John R. Houk
© March 15, 2019
I have mentioned that I operate three blogs:
The first is a Blogger platform. The second is a WordPress platform. And the third is an OverBlog platform (located in France under EU rules).
A couple of days ago I received an email from WordPress Support notifying me the government of Pakistan had contacted WordPress over one of my posts. The Support Team informed me they weren’t going to censor my blog but if I did not remove the alleged content the NCCR blog would be banned from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Here is the content of the WordPress Support email:
Mar 12, 19:33 UTC
A Pakistan authority has demanded that we disable the following content on your WordPress.com site:
While we have not complied, due to the order it is possible that your site could at some point in the future become inaccessible for Internet visitors originating from Pakistan. Visitors from outside of Pakistan would still be able to access the site.
You and your readers may be interested in these suggestions on bypassing Internet restrictions.
For your reference, we have included a copy of the complaint below. No reply is necessary, but please let us know if you have any questions.
— Begin complaint —
Dear WordPress Team,
I am writing on behalf of Web Analysis Team of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) which has been designated for taking appropriate measures for regulating Internet Content in line with the prevailing laws of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
In lieu of above it is highlighted that few of the web pages hosted on your platform are extremely Blasphemous and are hurting the sentiments of many Muslims around Pakistan. The same has also been declared blasphemous under Pakistan Penal Code section 295- B and is in clear violation of Section 37 of Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) 2016 and Section 19 of Constitution of Pakistan.
Keeping above in view, It is requested to please support in removing following URL’s from your platform at earliest please.
The below mentioned websites can be found on following URL’s:-
You are requested to contribute towards maintaining peace and harmony in the world by discontinuation of hosting of these websites for viewership in Pakistan with immediate effect. We will be happy to entertain any query if deemed necessary and looking forward for your favorable response at your earliest.
Web Analysis Team
+92 51 9214396
— End complaint —
It looks like I will not be travelling to Pakistan anytime soon. Pakistan actually shows the legal code my “Blasphemous” content breaks.
So, quoting the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority:
Pakistan Penal Code section 295- B and is in clear violation of Section 37 of Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) 2016 and Section 19 of Constitution of Pakistan
I found three PDFs from Googling portions of the law I am breaking:
- Pakistan Penal Code [6th October, 1860] – 175 pages
- A Bill to make provisions for prevention of electronic crimes (Passed 11/8/16) – 29 pages
- PAKISTAN Use and abuse of the blasphemy laws (7/1994. Amnesty International) – 31 pages
Of particular interest to me was from “PAKISTAN Use and abuse of the blasphemy laws,” the penalty for breaking the Blasphemy law under the heading, “2.2 Sections of the PPC amended or added during Zia-ul Haq’s Islamization drive” which is on page 7 of the PDF referencing section 295-B:
Several sections were inserted in the PPC in the 1980s. Section 295-B was added in 1982; it made defiling the Koran a criminal offence. It reads: “Whoever willfully [sic] defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Koran or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.” [Bold text by Blog Editor]
In 1980, section 298-A was inserted in the PPC, by which the use of derogatory remarks “by words, … or by imputation innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly” in respect of persons revered in Islam, was made a criminal offence punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment. In 1986, defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammad was made a criminal offence and the relevant section, 295-C added to the PPC (see below in detail).
Most alarming after examining further penalties heaped on is on page 8 of the PDF under the subheading, “2.3. The blasphemy law: Section 295-C PPC”:
In 1986 the penal code was amended by Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1986, which added the blasphemy law under section 295-C to the Pakistan Penal Code. It provided the death penalty or life imprisonment for the criminal offence of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammad. It reads:
“295-C: Use of derogatory remarks, etc. in respect of the Holy Prophet: Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.” [Bold text by the Blog Editor]
The Court directed the government of Pakistan to effect the necessary legal changes and added, “in case this is not done by 30 April 1991 the words ‘or punishment for life’ in section 295-C, PPC, shall cease to have effect on that date”. Decisions by the Federal Shariat Court are binding on the government under Article 203-D(3) of the Constitution. The Government has the possibility to appeal against such decisions to the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court before any directive of the Federal Shariat Court takes effect. The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not file an appeal against the decision making the death penalty the only punishment available for blasphemy. In July 1991, it announced that it had decided to amend section 295-C as directed by the court. A bill to that effect was placed before parliament in 1992. While the Senate, the upper house of parliament, unanimously adopted the bill in July 1992, the lower house of parliament discussed it at length but did not pass it. Opposition parties considered it to be too vague and …
Now that’s some Free Speech limitations for essentially speaking the truth and then receiving the death penalty. Pakistan’s law establishing all things Islam as supreme is not surprising since 97% of the population is Islam and of those 97%, a staggering amount are Sunni-Islam Muslims.
Considering the huge number of Muslims that undoubtedly accept Islamic principles in Pakistan’s rule of law, laws relating to Blasphemy are unsurprising. Just as Christian principles should be an influence in the rule of law in Western nations.
As far as I am concerned, Pakistan’s rule of law is a glaring example of why Islamic principles CANNOT BE ACCEPTED in the West as the rule of law, ESPECIALLY IN AMERICA WHICH HAS A BILL OF RIGHTS AS PART OF THE CONSTITUTION WHICH AFFIRMS CHRISTIAN CONCEPTS OF NATURAL LAW!
