How benighted is Pakistan? Check out Akbar S. Ahmed’s article on Pakistan’s incredible blasphemy laws. He begins with the story of Mohammad Younas Sheikh, who is currently rotting in a prison, awaiting execution:
Sheikh’s problems began in October 2000 when he made some innocuous remarks about the origins of Islam. Muslims believe that the Koran came to the prophet Muhammad as a revelation when he was 40. In response to a student’s question, Sheikh said that before he was 40, Muhammad was neither a prophet nor a Muslim, as there was no Islam. For those Muslims who believe his prophethood was divinely preordained, this was blasphemous. The students took the matter to some local mullahs, who in their role as religious leaders registered a case with the police. Matters then moved rapidly and, as in such cases, with a certain inexorability.