Talk of the U.S. pivot to Asia has been overshadowed by the rise of new perpetrators of terror. Al Qaeda has been eclipsed by a new brand of jihadist groups such as the 'Islamic State’ seeking to build a Caliphate across the Middle East and Boko Haram doing the same in western Africa. New data show the extent of the violence being inflicted by such groups. 
Brian Grim Religious Freedom
While most deaths occur in a hand full of countries, the specter of Lone-wolf attacks, as the one unfolding in Sydney shows, affect countries far outside the region. With recent "Lone Wolf" attacks in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., the terror is brought very close to home. 

New research carried out by the BBC World Service, BBC Monitoring, and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) produced a global snapshot of this rising tide of terror by recording all the reported deaths that were caused by jihadist groups and networks during the month of November 2014. 

The study found that jihadists killed 5,042 people in 664 attacks during the month. The Islamic State conflict in Syria and Iraq accounted for the largest share of deaths, though attacks in 12 other countries claimed thousands as well. This includes nearly 800 deaths in Nigeria and another 800 in Afghanistan, plus hundreds in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan.

In light of the apparent lack of success in combatting the rise of global terror using hard power alone, and the economic consequences of the deteriorating situation of religious freedom worldwide, a new editorial argues that positively encouraging countries to protect international religious freedom ideals will bear more fruit than using the default tool - a hammer. 

Research finds that laws and practices burdening religion are related to higher levels of corruption. 
Brian Grim Religious Freedom
This is borne out by simple comparison between the Pew Research Center’s 2012 Government Restrictions on Religion Index with the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index. Nine of the ten most corrupt countries have high or very high governmental restrictions on religious liberty, including North Korea, which Pew does not have enough data to rate but considers one of the most religiously restrictive countries. 

Religious freedom also implies that business people can draw on religious values and moral teachings in their businesses. The attempt to force businesses to act as entirely secular organizations may be one contributing factor to the corruption, greed and shortsighted decisions that led to the global economic collapse of 2008 and still affects many people and nations today. Allowing religion to inform business ethnics certainly is an aspect of religious freedom.

Religion can contribute to peace according to a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
PictureIEP, p. 21-22
Although there is a tendency to focus on conflicts which can be defined by religious competition, there are many examples where religious leaders have played significant roles in peace. Oft cited examples are Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and the role they played in successful non-violent movements.

Two ways in which religions can facilitate greater peace is through the common benefits of group membership, and the power of inter-faith dialogue for conflict resolution. This is highlighted by the number of groups dedicated to inter-faith dialogue such as Religions for Peace which is a global organisation with hundreds of affiliates.

Additionally, research highlights that the membership of groups is a form of social capital and in general social capital is associated with better performance in peace. Greater religious membership can have a positive impact to a country’s peace providing that it is tolerant and also depending on a complementary mix of attitudes, institutions and structures within a nation. The Pillars of Peace has found that civic engagement and participation is associated with gains in peace. A study of the responses from 46 countries in the World Values Survey finds that higher group membership corresponds with greater levels of peace. 

PictureThis chart is a corrected version from the IEP report
The category with the biggest difference between above and below average membership rates is for the ‘Any Other Organisation’ which includes any group not listed in Figure 9. This includes general social groups as well as general interest groups. Some examples would be gaming groups, appreciation societies, heritage groups, language groups and common interest groups. Given the large diversity of these groups and that it is user defined it is difficult to draw any conclusions from this, except that it confirms the trend whereby above average group membership rates corresponds with greater peace.

The difference between the two groups above average or below average membership rates consistently shows higher membership rates are associated with more peaceful countries, other than for environmental groups. The difference ranges from three per cent to 15 per cent. Figure 9 demonstrates that there is a connection between religious membership and peace, although not large. This study included 47 countries and therefore the sample is not comprehensive. Nevertheless, the study does help to inform our understanding of the relationship between peace and religion. 

Membership could encourage improvements in several of the Pillars of Peace. For example, greater group membership could lead to improvements in the Good Relations with Neighbours Pillar. This Pillar refers to the relations between individuals and communities as well as to crossborder relations. Countries with positive external relations are more peaceful and tend to be more politically stable, have better functioning governments, are regionally integrated and have low levels of organised internal conflict.

