The name of ISLAM is tarnished once again throughout the world following the gruesome beheading of the the school teacher in Paris,France, murder of 3 innocent worshippers in a Church in Nice,France,four murders in Vienna Austria and a recent radical islamists threat to Austrian Interior minister and his family. This wave of terrorism started following the showing of the Cartoon of prophet Muhammed(pbuh) - an act of blasphemy.
Please read my attached article "The correct way to deal with Blasphemy" published in "HORIZON" an ISNA publication
your comments will be appreciated
The Correct Way to Deal with Blasphemy
Anti-blasphemy laws actually increase the number of alleged blasphemy cases
M Basheer Ahmed M D.
Punishing alleged blasphemers violates the Quranic and Prophetic teachings. In fact, people who seek to “protect” God or His Messenger via lynching or issuing death threats are themselves an insult to Islam and the Prophet.
“When it comes to blasphemy cases, even if the court declares you innocent, public sentiments are so high that they’d deliver their own verdict and be the judge, the jury and the witness, resulting in mob-killings.” BBC, “The Accused: Damned or Devoted?” February 2020
Angelina E. Theodorou writes that as of 2014, 26 percent of the world’s countries and territories had anti-blasphemy laws or policies (Pew Research Center, “Which countries still outlaw apostasy and blasphemy?”).
In a number of (formerly) Christian-majority states, such laws may criminalize abusive or scurrilous speech about Christianity and often other religions and their adherents, because such incidents “have the tendency to lead to a breach of peace” (Kamran Hashemi, “Religious Legal Traditions, International Human Rights Law and Muslim States,” 2008, p. 45).
However, the injudicious application of these laws and policies often defeats the intended objectives. Consider the British colonial era the Indian Penal Code, which remains in force in India and Pakistan. It was ostensibly enacted in 1860 to create harmony among the Subcontinent’s diverse populations through a uniform application of the law. Rising communal tensions during the 1920s due to various Hindu and Muslim revivalist movements, in 1927 the relevant laws were amended largely to maintain public order.
The British-era section 295A, which includes an anti-blasphemy law, of the [now] Indian [Pakistani and Myanmar] penal code, has not been repealed. Both India and Pakistan have used it to prevent a free and honest discussion on religious issues, a policy that threatens free expression.
Muslim scholars define blasphemy as insulting or showing disrespect, contempt or lack of reverence to God, Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alyahi wa sallam), the Quran and the prophets mentioned therein. The five main jurisprudential schools -- Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi, Hanbali and Ja‘fari -- regard it as a capital offense. Hanafi, Shafi, and Jafari scholars pardon those who repent; Maliki scholars do not.
Let us consider the case of Pakistan as an example. During 1987 to 2017, more than 1,500 cases were registered in Pakistan and some 75 extrajudicial killings have occurred. The ongoing Junaid Hafeez case illustrates the dichotomy between the Quran and the juristic position.
A Fulbright scholar in Mississippi, Hafeez returned home in March 2013 and joined the faculty of a university in Multan. He was arrested after some students accused him of posting derogatory comments on social media about the Prophet. Rashid Rehman, a prominent human rights lawyer who took up his case, was shot dead on May 7, 2014. In December 2019 Hafeez, who maintains his innocence and states that he comes from a religious family, was found guilty and sentenced to death. He remains in solitary confinement.
Hafeez’s case is not unique. In April 2017 a vigilante mob killed Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old university journalism student, and mutilated his corpse on the grounds that he had posted disrespectful statements on Facebook.
In 2010 Asia Bibi, a Christian female farm laborer from central Punjab, was accused of insulting the Prophet, charged with blasphemy and sentenced to death. Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted her in January 2019. Punjab governor Salman Taseer and federal minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti were killed for supporting her.
Angry Muslims demonstrated against Charlie Hebdo of Paris, a satirical magazine, for publishing cartoons that ridiculed God and the prophets. On Jan. 7, 2015, two Muslims killed 12 of its employees. The subsequent edition had a print run of 7.95 million copies in six languages, compared to its typical print run of 60,000 in French only.
Clearly, the Muslims’ negative reaction only made the magazine more popular. In response, an anti-Muslim group in Texas held a cartoon contest specifically to insult the Prophet (www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/shooting-outside-draw-muhammad-contest-texas-n352996). Copies of the Quran were burned in the U.S. and other countries.
A few Baha’is in Iran, Qadianis in Pakistan, Shias in Saudi Arabia and Christians in Egypt and Indonesia face blasphemy charges. In some instances, mobs don’t wait for the allegations to be substantiated. Seemingly, some Muslim jurists have also become judge, jury and executioner in such cases.
