A horrific — and par for the course — blasphemy lynching
Pakistan is one of the most effectively lawless countries on the planet with regard to religious extremism and violence. The contingent of society that endorses genuine Islamist terrorism, while not a majority, has become a significant enough minority that it is no longer plausible for authorities to confront. Another case in this point, of a seemingly endless stream: police inaction in the wake of the latest blasphemy lynching.
Muhammad Waris was reportedly a young man in his twenties. He was being held at a police station in eastern Pakistan under the (recently strengthened) blasphemy law. When locals learned of how Waris had allegedly desecrated a Qur’an, they descended on the police station in a fervor, demanding the detainee be handed over — and doing so forcefully. Rather than confront the enormous crowd, many police fled the station.
The mob got their wish. They dragged Waris naked through the street, beating him to death. with metal rods. Police claim they were able to prevent the body from being burned, but unverified footage on social media seems to indicate otherwise (you can view it here, but be warned of its graphic and disturbing content).
Authorities, of course, have condemned the violence and pledged to bring perpetrators to justice (effectively impossible as it would mean hundreds of imprisonments). But, of course, their objection is on the grounds that those who had their “religious sentiments” hurt should have waited for the state to execute or imprison Waris, rather than take “justice” into their own hands. And, of course, Pakistan is among the biggest offenders in the scale of state-sanctioned blasphemy prosecutions, as well. It is simply not possible to speak freely about religion in any meaningful way there.
Pakistan fears information, blocks Wikipedia
Speaking of the scourge of blasphemy that prompts innumerable lynchings, arrests, and imprisonments in Pakistan, the country turned their eye to Wikipedia, accusing the encyclopedia of containing improper blasphemous content. Some unspecified content was requested to be taken down by Pakistani authorities, and they gave Wikipedia 48 hours to comply. Apparently, “some” but not all of their request was granted.
And so the authorities acted swiftly. To keep their citizens safe from the dangers of the free and open exchange of information, they blocked Wikipedia in Pakistan. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it’s out of a benevolent concern for people like Muhammad Waris; after all, if they openly espouse information they find on Wikipedia that disagrees with Islamic doctrine, they could be lynched.
One might call this “backsliding,” only the situation in Pakistan has deteriorated to such an extent that it almost seems as if the country has already slid all the way back.
More blasphemy eggshell-treading
Fresh on the heels of the Hamline fiasco, another Minnesota college has taken it upon themselves to censor art that offends the religious sensibilities of some Muslims.
Macalester College in St. Paul is currently exhibiting art from Iranian-American artist Taravat Talepasand which deals with the ongoing protests in Iran from a feminist perspective. Some of the pieces portray “niqab and hijab-clad women with exposed body parts or visible lingerie” — a bridge too far for some students incensed at the “overt sexualization.” In their eyes, these images are not only offensive to Muslims: they represent a “targeting” of the Muslim population and active harm, and should therefore be removed.
The university met these demands for censorship halfway. The pieces in question are now behind a curtain with a “content warning” to prevent “non-consensual viewing” of the art. The previous sentence is not a joke.
In their news release on the incident, FIRE’s Sarah McLaughlin has put it best, drawing a parallel with a First Amendment precedent established by the US Supreme Court:
"Students should be free to choose whether or not to view the works, rather than having their peers choose for them. Those who don’t wish to see the images have another option than censorship: averting their eyes."