In some countries, you can die for speaking your mind

If you think that Singapore is far too authoritarian, has no freedom of speech and no freedom of thought… well, here’s a real reminder that it is actually not that bad here.

In Pakistan, even a poem sent over WhatsApp can be deadly.

On September 14 2017, a court in Gujrat district, Punjab province sentenced to death Nadeem James, a 35-year-old Christian, for sending a poem to a friend that was deemed insulting to Islam. James denies ever having sent the message.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are not new. However, the increasing use of blasphemy legislation to jail and prosecute people for comments made on social media is growing. Even mere accusations alone can be deadly. Since 1990, at least 60 people accused of blasphemy have been murdered.

Many have been passed a death sentence for mere online comments:

In June, Taimoor Raza, 30, was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in Bahawalpur district for allegedly making blasphemous comments during a Facebook chat.

In April 2014, a Christian couple were sentenced to death for sending a blasphemous text message to a local cleric. The couple claimed that they were illiterate and could not have sent a blasphemous text in English.

Junaid Hafeez, a university professor, has been imprisoned for nearly four years facing a possible death sentence for accusations of sharing blasphemous material online. Hafeez’s lawyer was murdered in May 2014.

So if you think that Singapore is bad, look abroad and then look within…and then ask these questions: Why do we have these laws? Do our punishments suit the crime? Are our defendants allowed a proper trial and defence? Do we have these laws for security and stability, or for the benefit of organisations? 

Think about it…

 

About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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