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There is no punishment for Blasphemy in Islam, however, somewhere in the history, the bootlickers wrote the blasphemy laws to please the dictators and monarchs, and the ordinary men and women in the market today rely on those made up books... instead of Quran.

Monday, July 18, 2011

About Blasphemy

The purpose of this site is to bring together differing views on Blasphemy, and develop an understanding from Islamic point of view for the good of all humanity. Current Blasphemy laws and practices do not go with the values of Islam; free will and respect for life.

Your articles are invited and you can send to wmcarchives@gmail.com

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Muslim Speaker Mike Ghouse

A Muslim Speaker, thinker, organizer and an activist committed to building cohesive societies with a belief that what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world and vice versa to sustain peace, harmony and prosperity.

To be a Muslim is to be a peace maker, one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence of humanity. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; Life and Matter. Over 1000 articles have been published on a range of topics in Islam and Pluralism. Insha Allah, a book outlining the Muslim vision is on the horizon.

In defense of Islam, pursuing a civil dialogue



ver and over you hear it said: If Muslims oppose terrorism, why don't they stand up and say it?

If that has been you, Mike Ghouse ought to be your hero.

It is hard to imagine that anyone has worked harder than the Carrollton resident to demonstrate the peaceful and moderate side of Islam.

And that effort includes personally visiting Dallas' First Baptist Church last Sunday just to put a friendly face on the "evil, evil religion" that the Rev. Robert Jeffress denounced a few weeks before.

"It was wonderful," Ghouse said of the visit. "We were so warmly received."
He hopes a quick chat with Jeffress will be the start of deeper discussion about Islam and the importance of respect between religions.

"I want to have a dialogue with him, not to say he is wrong but to share another point of view," Ghouse said.

The 57-year-old Muslim was born in India and has lived in the United States for 30 years. He owns a small property management firm. But most of his day is devoted to building bridges between people of different faiths.

"It is my passion," he said in his distinctive raspy voice.

He has been a guest a dozen times on Sean Hannity's TV and radio talk shows. "I don't like the way Sean cuts me off, but I have to honor him for giving the American public a semblance of another point of view."

Ghouse said he can understand fear and criticism of Islam because he went through a time of similar feelings. As a teen, he was troubled by passages of the Quran. He called himself an atheist for a while.

But he said deeper study led him to realize the Quran had been purposely mistranslated down through history.

In the Middle Ages, European leaders commissioned a hostile Quran translation to foster warfare against Muslim invaders.

Later, Muslim leaders produced another translation to inflame Muslims against Christians and Jews.

"It was all for politics," he said.
Ghouse said he hopes to present Jeffress with a modern, faithful translation and challenge him to find evil verses.

"If he can, I will convert. I will join his church," Ghouse said. "If he can't, I will call on him to retract his statements and become a peacemaker."

Ghouse acknowledges that deep problems persist within Islam. "Three steps forward, two steps back," he said with a sigh.

And he agrees that mainstream Muslims have not done enough to counter violent images of their faith.

"That is very true," he said. "But part of it is that many Muslims have given up hope that we will ever be heard."

He said repeated denunciations of terrorism seem to fall on deaf ears.

And some efforts have backfired - like the proposed Islamic information center in New York. He said it should be hailed for furthering the moderate Muslim cause.
Instead, it has deepened hostility toward Muslims.

I have been astounded by the amount of anti-Islam propaganda that circulates via e-mail. Tons of it has come my way in the last few weeks.

One theme is that people like Mike Ghouse can't be trusted, that Islam encourages deception.

But Ghouse says actions speak louder than words. And he points to elections in Muslim nations.

More than half of Muslims live in countries with some degree of democracy. And time and time again, Islamist parties are overwhelmingly rejected in favor of secular, mainstream parties.

"The religious parties don't get more than 3 percent of the vote," Ghouse said.
Polls show deep mistrust of Muslims. "But the most important question in those surveys is: 'Do you know anything about Islam?' " Ghouse said. "Most people say no."
What keeps him going is faith in Americans, he said.

"The majority of Americans, if they know the truth, they will change their minds."
# # #

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, writer, thinker, futurist and an activist of Pluralism, Islam, India and Civil Societies passionately offering pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.

He is a commentator at Fox News on the Hannity show, nationally syndicated Radio shows along with Dallas TV, Print and Radio networks and occasional interviews on NPR.  He has spoken at international forums including the Parliament of Worlds Religions in Melbourne, Middle East Peace initiative in Jerusalem, International Leadership conference in Hawaii, Washington and elsewhere.

Concerned by the divisiveness, he saw the need to bring Americans together and founded America Together Foundation committed to building a cohesive America, indeed it is in response to ACT America which is bent on pitching one American against the other.  We will be holding series of educational programs, conferences and workshops to address the issues that divide us such as Civil Right, GLBT, Quraan, Abortion, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Racial Profiling and Stereotyping.

The Annual Unity Day USA is in its 7th year now, it is a purposeful event to bring Americans together, on this Unity Day, we the people of the United States of America of every faith, race, ethnicity, culture and background will gather to express our commitment to co-existence, unity, prosperity and wellbeing of our nation.  

Thanksgiving Celebration is in its 15th year showcasing cultural diversity.

The 5th Annual Reflections on Holocaust and Genocides is to learn and to acknowledge and reflect upon the terrible things we have inflicted upon each other and commit to avert such tragedies.  Through this event non-Jewish people have consciously learned about Holocaust for the first time, it was also for the first time that people of 14 faiths came together to join in to commemorate the Holocaust that commemorated within the Jewish Community for years. They are not alone anymore in their anguish, we are all in it together with them, and it is a Muslim initiative to effect a positive change.

