Friday, December 31, 2010

Blasphemy, Religious Right and Aasia Bibi

Upright Opinion

December 31, 2010

Blasphemy, Religious Right and Aasia Bibi

By Saeed Qureshi

Jamiatul Ulma-i- Islam( JUI) and Jamaat-i-Islami ( JI) joined by other religious combines have, of late, arrogated themselves the exclusive right to defend Islam in a country which they grudgingly opposed tooth and nail when it was being created. Even, Otherwise JUI and JI are doctrinally sworn adversaries and would tear each other into bits and pieces if given a free hand. The blasphemy law prohibits defiling of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by any gestures or actions and it should be like that. The only stumbling snag is how to apply it judiciouly so that it does not look discriminatory and a handy tool for revenge.

The Christians, Hindus or Jews or believers of other non-Islamic religions or denominations may not have deep or even perfunctory knowledge about the teachings of Islam because they grow up in their own religious environment that imparts to them only their faith. So an uneducated woman like Aasia Bibi from a remote village would not know how sanctified the holy book Quran is or how exalted the personage of prophet of Islam is for Muslims. A Christian and Hindu may inadvertently say something, exude such gestures or commit such acts that are decreed by the Muslim religious clerics as blasphemy and sacrilege.

It is possible that he or she may not harbor mala-fide intentions or even awareness that she or he was maligning or profaning the venerated religious personages of Islam. Should such persons not be given a preliminary warning to desist from such behavior and asked to publically profess that they did not mean any sacrilege as they had not information that their actions or utterances would be blasphemous? There is also a possibility that in such sensitive cases, the reporters of the blasphemy can deliberately pass wrong and made-up information to implicate some opponent or else for the fun of it.

Now if false evidence is produced against someone out of sheer vendetta or to settle personal score, then how to sift the falsehood from the truth. The Islamic clerics and priestly class should not close their ears and shut their eyes to the loud cries of the accused that he or she has not done such a sinful thing in the first place and if he committed then he or she was not aware that it was a sacrilege and that such an abominable act would not be repeated.

If the accused repents and pledges not to repeat that reprehensible act then such a person should be forgiven. In simple words if someone has committed such desecration even knowingly and later recants and ask for forgiveness, then in the light of the Islamic principle of tolerance such a person should be pardoned.
The furor that has overtaken Pakistan in the midst of other devastating problems, the entire onus of the religious right of Pakistan has been placed on sentencing a Christian woman Aasia Bibi to death for blasphemy. It demonstrates that barring this incident, the religious leaders some of whom are also political stalwarts accord less or no importance to the incessant incidents of very heinous crimes being committed every moment in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

What about those callous Muslims that target the religious processions and kill their fellow innocent Muslims in mosques and in their worshiping places? Are they not defiling and breaching the Islamic teachings and negating the message of peace given by the messenger of Islam? It is alone a rural, backward woman Aasia that has jeopardized and undermined the whole edifice of Islam prompting the Muslim clergy of Pakistan to be up in arms against her. The amendment proposed in Pakistan’s parliament was aimed at removing the shades of false allegations and to make it foolproof n order to sentence the defilers and blasphemous individuals.

There is no objection if the religious luminaries call for countrywide strikes, agitation and hold rallies against the amendment in the blasphemy laws. But so far why these defenders of Islam have never raised their voice against the ceaseless cases of rape, murders, child molestation, plunder of national exchequer and bad governance. They even don’t blink their eyes over the lewdness of the rulers, the loathsome feudalism, the despicable sardari Nizam, the brazen toadyism of the privileged classes for the foreign masters, the brutal system of tribalism, the savage terrorism, the monsters of unemployment, the unchecked adulteration and shortage of food and medicines, the colossal environmental filth and degradation.

They seldom held rallies against the rampant lawlessness, The bad roads, the ugly traffic, the stifling shortage of power and water, the deformed justice system, the corrupt and incompetent police system, bribery-ridden bureaucracy and similar countless issues that have crippled the progress of Pakistan and driven the people of Pakistan to the brink of miseries and abyss. They don’t highlight the corruption and loot of the ruling cabal and the rip off by the parliamentarians, the army generals, the mercantile classes and self indulgent and greedy politicians.

It is worth recalling that way back in 1977; late ZA Bhutto had to face a similar bizarre and harrowing situation. Then the religious outfits of all shades bandied together under the slogan of Niazm-e-Mustafa. As a result of their tenacious and full throttled campaigning in tandem with the support from the army, the disgruntled politicians, the foreign powers, the Bhutto government fell.

