Current Affairs

In defense of blasphemy, it’s NOT Quranic

Raheel Raza

I never thought that far-right, Dutch firebrand politician Geert Wilders would cave in to pressure or that I would have to write a defense of blasphemy.

Wilders initiated a cartoon drawing contest of the Prophet Mohammad slated for November in the Dutch Parliament. After the news leaked, there were huge protests in Pakistan with 10,000 opponents calling for canceling diplomatic ties with the Netherlands and the expulsion of the Dutch ambassador.

Imran Khan, the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, vowed to raise the issue at the U.N. with the cooperation of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation).

Social media is rife with Muslims calling for the deaths of Wilders and the cartoonists.

Wilders eventually cancelled the contest “to avoid risk of victims of Islamic violence.”

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi called this “a great moral victory for the Muslim Ummah.”

But is it a victory?

As an observant Muslim, I am offended by the mockery of any faith or religious figure including my Prophet. In addition, 1.6 billion Muslims are also offended and being offended is our right. I respect their freedom to be offended.

However, taking the liberty of drawing offensive cartoons is also the right of those who reside in the free world. I respect this freedom to offend.

We know that blasphemy laws exist in many Muslim countries, so if there is an issue in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, one can see from where that is coming. By the way, the law against blasphemy is not Quranic but was instituted by Muslim rulers after the death of the Prophet Mohammad to control the tribes and ensure compliance.

The blasphemy law as practiced in Pakistan with impunity is evil, obsolete and a way of victimizing its minority communities.

The Pakistani flag has a white stripe which signifies the representation of 23% of its non-Muslim population, which existed at the time of Pakistan’s creation. Today this population has been reduced to approximately 3%. Major victims of the blasphemy laws are Christians and Ahmadiyyas (Hindus also).

In recent years in Pakistan, many Christian women have been forced to convert to Islam. Churches have been burned down. Ahmaddiyas are not allowed to call themselves Muslims and are constantly persecuted.

In 2010, a Christian woman named Asia Bibi was jailed and sentenced to death for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammad. Facts of the story have always been in dispute, and she still languishes in jail.

When Salman Taseer was Governor of Punjab state in Pakistan and spoke out in support of Asia Bibi, he was gunned down by his own bodyguard and accused of blasphemy. The killer that shot him now has the status of a saint and his grave has been turned into a holy pilgrimage site.

Whether one draws a cartoon of the Prophet or not is beside the point. The Prophet, whom Muslims are trying to protect, was — in his lifetime — cursed, abused and ridiculed. However, there is no historical tradition of him ever subjecting to death the people who abused him. On personal attacks, he just looked the other way and, in fact, forgave his persecutors.

Ironically the so-called “protectors of the faith” will kill in the name of the very faith they call the religion of peace!

So we have to weigh the freedoms that exist in democratic countries with the laws that oppress and silence in parts of the Muslim world.

When the influence of blasphemy laws shows itself in the West, we have much to worry about. 

Did Facebook just agree to enforce blasphemy laws?

Meira Svirsky

[Doublespeak is language that deliberately distorts or even reverses the meaning of words. For example, when critics of radical Islam expose this extremism for what is it, Islamists and their “progressive” enablers call them “Islamophobes,” when those who call themselves “social justice warriors” campaigning for tolerance exhibit just the opposite (i.e., intolerance) by shutting down any conversation with which they don’t agree; when others force their religious beliefs (i.e., blasphemy laws) upon others in the name of freedom of religion (as in Canada’s new motion against criticism of Islam); or when perpetrators of crimes frame themselves as victims.

Doublespeak often leads to doublethink, as George Orwell writes in his seminal novel Nineteen Eight-Four: “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient.” In the novel, people explicitly learn doublethink due to peer pressure and a desire to fit in or gain status with-in the “Party.”

With these definitions in mind, Clarion Project launches a week-long expose of some of the worst offenders:] 

A high-level Facebook executive met with the interior minister in Pakistan some time back to discuss Pakistan’s demand that the social media platform remove what the Islamist country deems “blasphemous content.”

The fact the meeting took place at all speaks volumes about Facebook’s intent:

First, the tete-a-tete, the first-ever discussion on the issue between a senior Facebook exec and the Pakistani government, comes on the heels of the decision by a Pakistani “counter-terrorism” court to sentence a 30-year-old man to death for making “blasphemous” comments on Facebook.

Such an outrageous verdict should have caused any company serious about human rights to refuse to engage with such a regime. Even the fact that there exists such a law that violates the basic — and what should be universal — right to freedom of speech should be reason to protest.

Yet apparently, business is business for Facebook.

Facebook has 33-million users in Pakistan. So not only did Facebook engage with the Pakistani government, they made assurances to the Sharia-compliant country that they were committed to keeping their platform “safe” by “promoting values” that are in congruence with their “community standards.”

Facebook also committed to removing explicit, hateful and provocative posts that incite violence and terrorism.

In Pakistan, that means blasphemous content (as per Pakistan’s definition of blasphemy). Because in Pakistan, just the mere mention of blasphemy can incite mob violence and extra-judicial lynching.

Pakistan is active in pursing internet service providers to convince them to make any criticism of Islam forbidden. In March, it convened a meeting of Muslim countries to discuss how they can shut down freedom of expression on social media with regards to blasphemous (read: anti-Islam) content.

As to how the meeting went with Facebook, Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said, “We appreciate the understanding shown by the Facebook administration and the cooperation being extended to us on these issues.”

So, when Facebook – which has a history of taking down material critical of Islamists — says to Pakistan it will remove “hateful and provocative” material, it is most likely doublespeak for “We will comply with Islam’s blasphemy laws.”

Unfortunately, compliance with – and even enforcement of—Islamist blasphemy laws has become an all-too-common fixture in the West.

In some cases, the West has simply bowed to Islamists under the threat of violence. After the Danish cartoon riots which spread across the globe and the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Western publications have demurred from publishing any material deemed offensive to Islam.

Yet other examples are more insidious. Canada just passed a motion “condemning all forms of Islamophobia.” The motion, hailed as a “first-step” by its supporters, is dangerously close to, and may even make illegal, any criticism of Islam.

Europe, which has no bill of rights guaranteeing the freedoms enshrined in America’s constitution, has traditionally balanced freedom of expression with social concerns. In recent years, that balance has become defined through the relativistic morality of each country’s political climate, with freedom of speech in a serious decline due to pressure from Islamists and their “progressive” supporters.

If we intend to hold on to the freedoms we now take for granted in the U.S., pressure should be put on Facebook as well as any other company which exhibits compliance with Sharia blasphemy laws. Otherwise, we will sadly see our rights slipping away as is the situation in Europe today.