Blasphemy Law proposed by Mullahs are unislamic

June 16, 2013 4:50 pm 1,331 comments __
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Omer Selim Sher

By Omer Selim Sher




The blasphemy law was first constituted in medieval Britain. From the 16th century to the mid-19th century, blasphemy against the Church of England was held as an offense against common law. Blasphemy was also used as a legal instrument to persecute atheists, Unitarians, and others. The law was considered ‘Biblical’ in that era.

The blasphemy law was first introduced to the Indian Penal Code in 1860 by the British government as the means to protect the Muslim minority against the Hindu majority but offering all religions equal protection (Section 295). Before that, there was no blasphemy law in the sub-continent of India. Hence it is safe to say that the law was derived from the British version of the blasphemy law with minor changes to be applicable within the sub-continent.

After the division in 1947, this law came in as a heritage, though it went somewhere in the background. In 1977, however, the dictator General Zia-ul-Huq began a process of Islamizing the Pakistani constitution (with his version of Islam). In 1982, a presidential ordinance made defiling the Holy Qur’an punishable by life imprisonment (Section 295-A and , whilst in 1991, General Zia made Sharia Law, the supreme law in Pakistan. Under pressure from religious extremists, the blasphemy law was again amended in 1986 to include defamation of the Holy Prophet, whether directly or indirectly, both in spoken and written form, as well as by way of impersonation (Section 295-C). For the first time, blasphemy also carried the possibility of the death sentence. In 1991, when the Federal Sharia Court rescinded the option of life imprisonment, the death penalty became an automatic punishment for anyone found guilty of blasphemy.

