February 24, 2008
Universal Islamic 'Blasphemy' Law ?By Andrew G. Bostom
Almost two weeks ago, "three men with a Muslim background" were arrested by Danish police on anti-terrorism charges, suspected of having plotted to murder Kurt Westergaard, a cartoonist for Jyllands-Posten. Westergaard is one of the 12 cartoonists who on September 30, 2005 published cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad to protest the tacit enforcement in Danish society of Islam's taboo on depictions of Muhammad, no matter how banal, or inoffensive, through intimidation -- a clear violation of Western freedom of expression.
And within 3 days, by February 15, 2008, confirming the pervasive fear of violent Muslim reprisal that apparently grips Danish society, Westergaard was ejected from his police-protected hotel room having been deemed, "too much of a security risk." Now the 73-year-old cartoonist and his wife are homeless.
Not surprisingly, when newspapers in Denmark, and across Europe re-published the 12 original cartoons in solidarity with the threatened cartoonist, violent protests ensued by Danish Muslims (including burnings, and perhaps a bombing). Other violent demonstrations took place in Muslim communities across the Middle East and Asia.
Yet scant attention has been paid to a remarkable -- and remarkably chilling -- statement that was issued on Friday February 15, 2008 by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Turkish Secretary General of the Jeddah-based Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the world's unique pan-Islamic political body, comprised of 57 members, including secular Turkey. Conveniently ignoring that the re-publication in Denmark of 12 banal cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad was an urgent, sane protest of the disrupted plot by Muslims to murder one of the original Danish cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, and oblivious to the immoral equivalence he was making, Ihsanoglu stated,
Continuing, Ihsanoglu further demonstrated both the complete absence of self-criticism, and triumphalism of the Islamic worldview that seeks to impose its Shari'a-based conceptions -- antithetical to true freedom of conscience and expression -- on all of humanity. And he concluded with a thinly veiled threat of violence:
Two years earlier, on 1/18/06, in response to the initial printing of the Danish cartoons, Ihsanoglu had denounced, "...the publication of blasphemous and insulting caricatures of Prophet Muhammad." He concluded that this "Islamophobic" act of "sacrilege" somehow contravened, "...international principles, values, and ethics enshrined in the various resolutions and declarations of the United Nations." These sentiments of Ihsanoglu (and the OIC he represents) were reiterated more brazenly by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi during a sermon which aired February 3, 2006. Qaradawi demanded action from the United Nations in accord with purely Islamic, Shari'a-based conceptions of "blasphemy":
But the unctuous Ishanoglu, in stark contrast to his sharp attacks on the Danish cartoonists, has never issued a statement condemning the sermons of authoritative, hugely popular Muslim clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, for example, who elsewhere, has openly proclaimed Muhammad as the prototype jihadist.
Sheikh al-Qaradawi, one of the most influential contemporary Muslim thinkers, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and head of the European Fatwa Council, reaches an enormous audience during his regular appearances on Al- Jazeera, and other Arabic television outlets. Qaradawi's inflammatory February 3, 2006 sermon, which addressed the original publication of the Danish cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad, opens with seething, self-righteous anger, segues into Qaradawi's now standard, pro-forma Jew hatred, and closes, most disturbingly, with thinly veiled threats of terrorism to "...Westerners, the Americans, and Europeans."
But the sheer, blatant hypocrisy of these statements decrying the cartoon portrayals of Muhammad can only be appreciated when viewed in the larger overall context of his pious jihadism, most notably Qaradawi's prior characterization of "Muhammad as a jihad model":
Previously, Qaradawi elaborated both the targets and allowable "tactics" for those contemporary Muslims whom he encourages to wage jihad. Jews, and their allies, figure prominently in these statements. For example, at the July 2003 meeting (in Stockholm) of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, Qaradawi emphasized the orthodox Islamic basis for human homicide bomb "martyrdom operations" to be directed against all Israeli citizens, whom he further described as classic "harbis", licit targets in the Dar al Harb.
Although neither Qaradawi's admonitions for all out jihad against Israeli Jews, nor his constant Jew baiting, are surprising, he has also called for jihad martyrdom operations against American forces in Iraq, and more ominously, Qaradawi has made unabashed appeals for Muslims to wage a "jihad re-conquest" of Europe. His public fatwa on December 2, 2002 stated,
Qaradawi's fatwa ruled, in addition, that Muslims should re-conquer, "...former Islamic colonies to Andalus[ia] (Spain), southern Italy, Sicily, the Balkans and the Mediterranean islands."
And even in that purely mythical paragon of Islamic ecumenism -- "Andalusia," Muslim Spain during the Middle Ages (which not only Qaradawi, but legions of "moderate" Muslims openly profess they would like to restore) -- Islamic supremacism, as codified in Islamic Law, engendered the same deep-seated, sacralized intolerance that has always predominated under Muslim rule. Already by the end of the eighth century, the rulers of Andalusia (and North Africa) had established rigorous Malikism as the dominant Islamic school of jurisprudence, rendering the Muslim Andalusian state, as noted in historian Evariste Levi-Provencal's seminal Histoire de l'Espagne musulmane,
Consistent with this historical reality, Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq, a pre-eminent scholar of Muslim Spain, observed that the myriad religious and legal discriminations suffered by non-Muslim dhimmis (i.e., the non-Muslim Iberian populations vanquished by jihad, and governed by Islamic law, Shari'a), included lethal punishments for "blaspheming" the Muslim prophet, or the Koran:
A millennium later, Islam's draconian punishment for infidels accused of blaspheming the Muslim prophet Muhammad persisted, with uncompromising ferocity. French painter Alfred Dehodencq's striking "Execution of a Moroccan Jewess" is based upon the actual blasphemy execution of a Jewess from Tangier, Morocco, Sol Hachuel, believed to have occurred in 1834. A detailed, near contemporary account of Sol Hachuel's heroic martyrdom -- based upon eyewitness interviews -- was published in 1837 by Eugenio Maria Romero.