Assessing whether religion is a vice or virtue for conflict does not allow for a nuanced understanding of its relationship with peace. Instead, a more holistic view of peace is needed. Whilst the relationship between relgion and peace has some significance, there are many other factors which have greater explanatory power. Government type appears to have a much more significant connection with peace, and religious freedom, than religious characteristics. That is not to say that religious characteristics, like the absence of a dominant group and religious diversity, do not correspond with higher peace. Rather, there are other features which are more significant that are not related to religion.

PictureIEP. p. 22

Another aspect of religion which can have a positive impact on peace is inter-faith dialogue
and peacebuilding dialogues. Organisations such as Religions for Peace are global in reach and consist of hundreds of affiliated organisations. 

Inter-faith dialogue is a growing area of conflict resolution and peacebuilding which has become more significant, especially in the twenty-first century. Inter-faith dialogue has been a successfully employed strategy in ending conflicts. This includes civil and political movements such as the interfaith movement surrounding the U.S. Civil Rights movement and the reconciliation efforts at the end of Apartheid in South Africa, as well as armed conflict including less well known events such as intervention of an imam and pastor in Yelwa Shendam Nigeria and the mediation of the Sant’Egidio Community which helped resolve the civil war in Mozambique in 1992. Religions for Peace for instance played a key role in ending the conflict in Sierra Leone via the Inter-religious Council of Sierra Leone.

Douglas Johnston, president of the International Centre on Religion and Diplomacy, has identified that there are certain conditions for faith-based intervention to have an increased likelihood of success. These include that there is a religious element to the conflict, the presence of religious leaders on both sides of a dispute, religious struggles that transcend national borders and if there has been delays in bringing about a resolution to the conflict.22 There is a large body of literature which demonstrates the success of inter-faith dialogue as a catalyst for the cessation of armed conflict. This report does not seek to add to that body, but rather to note some of the positive elements of religion.

Some religious factors are significantly related to peace according to a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.
Brian Grim Peace
The report, Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion, found that some religious factors that are significantly related to peace.

The two religious characteristics associated with peace are LOW government restrictions on religious behavior and LOW social hostilities involving religion. In addition, countries with higher religious diversity are, on average, more peaceful and have less restrictions on or social hostilities involving religion than countries with religious monopolies

The impact of government restrictions on and social hostilities involving religion can be seen by looking at government type, which is a key driver of peace.

Brian Grim PeaceSource: IEP, PEW, EIU

As governments are further away from being a full democracy (see chart), religious hostilities and government restrictions on religious freedom are more severe. The trend holds true across the board, although, because of the repressive nature of authoritarian regimes, such regimes hold down social hostilities more than hybrid and flawed democracies because of the often overwhelming force used to control any social opposition or political dissent. 

Full democracies have the best average performance in peace, and the lowest levels of religious restrictions and religious hostilities. Less regulation of religion reduces the grievances of religions, and also decreases the ability of any single religion to wield undue political power (also see The Price of Freedom Denied).

Full democracies outperform every other government type. Full democracies are on average 58% more peaceful, have 131% less religious restrictions and 49% less religious hostility than authoritarian regimes. Authoritarian regimes have the worst performance in peace and unsurprisingly in religious restrictions. However, authoritarian regimes are the second best performing government type on the Social Hostilities Index, reflecting the ‘enforced peace’ that can occur in some authoritarian contexts.

Every full democracy, except the US, is amongst the 50 most peaceful countries in the world. Full democracies have disproportionately higher levels of non-believers than other forms of government. However, the overall proportions of atheists are generally very low and are therefore incapable of creating a strong influence on the factors that affect peace. Full democracies are peaceful regardless of the levels of religious belief.

Brian Grim Peace

Countries that are more religiously diverse - that is, without a dominant religious group - have, on average, higher levels of peace and less government restrictions towards religion. They also have lower levels of religious hostilities. In this study, a dominant religious group means there is more than 60% of the population identifying as followers of a particular belief system or denomination.

Countries without a dominant religious group are on average 17% more peaceful than countries with a dominant religious group. Similarly, countries without a dominant religious group have on average 25% less religious restrictions and 40% lower religious hostilities.

