BBC News: Pakistani gets life for blasphemy
Iqbal Ahmad, a member of the Ahmediya community, was found guilty of being disrespectful to the Prophet Muhammad in a mosque near Faisalabad.
Mr. Ahmad joined the Islamic Ahmediya sect, which seems to have been the wrong flavour for his accusers. They found his brand of devotion violated the constitutional amendment passed 30 years ago that declared the sect “beyond the faith.” He now faces life imprisonment. His lawyers are appealing the verdict.
Our culture-war election saw a lot of hyperbole about how fundamentalists were taking over the country and pushing us toward a theocracy. In light of what happened to Mr. Ahmed, it certainly is worth asking how far down that road we want to go. After all, the wall of separation between church and state (a phrase invented by Thomas Jefferson, BTW) has worked pretty well so far. At least, no religion, or religious person, suffers from it.
But I would like to see us all take a break from tossing rhetoric-bombs at each other to discuss: is there a qualitative similarity between what happened to Mr. Ahmed and the current climate here? If so, is the answer to stifle religious speech by government employees, or is it more tolerance on both sides?
No one ever sees themselves as being intolerant. But ask yourself how it would be received if a teacher didn’t pledge allegiance to the flag for reasons of personal ethics. Would that be respected in your community, or would that be the beginning of the end for that teacher? Likewise, does the freethinking community jump on every use of the word “God” in a public context like a doberman on raw steak?
Hmmm… Wonder if Mr. Ahmed has any thoughts about religious tolerance now? It’s entirely possible his only regret is that his side isn’t in power. I wonder.