The defendant in the case is a doctor who threw a business card bearing the name “Mohammed” into the trash. We can safely assume that if the perpetrator of this vile deed had been a Sunni, and not an Ismaili, then nothing more would have happened. The incident was simply a convenient excuse for the sales rep to take revenge on a resistant customer, and for the Sunnis to target a hated heretical minority.
Pakistan’s blasphemy law seems to be like our tax code or laws against discrimination: an all-purpose legal scattergun used to punish those who are out of political favor.
Here’s the story from Agenzia Fides:
Asia/Pakistan — Blasphemy in a “Frenzy”: A Muslim Doctor Incriminated
Hyderabad (Agenzia Fides) — Shock and protest reign in the Pakistani civil society. Naushad Valyani, a Muslim doctor in Hyderabad (Sindh province) was arrested for blasphemy in the last few days. His crime is to have snatched and thrown in the trash business cards from a sales representative, named Mohammad, who proposed the purchase of certain drugs. “This fact is totally illogical. It is a perfect example of how the blasphemy law is exploited for personal vendettas,” Father Robert McCulloch, a missionary of St Columba in Hyderabad and administrator of St Elizabeth Hospital told Fides.
The case was raised by Mohammad Faizan, representative of a well-known multinational pharmaceutical company, against the doctor who belongs to the Ismaili Muslim community. When Faizan realized that the doctor was not going to give him attention, and that he threw his card away on which is written the name of the Prophet Mohammad, he accused him of blasphemy. His suit is supported by other representatives of pharmaceutical companies that have staged a protest calling for the indictment of the doctor for blasphemy. Some police officers registered the complaint and arrested him.
Civil society is shocked by the level reached in the abuse of the blasphemy law: “99% of Muslim citizens are named Mohammad. So then we commit the crime of blasphemy every time a newspaper page or any written text that contains the name is destroyed?” This is the question posed to Fides by some human rights activists. “This is simply absurd. If this goes ahead, the nation will collapse into a sectarian disaster. This episode should make us reflect and may help the Government to propose a major change in the law,” they said.
Several organizations working for human rights demand the immediate release of the doctor, asking the drug companies not to exploit the incident, not to use blasphemy as a form of pressure on doctors and to drop the charges.
“The public has begun to understand and share the urgency to amend the blasphemy law. But the fundamentalist groups that support it are still very strong and threaten with violence and anarchy. Even the courts are terrified. The continuity of the law is guaranteed today by the culture of violence that has spread throughout the country,” Fr McCulloch told Fides.
Moreover, in the case of Dr Valyani, there is also an attempt to hit the Ismaili Muslim community, a minority religious sect of Shiite origin, which brings together the followers of the seventh imam Ismail. The spiritual leader of the Ismaili community of reference is the Agha Khan, known Persian religious leader who lived in the nineteenth century.
Hat tip: LAW Wells.