Amjad Khan is a grandson of an Ahmadi mullah, and thus, he must show his loyalty to the Mirza family for helping his family and etc. Thus, he runs around and lies about Ahmadiyya persecution and works as a lawyer for Ahmadiyya refugee cases all around the world. In the below, we have archived one of Amjad’s silly articles from 2015 on fake Ahmadiyya persecution.
VOLUME 56, ONLINE, MAY 2015
How Anti-Blasphemy Laws Engender Terrorism
Amjad Mahmood Khan*
The tragic events of the past months, including the Taliban’s murder of 132 schoolchildren in Peshawar, Boko Haram’s
mass slaughter of civilians in Nigeria, and Al Qaeda’s massacre of
the staff of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, have re-ignited a debate about
the root causes of terrorism and its prevention. The debate centers
largely on efforts by foreign governments in the Islamic world to
effectively execute counter-terrorism measures against known terrorist organizations, including defeating their weaponry and propaganda. But little has been written on what is, arguably, the most
potent instrument fueling the perpetrators’ terrorism: antiblasphemy laws.
In several countries with large Muslim populations – most
notably, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Nigeria – criminal codes have
provided legal cover for terrorists to commit atrocities in the name
of protecting Islam’s integrity based on their warped view of the
faith. Protecting these codes, and the larger cause of preventing
blasphemy, can drive some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists
to commit mass atrocities. Preventing these atrocities requires
countries with large Muslim populations to repeal or reform their
* Adjunct Professor, UCLA Law School; Partner, Brown, Neri & Smith LLP;
B.A., Claremont McKenna College (2001); J.D., Harvard Law School (2004).
The author has represented refugees escaping religious persecution and has testified five times before the United States House of Representatives about antiblasphemy laws in the Islamic world and resulting human rights abuses of religious minorities. He can be reached at email@example.com.
2 Harvard International Law Journal Online / Vol. 56
anti-blasphemy codes, not simply as a matter of protecting human
rights but also of strengthening the collective security of nations.
Despite ample data on the global proliferation of antiblasphemy laws, no study has yet evaluated the interconnectedness
of the laws with acts of terrorism. A 2011 Pew study found nearly
half of the countries and territories in the world have laws or policies that penalize blasphemy, apostasy or defamation.1 “Of the 198
countries studied, a total of 32 countries (16%) have laws penalizing blasphemy, 20 (10%) have laws penalizing apostasy and 87
(44%) have laws against the defamation of religion, including hate
speech against members of religious groups.”2 Anti-blasphemy
laws are particularly common in the Middle East and North Africa;
13 of the 20 countries in that region (65%) make blasphemy a
crime.3 “In the Asia-Pacific region [which includes South and Central Asia], nine of the fifty countries (18%) had anti-blasphemy
laws in 2011, while in Europe such laws were found in eight out of
45 countries (18%).4 Just two of the 48 countries in sub-Saharan
Africa – Nigeria and Somalia – had such laws as of 2011.”
closer look at the anti-blasphemy laws of Pakistan, Indonesia, and
Nigeria helps illustrate a potentially significant correlation: nations
that criminalize blasphemy tend to foster an environment where
terrorism is more prevalent, legitimized and insidious.
II. PAKISTAN’S ANTI-BLASPHEMY LAWS AND TEHRIK-E-TALIBAN
Since 1984, Pakistan has used its Criminal Code to prohibit
and punish blasphemy,
6 which broadly refers to any spoken or
1 Brian J. Grim, Laws Penalizing Blasphemy, Apostasy and Defamation of Religion are Widespread, Pew Research Center (Nov. 21, 2012), available at
6 Amjad Mahmood Khan, Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan: An Analysis Under International Law and International Relations, 16
2015 / Anti-Blasphemy Laws 3
written representation that has the effect of outraging the religious
sentiments of Muslims, even if it does so indirectly. Five of Pakistan’s current penal code provisions punish blasphemy, and since
1990, over 1,335 cases have been officially registered and filed for
blasphemy-related crimes.7 The most notorious of Pakistan’s antiblasphemy laws is a fifty-word Penal Code Ordinance (called Section 295-C):
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible
representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the
Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be
punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.8
HARV. HUM. RTS. J. 217, 227 (Spring 2003), available at http://muslimwriters.
