We should not tolerate Blasphemy laws as they are directly linked to violence

LONDON - FEBRUARY 03: Muslim demonstrators hold banners at the Danish Embassy on February 3, 2006 in London. British muslims have condemned newspaper cartoons which first appeared in a Danish newspaper, some of which depict the Prophet Mohammed wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. The cartoons have sparked worldwide protests. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

An expert on counterterrorism and Islam has said that the United States should take a “hard line” when it comes to countries that enforce blasphemy laws.

“I think we’ve come to a point in time, given the scale of violence, that we really need to put our foot down,”

…His remarks came after a member of the commission, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), said she will be reintroducing a House Resolution she co-sponsored with former Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) and first introduced in 2015 that calls for a global repeal of blasphemy laws.

Jackson Lee asked Bokhari’s advice on how the legislation could balance respect for religious differences while preventing the kind of punishment blasphemy laws often mete out.

“It is difficult to balance,” Bokhari said. “But I will say that when it comes to blasphemy I think that we should not tolerate that because it is directly linked to violence.”

That violence could come from the government, or from individuals, or mobs that inflict their sense of justice on the accused.

“So I think blasphemy is something that we shouldn’t tolerate and we should take a very hard line on,” Bokhari said. “When an idea is promoting directly or fostering violence we should not tolerate that at all and we should make it clear to these governments that there are consequences of pursuing that kind of policy.”

Bokhari cited Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as two countries that have and enforce blasphemy laws. Last month, examples of that violence took place in both countries.

In April, 23-year-old Mashal Khan was dragged from his dorm room at a university in northwest Pakistan and beaten and killed by a mob after he criticized his classmates and possibly the Islamic faith, although Khan was a Muslim.

…Since 1990, at least 65 people have been murdered in Pakistan over blasphemy allegations, and responsibility for these extrajudicial killings lies partly with the country’s rules, Abdullah said.

The UK Independent reported in April that a man in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to death on charges of apostasy after losing two appeals in court.

…In its 2015 religious freedom report, the State Department singled out Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan, and Mauritania as being among the countries that have harsh punishments for blasphemy.

“Such laws conflict with and undermine universally recognized human rights,” the report said.

…Just this month, the State Department warned Americans about traveling to Pakistan because of its strict blasphemy laws.

“Sectarian violence remains a serious threat throughout Pakistan, and the Government of Pakistan continues to enforce blasphemy laws. Religious minority communities have been victims of targeted killings and accusations of blasphemy,” states the U.S. State Department in the travel warning.


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