The programs, seminars and workshops conducted by the Foundation for Pluralism have become a part of the America Together Foundation. While the Foundation for Pluralism continues championing the idea of co-existence through respecting and accepting the otherness of other, the commitment to nurturing the pluralistic ideals embedded in Islam through the World Muslim Congress continues.

# # #

Mike is working on two books scheduled to be released this year; The American Muslim Agenda and My Journey to Pluralism.

Mike has written over 1000 Articles on Pluralism, Islam, India, Peace & Justice and civil societies published in a wide spectrum of Newspapers and Magazines around the world.

Locally, he is a panelist at Dallas Morning News's and writes weekly on a range of issues facing the nation. Washington Post, Huffington Post and other news papers and sites regularly publish his work.  

Mike is available to speak on Pluralism, Islam, Civil Societies, and Peace & Justice at your place of worship, school, work place, seminars, workshops or conferences. His work is reflected at three websites & twenty two Blogs listed at http://www.MikeGhouse.net/

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Punishment for Blasphemy: a Pre-Islamic Practice

Punishment  for Blasphemy: a Pre-Islamic Practice

Those who believe that anyone who ridicules the Prophet Muhammad should be hanged,  can  produce no clear commandment from the Quran or Hadith  to  support  this  belief. They merely give  a distorted  version  of some incident  which  took  place  during the Prophet’s time and say that such and such a person  involved  in this incident was put  to  death  because he was a blasphemer. The case of Kab ibn Ashraf is generally cited  in support their ill-conceived argument.

Kab ibn Ashaf (d. 624 A.D.) a  native of    Medina, was  a poet as well as an orator. His mother belonged  to the  Banu Nadhir, a Jewish tribe.  In the early days of Islam in Medina, he started defaming the Prophet and his followers, satirizing them  in  his  poems and speeches.

It is clearly mentioned in Al-Bidayah wa’l Nihaya by Ibn Kathir (pp. 326-336, Vol. 5) that when Kab ibn Ashaf started defaming the Prophet, the only  action taken by   the  latter  was to ask Hassan ibn Thabit, one of the Companions who  was a poet, to counter his false allegations. On the Prophet’s advice, Hassan ibn Thabit, then  composed verses in which he refuted the false propaganda  directed against the Prophet  by Kab ibn Ashraf. 

The Prophet entered into an agreement with several tribes of Medina, including  the Banu Nadhir tribe of which Kab ibn Asharaf was a member, that they would not support any other tribe against the Muslims. But Kab ibn Ashaf broke this agreement by visiting Mecca and inciting the Quraysh against the Muslims. He told the Quraysh leaders to attack the Muslims from outside Medina and his tribe will attack the Muslims at the same time from inside the city. He became the ring leader of a group  whose  sole  aim was to incite people against the Prophet and his followers. This was a clear violation of the agreement between the Prophet and the Banu Nadhir tribe. He not only turned his own tribe against the  Muslims but also played a major role in inciting other tribes such as the  Aws.

This was a clear act of violation of the agreement between the Prophet and the Banu Nidhir tribe and it amounted to treason against and betrayal  of the state of Medina.

He was put to death on account  of this act of treason and his conspiring against the state, and not because  of his satire and ridicule of the Prophet.

The contention of a modern scholar, Sheikh Mohammed Riza, that Kab ibn Ashraf was hanged for blasphemy is meaningless, as  it  is  unsupported  by any clear reference from the Quran, the Hadith or from the writings of the early scholars of Islam.

Anyone  who  cares   to go through the attached pages of Al-Badaya Wan Nihya by Ibu Kathir, will  find   that the case of Kab ibn Ashaf was clearly  one of treason against the state and not of blasphemy.

Before Islam, during the pagan age, or jahiliya, many people were prosecuted on  account of their faith. The Quran refers to this in the following verse:

They ill-treated them for no other reason than that they believed in God, the Almighty, the Praiseworthy. (Al-Buruj, 85:8).

With  the  advent of  Islam, the age-old pagan practice of prosecuting people on account of their faith was   abolished. But the Muslims in the Abbasi period revived the former pre-Islamic custom of prosecuting people on  a charge of blasphemy against the Prophet. This was highly irregular and totally against the principles of Islam, as the Quran only sanctions capital punishment for those who have committed  a crime such as murder. There is not a single injunction in the Quran and the Hadith to  the  effect that anyone who says anything against the Prophet should  be put to death. Rather the Quran asks the Prophet and the believers to be as patient as  the other great prophets who endured such  conduct with patience (Al-Ahqaf, 46:35).

The world is a  testing ground. Here, everyone is free to do whatever he likes. Without freedom, it   is not possible  to  put  human beings to  the   test.. People’s freedom of speech cannot  then be snatched away when it has  been given to them by none other than God Almighty Himself.    Punishment  for blasphemy  cannot  therefore  be  countenanced.

Secondly, the killing of  a   person accused of blasphemy by an individual (as  was done recently in Pakistan) is definitely haram. In Islamic law, it is quite clear that if a person is accused of committing a crime, his case will go to the authorities  who will file a case against him. His case will then be examined by a state authorized court in  which the  testimony  of  four witnesses will be heard,  after  which the court, having gone through a proper legal process, will give its verdict. If the accused is found guilty, then the law enforcement agencies will carry out the punishment. But if any  member of the public picks up a gun and,  taking  the law  into  his own  hands, shoots down a person whom he considers a blasphemer, he    will be considered  to  have  acted totally against the spirit of Islam.