The presence of mulitple religions in a country appears to have a pacifying effect if they are free of restrictions. Alternatively, if the members of a religious group dominates and “achieves a monopoly”, they are likely to be able to access and use the power of the state. What has been seen in the past is that dominant religious groups with state power are open to persecute other religious groups and competitors.

The bloody conflict of ISIS in northern Iraq is not a Sunni-Shia conflict, but rather the ultra-extremist Sunni Islamic State trying to enforce its intolerant vision on all Muslims and non-Muslims alike, regardless of sectarian identity. And despite the apparent role of Sunni and Shia sectarian violence in parts of the Middle East today, when reviewed globally, countries with high proportions of Sunni and Shia are not necessarily violent or plagued with conflict, according to a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.
The report, Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion, found that the breakdown of Sunni and Shia in a country is not necessarily a key determinant of peace. Qatar is the most peaceful country in the Middle East and North Africa region, ranking 19 in the 2013 GPI, and has the same Sunni/Shia breakdown as the least peaceful country in the 2013 GPI, Afghanistan.

Iran also has a similar proportional breakdown, except it has a Shia instead of Sunni majority. This suggests the religious demographic breakdown is not necessarily a deterministic factor to peace. Similarly, there are differing peace levels for countries where Sunni and Shia have similar proportions of a population. Bahrain is significantly more peaceful than other countries with a similar proportional Sunni/Shia split such as Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. There are many relatively peaceful countries which have a significant proportion of Sunni and Shia.

However, it is important to note that based on a perception survey from Pew Research the Sunni and Shia divide is considered significant by Muslims with 73% of countries with significant numbers of Muslims believing that friction between religious groups is a moderately or very big problem for their country. Undoubtedly, sectarian violence has been a major feature of armed conflict in the Middle East today. This is evidenced by the fact that when countries with majority Muslim populations have engaged in armed conflict it is generally civil or inter-religious conflict. Indeed, the twenty-first century has not been marked by the clash of civilisations but rather intra-group conflict. Of the 15 armed conflicts motivated in part by Islamist groups in 2013, all but 5 occurred in countries where Muslims were in the majority.

Religious restrictions do not correlate very strongly with peace at only 0.24, whereas religious hostilities do at 0.61. This suggests that for the majority of Muslim countries government restrictions towards religion has less of an impact on peace than religious hostilities do. 70% of Muslim-majority countries are authoritarian regimes, with 23% hybrid regimes. There are only three flawed democracies, and no full democracies. As such it is unsurprising that Muslim-majority countries have high levels of government restrictions.

What distinguishes Muslim-majority countries is differing performance in the Pillars of Peace, a framework developed by IEP to assess the positive peace factors that create peaceful societies. Specifically, countries that have lower corruption, well-functioning government and better relations with neighbors are more peaceful regardless of the particular levels of Sunni and Shia. 

The Pillars of Peace provide an insight into what features differentiate the peace performance of countries with high levels of Sunni and Shia. Three of the 8 Pillars of Peace correlate with the GPI for the most Muslim countries.

  • Well-Functioning Government
Based on several factors, from how governments are elected and the political culture they engender, to the quality of the public services they deliver and their political stability. Strong relationships across a number of these indicators and sub-indicators demonstrate the interdependent nature of the various governance indicators. These measures are consistently linked to peace.

  • Good Relations with Neighbors 

Refers to the relations between individuals and communities as well as to cross-border relations. Countries with positive external relations are more peaceful and tend to be more politically stable, have better functioning governments, are regionally integrated and have low levels of organized internal conflict.

  • Low Levels of Corruption

In societies with high corruption resources are inefficiently allocated, making business inefficient and often leading to a lack of funding for essential services. The resulting inequality can lead to civil unrest and in extreme situations can be the catalyst for more violence. Low levels of corruption, by contrast, can enhance business confidence and trust in institutions, which in turn helps to create informal institutions that enhance peace.

There is no clear statistical relationship between either the presence or the absence of religious belief and conflict, according to the latest research report from the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
The report, Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion, provides a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between peace and religion. The report found that even at the extremes, the least peaceful countries are not necessarily the most religious and vice versa. 

