‘Anyone can kill me’: lawyer battles Pakistan blasphemy laws

Saif-ul-Mulook, a Pakistani lawyer for Christian mother Asia Bibi, arrives at the Supreme Court in Islamabad on October 31, 2018. Pakistan's Supreme Court on October 31 overturned the conviction of a Christian mother facing execution for blasphemy in a landmark case which has incited deadly violence and reached as far as the Vatican. (AFP / AAMIR QURESHI)
Updated 01 November 2018

‘Anyone can kill me’: lawyer battles Pakistan blasphemy laws

ISLAMABAD: After saving condemned Christian Asia Bibi from the gallows in Pakistan, her lawyer says he is facing the wrath of Islamist extremists — and wonders who will save him.
But despite the threats against him, Saif-ul-Mulook says he regrets nothing, and will continue his legal fight against intolerance.
Mulook’s latest victory saw the freeing of Asia Bibi — a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, who spent nearly a decade on death row — after the Supreme Court overturned her conviction Wednesday.
“The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings,” he told AFP immediately after the verdict.
“This is the biggest and happiest day of my life.”
Demonstrations against the ruling erupted across the country hours later, with extremists calling for mutiny against the army’s top brass, and for the assassination of Supreme Court justices.
Blasphemy is a highly inflammatory charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even the slightest whiff of insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad can incite vigilante mobs.
Mulook said he feels he is now a sitting duck with no security or escape plan.
“I think I have absolutely no safety. No security and I am the easiest target... anybody can kill me,” he said.
The defense of Bibi was just the latest in a long line of controversial cases taken up by the barrister.
In 2011, Mulook was the lead prosecutor against Mumtaz Qadri over the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer — a prominent critic of the country’s blasphemy laws and supporter of Bibi.
Qadri — one of Taseer’s bodyguards — gunned down his boss in broad daylight, citing the governor’s calls for reform of the blasphemy laws as his motive.
Mulook said he took on the case as others cowered, fearing reprisals from extremists.
His prosecution resulted in the conviction and subsequent execution of Qadri, who was feted by Islamists and later honored with a shrine on the outskirts of Islamabad.
Mulook says his life has not been the same since; he rarely socializes, lives in a constant state of hypervigilance and has been inundated with threats.
“If you conduct such cases you should be ready for the results and the consequences,” the greying 62-year-old explains.
But Mulook said the risks have been worth the reward.
“I think it’s better to die as a brave and strong man than to die as a mouse and fearful person,” he said.
“I extend my legal help to all people.”


Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

Updated 24 min 13 sec ago

Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

  • Service attracts more than 10,000 subscribers since July

KUALA LUMPUR: Netflix could soon have competition from a homegrown entertainment platform in Malaysia which, its makers say, will cater to Muslims’ “halal TV” needs based on Islamic values.

Dubbed “Nurflix,” the platform is Malaysia’s first Shariah-compliant streaming service and has attracted more than 10,000 subscribers since July.

Nurflix is the creation of Syah Rizal Mohamed, who wants to produce and release original content for the platform before its official launch in January.

“We spent $9.7 million for the startup, but the company will produce 1,000 (items of) original content in multiple categories like mainstream, educational, spiritual and motivational and kids, with about 12,000 episodes in the first five years of operating,” the 43-year-old CEO told Arab News.

He also plans for Nurflix to acquire content from local and international producers, as long as they align with the service’s production guidelines, with a focus on markets in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore before setting up internationally.

“We see ourselves covering the Southeast Asian region in the next five years with our readiness to establish hubs in the Middle East and Europe to gain traction in the international market.”

He said the decision to tap into the streaming service market was driven by the rapid growth of video-on-demand media and consumers choosing this, as well as over-the-top subscription services, as their main form of entertainment. 

Consumers agreed that there was a market for a halal content platform.

“The Islamic streaming service just enriches the Islamic entertainment ecosystem because there is a niche for it,” 25-year-old public relations executive Puteri N. Balqis told Arab News.

Media consultant Amir Hadi Azmi said a Shariah-compliant streaming service was an interesting niche, particularly for more conservative users, but that the concept was not unique to Islam or Muslims.

“In America, for example, there is a service called Pure Flix which caters to more conservative Christian viewers,” he told Arab News.

Amir Muhammad, managing director of Kuman Pictures, said that as a producer, the more outlets that were made available to content producers and filmmakers, the better. Kuman Pictures, which is known for releasing horror and thriller content, could create appropriate content if need be.

“I have not seen their actual guidelines, but if they want halal horror, we will give them halal horror,” he told Arab News.

The Nurflix CEO said there would be a Content Advisory Council and that it would be headed and supervised by Habib Ali Zaenal Abidin Al Hamid and the Honorable Ustaz Raja Ahmad Mukhlis.

“Productions, including third-party content providers, will be monitored by the council to ensure the end product abides by the set guidelines. Nurflix is unique in the market because it is not just offering Islamic-guided content. The production will be monitored by the council to ensure all aspects of work are conducted in a Shariah-compliant manner.”

Although there is no formal collaboration with the Islamic Affairs Department, he said that Nurflix’s ideas and concepts had already been shared with Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

When contacted by Arab News, the director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development Paimuzi Yahya said his department was still working on “collaborating with the streaming service” and declined to comment further.