This man was sentenced to death for sending an offensive WhatsApp message in Pakistan
When you don't have unconditional freedom of speech, you have tyranny. When the state can prosecute individuals for speech, society itself is a pretense - a false mask, a mirage of lies rather than anything approximating the expression of real, authentic thoughts.
I can't imagine how frustrating it would be to get arrested for saying something critical of a religion, government, corporation or person. Such a society would be best described as a sham. Most of all, it indicates fear. When certain ideas are censored, it only shows that the establishment of that particular country is terrified of being proven dead wrong. They need to use force to pretend that their ideas are good - lest someone reveal that the emperor has no clothes.
Nadeem James, a 35-year-old Christian living in Pakistan, was sentenced to death for saying something blasphemous about the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, on WhatsApp. He was arrested last July, after a 'close friend' told authorities and accused him of blasphemy.
We don't know what the content of the text is, but it doesn't matter. If you're not free to criticize Islam or Muhammad, especially in a country where Islamic ideology is codified into law, you are not a citizen, but a subject of unaccountable authority. You have no freedom whatsoever.
Nadeem James' lawyer, Riaz Anjum, intends to appeal the verdict.
Last April, a student named Mashal Khan was beaten to death at a Pakistani university following a debate about religion in the dorm. Over 20 students were arrested, but the law is never consistent in a country without true individual human rights. Had the student not been beaten, if he had simply said the wrong thing, it would have been the government pummeling him.
A Punjab governor tried to reform blasphemy laws in 2011, but he was assassinated, and the man who killed him was celebrated as a hero by a large minority of extreme Islamist hardliners.
The true martyr is someone who literally dies for their words, but it's unacceptable that this is still the case anywhere in the 21st century. When you hand the government control over who gets to say what, this is the type of thing that follows.
Legislating offensive content will never work, because if the government is anything less than perfect, then legitimate speech will be considered 'hateful' or 'offensive' and the new censored society will resemble a pacified dystopia. Worse, those with 'hateful' views will totally fade out of society, preferring violence or extralegal methods to express their views.
You can't sublimate what people think into nothing. You can't control humankind by controlling speech. And if you even want to, well, we're glad you're not up there legislating speech. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, then power over speech corrupts speech. 'Legal' speech becomes a lie, a face designed to build an identity as a law-abiding citizen.
It's just so sad. We hope James can appeal it, but he'll have to argue, as per the corrupt law, that he did not commit blasphemy. What if he did, with the way the term is defined? Broken laws create broken people.