The most peaceful countries are a mixture of both religious and less religious countries. For instance, 3 out of the 10 most peaceful countries in the 2013 GPI are more religious than the international average. At the other end of the scale 2 out of the 10 least peaceful countries have some of the lowest rates of religion attendance in the world, notably North Korea.    

Countries with more atheists are not more peaceful. The countries with the first and third highest percentage of atheists, North Korea and Russia, performed in the bottom ten for the 2013 GPI. If a country has greater than five per cent of its population as atheist then it’s likely to be either a communist or former communist state or from Europe. Of the 10 most peaceful countries in the 2013 GPI, only 2 countries have greater than 10% atheists. These countries are New Zealand with around 32% and Belgium at approximately 20%.

Rather than religious similarities, the least peaceful countries have political and regional similarities. The least peaceful countries are on average authoritarian countries and are located in the three least peaceful regions in the world: the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. For example, Malaysia is considerably more peaceful than neighboring country Myanmar. A major difference between these countries is that Malaysia is more democratic, whereas Myanmar is in its early stages of its democratization process. The government type therefore, appears to be a more significant distinguishing characteristic of peace, with full democracies and especially member states of the European Union having the best measures in peace, regardless of the levels of religion beliefs.

PictureSource: IEP, World Religion Project
Over two thirds of countries in the world greater than 95% of the population hold religious beliefs and high levels of religious belief can be found at either end of the GPI. Countries with the highest presence of religious belief also have vast differences in peace.

There is not a significant correlation between levels of religious belief and peace, with an r=0.14. Generally IEP considers a measure of at least r=0.5 to be significant. All correlations in Table 2 are extremely low, to the extent that no relationship was uncovered. Furthermore, the results are in divergent directions meaning that a linear connection between the presence of religion and peace is highly unlikely.

While 15 of the 20 most peaceful countries in the world have less religion than the international average, it does not follow that all peaceful countries have low religious levels. Iceland, for example, is the most peaceful country in the 2013 GPI but has relatively high levels of religious belief. In fact, 11 of the top 20 countries on the GPI have more than 90% of their population identifying with religious beliefs.

The overwhelming majority of people in most countries, including the most peaceful, have religious attendance rates of over 80%. Atheists are a small minority globally, and only a majority in five of the 162 countries analyzed, thereby limiting any explanatory effect on a society as a whole. 

Religion is not the main cause of conflict today, according to the latest research report from the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.  
The report, Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion, provides a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between peace and religion.The study found that the answer to the first question is "No": Is religion the main cause of conflict in the world today?

While religion has evidently been a cause of many conflicts throughout history, it is by no means the only reason for conflict. Surveying the state of 35 armed conflicts from 2013, religious elements did not play a role in 14, or 40%.

It is notable that religion did not stand as a single cause in any conflict; however 14% of conflicts did have religion and/or the establishment of an Islamic state as driving causes. Religion was only one of three or more reasons for 67% of the conflicts where religion featured as a factor to the conflict.

Nevertheless, global peace as measured by the Global Peace Index (GPI) has been steadily deteriorating over the last seven years; with 111 countries deteriorating and 51 improving. One of the main reasons for the global decline in peace has been increased terrorist activity, which has been driven by high profile Islamic terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State (IS), Boko Haram and Al-Qaida. Both the scale and the intensity of terrorism has substantially increased. In 2011, 13 countries recorded more than 50 deaths from terrorist activity; by 2013 the number had jumped to 24 countries.

The graph represents the causes of conflict for the 35 armed conflicts in 2013. Of the 35 conflicts in 2013, 86% had more than one cause. Nearly two-thirds of conflicts in 2013 had among their main cause opposition to a particular government, or opposition to the economic, ideological, political or social system of a state. 

Identity was a feature in most conflicts in 2013, with 21 conflicts involving clashes of identity as a main cause of conflict. When analyzing the motivation for these conflicts the desire for identity and self-government was a part of 60 per cent of the conflicts. While religious elements may have a significant impact, there are many other motivators of armed conflict.

There are many difficulties in simplistically determining what the causes of a conflict are. Conflicts with religious elements are not necessarily primarily driven by religious objectives or identification. In many instances armed groups focused more on overthrowing the government or eroding government power and use religion as a rallying cry in religious societies. It has been argued that religion is rarely a foundational cause for conflict. It “does not ordinarily lead to violence”, but it is generally only “when religion becomes fused with violent expressions of social tensions, personal pride, and movements for political change.”