7 See Dexter Filkins, Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law Under Heightened Scrutiny,
L.A. TIMES, May 9, 1998, at A1, available at http://articles.latimes.com/
1998/may/09/news/mn-47881; Editorial, Pakistan’s Cruel Blasphemy Law, N.Y.
TIMES, August 30, 2001, at A20, available at http://www.nytimes.com/
2001/08/30/opinion/pakistan-s-cruel-blasphemy-law.html; Arafat Mazhar, Why
Blasphemy Remains Unpardonable in Pakistan, DAWN, Feb. 19, 2015, available
at http://www.dawn.com/news/1163596 (citing infographics). The accused were
Muslims (Sunnis, Shias, and Ahmadis), Christians, and Hindus. Id. Their
“crimes” include actions such as: wearing an Islamic slogan on a t-shirt; planning to distribute Islamic literature in a public square; offering prayers in a
mosque; printing a wedding invitation card with Qur’anic verses; sending a text
message perceived as critical of Islam; and committing spelling errors on an
exam. See, e.g., Badmouthing: Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws Legitimise Intolerance, THE ECONOMIST, Nov. 29, 2014, available at: http://www.economist.com/
news/asia/21635070-pakistans-blasphemy-laws-legitimise-intolerance-badmouthing?fsrc=scn/tw/te/pe/ed/badmouthing. Their punishments ranged from
fines to indefinite detention to life imprisonment to the death sentence. Although
no one to date in Pakistan has been executed for blasphemy, scores have been
killed by mobs after having been arrested for blasphemy. See NJCP’s Signature
Drive Against Blasphemy Laws, DAWN, Aug. 28, 2009, available at http://
8 Pak. Penal Code § 295C (part of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1986,
which amended the punishments enumerated in §§ 298B and 298C to include
4 Harvard International Law Journal Online / Vol. 56
Based on this remarkably broad language, virtually anyone can
register a blasphemy case against anyone else in Pakistan, and the
accused can face capital punishment.
The anti-blasphemy laws suppress freedom of expression
for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, but they also perversely criminalize the very existence of Ahmadi Muslims. Two of the five anti-blasphemy codes, referred to as Martial Law Ordinance XX, explicitly target by name the activities of Ahmadi Muslims.9 For fear
of being charged with “indirectly or directly posing as a Muslim,”
Ahmadi Muslims cannot profess their faith, either verbally or in
writing.10 In addition, Ordinance XX prohibits Ahmadi Muslims
from declaring their faith publicly, propagating their faith, building
mosques, or making the call for Muslim prayers.11 Elderly Ahmadi
Muslim women, mothers, and infants have fallen victim to the antiblasphemy laws.12 In short, virtually any public act of worship, devotion, or propagation by an Ahmadi Muslim can be treated as a
criminal offense punishable by fine or a three-year jail term (in the
case of Ordinance XX) or death (in the case of Section 295-C).
9 See Martial Law Ordinance XX, which amended Pakistan’s Penal Code and
Press Publication Ordinance Sections 298-B and 298-C (Pak. Penal Code §§
298B and 298C 1984), available at http://www.thepersecution.org/50years/p
10 M. Nadeem Ahmad Siddiq, Enforced Apostasy: Zaheerudin v. State and the
Official Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan, 14 J.L. & INEQ.
275, 288 (1995). Pakistani police have destroyed Ahmadi translations of the
Qur’an and banned Ahmadi publications, the use of any Islamic terminology on
Ahmadi Muslim wedding invitations, the offering of Ahmadi Muslim funeral
prayers, and the displaying of the kalima (i.e., the basic creed of a Muslim,
“There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”) on Ahmadi Muslim gravestones.