Accused, falsely, of having become a Muslim, and then "blaspheming" Muhammad, upon adamantly and steadfastly maintaining her Jewish faith ("A Jewess I was born, a Jewess I wish to die"), the 17 year-old Sol was beheaded publicly for both this contrived "apostasy" from Islam, and "blasphemy." Among the narrative details Romero provides of the young victim's execution day in Fez is this depiction of how the Muslim masses reacted to the charge of "blasphemy" against her:
Abundant contemporary evidence demonstrates that Islamic law and mores regarding blasphemy, today, remain distressingly incompatible with modern conceptions of religious freedom, and human rights. Thus writing in the early 1990s, the esteemed Pakistani scholar Muhammad Asrar, whose opinion was accepted by Pakistan's Shari'a Court, defined "blasphemy", focusing on the Muslim prophet, as:
And in accord with classical Islamic jurisprudence (for example, The Risala of al-Qayrawani [d. 996]), Madani argues that anyone who defames Muhammad -- Muslim or non-Muslim -- must be put to death. Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo has documented how this orthodox Islamic doctrine -- incorporated into the Pakistani legal code (Section 295-C, "defiling the name of Muhammad") -- has wreaked havoc, particularly among Pakistan's small Christian minority community:
After at least four such murders, and the "blasphemy" case of Ayub Masih (who had been incarcerated in solitary confinement since October 14, 1996 and sentenced to death on April 27, 1998 by Sessions Court Judge Rana Abdul Ghaffar), Bishop John Joseph of Faisalbad committed suicide on May 6 1998, to protest the continued application of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
And incidents which have occurred within just the past 2-months illustrate that what prevails in Pakistan is hardly unique, but rather emblematic. Pervez Kambakhsh, a 23 year-old Afghan journalist was recently convicted (January 2008) of "blasphemy" -- consistent with classical Islamic Law -- for downloading and distributing an article "insulting" Islam, including the "blasphemous" allegation that "...Muhammad had ignored the rights of women.." Subsequently the Afghan Senate issued a statement on the case -- signed by its leader, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, a reputed ally of President Hamid Karzai -- approving the death sentence conferred on Mr Kambakhsh, also in full accord with the Shari'a, by a city court in Mazar-e-Sharif.
Within days, the Afghan Senate bowed to international pressure, and apparently reversed itself, withdrawing the confirmation of Kambakhsh's death sentence for blasphemy. However, although not universal, commonplace public sentiments in support of this Shari'a ruling were expressed by Afghans across the age spectrum. Abdul Wasi Tokhi, an 18-year-old student at the American University in Kabul, argued for a swift execution, stating:
And Qari Imam Bakhsh, a Muslim cleric, concurred, maintaining:
This January, 2008, as well, in Iraqi Kurdistan -- upheld as a successful model of regional Islamic moderation, even secularization -- more evidence of oppressive, re-emergent Shari'a was on display. A court in Halabja (where Saddam Hussein's minions gassed thousands of Kurdish civilians in 1988, 15 years prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom), sentenced a Kurdish author in absentia to six months in prison for blasphemy. The author, Mariwan Halabjaee, was accused of writing in a book that Mohammed had 19 wives, married a 9-year-old when he was 54, and took part in murder and rape -- all of which can confirmed from the "sira," the authoritative, earliest pious Muslim biographies of his life (like this one by Ibn Ishaq/Ibn Hisham). From his asylum in Norway, Mr. Halabjee maintained that a fatwa calling for his death unless he pleads for forgiveness, has also been issued.
Intrepid historian David Littman has been chronicling, nearly alone, for almost two decades, the concerted efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to Islamize international human rights instruments, and apply the Shari'a "standard" for blasphemy -- pace the current Kambakhsh and Halabjee travesties -- to all nations. Littman warned, for example, about the development of the Shari'a-based 1990 Cairo Declaration (i.e., the so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam), to which all member states of the OIC are signatories, publicizing the immediate objections of a brave Senegalese jurist, Adama Dieng. Dieng, a Muslim, who subsequently became a United Nations special rapporteur, then serving as secretary-general to the International Commission of Jurists, declared forthrightly in February 1992 that the Cairo Declaration, under the rubric of the Shari'a,
K.S. Lal, the late Indian Professor of Islam, noted this difficult, if not intractable conundrum:
Confirmation of Lal's observations at the macro level of international relations is manifested by the ceaseless, and increasingly successful campaign of the OIC to enforce universal application of a Shari'a standard, in complete opposition to bedrock principles of modern human rights, such a freedom of expression, and conscience.
More than a decade ago, Samuel Huntington observed appositely, and with a candor that is now exceedingly rare,
During his recent debate with the cultural jihadist Tariq Ramadan, Ibn Warraq elucidated what is at stake should such Islamic supremacism prevail: