in regards to blasphemy, and for devising a concerted strategy to tackle the same.
It the meeting, it was decided that “a comprehensive strategy paper” concerning blasphemy laws and policy will be circulated to all participants, by our Foreign Affairs Ministry, in order to evolve a future course of action; a formal reference will be sent to Secretaries General of the Arab League and the OIC; and that governments of Muslim countries will eventually agitate the matter before the United Nations.
Freedom of speech is under assault everywhere in the Western world. All we need now is people being actionably offended on behalf of their deity. Blasphemy is a victimless crime (as Pakistani lawyer Saad Rasool writes, “Who are we, in any case, to lend God our protection?”) – if your god exists, he/she/it will take care of it themselves; meanwhile, on Earth, only your sensibilities might be slightly bruised. Get over it.
For the record, I don’t see militant atheists and blasphemers as any sort of intellectual heroes. Those who go out of their way to offend others and their most deeply held beliefs, just for the sake of it, strike me as a bit childish. But they should have the freedom to do so. Just because your religious – or political, or scientific, or any other – beliefs are questioned, challenged or even mocked and ridiculed, does not mean that those doing so should be sanctioned in any way, much less put to death. Argue, not silence.
Oh, and if you are trying to persuade people that yours is the most peaceful religion in the world, hanging people who disagree might be considered counter-productive. Or ironic. Then again, irony might be banned soon too.