11 Id. at 288-299.
12 Press Release, Ahmadiyya Muslim Cmty. Four Ahmadi School Children And
An Adult Frivolously Booked and Arrested by the Police on False Accusation of
Blasphemy by Extremist Elements (Feb. 2, 2009), quoting BBC report,
http://www.thepersecution.org/case/case009.html; Amnesty Int’l, Report on
Pakistan (Sept. 1996), available at http://www.thepersecution.org/ai/a
2015 / Anti-Blasphemy Laws 5
For decades, Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws drew the ire of
international human rights activists and lawyers who scrutinized
the law’s constitutionality and their deadly reach on Pakistan’s religious minorities. But in 2010, the laws garnered wider global attention when Asia Bibi, a Christian, was sentenced to death for a
trivial offense, and two senior government officials within Pakistan, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti,
the minister of minorities affairs, were subsequently assassinated
for voicing their condemnation of the laws and support for Bibi. In
Taseer’s case, the assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, maintained the support
of over 500 Muslim clerics in Pakistan and was serenaded with
rose petals and praised for his “defense” of Islam as he entered the
court during his trial.13
Since 2010, extremists in Pakistan emboldened by Qadri
have continued their fight to safeguard Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy
laws. Indeed, Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), Pakistan’s most dangerous
terrorist organization, has made attacking blasphemy its raison
14 In 2010, TTP claimed responsibility for the massacre of
86 Ahmadi Muslims in Lahore.15 In 2013, TTP and its affiliates
were linked to the massacre of 127 Christians in Peshawar.16 TTP
routinely groups Ahmadi Muslims and Christians as “infidels” who
insult Islam. For example, in 2011, after claiming responsibility for
Minister Bhatti’s murder, TTP Punjab issued the following pam-
13 Associated Press, Lawyers shower roses for Governor’s killer, DAWN, Jan. 5,
2011, available at http://www.dawn.com/news/596300/lawyers-shower-rosesfor-governors-killer.
14 Amjad Mahmood Khan, Pakistan’s Dark Days: Terrorism and Blasphemy
Laws, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Dec. 17, 2014, available at http://www.foreignaffairs.
15 Jane Perlez, Pakistani Taliban Carried Out Attack on Lahore Mosques, Police
Say, N.Y. TIMES, May 29, 2010, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/
16 Saima Mohsin and Emily Lacey-Bordeaux, Suicide bombers kill 81 at church
in Peshawar, Pakistan, CNN, Sept. 23, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/22/
6 Harvard International Law Journal Online / Vol. 56
phlet addressed to “all the world’s infidels, crusaders, Jews and
their operatives within the Muslim brotherhood:” 17
In your fight against Allah, you have become so bold that
you act in favour of and support those who insult the
Prophet. And you put a cursed Christian infidel Shahbaz
Bhatti in charge of [the blasphemy laws review] committee.
This is the fate of that cursed man. And now, with the grace
of Allah, the warriors of Islam will pick you out one by one
and send you to hell, God willing.18
In 2012, one TTP spokesperson rallied all Muslim youth of Pakistan to fight blasphemy, saying: “Zionist and crusader enemies of
Islam are insulting the signs of Islam everywhere.”19 In 2014, TTP
sympathizers in Gujranwala burned down many homes in an Ahmadi-inhabited village over an allegedly blasphemous Facebook
posting, killing three, including an elderly woman and her two
young granddaughters.20 Even when TTP massacred 132 schoolchildren at an army base in Peshawar last December, it claimed
that it was to signal its opposition to the parents’ implicit support
for U.S.-backed drone attacks.21 Here, too, TTP’s justification was
apparent: silence those who threaten, however indirectly, Pakistan’s status as an Islamic state.22
17 Shehrbano Taseer, Pakistan Has Abdicated Its Responsibilities, THE GUARDIAN, Mar. 2, 2011, available at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/
2011/mar/02/salmaan-bhatti-blasphemy-assassination (quoting pamphlets signed
by Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab).
