As Rimsha Masih still awaits trial in Pakistan, another “blasphemy” case has been resolved today, handing a 25-year-old man a death sentence.
Hazrat Ali Shah is supposed to have blasphemed against Islam during a “quarrel” in his village as far back as March 2011 (AFP). It is the first capital sentence handed down in the country since Asia Noreen’s 2010 death sentence in 2010; she is still in prison.
After the relatively critical domestic reaction in Pakistan over the Rimsha Masih case – prompting faint hopes of reform, however distant – the sentence today is especially disappointing.
President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Sonja Eggerickx, said, “IHEU does not believe in “misuse” of so-called blasphemy laws: they are always wrong. Regardless whether an accused person was actually voicing criticism of religion, or whether the accusation is whipped up from nowhere and is purely persecutory or malicious, ‘blasphemy’ laws are always anti-human and stand against free expression and must be abolished. We will continue to campaign against national and proposed international ‘blasphemy’ laws at the UN, and we will lobby Pakistan to overturn this despicable sentence.”