The dangers of ignoring ‘malicious intent’ while accusing of ‘injuring religious sentiments’

Shaheen Dhada, left, and Renu Srinivasan, who were arrested for their Facebook posts, leave a court in Mumbai on Nov 20, 2012. AP photo

Shaheen Dada (left) and Renu Srinivasan were arrested last Monday, seen here leaving a court in Mumbai on Nov 20, 2012. AP photo

Some thoughts on ‘blasphemy’ and the issue of ‘injuring religious sentiments’, in this somewhat belated blog post, which includes ‘Malicious Intent’, an article I wrote for The New Humanist on the blasphemy issue (abridged from the original article; scroll down for references that had to be deleted for reasons of space). Since then, in a move that was widely welcomed, the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court quashed the First Information Report (FIR) of the “blasphemy” case registered against the minor Christian girl Rimsha Masih. Here is the link to a downloadable PDF copy of the judgment, dated Nov 14, 2012 - IHC verdict on the Rimsha case.

Meanwhile, in India, as the death of the aged Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray sparked off fears of violence, police arrested a young woman who posted a facebook status objecting to the ‘bandh’ (strike) that shut Mumbai down, and a friend who ‘liked’ the status. Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan were charged under Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code – “injuring religious sentiments”; Section 295-A, as I explain in my article below, is also the basis of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws. Continue reading

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