18 Id. 19 Blasphemous Film: TTP Urges Muslim Youth to Rise Up, BUS. RECORDER,
Sept. 16, 2012, http://www.brecorder.com/top-stories/0:/1237279:blasphemousfilm-ttp-urges-muslim-youths-to-rise-up/?date=2012-09-16 (quoting statements
from Taliban spokesman).
20 Waqar Gillani, 3 Killed in a Facebook Blasphemy Rampage in Pakistan, N.Y.
TIMES, July 28, 2014, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/29/world/
21 Sophia Saifi and Greg Botelho, In Pakistan school attack, Taliban terrorists
kill 145, mostly children, CNN, Dec. 17, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/
22 On May 13, 2015, armed gunmen intercepted a bus carrying Ismaili Muslims
in the Safoora Goth area in Karachi, Pakistan and massacred 43 of them, includ-
2015 / Anti-Blasphemy Laws 7
III. INDONESIA’S ANTI-BLASPHEMY LAW AND FRONT PEMBELA ISLAM (FPI)
Like Pakistan, Indonesia criminalizes and punishes blasphemy in a manner that has emboldened terrorism. On January 27,
1965, President Sukarno enacted Presidential Decree No.
1/PNPS/1965 on the Prevention of Blasphemy and Abuse of Religions (the “Blasphemy Law”). The Blasphemy Law, which took
effect in 1969, makes it unlawful “to, intentionally, in public,
communicate, counsel, or solicit public support for an interpretation of a religion or a form of religious activity that is similar to the
interpretations or activities of an Indonesian religion but deviates
from the tenets of that religion.”23 The Blasphemy Law “channel[s]
. . . religiosity” towards six (6) approved religions: “Islam,
[Protestant] Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and
Confucianism.”24 The Blasphemy Law establishes that the government will protect its official religions by punishing those who
insult approved religions and those who attempt to persuade others
to adhere to unofficial religions.25 Finally, the Blasphemy Law
places restrictions on those within each approved religion, making
it illegal to advocate “deviations from teachings of religion consid-
ing women. The Islamic State or “ISIS” in Pakistan claimed responsibility for
the attack, and in pamphlets found near the site, they invoke the specter of attacking blasphemy and apostasy: “With Allah’s grace, 43 apostates have been
killed and nearly 30 have been injured in an attack [carried out by] the soldiers
of the Islamic State [who targeted] a bus carrying Ismaili Shi’ite polytheists,
maligners of the wife of Prophet Muhammad, in the city of Karachi in Khurasan
province.” Tufali Ahmad, Massacre of Ismaili Muslims in Karachi Indicates
Islamic State’s Rise in Pakistan, RIGHT SIDE NEWS, May 15, 2015, available at
(emphasis added). The ISIS militants appear to have links with the TTP. Id.
23 Harris Zafar, Indonesia – Land of Tolerance or Terror? THE WORLD POST,
May 25, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harris-zafar/indonesia-land-oftoleran_b_821180.html; Law No. 1/PNPS/1965 was formalized as Law No.
5/1969 (hereinafter “The Blasphemy Law”), art 1.
24 The Blasphemy Law, supra note 22, Section II, art 1.
25 Id. at Section I(4).
8 Harvard International Law Journal Online / Vol. 56
ered fundamental by scholars of the relevant religion.”26 Article
156(a) of the Criminal Code – a complement to the 1965 Blasphemy Law – attaches a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment for intentionally criticizing or otherwise attempting to undermine the government’s officially recognized religions.27 The
article prohibits interpretations of religious doctrine that are “at
enmity . . . with a religion adhered to in Indonesia.”