After its re-activation, Pakistani courts were filled with cases of blasphemy, Muslims charging minorities, even other Muslims for blasphemy. For a Muslim, blasphemy is a very emotional subject, hence many used this loop-hole on their enemies, murders were carried out in broad day light and the victim was convicted of blasphemy, which shadowed the murderer with the support from the local clergy. Blasphemy law is an amenity provided by the state for anyone to settle their contentions. The law is man-made, derived from another intolerant imperial law not from the Holy Scriptures. Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion. Practice of such laws in an Islamic state and labeling them Islamic has hurt the cause of Islam.
In Islam, blasphemy is a subject of intellectual discussion rather than a subject of physical punishment. This concept is very clear in the Quran.The Quran tells us that since ancient times God has sent prophets in succession to every town and every community. It says, moreover, that the contemporaries of all of these prophets adopted a negative attitude towards them.
There are several verses in the Quran, which reveal that the contemporaries of the prophets repeatedly perpetrated the same act, which is now called ‘blasphemy or abuse of the Prophet’ or ‘using abusive language about the Prophet’. Prophets, down the ages, have been mocked and abused by their contemporaries (36:30); some of the epithets cited in the Quran include “a liar” (40:24), “possessed” (15:6), “a fabricator” (16:101), “a foolish man” (7:66). It also says, “Alas for the mankind! Whenever a messenger came to them, they used to mock at them” Q:36:30. The Quran mentions these words of abuse used by prophets’ contemporaries but nowhere does the Quran prescribe the punishment of lashes, or death, or any other physical punishment.
The clan chiefs of Mecca kept mocking Muhammad (peace be upon him) and encouraging others to criticize and humiliate him. They mocked the man and his claims as much as the message. Whenever his opponents attacked him, he used the Quran to answer, protect himself and resist. This was what Revelation clearly taught him with this verse, which marks the first occurrence of the word Jihad in the Quran: Therefore do not obey the negators, but strive against them with the Quran with utmost resistance. God orderd His Messenger to resist the Quraysh’s ill treatment of him by relaying on the Quran. The text was actually his spiritual and intellectual weapon against their aggression. To those who sneer, insult and humiliate, to those who attack, torture and kill, the Prophet answered with the weapon and shield of the Quran, which in itself constitutes as we have seen, the miracle and the proof. The text liberates the real strengths in people, that which has the power to resist and overcome all persecutions in this world, because it calls the life beyond the illusions of this life. Are we following the same principles Allah has advised His Prophet (peace be upon him)?
The following Quranic injunction, which mandates that there is be absolutely no compulsion when it comes to religion: Let there be no compulsion in religion: truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And God hearth and knoweth all things. (Q:2:256)
“Let there be no compulsion in religion…” These words of God are clear and unambiguous. There is to be complete freedom when it comes to individual’s religious choice. He must be free to accept or reject any religious persuasion whatsoever. Freedom of religious choice is a fundamental principle of Islam and is a concept that must be upheld by every Muslim. A Muslim is directed to “Admonish with the Quran” and “to proclaim (the message) clearly and openly”, he is never to “compel mankind, against their will, to believe” and he is to “let him who will believe, and let him who will reject (it).” (Q:50:45, 64:12, 18:29)
This clearly shows that ‘abuse of the Prophet’ or ‘Islam’ is not a subject of punishment, but is rather a subject of peaceful admonishment. That is, one who is guilty of abusing the Prophet or Islam should not have corporal punishment meted out to him: he should rather be given sound arguments in order to address his mind. In other words, peaceful persuasion should be used to reform the person concerned rather than trying to punish him.
Those who adopt a negative stance towards the Prophet or Islam will be judged by God, who knows the innermost recesses of their hearts. The responsibility of the believers is to observe the policy of avoidance and, wishing well, convey the message of God to them in such a manner that their minds might be properly addressed.
Another important aspect of this matter is that at no point in the Quran is it stated that anyone who uses abusive language about the Prophet should be stopped from doing so, and that in case he continues to do so he should be awarded severe punishment. On the contrary, the Quran commands the believer not to use abusive language directed against opponents: “But do not revile those [beings] whom they invoke instead of God, lest they, in their hostility, revile God and out of ignorance” (6:108).
This verse of the Quran makes it plain that it is not the task of the believers to establish “media watch” offices and hunt for anyone involved in acts of defamation of the Prophet, and then plan for their killing, whatever the cost. On the contrary, the Quran enjoins believers to sedulously refrain from indulging in such acts as may provoke people to retaliate by abusing Islam and the Prophet. This injunction of the Quran makes it clear that this responsibility devolves upon the believers, rather than holding others responsible and demanding that they be punished.
Some scholars refer to the hadith that a Muslim can be killed if he becomes non-believer (murtad). But Prophet did never kill or ordered to kill any one just for becoming non-believer but only those who become a real threat for the safety and security of the Muslim community as it goes against the above Quranic principle.
Prophet showed a most understanding attitude toward those who, under persecution or pressure from their families, had left Islam. This was the case with two young Muslims, Hisham and Ayyash, who abjured Islam after prolonged resistance. No particular decision or sanction was taken against them. Later on Ayyash again came back to Islam, full of remorse and sadness. Following revelation subsequently came to ease his exceedingly harsh vision and judgment about himself: Say:”O those who have transgressed against themselves! Do not despair of God’s mercy: God forgives all sins; for He is the All Forgiving, the Most Merciful. Turn to your Lord and submit to Him, before the chastisement comes on you: after that you shall not be helped.” Q:39:53-54
On hearing those verses, Hisahm also came back to Islam. Yet one who did not return was Ubaydallah ibn Jahash, who had gone to Abbyssinia with the first group of emigrants and who had then converted to Christianity and abandoned his wife, Um Habibah bint Abu Sufyan. Neither the Prophet, from Mecca, nor any of the Muslims who lived in Abyssinia took any measure against him: he remained a Christian until he died without ever being harassed or ill-treated. This attitude of respect for every one’s freedom remained constant throughout the Prophets life. Later on, in Medina, he was to speak out hoarsely and take firm measures against those who falsely converted to Islam for the sole purpose of gathering information about the Muslims, then denied Islam and went back to their tribes to bring them the information they have managed to obtain. These were in fact, war traitors, who incurred the penalty of death because their actions were liable to bring about the destruction of the Muslim community. After the conquest of Mecca without any war, general immunity was granted to the people of Mecca who were the worst abuser of the Prophet.
Looked at from this angle, the stance of present-day Muslims mainly religious scholars of Bangladesh has gone totally against the teachings of the Quran. Whenever anyone – in their judgment – commits an act of ‘abuse of the Prophet’, in speech or in writing, they instantly get provoked and respond by leading processions through the streets, which often turn violent. And then they demand that all those who insult the Prophet be beheaded.
Muslims generally advocate the theory that freedom of expression is good, but that no one has the right to hurt the religious sentiments of others. This theory is quite illogical. Freedom is not a self-acquired right. It is God, who, because of His scheme of putting man to the test, has given man total freedom. Then the modern secular concept of freedom is that everyone is free provided he does not inflict physical harm upon others. In such a situation, the above kind of demand is tantamount to abolishing two things: firstly, to abolishing the divine scheme, and secondly, to abolishing the modern secular norm. Neither goal is achievable.
So the hue and cry against the so-called abuse of the Prophet and Islam is simply untenable. By adopting this policy, Muslims can make themselves permanently negative but they cannot change the system of the world.
There is a relevant Hadith in which the Prophet of Islam has said: ”A good Muslim is one who refrains from indulging in a practice that is not going to yield any positive result”. This Hadith applies very aptly to the present situation of Muslims. They have been making noise for a very long time against blasphemy, but it has been in vain. Muslims must know that they are not in a position to change the world, so they must change themselves. There will be two instant advantages of adopting this policy: they will save themselves from becoming victim of negative sentiments and will be able to devote their energies to constructive work. [Courtsey Salman Rahman –Quddus]

(Omer Selim Sher:  Born in 1950. Professor at Algonquin College Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Senior Editor of Voice Bangladesh; Worked at Immigration and Refugee Board, Montreal Canada . Worked at UNDP and UNCHS, Dhaka Bangladesh.  He holds a BA (Honours) and an MA in Economics with minors in Math and Statistics from the University of Dhaka, in Bangladesh. He received the Harris Memorial Scholarship and another MA (1982) in    Economics from Lakehead University, ThunderBay , Ontario Canada. He has been teaching for 33 years, including posts as at Lecturer Concordia University, Montreal, Canada and Assistant Professor the College of the Bahamas (COB), Bahamas.  At the COB, he received the Outstanding Service Award in Teaching and Research, and the Unsung Hero Award from the Union of Tertiary Educators of Bahamas. In 1997, he and his students pioneered the first election polling in Bahamas, which continues to earn him media mentions to date. Omer has worked as an economist and analyst at both Environment and Health Canada. He has published two textbooks, and a number of papers in the Business Journal.  He was the member of Editorial Board of the Bahamas Business journal, 1992 and Co-editor in 1997-1998.  He was the active participant in the liberation war and was a member of BLF.)


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