Blasphemy law is responsible for extremism, says known Islamic scholar

The world was shocked at the hero’s treatment given to the murderer of Governor Taseer. Everybody thought the Muslims of Pakistan had either lost their faith in the true spirit of their religion or were too afraid of the extremists to come out and at least condemn the criminal glorification of the gory crime. A paid bodyguard whose duty it was to protect a senior functionary killed him and yet he was being garlanded by none else but the so-called custodians of the rule of law. But it seems that the nation is still alive and so are the properly educated religious scholars. As a breath of fresh air, a statement came from a prominent Islamic scholar who has launched a blistering attack on Pakistan‘s blasphemy laws, warning that failure to repeal them will only strengthen religious extremists and their violent followers.

According to a report in Guardian, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a reformist scholar and popular television preacher said that the blasphemy laws have no justification in Islam. These ulema (literal meaning: scholars but they are mostly illiterate in contemporary disciplines) are just telling lies to the people. These ulema have become stronger, because they have street power behind them, and the liberal forces are weak and divided. If it continues like this it could result in the destruction of Pakistan.

Ghamidi, 59, is the only religious scholar to publicly oppose the blasphemy laws since the assassination of the Punjab governor, Salmaan Taseer, on 4 January. He speaks out at considerable personal risk. Ghamidi spoke to the Guardian from Malaysia, where he fled with his wife and daughters last year after police foiled a plot to bomb their Lahore home. Their fears were well founded: within months Taliban gunmen assassinated Dr Farooq Khan, a Ghamidi ally also famous for speaking out, at his clinic in the north-western city of Mardan.

Liberal voices have been marginalized; many fear to speak out. Mainstream political parties have crumbled, led by the ruling Pakistan People’s party, which declared it will never amend the blasphemy law. Sherry Rehman, a PPP parliamentarian who proposed changes to the legislation, was herself charged with blasphemy this week. Since Taseer’s death she has been confined to her Karachi home after numerous death threats, some issued publicly by clerics. Although other Islamic scholars share Ghamidi’s views on blasphemy, none dared air them so forcefully. Ghamidi’s voice stands out because he attacks the blasphemy law on religious grounds. While secular critics say it is abused to persecute minorities and settle scores, Ghamidi says it has no foundation in either the Qur’an or the Hadith – the sayings of the prophet Muhammad.

Related links:

Clergy has a cause for politics….

Blasphemy law will keep them busy for ever…

What is more disturbing in Salman Taseer’s murder, crime or its glorification?

Tracing roots: Academics delve into blasphemy law’s origin

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