For decades, the 1965 Blasphemy Law held mere symbolic
importance and was rarely enforced. But as religious extremism
gained ascendancy in Indonesia, the Law became a prominent tool
to squelch minority religious practices. In 1980, the top Muslim
clerical body in Indonesia – the Indonesian Council of Ulema
(MUI) – issued a fatwa (a legal opinion or decree announced by an
Islamic religious leader) declaring that Ahmadiyyat was not a legitimate form of Islam.29 Edicts issued by the MUI, while not legally
binding, carry persuasive weight and are followed by a majority of
Muslim followers. 30 Significantly, the Indonesian government
26 Id. In addition, the Blasphemy Law establishes civil and criminal penalties for
violations. On the first offense, the offender “shall be instructed and be warned
severely to cease his/her actions” by a minister of the federal government. On
the second offense, if the infraction is committed by an organization or an “aliran kepercayaan” (traditional religious practices of indigenous Indonesians), the
President of Indonesia may dissolve the organization and declare it to be
banned. Banned organizations have no legal personality, and therefore, may not
own property or legally practice their beliefs or exercise their convictions in
public. See Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Indonesia: A Resource Guide
from the Legal Training Institute, Spring 2010, available at http://www.becket
2011.pdf, at 6.
27 The Indonesian Penal Code, Article 156(a), 1987, available at http://www.
29 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor,
International Religious Freedom Report 2005 for Indonesia (2005), http://
30 Eric Unmacht, A Muslim Schism: Conservative Islamic Leaders Are Flexing
Their Muscles, NEWSWEEK, August 15, 2005, at pp. 1-2.
2015 / Anti-Blasphemy Laws 9
funds the MUI and appoints its members.31 In 2005, the MUI renewed its fatwa and also called for the outright ban of mixed-faith
marriages and interfaith prayers.32
The Indonesian Government’s continuing efforts to enforce
anti-blasphemy measures correspond with a rise in violence against
Ahmadi Muslims who are the direct target of those measures. On
June 9, 2008, Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Attorney
General and Minister of the Interior issued a Joint Decree entitled
“A Warning and Order to the followers, members, and/or leading
members of the Indonesia Ahmadiyya Jama’at (JAI) and to the
General Public.” The Joint Decree orders Ahmadi Muslims to “discontinue the promulgation of interpretations and activities that are
deviant from the principal teachings of Islam, that is to say the
promulgation of beliefs that recognize a prophet with all his teachings who comes after Prophet Muhammad (saw).”33 Violations of
the Joint Decree can result in prison sentences of up to five years.34
The Government of Indonesia defended the Joint Decree as preserving law and order. But the Joint Decree increased, rather than
deterred, violence against Ahmadi Muslims. According to the
Setara Institute, an NGO that monitors religious freedom, violence
against Ahmadi Muslims dramatically increased from fifteen incidents in 2008 to fifty in 2010.35 Moreover, the Decree has prompt-
31 Nancy-Amelia Collins, Strict Islamic Edicts Cause Concern in Indonesia,
VOICE OF AMERICA, Oct. 27, 2009, available at http://www.voanews.com/con
tent/a-13-2005-08-22-voa33-66393402/548532.html. 32 Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 – Indonesia,
Jan. 18, 2006, available at http://www.refworld.org/docid/43cfaea111.html.
33 Joint Decree of the Minister of Religious Affairs, the Attorney General and
the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Indonesia, A Warning and Order
to the followers, members, and/or leading members of the Indonesian Ahmadiyya Jama’at (JAI) and to the General Public, June 9, 2008, available at
