Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The true blasphemers

One wonders what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would have thought of the clamor in the Muslim world to force respect for him, especially when it involves killing and brazen persecution of minorities. Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad was sent “as a mercy to all mankind” (Quran 21:07), and we are enjoined to study his life and model our character after him for he is described such: “you O Muhammad are of most sublime and exalted character” (Quran 68:4)

Would Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) have looked kindly at the Blasphemy Law enacted during the tenure of Pakistani dictator Zia-ul-Haq? The infamous Blasphemy Law has been used to advance political agendas, continually endanger minorities and even make Muslims more Muslim.

Lower court judges, frequently fearful for their own safety have pronounced death sentences on alleged blasphemers but higher courts have revoked them. Hopefully this will be the case for Aasia Bibi, a 45- year old Christian mother of five, whose situation now represents the madness that has become Pakistan. While working in her village she allegedly offered water to her Muslim co-workers who refused to accept it on the basis of her being “unclean”. Reports vary but the one used to pronounce her death sentence claims sworn statements by the other women that Aasia Bibi was disrespectful to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). She was arrested the next day and is in jail awaiting a decision by the Lahore High Court.

The flames of fanaticism have put out a reward of $5000 for anyone that is able to kill her while she is in jail! A few years ago two Christian men were acquitted by a higher court on blasphemy charges but killed as they left the court. The disconnect between the spirit of Islam and this insanity leaves non-rabid Muslims incredulous and pained. “Let there be no compulsion in religion” says the Quran (2:256). So why do Muslims feel they can force conversion or pressurize the observance of respect when none is felt?

Islam literally means submission to the will of God and the Quran states clearly that He directs those to the Light that He wills (26:35). Not only have Pakistanis become judge and jury, they have taken on the mantle of being God and The Prophet!

Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) life was characterized by gentleness and forgiveness. He repeatedly suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of individuals and groups, but his response was not militancy but clemency. Muslims know the Taif incident in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was jeered at and injured with rocks and the angel Gabriel came to him and said that if Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) wanted, the people of Taif could be destroyed. But Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) prayed for his own relationship with the Almighty rather than death-wishes for the people of Taif.

Another current day ludicrous event is the arrest of Dr. Naushad Valiyani again on charges of blasphemy, this time for throwing the business card of a pharmaceutical representative named Muhammad Faizan in the trash can. Dr. Valiyani is an Ismaili, another minority Shia community in Pakistan. If this perverse logic is to be extrapolated, no one with the name of Muhammad, which happens to be the most common in the world, should be punished, reprimanded or questioned for it would activate the Blasphemy Law again.

During the rule of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Ahmadis a small community in Pakistan were classified as being non-Muslim, with mention of this status on their passports. As though this travesty were not enough, Ahmadis are killed on a regular basis at the instigation of well-known, so called “scholars” of Islam.

Pakistan is 96% Muslim, unlike secular Turkey which is 99% so. Pakistan’s constitution protects minorities and the white strip at the edge of its flag represents minorities while the larger green area represents Muslims.

In Pakistan’s educational system, the best and the brightest become doctors and lawyers. The orphaned and the disinterested become imams, mullahs and sheikhs. And they get captive audiences during the Friday sermon and prayer. There is a personal, national and international agenda at work with these blinkered mullahs and giving out of context hate-filled sermons is now national fare.

It is not Aasia Bibi that deserves to die or Dr. Valiyani that merits persecution; not only should there be repeal of the Blasphemy Law, Pakistan needs an ultra-rapid detoxification from its rabid mullahs that have hijacked Islam and misrepresented the Prophet. They are the true blasphemers.