The religion of peace and love, Rawalpindi branch, has sentenced a seventy-one year old Edinburgh man to death for his claiming to be the prophet Mohammad. Mr Asghar is indeed called Mohammad, and he is also a paranoid schizophrenic. His illness was first diagnosed in 1993 and it was made worse when he suffered a stroke in 2000 and he has form when it comes to making outrageous claims – such as that he has been spied on by intelligence agents of Tony Blair and George W Bush – claims immediately refuted by the understanding that Blair is too busy making money to spy on anyone; and Bush doesn’t know what intelligence means. The Pakistan courts have overruled the clinical diagnosis and declared Mr Asghar to be of sound mind. Really? Would anyone of sound mind claim to be the prophet Mohammad?
But this has little to do with persecuting a particular old and very ill man. It is only the latest case in the recent history of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws which are invoked by corrupt practitioners of the said religion of peace and love who covet the wealth or property of Christians and other non-believers and use a twisted legal system to get what they want. This is barbarism in practice and it is widespread over there. For instance, in 2012 Rimsha Masih, a fourteen year old Christian girl with learning difficulties, was imprisoned after being accused – falsely – of setting fire to pages of the Koran. It strikes me that it’s the Shariah authorities and the crooked Pakistani lawyers who have learning difficulties.
I can understand and sympathise with religious people when they are distressed by what they regard as blasphemous insults to traditional faith. I sympathise because I feel like that myself – every time the Church of England brings out a new revised, alternative form of service containing no Christian content whatever. But I would not seek the death penalty for the numbskull, tin-eared members of the liturgical commission who produce this pathetic stuff. I get aerated whenever – almost every week – a bishop writes in the paper or comes on Thought for the Day to interpret the Gospel entirely in terms of the false, secular gospel of the socialised state. But I wouldn’t wish to put these defaulters up against a wall and shoot them. Well, perhaps just one or two of them now and again, pour encourager les autres.