As Pakistan celebrates its 70th anniversary as an independent state, 24 British politicians, led by Labour MP Siobhan McDonagh, have written to the Pakistani government urging it to repeal its divisive and devastating blasphemy laws, which have been used widely to persecute humanists and religious minorities. Humanists UK, which is part of the End Blasphemy Laws coalition, has welcomed the letter.
Siobhan McDonagh, also chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ahmadiyya Muslims, stated that the Pakistani government has consistently committed discriminatory acts against minority religious groups, including ‘denying religious freedom, harassing, violently persecuting’, and sometimes, carrying out death sentences. The letter also states that the current use of these laws stands in ‘painful contrast’ to the vision of Pakistan’s founders.
Blasphemy laws were first introduced into what is now modern-day Pakistan in 1860 by the British during the period of colonial rule in India and continue to form part of Pakistan’s law after the creation of the country in 1947 following the partition of India, which was marked by widespread religious violence. Under the military government of General Zia-ul Haq in the 1980s these laws were expanded to encroach on the freedom of belief of non-Muslims, culminating in 1986 when the death penalty was introduced as a punishment for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
Recent years have seen many humanists and others persecuted under the laws. Taimoor Raza was handed a death sentence in June for a blasphemous Facebook post. In April, humanist Mashal Khan was murdered by a mob of fellow University students for alleged blasphemy. And in January, five bloggers were abducted by security services, only to reappear weeks later following accusations of torture.
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Laws against blasphemy are a denial of freedom of religion and belief and of freedom of speech and expression. For far too long, humanists and others have faced severe persecution in Pakistan, and we are delighted to see these politicians take a stand to try to force change.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0781 55 89 636.
Read more about the End Blasphemy Laws Campaign: http://end-blasphemy-laws.org/
Read more about Humanists UK’s international campaigns: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/international-campaigns/
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.
Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/