In a four-part series of articles this year, Pakistani researcher and activist Arafat Mazhar has outlined his case for why he believes his Islamic faith does not support the popular claims in Pakistan that the country’s blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty, is based on the religion of Islam:
Mazhar is also founder of an organization, Engage Pakistan, dedicated to reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The website for Engage explains, “The mass support for this narrative,” supporting the blasphemy law in Pakistan, “makes it a potent legal instrument for intimidation, violence and enacting personal vendettas, and specific persecution of minorities. We are attempting to deconstruct the law and its surrounding social narrative through the framework that informs it,” i.e. through the framework of Islamic law in the Hanafi school of jurisprudence which is dominant among Sunni Muslims in Pakistan.
The website further explains that Pakistan’s blasphemy law, “has gathered mass support through its conceptualization as a divine decree that cannot be tampered with.” The Engage Pakistan website highlights that whereas previous attempts at reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy law have pitted religion against secularism, this effort by Engage is by contrast coming from within the Islamic tradition. Engage exists to foster an internal Muslim-to-Muslim dialogue among Sunni Muslims in Pakistan about this law.
Arafat Mazhar is not alone as a Muslim in his support for religious freedom. For example, he serves together with other Muslims on the Advisory Council of the Islam and Religious Freedom Project whose website provides access to media by Muslims across the globe supporting religious freedom.