In the same way, the case of Abdullah ibn Khatal was not one of blasphemy. It is true that he too, like Kab ibn Ashraf, used to ridicule the prophet in his poetry. But his punishment was not because of blasphemy of the Prophet, but on  account  of a murder  he  committed. He killed his servant  and, as a punishment for that, he was put to death.  Reference is  made  to  this in Ibn Taimiya’s book, Al-Sarim al Maslul ala Shatim al-Rasul, page 265, Vol. 2. (Arabic text attached).

The most important thing which the proponents of the blasphemy law have  chosen  to  ignore is that it is a very important principle of fiqh (Islamic law) that, before making such a law, there has to be a clear reference  to  it in the nass, or text of the Quran and the Hadith.

The Quran makes   the  very  clear statement  that if anyone killed a person, his  action would be seen as killing the entire mankind (al-Maida, 5:32) Supposing   the Almighty  had seen  fit  to  award  such  a punishment as  the execution  of  anyone who ridiculed  the Prophet Muhammad, how  is  it    that, on  this  particular  issue,   the Quran  makes no  statement   whatsoever?

Saniyasnain Khan

Islam believes in freedom


Blasphemy is in the news. According to general perception, Islam prescribes capital punishment to a person who indulges in blasphemy, that is using profane language against the Prophet of Islam. But this concept of blasphemy is completely alien to the original teachings of Islam. Before the advent of Islam, difference of belief was also a punishable act.

They used to punish on matters of belief just as on matters of social crime. This old practice is called religious persecution in history. Islam abolished this practice. The Prophet of Islam declared that personal belief is a subject of discussion and persuasion rather than of legal punishment.

Wahiduddib Khan, Islamic spiritual scholar and founder of Centre for Peace and Spirituality International
Wahiduddib Khan, Islamic spiritual scholar and founder of Centre for Peace and Spirituality International
However, if non-believers use profane language against the Prophet, Muslims are directed not to react. They have only two options, either to simply ignore it or to respond on equal basis, that is, issuing a statement in return for a statement. The Quran says: "The recompense of an ill-deed is an ill the like thereof (42:40)." According to this injunction, reaction must be on an equal basis, that is, word in return for word, statement in return for statement, book in return for book.

If you go through the Quran and the hadith (sayings and actions of the Prophet of Islam), the only two authentic sources of Islam, you will find that there is not a single Quranic verse or hadith that gives this kind of injunction which says: "Man shatama nabiyakum faqtuluhu. (Kill the person who commits blasphemy against the Prophet)."

Such an injunction was added in the Islamic law only during the Abbasid caliphate, about 150 years after the death (632 AD) of the Prophet. Although the majority of the Fuqaha (Muslim jurists) of this period accepted the law, it was clearly an innovation which is not acceptable in Islam.

Devotees at Delhi
Devotees at Delhi's Jama Masjid
According to a well-known hadith, there are three authentic periods of the Islamic history: the period of the Prophet, the period of Sahaba (companions of the Prophet), and the period of Tabein (companions of the companions). It is a fact that all the Fuqaha belonged to the Abbasid period which came after these authentic periods. According to a hadith, the Prophet of Islam has said: "I have left behind for you thaqalain, two authentic sources of Islam: the book of God, and the Sunnah of the Prophet.

You will not astray till you adhere to these authentic sources." (Mu'atta Malik, Hadith no.1661). And those additions made by the Muslim jurists of the later history are certainly not a part of the authentic sources. According to this Islamic injunction, if there is a person who commits blasphemy, then the responsibility of Muslims is to meet him and persuade him and to remove his misunderstanding by peaceful means and if supposing he fails to understand then Muslims are left only with one option, that is to pray for him.

There is ample evidence that tells us what to do in such cases. For example, once when Prophet was in Mecca, one idol-worshipper came to him and told him face-to-face, "Muzammaman abaina (O Muhammad you are a condemned person)." The Prophet simply smiled. This smile was a kind of moral response and was bound to hit his conscience. He fell into introspection. And after some time he accepted him as the Prophet and became one of his followers.

Islam greatly believes in freedom of expression. I would like to say that the secular law of India in this context is more "Islamic" than the so-called Islamic law of Pakistan.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Silence has become the mother of all blasphemies

I am rather pleased to read the following, its central thrust is Silence, and I wrote the article just a day before this article appears in Guardian. http://blasphemylaws.blogspot.com/2011/03/pakistan-blaming-blasphemy-laws.html # # #

Pakistan: Silence has become the mother of all blasphemies http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/03/pakistan-silence-blasphemy-mohammed-hanif

Two months ago, after Governor Salmaan Taseer's murder and the jubilant support for the policeman who killed him, religious scholars in Pakistan told us that since common people don't know enough about religion they should leave it to those who do – basically anyone with a beard.

Everyone thought it made a cruel kind of sense. So everyone decided to shut up: the Pakistan Peoples party (PPP) government because it wanted to cling to power, liberals in the media because they didn't want to be the next Taseer. The move to amend the blasphemy law was shelved.

It was an unprecedented victory for Pakistan's mullah minority. They had told a very noisy and diverse people to shut up and they heard back nothing but silence. After Pakistan's only Christian federal minister, Shahbaz Bhatti – the bravest man in Islamabad – was murdered on Tuesday, they were back on TV, this time condemning the killing, claiming it was a conspiracy against them, against Islam and against Pakistan. The same folk who had celebrated one murder and told us how not to get murdered were wallowing in self pity.

