Criminalise Blasphemy

2012-09-27 04:57

Biased and unpleasant writings, cartoons and depictions against Islam, Muslims and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are being continually recycled and published in the mass media. It seems to reflect a well orchestrated, deliberate and recurring pattern.

In addition to the latest infamous and provocative anti-Prophet film: “Innocence of Muslims”, a French magazine published distasteful cartoons about Prophet Muhammad.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay described the film as malicious and deliberately provocative and portrays a disgracefully distorted image of Muslims.

Just like other religions, cultures and creeds, Islam also commands its followers to respect and treat fairly their neighbours, friends, family and fellow citizens, regardless of race or religious affiliation. We are all siblings in religion.

If it were possible for a survey to be undertaken of the whole Muslim diasporas, it would be evident that the vast majority speak of peaceful, non-violent resolutions to conflict situations.

To quote the United Nations: “The fault line is not between Muslim and non-Muslim societies. But between a small number of extremists on different sides, with a vested interest in stirring hostility and conflict”.

To this effect Muslims are extremely concerned with a small group of extremist, especially in Western countries, who try their best to stir up conflict between Muslims and non- Muslims. Moreover, this active minority do not wish to see peace and co-existence between different members of the huge and diverse human family.

As Muslims, we are commanded by Almighty God to advocate dialogue, understanding and tolerance, but it will be in vain if this small group of extremist are not stopped and they continue to perpetuate hatred against Islam, Muslims and the Prophet. I firmly believe that through mutual consideration and the revival of respect, tolerance and acceptance as a shared medium of dialogue we will be better equipped to rebuild and recreate a more peaceful and loving society.

Ideally, we need to establish effective neighbourly/ sibling relations in an effort to create space for mutual freedom, prosperity and co-existence.

Do we hear of Muslim caricaturing figureheads of other religions or producing films denigrating the life of a beloved personality outside of Islam? It will be very difficult to come up with a positive answer. The Quran clearly warns Muslims against insulting any religion as the counter reaction will be insult to Islam.

I firmly believe that the action by the makers of this despicable film - “Innocence of Muslims”, albeit in the name of “freedom of speech”, is an affront to the norms of civilised society. It is no use shouting “FIRE” in a packed auditorium and then, after a stampede, say, “It’s just a joke!’ this is where the boundary for freedom of speech is drawn. I would like to urge the sensible policy makers in the Western world to make concerted efforts to prevent the ignition of such deadly fires.

This senselessness that benefits no one but hurts many definitely needs to stop.

It is ironic that the French judiciary correctly barred a magazine from publishing more pictures of Kate Middleton. But, when Muslims are offended by insults to their beloved Prophet the freedom of expression is used to justify it. Similarly, the holocaust cannot be even questioned as it is deemed anti-semetic. If questioning the Holocaust is an offence, then is it not justifiable for Muslims to request that belittling and insulting Almighty God’s prophets and religious symbols be regarded as a criminal offence?

Should it not be imperative in today’s world, for the United Nations (UN) to issue an effective resolution criminalizing the derogation of religious symbols?

In order to heal the bleeding world, and ensure human rights, equality, justice and a life of dignity for all, such a resolution will go a long way towards global peace.

Therefore, it is my hope and I support the call that world leaders reconsider and criminalize the denigration of religious symbols, as such provocations do not serve the main values and ethics of free speech, values that every seeker of truth and justice seek to encourage and sustain. It is crucial for all the propounders of “Free speech” to remember with the freedom comes a moral duty of responsibility.

Anything, be it an article, film, book, caricature, or a statement, which hurts someone else’s religion or cultural belief and sentiments, should not be allowed. The hallmark of civilization is to have mutual respect and courtesy for our diverse cultures and religions.

As Muslims we should register our protests with graceful integrity and in constructive and meaningful ways. For that is what the Holy Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) would have approved.

In conclusion, I quote; “We need to use the judicial systems and laws against Holocaust denial and hate speech as examples to initiate debate about the freedom of free speech and its limits! Existing laws should be used as an outline, guidance and precedence against anti-Islam speech, to minimize exploitation of religious sensibilities”.

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