35 Aubrey Belford, Indonesian Authorities Vow Inquiry After Attack, N.Y.
TIMES, Feb. 7, 2011, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/world/
10 Harvard International Law Journal Online / Vol. 56
ed numerous provincial bans of Ahmadi activities, now numbering
over 40 in all.36
The spike in violence against Ahmadi Muslims is directly
linked to the rise of one of Indonesia’s most violent extremist organizations, Front Pembela Islam (FPI) or “Islamic Defenders
Front.” Originally founded in 1998, FPI began as a socially conservative religious movement that has since maintained close support and links to key members of the Indonesian armed forces and
law enforcement.37 But buoyed by the MUI’s fatwas, FPI has made
the cause of protecting the Blasphemy Law – and, in turn, violently
suppressing the activities of religious minorities – its primary objective.38 It has been called a domestic terrorist organization.39
FPI actively supports the Blasphemy Law and the 2008
Ministerial Decree and acts as vigilantes to enforce the Law and
Decree against Ahmadi Muslims and other “deviant” religious
communities in Indonesia. In 2010, this support dramatically manifested itself during the course of a much-publicized legal proceeding in the Constitutional Court of Indonesia concerning the constitutionality of the Blasphemy Law. Members of the FPI attended
weekly court hearings, met with Indonesia’s President to voice
their support for the Blasphemy Law, and even violently attacked
the lawyers for the petitioners in the case.
40 When the Court upheld
36 Melissa Crouch, Religious Deviancy and Law, INSIDE INDONESIA, Jul. 2011,
37 Indonesian Police Used FPI as ‘Attack Dog’, Leaked US Cable Alleges, JAKARTA GLOBE, Sept. 3, 2011, available at http://thejakartaglobe.beritasatu.com/
38 Hate Speech and the Indonesia Islamic Defenders Front, Arizona State University Center for Strategic Communication (Sep. 6, 2012), available at
40 Human Rights Watch, Indonesia: Ruling a Setback for Religious Freedom
(Apr. 19, 2010), available at http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/04/19/indonesiacourt-ruling-setback-religious-freedom; Peter Gelling, Law Banning Blasphemy
Is Upheld in Indonesia, N.Y. TIMES, Apr. 19, 2010, available at http://www.
2015 / Anti-Blasphemy Laws 11
the constitutionality of the law in a much maligned 8-1 ruling, FPI
viewed the decision as vindication of its violent aims and activities.41 Indeed, in 2011, members of the FPI brutally bludgeoned to
death three Ahmadi Muslims in Cikeusik, Banten, after leading a
1,500-strong mob to stop allegedly blasphemous religious activities in a private home.42 The FPI perpetrators claimed responsibility for the crime (which was caught on video and shared globally
by Human Rights Watch), though they received light sentences.43
The FPI continues to perpetrate terrorist attacks in the name of
preventing alleged blasphemy against Islam.44
IV. NIGERIA’S ANTI-BLASPHEMY LAW AND BOKO HARAM
Unlike Pakistan and Indonesia, Nigeria has received less
international scrutiny for its blasphemy law. But the law, too, has
emboldened terrorists (Boko Haram, in particular) to commit
crimes against humanity with impunity. Nigeria has a national law
against blasphemy adjudicated by Customary Courts and Islamic
laws against blasphemy adjudicated by Sharia Courts in 12 northern states.45 Section 204 of Nigeria’s Criminal Code prohibits “an
act which any class of persons consider as a public insult on their
religion,” and stipulates a prison sentence of up to two years.46
Sharia Courts review matters concerning acts deemed as “insults”
41 Sarah Page, Indonesia Blasphemy Law a Weapon for Radical Islam, WORLD
WATCH MONITOR, May 12, 2011, https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2011/05-
42 Associated Press, Indonesian President Condemns Mob Killing of Ahmadiyah
Muslims, THE GUARDIAN, Feb. 7, 2011, available at http://www.theguardian.
43 Human Rights Watch, supra note 40.
44 Maulana Bachtiar, The Growing Influence of FPI and its Impact on Indonesia,
JAKARTA GLOBE, Oct. 30, 2013, available at http://thejakartaglobe.beritasatu.
com/blogs/the-growing-influence-of-fpi-and-its-impact-on-indonesia/. 45 National Laws on Blasphemy: Nigeria, Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace
and World Affairs, http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/essays/national-lawson-blasphemy-nigeria.
