Blasphemy laws have roots in Judaism and Christianity

Interfaith understanding often requires an honest look at history. On this week’s Interfaith Voices, we deal with the infamous “blasphemy laws” in Pakistan –- and the history of blasphemy laws, which –- it turns out -– did not originate with Muslims. In all cases, they are a testimony to religious intolerance and often rabid religious violence.

Currently, under those laws in Pakistan, a person can be sentenced to death for insulting either Islam or the Prophet Mohammed.

Interestingly, a person’s “intent” is not taken into account with accusations of blasphemy. It is possible that someone could accidentally say something that another person finds offensive and be accused of blasphemy.

This has, in fact, happened in the case of Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman and field worker accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed as she interacted with other field workers. She has been in jail for a year and is under a death sentence.

In January, the governor of the province of Punjab, Salman Taseer, the most populous province in Pakistan, was murdered by one of his own bodyguards because he wanted to reform those blasphemy laws. And in some quarters, that bodyguard has become a “hero” for committing what is cold blooded murder.

When we hear about laws and events like these, we are –- rightfully -– horrified. And some unknowing people, bent on spreading Islamophobia, use them to brand Islam as a violent, intolerant religion.

That’s why Interfaith Voices digs deeper, with a look at the history of blasphemy laws. Before Islam even existed, they were part of both Judaism and Christianity.

Typical punishments for blasphemy included stoning, burning, or even branding. And it was Great Britain that “exported” many of these laws to its former colonies, like Pakistan.

To hear the show, click here.

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