Asia Bibi Case Verdict: Fallacious Arguments And Our National Mindset
The Supreme Court of Pakistan, the leading judicial body of Pakistan, recently announced the verdict in the Asia Bibi case which made waves across Pakistan and the whole world.
The case was interesting due to two factors. It was the first time in history that a woman was facing charges of blasphemy. Secondly, the killings of former Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer and former Minister for Religious Affairs, Shahabaz Bhatti, had been associated with it. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines blasphemy as reverence for God or something considered sacred or inviolable, or irreverence towards the act of insulting or showing contempt.
Blasphemy made its way into the English language in the 13th century and for the first several hundred years of its life had but a single meaning, “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God”. By the early 17th century, it began to be applied figuratively to irreverence for things held in great respect that were not necessarily divine in nature, as in the phrase, “a blasphemy against friendship”.
Blasphemy also shares roots with blame; both words may be traced to the Greek word blasphēmein (to speak ill of, blaspheme). Even though these words may be connected, they have diverged sufficiently over centuries and the meanings are now quite distinct.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan headed by the Chief Justice acquitted Asia Bibi accused of blasphemy charges after an trial lasting 8 years. The dispute had been started by Muslim women over a cup of water while they were working with her in the fields in 2009. The Supreme Court in its verdict observed that there was no proof or evidence of a blasphemous act being committed. The court raised the following questions:
- Who informed the complainants about the occurrence of such an act?
- Who was present at the time of disclosure regarding the allegation made against the appellant?
- How many people were present at the time of the claimed public gathering?
- Where did the public gathering take place?
- What was the distance between the place of the public gathering and the house of the appellant?
- Who brought the appellant to the public gathering and how?
I am a student of linguistics and logic but I also tend to read the public’s response over social media. I observed that a majority of people was not acquainted with the proper facts of the case. The arguments that the people had raised stemmed from ignorance. This was a fallacy in which a conclusion had drawn up by an illegitimate appeal to ignorance and a Supreme Court verdict had been rejected and considered false.
Another fallacy on part of the public was the appeal to emotion, fear, force, threat, pity, and likeness, etc. The religious sentiment found in our society relies upon emotion, lacks reasoning, and consequently results in a blind following of a religious leader’s statements, announcements and justifications.
The third fallacy on part of the public had to do with making arguments against the judge rather than exploring the merits of the case. In the Asia Bibi case, a major problem had been found in factual matters. The Chief Justice had categorically explained the points which were weak and dubious, yet the public still personally criticized him. The emotional and abusive language used against the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan is a prime example of targeting persons rather than arguments.
Another fallacy has to do with the ‘straw man’ theory, which is when the position of an opponent is misrepresented and exaggerated to be extreme and unreasonable, often due to political interests.
All these fallacies have been committed due to our mindset and this mindset has developed through our education system in which the curriculum plays the role of a catalyst. The fallacious language used and the argumentation put forward, both represent our national mindset. Therefore, it is time to change this mindset by restructuring our education system and designing a new, dynamic and progressive curriculum with logical reasoning and critical thinking as compulsory subjects at all levels of education, augmented by the correct and effective use of language, in order to prepare our younger generations for future challenges. I firmly believe that education is the influential vehicle which can drive socio-economic changes in our society since all nations are judged by their literacy and ability to take decisions. The aforementioned will not only empower the youth, but will also prepare the nation towards better decision making.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which he might be associated.