Whenever something awful is done by Muslims, there is the quick retort that “It isn’t Islam”. This is where I must surprise readers – the blasphemy laws currently demanded by Muslims ‘really isn’t Islam’! I will never aid Islam to prosper or even to exist, but this is one occasion when the ‘truth must out’. In other words, government and judicial organisations pressing for blasphemy laws to ‘protect’ Islam are way out of line, because they want to legislate for something not found in the Koran, but is being demanded by just a few strict sects to silence criticism. Thus, it is the West that is unnecessarily stirring up sedition and bad feeling. So, what is the story?
Nothing in the Koran about Blasphemy Punishments
Whilst blasphemy against God, Mohammed, and anything sacred against Islam is rebuked (Wiederhold, Lutz. "Blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and his companions (sabb al-rasul, sabb al-sahabah): The introduction of the topic into shafi'i legal literature and its relevance for legal practice under Mamluk rule". Journal of semitic studies 42.1 (1997): 39–70.), the Koran does not demand a punishment or penalty. (Saeed, 2004 & p. 38–39).
So, in theory, the current demands by some Muslims is not part of Koranic Islam and should have no influence on Westerners who capitulate to them. But, then comes a different story from the hadiths, which demand a variety of punishments, including death (Saeed, 2004 & p. 38–9. And Siraj Khan. Blasphemy against the Prophet, in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture (editors: Coeli Fitzpatrick and Adam Hani Walker). ISBN 978-1610691772, pp. 59–67). As the hadiths supposedly take their principles and direction from the Koran, if the Koran does not demand punishments, then the hadiths that do are acting independently of their own ‘holy book’, which can be construed to be against Allah and Mohammed.
Even those sects that demand punishments vary the penalty according to whether or not the one accused is male or female, Muslim or non-Muslim. (Saeed, 2004 & p. 38–39). There are also variances by country, ranging from fines and loss of freedom to beheading, as many news items prove ("Speak No Evil: Apostasy, Blasphemy and Heresy in Malaysian Syariah Law". UC Davis Journal Int'l Law & Policy. 10, pp. 357–73. ##N Swazo (2014). (P Smith (2003). "The Case of Hamza Kashgari: Examining Apostasy, Heresy, and Blasphemy Under Sharia". The Review of Faith & International Affairs 12(4). pp. 16–26).
There are very few cases of punishments in times before ours. But, those with wickedness in mind use punishments both to frighten Muslims into submission and non-Muslims into accepting sharia. (Juan Eduardo Campo, ed. (2009). "Blasphemy". Encyclopedia of Islam. Infobase Publishing). BUT – this threat is from only a few sects, not from all of Islam. For this reason Christians should jump on this difference as evidence of discrimination and wrongful law if the West submits to the demand.
At the same time it is up to sects that do NOT demand blasphemy laws to speak up strongly so that any idea of making the laws is quashed, otherwise, why should we believe their protestations? Many years ago we spoke out against the making of blasphemy laws generally, because we knew that though they were instigated by Christians, the same laws could then be used against us by non-Christians and those who wished to harm us. Sadly, it seems we were right.
Though blasphemy is hardly featured at all in the Koran, we do find it in Islamic literature, which appears to divide blasphemy into a variety of sub-parts: saab (insult), shatm (abuse, vilification), takdhib/tajdif (denial), iftira (concoction), la`n/ la'ana (curse), and ta`n (accuse, defame). (Siraj Khan. Blasphemy against the Prophet, in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture (ed: Coeli Fitzpatrick Ph.D., Adam Hani Walker). ISBN 978-1610691772, pp. 59–67.
Hassner, R. E. (2011). "Blasphemy and Violence". International Studies Quarterly 55(1). pp. 23–24;
Lewis, Bernard. "Behind the Rushdie affair." The American Scholar 60.2 (1991), pp. 185–96;
Stanfield-Johnson, R. (2004). "The tabarra'iyan and the early Safavids". Iranian Studies 37(1). pp. 47–71).