In a very short span of time, Pakistan's mullahs and muftis have managed to blur the line between what God says and what they say. The blasphemy law debate was about how to prosecute people who have committed blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad and the Qur'an. Since repeating a blasphemy, even if it is to prove the crime in a court of law, is blasphemous, no Pakistani has a clear idea what constitutes blasphemy. Taseer had called the blasphemy law "a black law" and was declared a blasphemer. The line between maligning the Holy Prophet and questioning a law made by a bunch of mullahs was done away with. What would come next?

During the last two months sar tan se juda (off with their heads) has become as familiar a slogan as all the corporate songs about the Cricket World Cup. Banners appeared all over Karachi and Islamabad last week demanding death for a Pakistani writer. The only problem is that nobody quite knows what she has written. Her last book came out more than eight years ago and, if it wasn't so scary, it would be ironic that it is called Blasphemy. It was a potboiler set mostly in religious and spiritual leaders' bedrooms. The banners condemning her say that not only she has insulted the prophet, she has insulted religious scholars.

So now disagreeing with anyone who has a beard and armed bodyguards can get you killed. The PPP government has tried to appease this lot by silencing the one-and-a-half liberal voices it had. What it didn't realise is that you can't really appease people who insist their word is God's word, their honour as sacred as the Holy Prophet's. In Pakistan, silence is the mother of all blasphemies. Most Pakistanis are committing that blasphemy and being punished for it.

Mohammed Hanif is a journalist and author of the novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Taseer’s killer, media and the Muslim majority

Taseer’s killer, media and the Muslim majority

DALLAS, Texas: The responsibility to perpetuate the truth falls squarely on each one of us, indeed, we have to maintain a balance and build cohesive societies. We cannot let nations, societies and communities come apart over divisive issues, whether we are Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs or others, we cannot let the statistically insignificant few to represent us, neither our silence should be construed as an endorsement of the views of the few.

Malik Mumtaz Qadri shot the very person he was to guard; Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer. The governor was faulted by him for speaking out against the blasphemy laws, a few men have welcomed this killing and have hailed Qadri as a “Hero” for defending the honor of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and showered him with rose petals, a cultural symbol of honor.

An appeal was circulated seeking justice for blasphemy-accused Asia Bibi of Pakistan, of the thousands on my list, three wrote, "Do you know what are you are going to lose — both the worlds perhaps?" Another one writes, "Islamically, insults and abuses against the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) count as acts of war and rebellion against a justly created Islamic entity. The Qur'an commands terrible punishment for such acts of war. "Finally, the third one writes, "Salman Taseer was a shame on Islam".

Islam forbids killing anyone, unless it is in self-defense and it is indeed a morbid sin to commit suicide. This statement breeds an enormous confusion among a few Muslims and non-Muslims, they want to know what to believe, what the radicals are doing in the name of Islam or the ones who say they are misrepresenting it.
There is an old saying, “evil thrives in the world unchecked because good people do nothing about it” and the purpose of writing this article is to invoke the goodness in people to speak up.

An overwhelming majority of people in every faith get their religion right; it is a divine instrument that teaches one to be truthful to oneself and bring about a balance within and with what surrounds; life and matter and live in harmony with the creation (the word is ‘follow’ for Christians, ‘surrender’ for Hindus, and ‘submit’ to the will of Allah for Muslims). The prophet was called “Amin” the truthful and the trustworthy. The core value of all religions is expressed in terms of the Golden rule; treat others as you would want to be treated to create orderly societies so everyone can live without the fear of others.

The silent majority needs to speak out at crucial times like this where the murderer Qadri is being hailed as a hero in defending the very Prophet who was a mercy to mankind. This entire sordid affair started when Bibi, a Christian woman was denied the water by a few senseless individuals.

One of the many things you can do as "speak out" is to organize conferences on blasphemy where differing views are listened and understood. You can also sign the petition to express that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was indeed Rahmatul-Lil-Alameen; the man who brought mercy to humanity. http://www.petitiononline.com/Asiabibi/petition.html

Unfortunately, the media mirrors the stories generated by less than 1/100th of 1% of population and dumps on the rest of the population as though it is 'their' story, and the public on the other hand has not demonstrated their support for scrutiny and good news.

We cannot accept statistically insignificant number of people to represent any group. The right-wingers among Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Jews have become a fodder for each other. The left on the other hand shouts that we have to declare a war on right-wingers. Mahatma Gandhi had aptly said an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.
The public is as guilty as the media when it comes to what gets currency; it is a vicious circle and has to be consciously chucked. Qadri should be treated as disloyal criminal for murdering the very person he was to guard and not fall to hysteria generated by the few.

As people of faith, also known as peacemakers, we cannot cause people in conflict to dig in their heels and stick with unamenable positions, we have to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill for the ultimate good of all. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) applied that method in many of his examples. His wisdom comes as guiding light; follow the middle path. Everyone has a God given space, if we can learn to respect that, conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

As moderates we are an overwhelming majority in every society whichever way you classify them, we can express our support to the middle path and ask the extremists to study the life and examples of the Prophet, the ultimate peacemaker and spread kindness and goodness invoking his name.

— Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies through America Together Foundation and the Foundation for Pluralism championing the idea of co-existence through respecting and accepting the otherness of other and is committed to nurturing the pluralistic ideals embedded in Islam through the World Muslim Congress. He an be contacted at MikeGhouse@aol.com.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pakistan; Blaming the Blasphemy Laws

The purpose of this site is to bring together differing views on Blasphemy, and develop an understanding from Islamic point of view for the good of all humanity. Current Blasphemy laws and practices do not go with the values of Islam; free will and respect for life. 