Many deemed novelist Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” offensive to the Prophet. The vast majority of Muslims supported Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa of death against him, held rallies worldwide and burned copies of the book. Hitoshi Igarashi, the novel’s Japanese translator, was stabbed to death.
The fatwa only led some to turn against Islam and increased the book’s sales. Rushdie received honors and recognition in many countries, including a knighthood from the U.K.
Sheikh Ahmed Deedat (d. 2005), the well-known speaker on Islam, once stated: “The biggest enemy of Islam is an ignorant Muslim. His ignorance leads him to intolerance, and his actions destroy the true image of Islam. The people, in general, think that he is what Islam is.”
Many classical-era uslim scholars justified capital punishment based on their understanding of the relevant texts. However, their opinions are not eternal norms. Mohammad Hashim Kamali (“Freedom of Expression in Islam,” 1994), Taha Jaber Al-Alwani (“La Ikraha fi al-Din: Apostasy in Islam,” 2003) and other scholars oppose such rulings.
Some argue that earlier scholars feared that those who renounced Islam and joined the enemy might annihilate Muslims. These laws were misused frequently by rulers to rid themselves of politial oppnents. Given that there are 1.8 billion Muslims today, is this “fear” still realistic? There is also freedom of speech and religion. Ofcourse any criticism of one’s religion hurts one’s feelings, but it in no way lowers the value of religion in its adherents’ eyes.
Most of the prophets sent by God throughout history were ridiculed, mocked and even tortured (36:30). And yet the Quran states that their opponents will be punished only in the Hereafter. As did Prophet Muhammad, these men only showed kindness toward such people.
Quranic Verses on Blasphemy
• “If you hear God’s revelations being mocked and ridiculed, don’t with them unless they delve into another subject. Otherwise you will be as guilty as they are. God will gather the hypocrites and the disbelievers together in Hell” (4:140)
• “do not befriend those among the recipients of previous scripture who mock and ridicule your religion, nor befriend the disbelievers.” (5:57)
• “... but indeed, they uttered blasphemy. If they repent, it will be best for them. But if they turn back (to their evil ways), Allah will punish them ... (9:74)
• Their just requital is Hell, in return for their disbelief, and for mocking My revelations and My messengers. (18:106)
• He had punished these people, annihilated them, and destroyed them as they did not take the truth seriously. (36:30)
• The evil of their deeds will become evident to them, and the very things they mocked will come back and haunt them. (45:33)
• Furthermore, have patience with what they say and leave them with noble (dignity) (73:10).
Verses 33:60:61 indicate that hypocrites were to be executed for committing treason against the state, not for blasphemy. According to Kamali, the dominant Quranic meaning of fitna (tumult) is “seditious speech that attacks a government’s legitimacy and denies believers the right to practice their faith.”
The Prophet never called for executing his opponents. When an old woman who regularly threw garbage at him fell sick, he visited her. He didn’t take revenge on Suhail bin Amr, the poet who blasphemed him, but asked his Companions to treat him kindly after he was captured during the Battle of Badr. He also rejected his Companions’ advice to execute Abd Allah b. Ubayy, the chief hypocrite, because “People will say that Muhammad kills his Companions.”
Pro-death penalty scholars often cite the execution of the Jewish poet Ka‘b ibn al-Ashraf to justify the death sentence, disregarding the fact that he was killed for treachery, not blasphemy.
While negotiating the Hudaybiyah treaty, the Makkan delegation asked Muhammad not to sign his name as the “Prophet of God.” He did so, reminding the upset Companions yet again that an angry response is counterproductive, for even the worst offenders could become friends by humility and gentle treatment. He forgave his archenemy Abu Sufiyan and his wife Hind, free the slave Wahshi if he would kill and then mutilate Hamza’s corpse. Hamza was one of the Prophet’s uncles.
When a Companion slapped a Jew for saying that Moses was superior to the Prophet, the Prophet admonished him not to indulge in such a comparison.
Prophet Muhammad, sent as a mercy to humanity and a blessing to the universe, was entrusted only with getting all people to live in peace and harmony.
Punishing alleged blasphemers violates the Quranic and Prophetic teachings. In fact, people who seek to “protect” God or His Messenger via lynching or issuing death threats are themselves an insult to Islam and the Prophet
Dr. M Basheer Ahmed, a former professor of psychiatry in South Western Medical School, is chairman emeritus of Muslim Community Center for Human Services in North Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
M. Basheer Ahmed M.D
Chairman Emeritus - MCC for Human Services
President IMPMS - Institute of Medieval and Post-Medieval Studies
President Emeritus IQRA - A Dallas/ Fort Worth peace initiative
Education, Research and Service to the Humanity is the Greatest Worship
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