The Koran, then, does not demand punishment for blasphemy, but some sects DO. And, as we see from the above list of ‘crimes’ against Islam, non-Muslims can be caught by ANY number of them, even if they say nothing and reject it! This is especially because supposed ‘blasphemy’ can mix itself with kufr (unbelief), fisq (depravity), isa'ah (insult), and ridda (apostasy). (Talal Asad, in Hent de Vries (ed.). Religion: Beyond a Concept. Fordham University Press (2008). ISBN 978-0823227242. pp. 589–92 and L Wiederhold L, Blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and his companions (sabb al-rasul, sabb al-sahabah): The introduction of the topic into Shafi'i legal literature, Jrnl of Sem Studies, Oxford University Press, 42(1), pp. 39–70). In other words, Westerners do not stand a chance, even if silent!
Then, it gets even more curious and confusing, for some surah* in the Koran do relate to blasphemy (in times of physical war, and possibly why jihadists are trying their best to stir-up physical reactions to their foul murders in the West… they can kill ‘fairly’ if they are at total war!) (*Note: A Surah is the term for a chapter of the Quran. There are 114 Surahs in the Quran, each divided into verses).
“The only punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is that they should be murdered, or crucified, or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides, or they should be imprisoned. This shall be a disgrace for them in this world, and in the Hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement. Except those who repent before you overpower them; so know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Koran, 5:33 and 33:57-61)
These are the most used verses to ‘justify’ killing for blasphemy. (Siraj Khan. Blasphemy against the Prophet, in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture (editors: Coeli Fitzpatrick and Adam Hani Walker). ISBN 978-1610691772, pp. 59–67. And Brian Winston (2014). The Rushdie Fatwa and After: A Lesson to the Circumspect, Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1137388599. p. 74, Quote: "(In the case of blasphemy and Salman Rushdie) the death sentence it pronounced was grounded in a jurisprudential gloss on the Surah al-Ahzab (33:57)". et al). Some Islamic commentators use these verses to justify waging war against the West. Other verses are also used to kill:
“Those who annoy Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this World and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating Punishment. Truly, if the Hypocrites, and those in whose hearts is a disease, and those who stir up sedition in the City, desist not, We shall certainly stir thee up against them: Then will they not be able to stay in it as thy neighbours for any length of time: They shall have a curse on them: whenever they are found, they shall be seized and slain (without mercy).” (Koran 33:57-61)
Even within Islam jurists and others contradict each other with interpretations… so this, again, is suitable as a defence in the West – not that we need one in the mind of any reasonable man. As I have always maintained, for Christians too – criticism of ideas and religion is best left to the market-place of thought; let claims rise or fall as they will. Punishing criticism is a sign of a weak argument.
Yet, Mohammed was supposed to have said "Do you not bear witness that her blood is futile!" when a Muslim killed his slave for ‘insulting’ Mohammed. (Sunan Abu Dawood, 38:4348). Even this is variously interpreted! So, to base a Western law on ideas of ‘blasphemy’ is futile. Not only that, but such a law would encourage all manner of retribution from violent Muslims, as they follow whichever version of interpretation they wish to use! Strict Islamic countries put a supposed ‘blasphemer’ to death.
Thus, critics of Islam are, to certain sects, blasphemers and ‘apostates’, and a Muslim who supposedly ‘blasphemes’ has automatically left Islam, even if his or her ‘crime’ is one word. Remember, this is only the view of some sects.
“Unfortunately, many Muslims assert that death or other harsh measures are the only possible punishments for those who commit blasphemy. However, as will be explained, this belief is mistaken and incorrect according to both the… Quran and the Sunnah—the Practice of the… Prophet.” (https://www.quora.com/What-does-Islam-say-about-blasphemy-laws )
This goes on to quote Mohammed again, showing just how variable his own words can be…
“Islam enjoins fair treatment of all, including one’s enemies:
…Let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness…
Mohammed even says NOT to revile or attack unbelievers, lest they think all the less of Allah!
“And revile not those whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they, out of spite, revile Allah in their ignorance.” (6:109)
What we have then, are sects against sects in the matter of interpretation – the wilder and more violent ones vying against the others. Yet, Western authorities think they know best and follow the violent ones! “In other words, Islam teaches Muslims to be sensitive to the sensibilities of others—no matter how strongly they disagree with them. The implication of this verse is that if it is not permitted for Muslims to slander false idols, it certainly cannot be permissible for Muslims to defile other sects within Islam or other religions.” (Quora). Indeed, 4:141 tells Muslims simply not to talk with those who do not believe. Nothing more. “The prophet of Islam Muhammad consistently forgave those who mocked and insulted him, demonstrating that there was no punishment for blasphemy.” (Quora).