Although Quran does not permit killing oneself or the other person (unless in self defense),  the actual deaths from the enforcement of Blasphemy laws average 3/ year in the entire Muslim world of 1.6  Billion people, where as just in Texas and Florida we execute that many in one year. Neither should be acceptable, shamefully our laws in Texas and laws in Iran are primitive, and Neanderthalic. Both nations need to get rid of these archaic laws.

While agreeing with the need to abolish blasphemy laws, we must acknowledge that it is not going to be easy and it cannot be done overnight.  

The issue is the books that have been referred to for generations, even though they are concocted, they are a backbone to the right wing conservatives, they go by the book, who the hell are you and I to tell them otherwise, they have the books to support their position.

Two alternate ways of dealing with it.

Need a Mustafa Kemal Pasha to burn all those books, and it is not going to happen, because the Pakistani Politicians do not have guts to be bold, the one who had (Musharraf) turned out to do more harm to the nation than the good. The others before him kissed assess of the religious radicals to remain in power like ZH and ZA. Some of the blame comes on us Americans for feeding and supporting the criminals.

The second viable choice is education. Give them the right books, get the Ulema to write as a text or a part of the Sharia Law. Most of them are right, you can listen to almost all of them, they have the right answers, but don't have the books!

The small town Ulema don't have the books or the resources, we cannot blame them for the lack of knowledge, we need to blame ourselves for not facilitating them with the knowledge, the books. You cannot slam dunk the decision on the radicals, it will not be sustainable, get them to sit with you, and review Quraan and Hadith, they will listen to it. Throw them a challenge to prove it from the Quraan, honor them for finding the truth, when they own the research, they will take it upon themselves and the Blasphemy laws will be out of door. 

Write the Books... any one can write one, and then all of us can improvise on it. Whether they are radical or not, Muslims respect Quraan without blinking an eye, give them the Quraan, the right one from the wrong translations. It is possible.

 The ones who are screaming have the back up books to support them... we as Muslims need to come up with books on the topic, endorsed by at least a few Ulema's for them to have something in their hands.  They rather believe in the book they have, however wrong it may be, than you and I. 

Blasphemy laws have no religious grounding, none whatsoever. Instead of murdering in the name of God and the prophet, it is time for reflection. God and the Prophet will not only reject, but condemn human sacrifices in their names.

To kill a human is like killing the whole humanity, Quraan prohibits killing unless it is in self defense, and even then, if the offender backs off, a Muslim is required to withdraw the revengefulness and forgive the opponent. Suicide is condemned in Islam.

Quraan is abundantly clear about no compulsion in matters of faith; you cannot compel one to believe against his or her will. Quraan calls for civility and move on with life; to you is your belief and to me is my belief.

Now a teenage girl is being arrested on blasphemy charges. This needs to stop and only education will take it out in the long haul. More about http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/muslims-condemn-blasphemy-charges-against-pakistan-christian-girl_b_1815127.html

The Blasphemy law is a game of the politicians; it was initiated by the rulers in the past to appease the religious fanatics and to keep a lid on their subjects. It was done by the English Kings, and it is done by the Republicans to appease the religious right in America today, and it was done to do the same in Pakistan; to appease the religious right who has morphed into Talibans.

Governor Taseer was a Muslim, and the Minister for Minority Affairs
Shahbaz Bhatti was a Christian, both were shot dead for asking to bring about the reforms in the Blasphemy laws.

Think about it, neither the killers of Taseer nor Bhatti are evil; it is the damned silence of Pakistanis that is evil for doing nothing about it.  It takes just a few boys in the class room to stand up to the bully from beating them up and the bullies will flee. The Tunisians, the Egyptians, the Libyans are standing up against the bullies, the Pakistanis can do it too to bring about a change they really want, but have to show the moral courage. If you let extremism prevail,
you won't be able to run from it and will sink in the quick sand.

Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. More about it at; www.blasphemylaws.com/

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What Islam do you subscribe to?

Evil exists in a given society because good people do nothing about it.

Obviously everyone is scared of speaking up and as long as you are scared, those few will establish that Islam is their religion and a religion of punishment, oppression and coercion.  Sadly, that is their understanding, one of the many ways to change that perception is to speak up, they need to know that there is a different view and most Muslims do not subscribe to their view.

The least you can do, particularly the Pakistani Americans is to speak up and show the support to those gutsy men and women like Sherry Rahman and Prof. Hoodbhoy who are not scared. As he alludes, Zardari has a choice to leave a legacy of goodness for his country and live in peace or run for his life.

Please visit the site www.BlasphemyLaws.com a variety of articles are being posted to increase our own understanding of it.  

To Save Pakistan, what Miracles need to happen?

Pakistan’s defiant leader

Arab News
Qadri and Muslim Majority.  

To Save Pakistan, What Miracles Shall We Ask of Allah?

January 21, 2011
Pervez Hoodbhoy

In a society dominated by traditional religious values, heroism often means committing some violent and self-destructive act for preserving honor. Although Governor Taseer was not accused of blasphemy, his crime was to seek presidential pardon for an illiterate peasant Christian woman accused of blasphemy by some Muslim neighbours. Taseer’s intervention clearly crossed the current limits of toleration. With no party support, he went at it alone.

Malik Mumtaz Qadri – the official security guard who pumped 22 bullets into the man he was deputed to protect – is not the first such hero. The 19-year old illiterate who killed the author of the book “Rangeela Rasool” in the 1920’s, and was then executed by the British, was held in the highest esteem by the founders of Pakistan, Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It is reported that Iqbal, regarded as Islam’s pre-eminent 20th century philosopher, placed the body in the grave with tears in his eyes and said: "This young man left us, the educated men, behind." Ghazi Ilm-e-Deen is venerated by a mausoleum over his grave in Lahore.

