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Digital rights group appeals use of blasphemy law against teenager

This statement was originally published on digitalrightsfoundation.pk on 25 September 2016.

The blasphemy law has taken yet another prisoner in Pakistan. A teenage Christian boy has been arrested for what is being called a 'blasphemous' Facebook post.

The Digital Rights Foundation would like to issue an official appeal and ask for not just leniency but also some humanity. It should not be this easy to extinguish a life like this. Digital platforms are now increasingly becoming a den of hate and this culture needs to be put to a rest.

The teen in question - Nabeel Chohan - is currently in jail awaiting trial. While some reports have said that he is a 16-year-old minor, others have suggested that the boy is 18 years of age. His crime? 'Liking' a post on Facebook.

Pakistan has had a tumultuous relationship with the law, which in the past has been used as an excuse to selectively target minorities. In 2014, another 'blasphemous' post on Facebook had led to the targeting of the community in Gujranwala. Property was burned down, while many were subjected to violence. 2014 also saw the case of a Christian couple beaten to death by a mob after it was claimed that they had desecrated the Quran, with absolutely no evidence.

The complaint lodged cites hurt religious sentiments, and the desecration of a religious place. The questions we must raise are: why are religious sentiments so weak as to be damaged by a Facebook post, and in the same vein, can a religious place truly be hurt by the internet?

It is no secret that the law is used mostly against minorities, with many using it to settle personal scores rather than address actual blasphemy.

The Digital Rights Foundation has made an effort to bring to light the impact that Blasphemy in the Digital Age can have on human rights.

We must stop the persecution of our minorities through flawed and draconian laws. The state has a responsibility to ensure freedom and liberty to all its citizens, and laws such as the Blasphemy Law require a deeper look as to the utility they possess for the specific function they are meant to serve.

We must make an effort to #SaveNabeel. A young man's future and life is at stake, and there is no bigger tragedy than seeing a life full of potential fall prey to laws that do nothing to help us progress as a society and people.

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