In a further crackdown on freedom of speech, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is now campaigning for blasphemy laws, including attempting to revive a campaign to advocate for global legislation on the matter.
To make matters worse, the Pakistani senate has also advocated to crack down further on blasphemy within its own nation, a practice which has already led many to be killed in Pakistan under the death penalty.
According to Humanists UK, an organisation committed to ending blasphemy laws, this is one of many attempts by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (consisting of 57 countries, including Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq) over the last two decades to push for such legislation.
A statement by Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson read as follows:
Blasphemy laws are a violation of the human right to freedom of expression. They prevent legitimate and necessary criticism of religious beliefs, leaders, and institutions, and in extreme cases legitimise vigilante violence and state persecution of the non-religious and religious minority groups. Humanists UK and others have fought for many years to oppose attempts to impose such restrictions through the UN and will continue to do so. We are seriously concerned that Imran Khan’s administration, just weeks into office, is already trying to use international blasphemy restrictions as a strongman policy to appease the ultra-conservative and religious fundamentalist factions of Pakistan.
He is quite right. In a time when freedom of expression is seriously under threat due to Islamic extremism (leading to such unfortunate incidents as the 1989 fatwa against The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie and the 2015 attacks at the Charlie Hebdo HQ in Paris), pushing for such dangerous laws on the world is pandering to these extremists (of which the article points out is the audience Khan is appealing to in his own country) and letting them win.
This is especially true given that Pakistan is currently in a struggle between more secular ideals and religious fundamentalism, where even reformers like Salman Taseer (the former governor of the Punjab region of Pakistan) was killed by someone in his own security personnel, and this clash is something Georgetown University scholar Haroon Ullah explained very well in a PragerU video about Pakistan.
Khan is not only being seriously reckless by pandering to these extremists, but pushing it on a global scale is completely reprehensible. This is an alarming precept for freedom of speech, and one that we must all be on guard at against at all costs. Losing freedom of speech is utterly perilous, and hence we should defend it at all costs. As George Orwell once said ‘if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’.
It is time people like Khan accepted this. He should have kept playing cricket instead.
Disclaimer: The content of this post reflects the views of the author, and not necessarily those of MBGA News.
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