Criminalizing the Defamation of Islam
Nothing prompts the hundreds of ordinarily feuding and fighting sects of Islam to come together like the slightest disrespect shown to the founder of their religion or their religious sanctity. With the slightest hint from their vested-interest clergy and politicians, mobs of Muslims pour into the streets in a frenzy, burning things, destroying buildings, and killing people they consider, however remotely, complicit in defaming Islam.
Concurrently, Islamic diplomats flood international forums such as the United Nations demanding that the international community adopt so-called blasphemy laws that would make criticism of their religion a criminal offense. Islamic heads of government such as Muhammad Morsi of Egypt, Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, and Ayatollah Khamenei of the Islamic Republic of Iran are raising a hue and cry about how Islam has been defamed in the West and claiming that urgent action is needed to stem the tide of anti-Islam expressions. These defenders of Islam, also billed as the religion of peace, call the expressions that the free world considers part and parcel of freedom of speech blasphemy. And committing blasphemy in many Islamic lands can cost people their lives.
The annual spectacle of the United Nations, where heads of state or their high representatives flock to New York to address the General Assembly on matters of great import to the world community, often lives up to the appellation "circus." It is in this forum that the Hitler-wannabe clown, Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, lectured the international body on the civility of his government and the need for the rest of the world to follow its example. Among the things the world must do is expunge Israel from the map and send the Jews to wherever they came from, if not to where Ahmadinejad's idol Adolf sent millions of them. And naturally, his government's around-the-clock race to acquire nuclear weapons capability is a fabrication of Jews and Americans. The Islamic government is pursuing a peaceful nuclear program and has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. When asked why is it that the Islamic government does not allow the international atomic energy commission to inspect its facility, Ahmadinejad has the audacity to say that there is no need for so doing. Just take our word for it.
This business of criminalizing blasphemy, demanded by a raft of Islamic politicians and high clerics, reached its highest pitch when the head of the Arab League, Nabil Alaraby, formally proposed it in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly this week. He said that in the same manner that the West has criminalized actions that physically harm people, it should also criminalize acts that harm people psychologically and spiritually.
Fascinating proposal indeed! Should only the West adopt laws that would suffocate freedom of expression in order to protect Muslim sensibilities? Don't Muslims need to do the same? Alaraby indeed proposes that these laws should criminalize insulting the sanctity of religions. It is very civil of him to make it inclusive by using the plural term "religions." But to him and one and a half billion Muslims, there are, according to the Quran, only three belief systems that qualify as religion: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. What about the billions who are Hindus, Buddhists, and members of other faiths? What about agnostics? What about atheists, who don't believe in a deity? Not believing in a deity, in itself, is also a belief system. These people are fair game and can be vilified without any penalty under the proposed blasphemy law?
Interestingly enough, Muslims lash out in savagery when the sanctity of their faith is affronted in the form of a cartoon, a video, a book, or an individual burning of a Quran. Yet they feel free not only to insult other peoples' religions, but also to wreak all kinds of horrific acts upon those people. Defaming, insulting, and desecrating others' beliefs is in the fabric of Islam itself.
Muslims are offended by a particular individual burning of a Quran at one end of the world and react with mayhem, violence, and killings wherever they live. Let the individual buy all the Qurans he wants and burn them. In a free world, publishers rush their presses and produce more than enough replacements of the burned Qurans even before the smoke from the smoldering books completely disappears. Someone has made a video offensive to Muslims? Did the video actually incite riots? Did it violate the boundaries set by freedom of expression? If so, it is the duty of the courts to decide the matter and mete out the appropriate punishment -- not the prerogative of the mob to unleash its wrath on buildings and innocent people.
Muslims have no problem insulting even a Quran-sanctioned religion, Christianity, as sanctioned in the Quran itself. According to Quran 5:73, "infidels are they who say Allah is one of three," in reference to the Christian concept of Trinity. And "[i]nfidels are they who say Allah is the Christ, son of Mary." In Quran 9:30 it says, "[T]he Christians say the Christ is the son of Allah ... may Allah's curse be upon them."
I hardly need chronicle here all the vile things Islam has done and continues to do and say about the Jews, from the life of Muhammad to this very day.
Muslims do not limit the justifications for their attacks on other religions to cartoons, videos, and print material. Just a few instances are sufficient to establish their heinous deeds and the double standards they practice. Not long ago, the Taliban shamelessly destroyed the magnificent historical statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia bars churches, synagogues, and other places of worship for any and all non-Muslims. The Islamic Republic of Iran has an official policy of decimating the country's largest religious minority, the Bahá'ís. In pursuit of this criminal objective, Bahá'í's holiest shrine in Shiraz has been leveled, Bahá'í cemeteries are bulldozed, and in many cities, the Bahá'ís are not even permitted to bury their dead. Bahá'ís are barred from government employment, their businesses and lives are routinely attacked, some are imprisoned, and many are executed.
Young Bahá'ís are not admitted to universities unless they recant their faith. When Bahá'ís attempt to educate their people by offering courses in private homes, the teachers are imprisoned, and study materials and computers are confiscated.
Christians and Jews are not treated as cruelly as the Bahá'ís in Iran. Yet they are clearly second-class citizens in their own country simply because they are not Muslims.
Atrocities committed across the Muslim world by Muslims against other faiths are legend. Egypt's Coptic Christians are fleeing their ancestral home in droves; ditto for Christians in Iraq. Mali's Ansar Dine, overrun by jihadist Muslims, is experiencing the destructions of Sufi temples and Christian churches. Bombing Christian churches and killing Christians in Nigeria is all in a day's work for people of the religion of peace.
It stands to reason that the Muslims who feel so offended by the uncomplimentary portrayal of Islam need to take a close look at their own individual as well as collective treatment of non-Muslims. Muslims do not have the right to engage in atrocities against others while demanding that no one in any form or shape offend their religious sensibilities.
Mohammad Morsi, a card-carrying lifelong member of the Muslim Brotherhood presently presiding over Egypt, has no credibility lecturing us on civility and respect for other people and their religion when in his own country minority citizens are at the mercy of Muslim mobs. Ahmadinejad, who time and again has publicly proclaimed his aim to destroy Israel, should not be allowed to sully the soil of the land of the free and promote Hitlerism in close proximity to the Statue of Liberty, which symbolizes America and what America stands for and reveres.
Nabil Alaraby, the head of the Arab League, and his ilk need to learn the elemental lesson of civility by granting to others what they shamelessly demand exclusively for themselves. It is long overdue for these purveyors of hate and intolerance toward non-Muslims to mend their own ways before appearing in international forums and shamelessly preaching the need for respect. These Muslim pseudo-populists thrive among the masses of gullible Muslims, but they certainly have no standing among the people who judge them by their deeds rather than by their rhetoric.
My advice to these pretenders of civility and devotees of respect: please go home and grant your own minority citizens a modicum of respect and tolerance before pressuring the world body to enact laws that would criminalize the defamation of Islam. Islam must first end its longstanding practice of defaming, imprisoning, and killing religious minorities before it can hope to earn reciprocity from non-Muslim people.