When parties to a conflict are divided on religious adherence, the conflict often becomes framed as religious even though the parties have originally fought over other issues. As the majority of people in the world adhere to some religious beliefs it is unsurprising that many conflicts are interpreted as having a religious element. It thus does not always follow that religion is the cause for conflict.

Religion-related terrorists are active in more than one-in-three countries (37%) today, more than any time since 2006, according to Pew Research
With recent "Lone Wolf" attacks in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., the terror is coming closer to home. 

Common to the lone wolf scenario is a lack of social integration, including meaningful work and self-reliance. A new initiative from the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is attempting to address this (more below). 

U.S. (New York)

On Oct. 23, 2014, a self-radicalized Muslim convert, Zale H. Thompson, attacked a group of New York police officers with a hatchet, leaving one critically injured. Officials are calling it a terrorist attack. Thompson converted to Islam two years ago. 

John Miller, NYPD’s deputy counterterrorism chief, told reporters that Thompson was self-directed in his actions with no affiliations to any particular group. 

Thompson was unemployed, and police say his parents described him as a depressed recluse spending his time online. His recent Internet activity shows that he searched for beheadings, al Qaeda, ISIS and al Shabaab, indicating that Thompson had been planning an attack for some time.


On Oct. 22, 2014, a gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau (originally Michael Joseph Hall), went on a shooting spree in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. The gunmen killed a reservist guard in front of the National War Memorial, and then proceed to the Parliament Hill. Because of the shootings, all government employees were not allowed to enter or leave their buildings throughout the interprovincial National Capital Region. Following the attack there has been some opposing reports regarding potential ISIS inspired attacks in Canada.

Preceding this shooting, Martin Couture-Rouleau – a French-Canadian who converted to Islam in 2013 – deliberately struck two Canadian soldiers with his car on Oct. 20, 2014 killing one. It is believed that Couture-Rouleau’s attack was an act of terrorism tied to Canada’s involvement in the conflict in the Middle East. Both Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau had documented psychological problems and were heavy drug users. And, there is some speculation that an association is being forced to push through new anti-terrorism legislation in the country.

While there is debate whether the two killers actually had ties to or were in fact motivated by terrorist leanings, there are documented cases of attempted terrorist attacks in Canada or Canadians traveling to the Middle East to join militant groups. Fen Osler Hampson, director of the global security and politics program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, points to some recurring characteristics common to Canadian Islamists. 

Compared to their counterparts in other Western countries, they are more likely to be socially marginalized, often unemployed, and act alone. Many are converts. Overall, Mr. Hampson notes however that, "In Canada, Muslims are much better integrated in society and they are much more upwardly mobile for the most part," and, "They've adopted the identity of being Canadian and being tolerant."

ISIS & the U.K.

Threat expert, Will Geddes of security and counter terrorism firm International Corporate Protection, warned that an Islamic State terror attack on soldiers in their barracks in Britain is not a matter of if, but when. 

Geddes conservatively estimates three attacks, with the possibility of more. ISIS terrorist cells have reportedly been discovered, carrying out surveillance on for barracks across the country. Four British men have been charged with allegedly carrying out “hostile reconnaissance” of a police station and army barracks in west London.

Mr. Geddes warns that the second threat is a high likelihood of a “loan wolf” terror attack. Unlike the large concerted attacks carried out by Al Qaeda, the threat from ISIS “is a much more low-level, under the radar, visceral type of terrorism, often involving just one or two lone wolves operating alone.” 

A lone wolf may be one of two types of Islamic extremist, those who wanted to join ISS in Syria but were unable to, like Ottawa gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, whose passport had been confiscated by authorities, and those who had been to the Middle East but returned to make with plans to attack in Britain. Mr. Geddes stresses that such an attack is especially dangerous due to the unpredictable nature of a person acting alone. 

Self-Reliance Life Skills: An Antidote?

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is working with leading interfaith groups, business schools and educational institutions to develop a "Self-Reliance Curriculum."