Instead of the promised Niazam-e.Mustafa, an oppressive, bigoted Military dictatorship was imposed on Pakistan, the ruinous consequences of which this hapless country is still suffering from. These religious zealots and Islamic rabble rousers saw in the garb of the ruthless military dictator Ziaul Haq another Salahuddin Ayubi and a Marde Momin (a devout Muslim).

But factually this Mard-e- momin inflicted irreparable harm on the pristine last message of God than any heathen could have done. One should recall that those who launched that movement for revival of a system of Khilafat-I- Rashida were the forerunners of the present lot of JUI and JI. Are these people up to creating a similar mayhem in Pakistan? Are they the sole arbiters of dispensing and dictating Islam to the rest of the population that is more sincere and ardent Muslims than these acrobats? So it seems to be an action replay of 1977 religious movement. These religious stalwarts are spoilers of the stability and peace in Pakistan by using the ploy of religion.

If the government wants to make the blasphemy act more rational and reasonable so that innocent do not suffers because of the wrong, insufficient or trumped up evidence, then these upholders of Islam should rather welcome that. Such an amendment would remove some of the anomalies that render this most sacred and needed law as partisan or extreme. Moderation is the essence of Islam and any interpretation of law should be hammered out collectively by the parliament in consultation with the Islamic ideology Council in order to make it consistent with the real Islamic jurisprudence.

To be a good Muslim, let Islam should rule the minds and hearts of the Muslim faithful. Unfortunately there is uncompromising emphasis on practicing symbols and rituals. There has always remained a wide gulf between what we profess and what we do. Our religious leaders suffer from chronic symptoms of hypocrisy. They have failed to demonstrate themselves as models of Islam by personal pious conduct and strength of character. Allama Iqbal has apportioned a part of his poetry in repudiating and denouncing the Mullah’s Islam which he has termed as a “recipe for division, dissention and chaos among the Muslims.”

Pakistan can neither totally be a theocratic state nor can it be a wholly irreligious society. There should be some meeting point between these two trends and a workable blend so that Pakistan simultaneously adheres to the mandatory Islamic creed and also imbibe and embrace the needs of a modern society. Secularism is not the antithesis of any religion. It merely stands for the religious freedom that we find in many Islamic countries such as in Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE and Jordan and Lebanon.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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1 comment:

  1. In fact I don’t like to visit any blog site where there is no traffic or no one to debate with. I hardly see any comments on Articles posted by Author. This last Article of 2010: Blasphemy, Religious Right and Aasia Bibi forced me to put my comment for the author of this blog or any member of this blog.

    Topic of this Article is Blasphemy & Religious Rights vs Aasia Bibi. Instead of staying on the topic author started attacking and blaming the political culture of Pakistan. He is raising a very serious religious subject matter, clause and laws of Islam, Judaism and Christianity at the same time on blasphemy. On the other hand he is in-directly claiming that the believers of Judaism and Christianity they don’t have any knowledge about the consequences of Blasphemy.

    Looks like, author has no clue or knowledge that the roots and the generations of all these 3 divine religions are coming from the same one Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH). Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) has not introduced any new religion to this world. If anyone wants to debate on it they are welcome. Let me quote the laws on Blasphemy from these 3 divine religions:

    Blasphemy in Judaism: In the third book of the Torah, Leviticus 24:16 states that those who speak blasphemy "shall surely be put to death". See also List of capital crimes in the Torah. The Seven laws of Noah which Judaism sees as applicable to all of humankind prohibit blasphemy.

    Blasphemy in Christianity:
    Blasphemy has been condemned as a serious, or even the most serious, sin by the major creeds and Church theologians.
    The satirical Alexamenos graffito is believed to be the earliest known representation of Jesus. Christian theology condemns blasphemy. It is spoken of in the Mark 3:29, where blaspheming the Holy Spirit is spoken of as unforgivable - the eternal sin. However, there is dispute over what form this blasphemy may take and whether it qualifies as blasphemy in the conventional sense.

    Thomas Aquinas says that “it is clear that blasphemy, which is a sin committed directly against God, is greater than murder, which is a sin against one's neighbor. … it is called the most grievous sin, for as much as it makes every sin more grievous.

    Writer Salman Rushdie was accused of blasphemy and subject of a fatwā issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, in February 1989.

    Death sentence Blasphemy against God and the Church was a crime punishable by death in much of the world, and remains punishable by death in some parts to this day. (Lesser forms of punishment are also utilized.)
    In Britain's last blasphemy execution, 18-year-old Thomas Aiken head was executed.

    Blasphemy in Islam is irreverent behavior toward holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, and beliefs that Muslims respect.
    The Qur'an says "Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance." (6:108)

    Blasphemy and the United Nations:
    In the early 21st century, blasphemy became an issue for the United Nations. The General Assembly passed several resolutions which called upon the world to take action against the "defamation of religions”.