Pakistan has reportedly accused an Islamic extremist imam of “hate speech” for accusing activists of committing blasphemy and has ordered the radical to apologize in an apparent effort to portray the Muslim-majority country as tolerant towards minorities.
In an unusual move, Islamabad’s Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) recently declared that a radical Islamic preacher committed “hate speech” by accusing some bloggers and human rights activist of an act of blasphemy.
PEMRA’s decision to discipline the radical imam turned TV host — Amir Liaquat — came as Islamabad is pushing the U.S. company Facebook to remove all blasphemous content that can be accessed by its Pakistani customers.
Imam Liaquat reportedly has until the end of this month to apologize to the activists if he wants to avoid PEMRA imposing a ban on his television show.
The Associated Press (AP) reports:
Pakistan’s media watchdog has imposed a fine and sought an on-air and written apology from a radical Islamic preacher-turned TV host for accusing five bloggers and human right activists of committing blasphemy in his show in January.
In a statement, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, or PEMRA, said Amir Liaquat was found guilty of making a hate speech against the five activists… The five men briefly went missing in January amid allegations some of them were linked to the sharing of content against Islam and the Pakistan military.
Despite ordering the Islamic zealot preacher to apologize to the five men, the activists still have not been cleared of any wrongdoing and may very well still face blasphemy charges.
“Pakistan says it is still investigating the matter [whether they shared blasphemous content on social media] with help from Facebook and Twitter,” notes AP. The decision to continue the alleged blasphemy probe comes as Islamabad has placed the social media site Facebook at the epicenter of its war against blasphemy. Pakistani government officials have demanded that Facebook block content Islamabad considers blasphemous from appearing in the predominantly Muslim nation.
Facebook, conceived in the United States where the First Amendment is one of the major tenets of the Constitution and American society, has reportedly begun to acquiesce to Pakistan’s demands. Islamabad considers Facebook’s decision to reportedly remove “85 per cent of anti-Islamic content from Pakistan in the last few weeks” as a victory of their struggle against blasphemy.
In Pakistan, the government has at times sanctioned the persecution of religious minorities and used judicial courts to manipulate blasphemy laws to punish members of minority groups, particularly Christians.
Coincidentally, the recent move to order the extremist to apologize comes as Pakistan is trying to convince Facebook to remove content Islamabad deems blasphemous from being accessed in Pakistan, a request that the American company has reportedly obeyed.
In another publicized move described as rare by various media outlets, Pakistan’s ministry of interior publicly allowed Fishel Benkhald, a 29-year-old from Karachi dubbed the “last Jew” in the country, to convert from Islam to Judaism.
Of course, most of the nearly eradicated Jewish community in the country, numbering at least 200, still live in fear, pretending to be members of non-Jewish minority communities.
In any case, Benkhald has been told he will be able to identify as a Jew on his national identity documents issued by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA)
However, the Press Trust of India (PTI) concedes, “Although the interior ministry has given the green signal, NADRA has yet to issue a smart card after correcting Benkhald’s religion.”
The Pakistani legal code provides for the use of capital punishment against anyone deemed to insult Muhammad. When the death penalty is not carried out by authorities as mandated by law, Islamic extremist vigilantes often take the law into their own hands.