Obtaining self-reliance life skills is a pressing need among many vulnerable communities who are susceptible to radicalization, such as Muslims in the UK. For instance, the killing on the afternoon of 22 May 2013 of a British Army soldier, Fusilier Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, has reopened the debate about those who carry out acts of violence in the name of Islamist fundamentalism. Experts give their opinions on how society and the authorities should react to this incident and what could be done to combat radicalization in the UK. The debate continues as the Birmingham City Council is investigating 25 schools about claims of takeovers by Islamist extremists.

The project will make available to interfaith training teams* a curriculum of self-reliance that could be taught to members of vulnerable communities by interfaith teams beginning in the UK and then taken globally. 

The curriculum would promote self-reliance as a way of life and help people make a conscious, active effort to provide for their own needs and those of their families. The program would follow the six themes for a balanced life: 
  1. education
  2. health
  3. employment
  4. family home production and stewardship
  5. family finances
  6. spiritual strength

* Interfaith training teams will be composed of volunteers from local business as well as faith communities - having both is a unique and an essential component of the program in that involving people with real business know-how together with people of diverse faiths and beliefs helps give real alternatives to radical narratives that grow under conditions of isolation and desperation.  

A Pakistani court has upheld the death penalty against Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, accused of blasphemy. She is the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. 
PictureAsia Bibi
Pakistani nationals have killed at least 60 people following blasphemy allegations since 1990. There have been over 327 blasphemy cases filed in Pakistan, after amendments were made to the blasphemy law in the 1970’s and 80’s (see chart below). 

Prior to this there were only 7 cases filed between 1851-1947. Currently here are at least 17 people convicted of blasphemy on death row, and an additional 19 serving life sentences. Accusations of blasphemy are filed against both Muslim and non-Muslims, and while the rate of against non-Muslims is higher when measured against the religious minorities representation in Pakistan, more overall accusations are made against Muslims.

Also see: More than one-in-five countries worldwide (22%) penalize blasphemy or apostasy; some face death
PictureClick for Source
Jan Wetzel from Amnesty International notes "While purporting to protect Islam and the religious sensitivities of the Muslim majority, Pakistan's blasphemy laws have in fact fostered a climate of religiously motivated violence, and are used indiscriminately against both Muslims and non-Muslims." Further, "They violate the basic human rights of freedom of religion and thought. These laws are often used to make unfounded malicious accusations to settle personal scores in land and business disputes [and] are also arbitrarily enforced by the police and judiciary."

A Pakistani court has upheld the death penalty against Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, accused of blasphemy. She is the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. Two Muslim women brought the allegation against Bibi after they objected to her sharing water with them, because she was a different faith. The charges were brought against her in 2010. Two prominent politicians, the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, a Muslim, and the Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a catholic, were killed after supporting Bibi in 2011. The governor was killed by his own bodyguard; who was then showered with rose petals by supporters at his murder trial. 

In Pakistan, a blasphemy conviction carries a maximum penalty of death, and yet has an almost non-existent standard of proof. There is no punishment for false allegations of blasphemy, and an accuser may even refuse to tell the court exactly what the blasphemous comment was, so as not to blaspheme themselves. It is enough simply to accuse someone of blasphemy for them to either receive punishment through the judicial system, however more often punishment is meted out by members of the public. Pakistan’s anti blasphemy law also does not account for the accused’s mental state. For instance, currently British citizen, Mohammed Asghar, a paranoid schizophrenic, is awaiting a death sentence in Pakistan. Asghar’s tenant accused him of blasphemy after they had a disagreement.

Confounding any attempt to mediate the affect of the law, are incidents such as the recent killing of Rashid Rehman, a dedicated human rights attorney. Rehman was killed after taking on the case of Junaid Hafeez, a university professor accused of blasphemy by a group of students in 2013. Attorneys in Pakistan have expressed frustration with how Pakistan’s legal system is responding once a blasphemy case gains traction in the public sphere. An attorney for Asghar notes, "There are two kinds of judges in this blasphemy field. [There are] those who genuinely have their hands tied behind their backs, because there is a threat to their lives. But there's a fair amount of lawyers, prosecutors and judges who are making a name for themselves by … sentencing blasphemy convicts." 

Brian Grim's New Blog at the World Economic Forum