In his court testimony, Taseer’s assassin proudly declared that he was executing Allah’s will. Hundreds of lawyers – made famous by the Black Coat Revolution that restored Pakistan’s Chief Justice – showered him with rose petals while he was in police custody. Two hundred lawyers signed a pledge vowing to defend him for free. Significantly, Qadri is a Barelvi Muslim belonging to the Dawat-e-Islami, and 500 clerics of this faith supported his action in a joint declaration. They said that those who sympathized with Taseer deserved similar punishment.

Significantly most of these mullahs are part of the Sunni Tehreek and are supposedly anti-Taliban moderates. Indeed, one of their leaders, Maulana Sarfaraz Naeemi, was blown up by a Taliban suicide bomber in June 2009 after he spoke out against suicide bombings. But now these “moderates” have joined hands with their attackers. Jointly they rule Pakistan’s streets today, while a cowardly and morally bankrupt government cringes and caves in to their every demand.

Those who claim that Pakistan’s silent majority is fundamentally secular and tolerant may be clutching at straws. They argue that the religious parties don’t get the popular vote and so cannot really be popular. But this is wishful thinking. The mullah parties are unsuccessful only because they are geared for street politics, not electoral politics. They also lack charismatic leadership and have bitter internal rivalries. However the victory of the MMA after 911 shows that they are capable of closing ranks. It is also perfectly possible that a natural leader will emerge and cause an electoral landslide in the not too distant future.

But even without winning elections, the mullah parties are immensely more powerful in determining how you and I live than election-winning parties like the PPP and ANP. For a long time the religious right has dictated what we can or cannot teach in our public and private schools. No government ever had the guts to dilute the hate materials being forced down young throats. They also dictate what you and I can wear, eat, or drink. Their unchallenged power has led to Pakistan’s cultural desertification because they violently oppose music, dance, theatre, art, and intellectual inquiry.

To be sure there are scattered islands of normality in urban Pakistan. But these are shrinking. Yes, the Baluch nationalists are secular, and so is the ethnically-driven MQM in Karachi. But these constitute a tiny fraction of the population.

It is indeed a complete abdication. When the bearded ones brought out 50,000 charged people onto the streets of Karachi, a terrified government instantly sought negotiations with them. Even before that happened, the current interior minister – Rahman Malik, a venal hack and as crooked as they come – promptly declared that he’d personally gun down a blasphemer.

The government’s pants are soaking wet. In fact, so wet that the ruling party dumped Taseer – who was their own high-ranking member – after the murder. There’s talk now of getting American guards for Zardari since his own guards may be untrustworthy. Sherry Rahman, the brave parliamentarian who dared to table a bill to reform the blasphemy law, is now bunkered down. She is said to be receiving two death threats an hour. Significantly, the Army high command has made no public statement on the assassination, although it is vocal on much else.

The media’s so-called independence and vibrancy is reserved for attacking a manifestly corrupt, but nominally secular, government. On other issues – such as a rational discussion of religion and the army’s role in society – it is conspicuously silent. Few sane people are brought on to shows, or are too scared to speak.

Let me recount some personal experiences. The day after Taseer’s assassination, FM-99 (Urdu) called me for an interview. The producer tearfully told me (offline) that she could not find a single religious scholar ready to condemn his murder. She said even ordinary people like me are in short supply.

The next day a TV program on blasphemy (Samaa TV, hosted by Asma Shirazi) was broadcast. Asma had pleaded that I participate. So I did – knowing full well
what was up ahead. My opponents were Farid Paracha (spokesman, Jamaat-e-Islami) and Maulana Sialvi (Sunni Tehreek, a Barelvi and supposed moderate). There were around 100 students in the audience, drawn from colleges across Pindi and Islamabad.

Even as the mullahs frothed and screamed around me (and at me), I managed to say the obvious: that the culture of religious extremism was resulting in a bloodbath in which the majority of victims were Muslims; that non-Muslims were fleeing Pakistan; that the self-appointed “thaikaydars” of Islam in Pakistan were deliberately ignoring the case of other Muslim countries like Indonesia which do not have the death penalty for blasphemy; that debating the details of Blasphemy Law 295-C did not constitute blasphemy; that American Muslims were very far from being the objects of persecution; that harping on drone attacks was an irrelevancy to the present discussion on blasphemy.

The response? Not a single clap for me. Thunderous applause whenever my opponents called for death for blasphemers. And loud cheers for Qadri. When I directly addressed Sialvi and said he had Salman Taseer's blood on his hand, he exclaimed “How I wish I had done it!” (kaash ke main nay khud kiya hota!). You can find all this on YouTube if you like.

One can debate whether this particular episode (and probably many similar ones) should be blamed on the media, whether it genuinely reflects the public mood, and whether those students fairly represented the general Pakistani youth. But there is little doubt which side the Pakistani media took. This was apparent from the unwillingness of anchors to condemn the assassination, as well as from images of the smiling murderer being feted all around. Mullah guests filled the screens of most channels. Some journalists and TV-show participants favorably compared Qadri with Ilm-e-Deen. Others sought to prove that Taseer somehow brought his death upon himself.

 If the US had never come to Afghanistan, Pakistan would not be the violent mess that it is today. So there is an element of truth in this claim, but no more than an element. Let me give you an analogy: imagine lots of dry wood and a lighted match. The US-led anti-Soviet war was that match. But the combustible material is that dangerous conservatism which accumulated over time. The strength of the Islamist parties vastly increased after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto kow-towed to them after 1973-4. This was 5-6 years before the Soviet invasion so one can scarcely blame America for that.

