This news is nothing new, revolutionary, or different. It has been occurring, thanks to Islamic law, for well over a thousand years. With the rise in news media —especially with the internet— even more detailed, and otherwise unknown stories, are known worldwide. This is the case for a Pakistani girl, who is eleven years of age.
Allegedly, she set fire to pages of the Koran. Inherently, most of us in the West would not see how this would be a problem. But there is much more about this girl than her age.
According to the Associated Press article on the matter, “Some have said the girl is mentally challenged and suffers from Down’s syndrome.” Also add to this the fact that the girl and her family are Christians— a religious group that has traditionally not been conducive to the Muslims.
That is not the end of the full background behind the story. After including all of these points, it is also necessary to note what others did, in this situation. Did the people quietly carry on with their lives? No, and they did not see this as a legal matter—not taking into account the absurdity of the laws the girl violated—that should be handled by the courts and legal system. In place of this, an angry mob went to her family’s home and demand that she be charged with blasphemy. Regarding what happened next, the Associated Press reports “[the mob] allegedly went on a rampage, attacking the girl’s family and setting Christian houses on fire. The girl’s parents are now in protective custody and, according to reports, several Christian families have left the neighborhood ….”
This is much more than a mere, isolated occurrence of, what perhaps, was more than what appears on the surface. Rather, this is a sympton of a greater problem in the world as a whole. One might quickly point out that it the problem of extremism, hatred, and intolerance. This is a great evil, and will never be eradicated, but it is not the matter at hand. Or, in other words, it is much too general. It is the validated extremism that comes along with Islamic law that has brought about this deplorable event.
Islamic law does not only compromise the things Westerners typically think of when the term is mentioned—such as laws relating to women—but also laws that enforce censorship and prohibit blasphemy, as it relates to Islam. And what is the basis for this? A religious text.
At this point, it is necessary to point something out. The analysis of Islamic is not to say that there is anything wrong with religion, in a sense. This does not mean either that morality should not be a basis for laws. To the contrary, the basis of the American legal system are not a debatable set of values, but universal values.
On another note, there is a minor point that comes to mind when viewing this story of the Pakistani girl. It is in this region of the world that “democracy” is always spoken about, in terms of foreign policy. “Democracy needs to be ‘spread’ in this region,” or “This region needs more democracy.” This isn’t to say that a dictator or authoritarian is needed, but democracy is certainly not the answer. With democracy will inevitably come the unchained wrath of the mob, much like what the “angry mob” did to this neighborhood in Pakistan. Whether in literal terms of violence or the figurative, democracy will bring about the “angry mob,” as this is literally what democracy is. A republic, though, allows the important facets of the citizenry playing the major part in their government—in contrast to a dictatorial system—but places boundaries (i.e. the Constitution). This is what the world needs more of, not democracy.
Just as we declined to discuss hatred in general, instead for an examination of Islamic law, so shall we halt our analysis of Islamic law, and view something different—blasphemy law. Blasphemy laws, are a prohibition on free speech. In the case of Pakistan, this blasphemy does not only apply to Islam, but to other religions, as well. There is no other way to address this than to be frank—the government (regardless of the country) has no business being involved in the regulation or activities of this nature. Anything else, in the way of actions taken by the government, qualifies as coercion. While it may seem like a good idea, to some, for government to prohibit blasphemy against any religion, government derives no authority to do this. This is reasoned, due to the natural, inalienable right of free speech. Thus, the government may not implement any such blasphemy laws without, also, using coercion and force. (In regards to this, property owners may easily use their inalienable right to property in order to regulate blasphemy, as they see fit, within their area of control.)
I realize that all of this, to the Western reader, may appear to be distant and uninteresting—apart from a news aspect—but this is an issue that the Western reader should be greatly interested in. All have heard of “hate speech” and the legal propositions to limit such—the perameters of which, are often very broad (so as to implicate and demonize any right-wing thought). Such laws would be no different than those laws in place in many Islamic countries. And that same despotism that exists in so many Islamic countries will be brought to the West. The only difference, though, is that the justification is different. This could be said for all despotism, though. It is all the same, yet achieved through different means and ideas. There is really no difference between Joseph Stalin and Ayatollah Khomeni, for tyranny transcends time, place, and people. The hard-won freedom of Americans has been quietly eroded for too long—with the populace either unaware or in favor of it. We must never ignore despotism—regardless of where it exists in—as the very same tyranny could come to our own country, though merely in a different manifestation.
Christian Lopac | Wabash College | @CLopac