For instance, in Pakistan, the GOVERNMENT makes blasphemy - remarks or actions considered to be critical of God - punishable by imprisonment or death. On the SOCIAL side, assassins killed two prominent Pakistani politicians – Shahbaz Bhatti (the only Catholic Minister in the government) and Salman Taseer (the governor of Punjab and a Muslim) – when they spoke out against the blasphemy law.
Indeed, Muslims are often prosecuted under Pakistan's blasphemy laws. For instance, Pakistani police are investigating Sherry Rehman, the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, on blasphemy charges.If convicted, she could be sentenced to death.
Also, in a highly publicized case last summer, a 14-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan was arrested and detained for several weeks after she was accused of burning pages from the Quran. The girl was released after an imam at a local mosque was accused of planting evidence against her. But the terms included bail set at $10,500 -- an exorbitant sum in a country where the average annual income is less than $1000.
And on March 18, the New York Times reported that mobs burned down a Pakistani Christian village near Lahore, also related to allegations of blasphemy. Lahore is also the site of a 2010 massacre of Pakistani Ahmadiyyas, who are considered apostates by Pakistani law.
Blasphemy and apostasy laws are closely associated not only with higher restrictions, but also with increases in religious restrictions and hostilities:
- Solid majority (59%) of countries with anti-blasphemy laws already have high restrictions on religion
- Among 44 countries enforcing anti-blasphemy laws: Restrictions up in 10, down in only one
- In the 20 countries penalizing apostasy, social hostilities are more than twice as high as other countries
- More than one-in-five countries worldwide (22%) penalize blasphemy or apostasy; some face death
- Read and watch Aljazzera's March 22, 2013, report, Murder in God's Name.
Beyond violence associated with blasphemy and apostasy laws, Pakistan experiences numerous other acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations and social groups, including mob or sectarian violence, religion-related terrorism, harassment over religious attire and other religion-related intimidation or abuse.
For instance, the BBC recently reported that explosions in a Muslim Shiite neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan, left dozens dead, increasing concerns for the safety of the country's minority Shiite Muslims who have recently faced other deadly attacks in the Sunni-Muslim-majority country. Also see:
- Bombings targeting Muslim Shiites in Iraq & Pakistan occur as sectarian violence affects 1-in-8 countries worldwide
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