‘The biggest form of blasphemy we commit is to force another to live in fear’
YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan since September 2012 for hosting the "blasphemous" Innocence of Muslims film. But now the country's parliament has been asked to define what actually constitutes blasphemy. Sana Saleem has some suggestions
31 Jul 13


Asianet-Pakistan /

This article was originally published at

Dear Parliamentarians,

I write to you in the hope of assisting you in a rather arduous task being assigned to you by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). If recent reports are to be believed, the Pakistan telecommunication authority has done the unthinkable; in a rare moment of clarity the PTA has requested the parliament to define ‘blasphemy’.

Yes, after the country’s governor was shot 27 times for seeking pardon for a blasphemy accused mother, his murderer garlanded by lawyers and defended by the ex-Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, a 14-year-old young girl and her family driven out of the country, a 70-year-old mentally unstable woman sentenced to 14 years in jails, several hundred burnt houses and dozens of lynched dead bodies later, you’ve finally been approached to determine what exactly classifies as blasphemy.

If you ask me, it’s rather strange that none of the incidents – or call them random acts of insanity – I summarised were able to do what a B-grade filmmaker was able to achieve. But then again, priorities! We are a nation of strange people and reactions; we forgive the unforgivable and punish ourselves for the crimes of others.

Without wasting much time, I’d want to discuss the important issue at hand. Now that you’ve been given the responsibility of defining blasphemy for the nation, given how difficult it is to be specific, and government policies are by their nature vague, I’d say go with enlisting instances of blasphemy for clarity’s sake:

    • One commits blasphemy each time they harm another in the name of religion.


    • One commits blasphemy each time they incite hatred for another in the name of religion.


    • One commits blasphemy each time they justify murder in the name of religion.


    • One commits blasphemy each time they persecute another for their faith or lack of it.


  • One commits blasphemy each time they infringe the right to freedom of expression, opinion or movement of another, in the name of religion.

For the biggest form of blasphemy that we all almost always commit is to force another to live in fear for believing, speaking, thinking and sometimes even existing, as we justify it in the name of our faith or stand silent as we bear witness.

No videos, sketches or hate speeches have hurt Islam more than the reckless army of blood thirsty goons justifying vandalism in the name of religion.

There doesn’t exist a form of disrespect bigger than justifying cold-blooded murder and hate in God’s name. To instill fear and lawlessness in the society and to justify that as an act of faith. End the insanity now, tell the nation that we aren’t all potential blasphemers waiting to be lynched as and when the opportunity arises.

Trust me; it might do a lot more than just unblocking YouTube.


A fellow potential blasphemer

By Sana Saleem

Sana Saleem blogs at Global Voices, Asian Correspondent, The Guardian and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She has won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO and Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.