Facebook is a place to go when you want to share, vent, or get an answer to a question and most people do so without fear of physical retaliation, but that’s in the United States. A Pakistani man has just learned what fate has in store for him after getting on Facebook and allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. His fate is death for the crime of blasphemy.
This marks the first time a person was sentenced to death for something that was written on Facebook, or any social media site in that country. Taimoor Raza learned of this fate after the court found him guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammed and his wives. It was the counterterrorism court that found him guilty of blasphemy and handed down the sentence of death.
Raza had an online sparring match about Islam on Facebook last year with another Facebook user, who turned out to be a counterterrorism agent, according to Fox News. In a country that’s predominantly Sunni, Raza, who belongs to the minority Shia sect, was arrested after this argument.
When Raza was first arrested, he was charged with making insulting remarks about other religious personalities, according to Fox. This is a charge carries a maximum sentence of two years, cites Fida Hussain Rana, who is Raza’s defense lawyer. Raza’s lawyer said that a new charge was added to ensure Raza would receive the maximum sentence when he was tried in court in Bhawalpur. Was this to make an example out of Raza? This is when the charge of “derogatory acts against Prophet Muhammad” was tacked onto the initial charges. Since this Raza’s case was heard in the counterterrorism court, he is eligible for an appeal, which will go to the High Court and then on to the Supreme Court if need be.
This is when the charge of “derogatory acts against Prophet Muhammad” was tacked onto the initial charges. Since this Raza’s case was heard in the counterterrorism court, he is eligible for an appeal, which will go to the High Court and then on to the Supreme Court if need be.
The Times of Israel reports, text messages have gone out to millions of Pakistanis coming from the government that passes along a warning against posting or sharing “blasphemous” content online. Human rights activists fear this will just set the stage for even more vigilante attacks. There have been several of these attacks ending in deaths in the last few months even before the person charged with blasphemy had a chance to be heard in court. These vigilante groups are taking matters into their own hands and attempting to carry out a death sentence of an accused person even before they’ve had their day in court.
Fox notes that this case has given human rights activists reasons to be concerned. They are worried that this case has possibly opened a can of worms, especially because there is no accountability for someone posting accusations that are not based in truth. The human rights activists are now concerned that this could spark a crackdown on social media sites.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports the country’s officials are “pounding down on blasphemy claims across the country,” reports Fox. The commission reports at least 15 Pakistans are facing charges having to do with blasphemy after they’ve been arrested by the counterterrorism department. Last year four people were “sentenced to death” for the crime of blasphemy.
Death row is full of people waiting for their time to come for the alleged crime of blasphemy. One such person is a Christian woman named Asia Bibi. She was convicted of the crime after having a debate with two Muslim women. She was convicted in 2010, and she’s remained in solitary confinement since her conviction.
One of the more recent vigilante cases happened in April to a 23-year-old student. Mashal Khan was overpowered by a crowd who stripped the man and then beat. This brutal assault continued with the alleged suspect being shot and then thrown to his death from a two-story building. A few weeks later when a mentally disturbed man showed up at a mosque claiming he was the prophet, the crowd attacked him. In another incident, the suspect wasn’t killed, but a child was who happened to get in the way of an angry crowd.
In May, a 10-year-old boy died in the chaos of a crowd that went after a Hindu man at a police station attempting to gain custody of him for a lynching. The man allegedly posted an image that was deemed blasphemous on a social media site. Five others were injured in that incident, reports Fox News.
[Featured Image by Denis Farrell/AP Images]