Yes, the West did set dry wood on fire. But the staggering quantity of wood comes from the rotting mass of Pakistan’s state and society. Ours is an apartheid society where the rich treat the poor like dirt, the justice system does not work, education is as rotten as it can be, and visible corruption goes unpunished. Add to all this a million mullahs in a million mosques who exploit people’s frustrations. You then have the explanation for today’s catastrophic situation.

Of course I would love to see the Americans out of Afghanistan. The sooner they can withdraw – without precipitating a 1996 style Taliban massacre – the better. But let’s realize that US withdrawal will not end Pakistan’s problems. Those fighting the Americans aren’t exactly Vietnamese-type socialists or nationalists. The Taliban-types want a full cultural revolution: beards, burqas, 5 daily prayers, no music, no art, no entertainment, and no contact with modernity except for getting its weapons.

 The grievances in Tunisia are similar in some ways to those in Pakistan: raging unemployment, grotesque corruption, and the opulent lifestyles of the elite. Like Zardari, who fills Pakistani cities with pictures of the Bhutto clan and renames streets and airports, Ben Ali also promoted his family. Both plundered national wealth, and both got the West’s support because they claimed to be bulwarks against extremism. Today Ben Ali is gone, and tomorrow Zardari will be gone.

But the differences are profound: Tunisia’s population of 10 million is miniscule compared to Pakistan’s 180 million. Young Tunisians do not suffer from a toxic overdose of hard-line religion. So they came out bravely into the streets to fight for real social change. One can therefore hope that Ben Ali’s departure will lead to a flowering of Arab democracy rather than invite the dark forces of religious extremism. Yet one can be absolutely sure that Zardari’s departure, which may happen sooner rather than later, is not likely to lead to a more secular or more peaceful Pakistan.

As for Bangladesh: let us recall that it emerged from the collapse of Jinnah’s Two-Nation theory. Nationalism triumphed over religion in 1971. Hence the positive new developments in Bangladesh are not difficult to understand.

If you want the truth: the answer is, nothing. Our goose is cooked. Sometimes there is no way to extinguish a forest fire until it burns itself out. Ultimately there will be nothing left to burn. But well before the last liberal is shot or silenced, the mullahs will be gunning for each other in a big way. Mullah-inspired bombers have already started blowing up shrines and mosques of the opposing sect. The internet is flooded with gory photographs of chopped-up body parts belonging to their rivals. Qadri, the assassin, admitted his inspiration to murder came from a cleric. So you can also expect that Muslim clerics will enthusiastically kill other Muslim clerics. Eventually we could have the situation that prevailed during Europe’s 30-Year War.

To save Pakistan, what miracles shall we ask of Allah? Here’s my personal list: First, that the Pakistan army stops seeing India as enemy number one and starts seeing extremism as a mortal threat. Second, that Zardari’s government is replaced by one that is less corrupt, more capable of governance, and equipped with both the will and legitimacy to challenge religious fascism. And, third, that peace somehow comes to Afghanistan.

In an interview with Viewpoint, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy discusses the situation in Pakistan. Hoodbhoy received his undergraduate and PhD degrees from MIT and has been teaching nuclear and high-energy physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in
Islamabad for 37 years. He also lectures at US universities and laboratories, and is a frequent commentator, on Pakistani TV channels as well as international media outlets, on various social and political issues

Pakistan's defiant prisoner of intolerance

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's defiant prisoner of intolerance, vows to stay put

'These death threats won't make me flee', says Rehman, who supports reform of Pakistan's blasphemy laws
Declan Walsh in Karachi

Sherry Rehman, a liberal parliamentarian with the ruling Pakistan People's Party who proposed a bill to reform Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, at her home home in Karachi. Photograph: Declan Walsh for the Observer
All Sherry Rehman wants is to go out – for a coffee, a stroll, lunch, anything. But that's not possible. Death threats flood her email inbox and mobile phone; armed police are squatted at the gate of her Karachi mansion; government ministers advise her to flee.

"I get two types of advice about leaving," says the steely politician. "One from concerned friends, the other from those who want me out so I'll stop making trouble. But I'm going nowhere." She pauses, then adds quietly: "At least for now."

It's been almost three weeks since Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was gunned down outside an Islamabad cafe. As the country plunged into crisis, Rehman became a prisoner in her own home. Having championed the same issue that caused Taseer's death – reform of Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws – she is, by popular consensus, next on the extremists' list.

Giant rallies against blasphemy reform have swelled the streets of Karachi, where clerics use her name. There are allegations that a cleric in a local mosque, barely five minutes' drive away, has branded her an "infidel" deserving of death. In the Punjabi city of Multan last week opponents tried to file blasphemy charges against her – raising the absurd possibility of Rehman, a national politician, facing a possible death sentence. "My inbox is inundated. The good news is that a lot of it is no longer hate mail," she says with a grim smile. "But a lot of it is."

Pakistani politicians have a long tradition of self-imposed exile but 50-year-old Rehman – a former confidante of Benazir Bhutto, and known for her glamour, principled politics and sharp tongue – is surely the first to undergo self-imposed house arrest. Hers is a luxury cell near the Karachi shore, filled with fine furniture and expensive art, but a stifling one. Government officials insist on 48 hours' notice before putting a foot outside. Plots are afoot, they warn.
She welcomes a stream of visitors – well-educated, English-speaking people from the slim elite. But Pakistan's left is divided and outnumbered. Supporters squabble over whether they should call themselves "liberals", and while candle-lit vigils in upmarket shopping areas may attract 200 well-heeled protesters, the religious parties can turn out 40,000 people, all shouting support for Mumtaz Qadri, the fanatical policeman who shot Taseer. "Pakistan is one of the first examples of a fascist, faith-based dystopia," warns commentator Nadeem Farooq Paracha.

