Taimoor Raza, a 30-year-old Shia Muslim from a “poor but literate” family, was sentenced to death in June by an anti-terrorist court in Pakistan. His crime? Allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad on Facebook.
It occurred during an online debate with a man who turned out to be an undercover counter-terrorism agent. His death sentence, the first to result from a social media posting, is an extreme example of the Pakistani government’s escalating battle to enforce its blasphemy laws, which criminalize insulting Islam.
Established under British colonial rule, the laws have been criticized by both religious and secular reformers, who argue that they are used to persecute minorities, settle personal scores and stifle debate.