Pakistan has done it again. A 26-year-old Muslim woman has been sentenced to death on the spurious charge of committing blasphemy.
Aneeqa Ateeq was arrested in May 2020 and charged with posting "blasphemous material" on WhatsApp. The complaint against Aneeqa was brought forward by a fellow Pakistani man after she spurned his advances.
The young woman told the court that she is a practicing Muslim and denied all the charges. She told the court that she believed the complainant intentionally dragged her into a religious discussion so he could collect evidence and take "revenge" after she refused to be "friendly" with him.
The man accused her of sending blasphemous caricatures of holy prophets, making remarks about "holy personages" on WhatsApp and using her Facebook account to send blasphemous material to other accounts. In doing so, she "deliberately and intentionally defiles sacred righteous personalities and insulted the religious beliefs of Muslims," according to the charge sheet.
The judge rejected the woman's plea of innocence and entrapment by the complainant, sentencing her to death by hanging after she served a 20-year jail sentence.
Pakistan is an Islamic state and has some of the harshest blasphemy laws in the world, regularly handing down death sentences. In practice, executions are not carried out and the accused spend their lives in jail.
Pakistan is an Islamic state with some of the harshest blasphemy laws in the world.
However, blasphemy trials in Pakistan are highly dangerous, with the accused often killed by vigilantes before courts reach a verdict on their cases, while judges, fearful of the implications, rarely acquit the accused and are often pressured into reaching guilty verdicts.
While minorities such as Christians and Hindus have largely been targeted by the laws, Pakistani Muslims have also found themselves facing blasphemy charges. The cases often take place quickly, in a closed court, away from public scrutiny.
Many Canadians are familiar with the blasphemy charges levelled against a Pakistani Christian woman Aasia Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi) who spent 10 years in a Pakistani prison before Canada accepted her as a refugee in August 2020.
Historically, every society abhors an attack on what it considers sacred. Only recently a Sikh was lynched to death because he tried to harm the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, which is considered an eternal living Guru and embodiment of the ten Sikh gurus and as such the highest religious and spiritual guide for Sikhs.
Jews and Christians are familiar with Leviticus 24:16 that says: "And he that blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him."
Today, blasphemy and stoning is associated with Islamists killing in the name of Allah in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Mozambique, Nigeria and, lately, Burkina Faso.
Ironically, in the Quran moral attacks on Islam are to be overlooked and treated with forbearance. The Quran says in 4:140: "When you hear the revelations of Allah rejected and derided, (you) as sit not with them (who disbelief and mock) until they change to some other conversation.
This is not to deny that there exist verses in the Quran that have allowed jihadis to pursue terror and follow their goal of conquering the entire world.
Nowhere else in the Islamic world are atrocities committed with such zealatory by Mullahs in the name of Islam as it is done in Pakistan, and yet no country has been able to warn Islamabad to cease and desist.
Article 18 of the UN Declaration says: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
That includes Aneeqa Ateeq, who looks to us for help from the jackals who have imprisoned her and find pleasure in devouring human life and treasure the strangling of joy itself, what to speak of "human rights."
Tarek Fatah is a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, and a columnist at the Toronto Sun.