It all started when a 15-year-old boy attended an evening prayer gathering at a mosque in the village of Khanqah, Pakistan. Anwar Ali is an extremely devout son of a poor laborer, and more than anything he is committed to pleasing both his elders and Allah.
At one point, Imam Shabir Ahmad asked the followers to raise their hands if they didn’t love Prophet Muhammad. Ali misheard the question and thought the imam asked for those in the group to raise their hand if they did love the prophet.
In response to the boy’s mistake, the imam completely went off his rocker and denounced the boy as a blasphemer. When this accusation is made of a person in Pakistan, it is grounds for a person to be killed — regardless if the accusation is true or false.
As the Imam shouted “blasphemer” in front of the crowd, the embarrassed boy left as quickly as he could.
Ali arrived at his home, immediately grabbed a scythe, and hacked off his right hand. That evening, he went to the cleric and offered him his hand in repentance.
After the incident was reported to the police, the mullah was arrested. Rather than standing up for the boy, local religious leaders held a protest. The authoritise finally backed down and released him.
The news leaked beyond the country via international media, and the authorities rearrested him.
According to district police chief, Faisal Rana, “There is no physical evidence against the cleric of involvement, but he has been charged for inciting and arousing the emotions of people to such a level that the boy did this act.”
The boy’s family also supports the cleric and asserts that Ahmad didn’t do anything wrong.
Ali’s father told the New York Times, in a phone interview, “We are lucky we have this son who loves Prophet Muhammad that much. We will be rewarded by God for this in the eternal world.”
To top things off, the boy made the following statement: “What I did was for the love of the Prophet Muhammad.”
Rather than lamenting the loss of his hand, Ali and his family buried it in their backyard and celebrated his sacrifice.
Human rights experts are floored over the situation, suggesting it’s only the tip of the iceberg where blasphemy accusations are concerned.
In various factions of Islam, blasphemy charges have as much or more power than that of the law. How does a society in which church and state are so closely tied together not face these challenges on a daily basis?
Which entity is more powerful — the law or the religious backbone of the society?
In the case of Ali, there are some fuzzy lines at play. You have a boy who will do nearly anything to show Allah that his heart is pure. You also have a cleric who has so much power over the people who look over him — he has even more power than the law. And finally, you have a local legal authorities who are obviously afraid/intimidated by extreme religious leaders.
This makes it quite obvious that the religious extremists have the ultimate power. As long as the people and the law fear (and even revere) them, you can expect much to change.