Recently the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority made a decision to ban perceived "obscene" messages:
Michelle Chaudhry Executive member of The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) and Executive Director of Iris Foundation commented;
THERE has been much talk about PTA’s intention to block text messages
containing ‘obscene’ words. More than 1,600 words have apparently been declared
obscene, indecent, vulgar and offensive by the PTA, and telecom operators would
be required to filter these words out of text messages.
Among the proposed list of ‘obscene and indecent words’ I was horrified to
see the name of Jesus Christ. Why does Jesus’ name need to be banned? Is it an
abusive, obscene or indecent word?
Being a Catholic I not only take strong offence to this action, however it
also questions my knowledge of Islam: a religion which holds Jesus Christ
(Hazrat Eesa) in very high esteem, is this not against Islam?
There has also been much talk about taking legal action: challenging the ban
in court, saying it violates rights to free speech and privacy.
My question is, does this act not also fall under the ambit of blasphemy? Is
this not an offence under Section 295A which, according to the Pakistan Penal
Code, states: “Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious
feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”.
Whether implemented or not, the mere fact of Jesus Christ’s name being
grouped with obscene and indecent words, has outraged my religious feelings and
has insulted my religious beliefs by terming the name of my Prophet ‘obscene and
Is to be understood that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws termed as ‘divine laws’ by
radical Islamic religious leaders are only to be used to victimise the
vulnerable, downtrodden, marginalised, religious minorities in Pakistan?
The blasphemy laws have long been misused against religious minorities to
settle personnel disputes, which have resulted in innocent victims being
sentenced to death for crimes they could not even imagine committing.
Furthermore, anyone who dares to raise a voice against the misuse of these
laws or who have tried to propose amendments to curb the misuse have ruthlessly
been silenced. The assassinations of Federal Minister for minorities Shahbaz
Bhatti and Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer are two such recent examples.
We, the religious minorities, get discriminated against, and are victimised,
our religious sentiments are hurt and nothing happens, no action is taken.
Although the PTA has not announced any date for the implementation of the
ban, it must issue a public apology to Christian citizens of Pakistan for
including Jesus Christ’s name in the list of offensive words and immediately
have the name removed from any such list.
I would also like to commend the action taken by Saleem Khurshid Khokhar, a
Christian MPA of the Sindh Assembly and Senior Executive Member of The All
Pakistan Minorities Alliance, on this issue.