One Islamic website says this:
“There is nothing in the Quran or the authentic teachings of Prophet Muhammad justifying the killing of people for opposing, criticizing, humiliating or showing irreverence toward holy personages, religious artifacts, customs and beliefs of Islam.” (http://www.islamicity.org/4274/is-blaspheme-punishable-by-death-in-islam/ ). This is followed by the Koranic text in Arabic, which, when translated, says:
"Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah,
lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance.
Thus We have made alluring to each people its own doings.
In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did.”(6:108)
“If blasphemy was punishable by death in Islam, then the Prophet would have been the first one to order the killing of hundreds of his foes who later became his closest companions. With the exception of a very few earlier Arabs who accepted the Prophet as the Messenger of Allah, the majority of people of Makkah opposed him, humiliated him, cursed or blasphemed him or even tried to kill him, yet he preferred to practice forgiveness and to seek the divine mercy for them.” (Islamicity)
(In the above text ‘Makkah’ is Mecca).
There is a strange alchemy in Islamic minds, where Mohammed is claimed to have loved and was indulgent towards unbelievers, and yet he slaughtered many thousands, or turned them into slaves, or imposed a vile tax on them if they did not believe his fantasy religion. Why on earth should ANY people want to consort with such a man? There is an irony in Mohammed being ‘merciful’ towards those he subjugated with the sword!
“… if we go back to the Quran, we can see that what's happening in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan isn't faithfully Islamic at all.” (Independent newspaper, 12th May, 2017).
The newspaper article goes on to speak of ‘Christian Europe’, when it ought to have said ‘Roman Catholic Europe’, which used blasphemy laws to force people to accept Roman Catholic rule and stop dissent. It then says this same Catholicism was exported to Islamic countries. The twist is that almost all Islamic authorities trace their current demands for blasphemy laws back to British statute! This, though, is not an excuse: it simply means the British statute was just as wrong as the Islamic one. Even so, the article says:
“By convicting Governor Ahok of blasphemy, Indonesia disgraces itself, violates human rights and ignores Islamic teachings. In fact, despite addressing blasphemy dozens of times, the Quran prescribes absolutely no worldly punishment.”
(Ahok is a Christian governor in Indonesia).
“That notwithstanding, Governor Ahok is right that the Quran does not mandate Muslims to vote for a Muslim over a non-Muslim. Instead, Quran 4:59-60 commands Muslims: “Verily, Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice... O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority among you.”
“So, in a twist of irony, the Christian governor accused of blasphemy cited the Quran correctly, while the Muslim clerics punishing him are themselves wrong. Thus, if such clerics are that hell-bent on blasphemy laws, they should arrest themselves and set Governor Ahok free.”
The article is well-said! And it then adds a wry comment on why the laws against blasphemy exist in Indonesia (and thus in all Islamic countries):
“But they won’t, because blasphemy laws don’t exist to protect God: they exist to protect the fragile egos of corrupt clerics. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation and has long stood as a beacon of hope. But Governor Ahok’s conviction, along with the ongoing violent persecution of Indonesia’s Ahmadi Muslims, threatens this thriving democracy’s future.”
Really, this just about sums up why some sects in Islam want blasphemy laws – they want to boost their failing status and authority. Anyone who resorts to violence to keep adherents has no inherent authority at all; they only have corrupt power. Just as Catholicism accused people of blasphemy so as to keep its grip on ignorant peoples, so Islam does the same thing.
It would be wonderful if Christians remembered these points and spoke out against a coming blasphemy law… but I fear they will do no such thing. Many will side with Islam, thereby giving it power, a power that will be used against the very ones who support it. Islam has no credibility – do not allow it to crush freedom in the West.
Note: Many leading Muslims reject the interpretations of other Muslims who demand blasphemy laws in the West. So, why are law-makers considering following only the demands of a few sects? Do not let it come to that – complain to those who make laws and to politicians who are so ignorant they do not even know the above facts.
© June 2018