May 30, 2014
By Asma Uddin, Legal Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
The conflict between religious freedom and blasphemy laws in Pakistan is a source of constant concern for the international community. Not only are the blasphemy laws in Pakistan outrageous in themselves, but they are also applied unfairly by those with an agenda, and even the act of defending someone who has been accused of blasphemy has come to be seen as a crime.
All of these elements are evident in the May 7, 2014 murder of human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman, who was killed for defending poet and Fulbright scholar Junaid Hafeez against allegations of blasphemy. Hafeez, a professor, was accused by his students of insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Facebook. The accusations were baseless, but as with most cases of blasphemy charges in Pakistan, no real evidence was needed. He was charged by the police, defenseless without a lawyer. Rehman, special coordinator at Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, agreed to represent Hafeez in court, knowing the decision would put his life in danger.