by Graeme Wood
Pakistan's Zardari government, apparently in need of more religious controversy, is moving to alter its blasphemy law. The law forbids insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, and the penalty can include death.
Blasphemy convictions are common in Pakistan, although the death sentence has never been carried out. Most convictions are thrown out on appeal or because of lack of evidence.
Christians have long complained about the law because it offers no protection if a Muslim accuses them of violations such as tearing a page of the Quran, and many accusations are levelled to settle personal scores. Just making an accusation is usually considered sufficient evidence to register a case.
Blasphemy defendants may often get acquitted, but they are also frequently beaten to death in prison.
Qamar David, a Pakistani Christian who for some reason sent out text messages insulting Muhammad, was just sentenced to life in prison and fined $1200. The Republic of Ireland is less forgiving of its blasphemers, monetarily; the fine there is $34,000.