Is it really that bad? At Friday lunchtime worshippers streamed into the Aram Bagh mosque, a beautiful structure in central Karachi inscribed with poetry praising the prophet Muhammad. "He dispelled darkness with his beauty," read one line. At the gate a banner hung by the Jamaat-e-Islami religious party offered less inspiring verse: "Death to those who conspire against the blasphemy laws."

Qamar Ahmed, a 50-year-old jeweller, said he "saluted" Taseer's killer, Qadri. "Nobody should insult the glory of the prophet, who taught us Muslims to pray," he said.

A sense of siege is setting in among Pakistan's elite. Hours later, at an upscale drinks party in the city, businessmen and their wives sipped wine and gossiped about second homes in Dubai. One woman admitted she wasn't aware of Rehman's plight because she had stopped reading the papers. "Too much bad news," she said.

Yet Pakistan is not on the verge of becoming a totalitarian religious state. The fervour is being whipped up by the normally fractious religious parties, delighted at having found a uniting issue. Leading the protests is Jamaat-e-Islami, which made the mistake of boycotting the last election and now wants to trigger a fresh poll.

More significant is the lack of resistance from every other party. Rehman is polite when asked about the silence of her colleag ues in the ruling Pakistan Peoples party on the blasphemy issue. "They feel they want to address this issue at another time," she says. The truth is, they have abandoned her.

The party played with fire over the blasphemy issue last November when President Asif Ali Zardari floated the idea of a pardon for Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on dubious blasphemy charges. According to Rehman, he also agreed to reform the law. But then conservative elements in the party objected, a conservative judge blocked the pardon and, even before Taseer had been killed, the party had vowed not to touch a law that has become the virtual sacred writ of Pakistani politics.

The opposition has also been quiet. "The greater the failure of the ruling class, the louder the voice of the cleric," says politician and journalist Ayaz Amir.
The mess is also the product of dangerous spy games by the powerful army, which propped up jihadi groups for decades to fight in Afghanistan and India. Some of those militants have now "gone rogue" and allied with al-Qaida; others, according to US assessments in the WikiLeaks files, are still quietly supported by the military. "Our establishment, especially the army, is in league with these people," says Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a moderate cleric. "And until they stop supporting them they will never be weakened."

The furore has exposed the fallacy of western ideas about "moderate" Islam. Qadri is a member of the mainstream Barelvi sect, whose leaders previously condemned the Taliban. But after Taseer's death, Barelvi clerics were the first to declare that anyone who even mourned with his grieving family was guilty of blasphemy.

Progressives demonstrate loudly in the English press and on Twitter but lack political support, having largely spurned corruption-ridden politics. Politicians say now is the time to come back. "They will be contemptuous of the politician, but they will not actually soil their hands with politics. But none of them has a constituency from which to stand," says Amir.

And there are signs that extremists do back down when confronted. Qari Munir Shakir, the cleric accused of calling Rehman an "infidel", denied his comments after Rehman supporters filed a police case against him. "It's all been blown out of proportion," he said. "All I did was ask her to take the law back. I can't imagine calling her a non-Muslim or declare her Wajib ul Qatil [deserving of death]."

Rehman is unlikely to attend Pakistan's parliament when it resumes this week. Her progressive credentials are strong, having previously introduced legislation that blunted anti-women laws and criminalised sexual harassment. But critics, including senior human rights officials, say she made a tactical mistake in prematurely introducing last November's blasphemy bill without the requisite political support.

"There's never a right time," she retorts. "Blasphemy cases are continually popping up, more horror stories from the ground. How do you ignore them?" At any rate the bill is a dead letter: clerics are demanding its immediate withdrawal from parliament and the government is likely to comply.
Amid the gloom there is some hope, from unlikely quarters. On a popular talk show last Friday night Veena Malik, an actress who faced conservative censure for appearing on the Indian version of Big Brother, gave an unforgettable tongue-lashing to a cleric who had been criticising her. "You are attacking me because I am a soft target," she railed into the camera, wagging her finger.

"But there's a lot more you can fix in the name of Islam… What about those mullahs who rape the same boys that they teach in mosques?" As the mullah replied, she started to barrack him again.

Hope also springs inside the silent majority. "The blasphemy law should be changed," declared Muhammad Usman after Friday prayers. Clutching his motorbike helmet, the 30-year-old pharmaceutical company representative said he was unafraid of speaking his mind. "It's just the illiterate ones who are supporting Mumtaz Qadri. They don't have any real religious knowledge," he said.

Some analysts downplay the worst predictions, saying blasphemy is exceptionally sensitive in a country obsessed by religion. They are right. Pakistan will soon return to more concrete worries: Taliban insurgents, economic collapse, the rise of extremism. Yet there is no doubt the aftermath of Taseer's death points to a country headed down a dangerous path.
"We know from history that appeasement doesn't pay. It only emboldens them," said Rehman.

She has no idea how long her self-imposed house arrest will last, but the precedents are ominous. In 1997 a judge who acquitted two Christians accused of blasphemy was gunned down – three years after the judgment.

"It makes me realise that life is pretty fragile," she says. "But we don't want to leave. I see no meaning to a life away from my country. It's my identity, it's everything."