Iranian Clerics: Amputate Fingers and Toes to Force Submission
Unbelief Brief
January 3, 2023
The already-draconian response to protests in the Islamic Republic is, in the eyes of some, not draconian enough.

The storm in Iran continues

Believing the ramped-up executions of protestors that have already taken place are not enough, “an influential hardliner clerical group” in Iran has a new demand: amputations.

The clerics have floated cutting off people’s fingers and toes as a way of punishing and curbing involvement in the protests that have been raging since the murder of Mahsa Amini. The basis for this, according to them, is that “instigating fear in society” makes one a “belligerent” in the eyes of Islamic law. To combat this instigation of fear, then, they will start to mutilate and maim any citizens who speak against the regime.

However controversial, the suggestion is being entertained. Is it any wonder that some politicians seem to detect that the spirit of the people is no longer with the Islamic republic?

This, of course, comes along with a months-long campaign to ramp up ever-more draconian punishments: the death sentence of a teenager, Mehdi Mohammadifard; the death sentence of a doctor, with 25 years in prison for his wife; and public executions. The president claims that “progress” is being made in the country; of what kind, surely no one can tell.

Continued incarceration of Shia cleric

A reminder that blasphemy laws claim religious victims too, perhaps—even probably—more so than non-religious ones.

Nigerian Sheikh Abduljabbar Nasiru Kabara, a Shia, was arrested and incarcerated in July 2021. The reasoning for the arrest has proven largely unclear and undefined, beyond the allegation that he had committed “blasphemy.” He has now been sentenced to death.

A letter from a Shia group in Nigeria is petitioning governments and human rights NGOs to demand the release of Kabara. Among its claims are that audio recordings prove his conviction was the result of the scheming of clerics who held theological disagreements with him.

Whether or not the cleric is eventually released, the story of blasphemy laws being weaponized to settle personal grievances is one as old as time. It will repeat as long as there are blasphemy laws.

Interfaith blasphemy in Pakistan

In Pakistan, a Hindu "boy" has been jailed on charges of blasphemy, a fairly common occurrence (and common in the inverse in neighboring India, where the Hindu nationalist BJP makes sport of persecuting the country’s Muslim minority).

It is, as these things seem always to be, over a Facebook post. The “culprit” had apparently referred to God in a way considered “blasphemous,” and in doing so had broken the law. He was arrested on charges of having violated the blasphemy law approximately a month after he made the post in November, and he now languishes in jail.

As aforementioned: Pakistan and India are engaged in mirror acts of repression against religious minorities, in service to conservative religious governments, using their blasphemy laws as weapons. There is no better example than these two countries of how blasphemy laws do nothing but spread misery and engender conflict—with the victims, again, just as often (perhaps more often) being the religious as the non-religious.

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