Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide

Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide

Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide

Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide

Synopsis

The fatwa against Salman Rushdie awakened many westerners to the danger of being accused of blasphemy in the Muslim world. As this eye-opening volume reveals, accusations of "blasphemy," "apostasy," or "insulting Islam" are increasingly used by authoritarian governments and extremist forces in the Muslim world to acquire and consolidate power. These charges, which traditionally carry a punishment of death, have proved effective in intimidating not only converts and heterodox groups, but also political and religious reformers. In his foreword, the late Indonesian President Wahid observes that coercively applied blasphemy laws "narrow the bounds of acceptable discourse...not only about religion, but about vast spheres of life, literature, science and culture in general."

Silencedprovides the first survey of such accusations in the contemporary Muslim world, in international organizations, and in the West. The authors describe hundreds of victims, including political dissidents, religious reformers, journalists, writers, artists, movie makers, and religious minorities throughout the Muslim world. They also document the political effects in Muslim societies of blasphemy and apostasy laws, as well as non-governmental fatwas and vigilante violence. Finally, they address the move toward new blasphemy laws in the West and the increasing threat of violence to stifle commentary on Islam in the West even in the absence of law.

Excerpt

Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid

Nothing could possibly threaten God who is Omnipotent and existing as absolute and eternal Truth. and as ar-Rahman (the Merciful) and ar-Rahim (the Compassionate), God has no enemies.

As revered Muslim intellectual K. H. Mustofa Bisri wrote in his poem “Allahu Akbar”: “If all of the 6 billion human inhabitants of this earth, which is no greater than a speck of dust, were blasphemous … or pious … it would not have the slightest effect upon His greatness.”

Those who claim to defend God, Islam, or the Prophet are thus either deluding themselves or manipulating religion for their own mundane and political purposes. We witnessed this in the carefully manufactured outrage that swept the Muslim world several years ago, claiming hundreds of lives, in response to cartoons published in Denmark. Those who presume to fully grasp God’s will, and dare to impose by force their own limited understanding of this upon others, are essentially equating themselves with God and are unwittingly engaged in blasphemy.

As Muslims, rather than harshly condemning others’ speech or beliefs and employing threats or violence to constrain these, we should ask: Why is there so little freedom of expression and freedom of religion in the so-called Muslim world? Exactly whose interests are served by laws such as Section 295-C of the Pakistani legal code, “Defiling the Name of Muhammad,” which mandates the death penalty for “blasphemy”? Pakistan’s Federal Shari’a Court has effectively defined this law as:

Reviling or insulting the Prophet in writing or speech; speaking profanely
or contemptuously about him or his family; attacking the Prophet’s dig
nity and honor in an abusive manner; vilifying him or making an ugly
face when his name is mentioned; showing enmity or hatred towards
him, his family, his companions, and the Muslims; accusing, or slan
dering the Prophet and his family, including spreading evil reports about
him or his family; defaming the Prophet; refusing the Prophet’s jurisdic
tion or judgment in any manner; rejecting the Sunnah; showing disre
spect, contempt for or rejection of the rights of Allah and His Prophet or
rebelling against Allah and His Prophet.

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