I responded to the WordPress Support thinking I would get some kind of reply affirming, rejecting or a mixed reaction my Free Speech stand:
Pakistan is in a sad state of Sharia censoring the citizens from Free Speech truth. I pray the WordPress powers that be and the blog platform’s legal team are more protective of Free Speech than Pakistan. On the other hand Pakistan is a sovereign nation and I suspect the Pakistan government is protecting its Muslim citizens (as you probably know Pakistan is overwhelmingly a Sunni-Islam majority nation) from getting upset. In Sharia, placing the prophet Muhammad in a bad light – even when factual – is a capital crime. A Pakistani Christian (**Asia Bibi) survived for nearly 9 years on death row accused of insulting Muhammad by implying Jesus was a greater person. After nine years and the failure of evidence from Bibi’s accuser, Bibi was released from prison nearly causing riots by the devout Muslim Pakistanis.
It’s sad but I can live with accommodating Pakistan’s request as pertaining to Pakistan. However, outside of Pakistan, I pray you honor Free Speech and not censor posts that are outside of Pakistan’s authority.
Thank you for your consideration and your work, [Blog Editor: The links related to Asia Bibi were not in the original email sent to WordPress Support. The double asterisks (“**”) near Asia’s name is to a recent link about Asia stuck in a secretive location in ill health and being refused medical attention. I want to bring attention to the plight of Asia Bibi and thus will posting her still horrendous treatment directly after my thoughts on Free Speech.]
No response or further action of notifications so far from WordPress.
I can live with my blogs being banned in a 97% Muslim nation. And I believe I will not be visiting Pakistan anytime soon … or ever.
Your generosity is always appreciated:
‘Everyone is Worried’: Asia Bibi ‘Very Unwell’ in Pakistani Safe House, Being Denied Medical Care
Asia Bibi, the mother of five who spent almost a decade on death row for a crime she did not commit, is reported to be in dire physical condition as she continues to be held in a safe house in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Bibi, 53, was acquitted of blasphemy last October after the Supreme Court ruled that the accusations had no evidential basis. Since then, Bibi has been granted asylum in Canada, but as yet has not been released from her home country.
What Is The Latest?
According to a source quoted in The Daily Mail, Bibi is “very unwell” and being denied medical care while holed up in a safe house with “low blood pressure.”
“Everyone is very worried,” the source explained. “She won her appeal and was supposed to be out of Pakistan by now.”
Despite the fact that Bibi’s children are now safely in Canada, the Pakistani government has wanted to seek assurances from the embattled mother that she will not speak ill of her home country upon leaving. There is still no indication of when exactly Bibi will finally evade the clutches of the country that has caused her so much strife.
“Even though the government says she can leave, the army has all the power in this case,” the source added. “They are in control of her. They are fearful about getting a negative press if she speaks out about her experiences – but they will get an even worse press if she dies in protective custody.”
British officials recently stated that the Pakistani government has “confirmed that Asia Bibi is free to make her own decisions and to leave Pakistan,” but the realities of this case speak of a very different story indeed.
Many are calling on prominent church leaders, such as Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, to do more on Bibi’s behalf.
For now, Asia and her husband, Ashiq Masih, remain in Pakistan with little idea as to when they will be allowed to leave.
What Is The Background?
Bibi was initially arrested back in 2009 after supposedly entering into an argument with a group of women about a source of drinking water. The Islamist women accused Bibi of drinking from the same tap as them, to which Bibi allegedly responded, “Jesus Christ died for my sins. What did the prophet Muhammad do for you?” a remark which they believed offended their revered religious figure.
However, in the Supreme Court’s final judgment, it declared that the two sisters who accused Bibi “had no regard for the truth,” before adding that “the said semi-literate young sisters had a reason to level allegations against the appellant which could be untrue.”
The landmark judgment also noted that the prosecution’s presented evidence in the case “was nothing short of concoction incarnate.”
“Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges,” said Chief Justice Saqib Nisar in the astonishingly bold ruling, as reported by The Guardian.
But the court’s statement went even further, implying that Bibi had been subject to clear-cut prejudice in her arrest and trial.
“It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful,’” read the judgment written by Justice Asif Khosa, “but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning.’”
The radicals, however, have remained bloodthirsty from the very day Bibi was arrested.
Prior to her acquittal, in Pakistan’s second-largest city of Lahore, hundreds of protesters gathered together and chanted “Hang infidel Asia.” Sickeningly, the hashtag #HangAsiaDefend295C was trending among the religious extremists on Twitter, with the “295C” referring to section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code, which makes it a criminal offense to blaspheme against the Prophet Muhammad.
What Does The Blasphemy Law Actually Say?
According to the Penal Code itself, 295-B refers to the prohibiting of “Defiling, etc., of Holy Qur’an,” and 295-C is in reference to the “use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet.” Other violations not specific to Islam contained in Pakistan’s criminal laws include “trespassing on burial places” and “disturbing religious assembly.”
Those who have chosen to support Bibi’s cause have faced grave consequences. In addition to the threat against Bibi, her family and the justices involved in her acquittal, other prominent politicians have lost their lives in the pursuit of religious freedom.
In 2011, shortly after Bibi’s conviction, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was brutally murdered for speaking out in support of the wrongly convicted Christian woman. Shot dead on the streets of Islamabad, his own bodyguard was found guilty of the heinous crime and, though sentenced to death himself, he has since become a cult hero with a large shrine in his honor erected on the outskirts of the capital city.
Just two months later, Christian politician and outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also assassinated — shot dead by the Pakistani Taliban as he traveled to work.
Do continue to pray for Asia Bibi as she does everything in her power to flee Pakistan.
CBN News Related:
LOOK OUT! I Committed Blasphemy in Pakistan
John R. Houk
© March 15, 2019
‘Everyone is Worried’: Asia Bibi ‘Very Unwell’ in Pakistani Safe House, Being Denied Medical Care
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