12 Harvard International Law Journal Online / Vol. 56
to Muslims and may impose capital punishment.47 Most blasphemy
accusations are made by Muslims against Christians and frequently
trigger mob violence before any official actions like police arrests
and judicial trials can be taken. Thus, blasphemy is primarily a
driver of sectarian violence rather than legal proceedings in the Nigerian context.48 In recent years, blasphemy-related events include
several deadly Muslim riots over alleged insults to Prophet Muhammad or the Qur’an.49
But perhaps the most explosive outgrowth of Nigeria’s
blasphemy law appears to be the meteoric rise of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram – literally “Western education is forbidden or blasphemous” – began a militant Islamist campaign in July 2009 (having run largely as a political movement since 2002).50 In its fiveyear insurgency, Boko has killed some 16,000 people and displaced a million more.51 It thrives on defending Islam from “false
Muslims” who corrupt or blaspheme Islam.52 It has employed censorious tactics and violence to entrench an Islamic government and
purge Nigeria of infidels.53 It labels education and democracy as
47 Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Nigeria: Whether Muslim clerics, groups or governmental authorities issue death sentences for blasphemy; if so, who has the right to issue and enforce such sentences; whether
such sentences would extend to family members; in particular, whether there are
death sentences issued by individuals who are not part of Sharia courts within
states that are not officially applying Sharia law, Sept. 21, 2010,
NGA103574.E, available at http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e4a20652.html.
50 PAUL MARSHALL & NINA SHEA, SILENCED: HOW APOSTASY & BLASPHEMY
CODES ARE CHOKING FREEDOM WORLDWIDE 137–38 (2011).
51 Freedom of Speech: The Sound of Silence, ECONOMIST, Jan. 24, 2015, available at http://www.economist.com/news/international/21640324-reactions-parisattacks-highlight-threats-free-expression-around-world.
52 Curbing Violence in Nigeria (II): The Boko Haram Insurgency, International
Crisis Group, Apr. 3, 2014, available at http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regi
53 MARSHALL & SHEA, supra note 50.
2015 / Anti-Blasphemy Laws 13
threats to Islam. Not surprisingly, its fiercest grip is in those regions in Nigeria where shariah can punish blasphemy by death.54
Nigeria’s blasphemy law and related self-censorship tactics
have created an environment of fear. For example, the Government
has punished speech that comments on the sufficiency of its own
response to Boko.55 The country’s blasphemy criminal apparatus
has therefore had the perverse effect of not only emboldening terrorists like Boko but also stifling any meaningful counter-narrative
or credible opposition. Put differently, Boko enjoys the legal cover
of the blasphemy law to commit mass crimes against humanity
In Pakistan, Indonesia, and Nigeria – as may be true of other countries with anti-blasphemy laws – terrorism and blasphemy
are inextricably intertwined. Global counter-terrorism must not neglect the vital significance of anti-blasphemy laws in the Islamic
world, which give oxygen to groups like TTP, FPI and Boko Haram. The blasphemy criminal apparatus can embolden terrorists to
commit crimes against humanity with impunity. Any multi-party
international strategy to curb extremism must evaluate how terrorists use the cause and cover of anti-blasphemy laws to legitimize
their ambitions and objectives. Efforts to repeal or reform such
laws can be a critical step in delegitimizing the most dangerous
organizations in the world.
54 Drew Hinshaw, Boko Haram Tightens Grip on Northern Nigeria Region,
WALL STREET JOURNAL, June 4, 2014, available at http://www.wsj.com/artic
55 THE ECONOMIST, supra note 51.
Links and Related Essay’s
I have written how this pattern isn’t coincidental; the proliferation of blasphemy laws correlates to terrorists and mob syndicates committing crimes with impunity: https://t.co/bHfJMajsDN https://t.co/4gKiiyR5bB
— Amjad Mahmood Khan (@AmjadMKhanEsq) February 12, 2023
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