Archive for the ‘Blasphemy courts’ category

The Great Price of “Blaspheming” against Muhammad

May 15, 2017

The Great Price of “Blaspheming” against Muhammad, Gatestone InstituteRaymond Ibrahim, May 14, 2017

Because the word of a Christian “infidel” is not valid against the word of a Muslim, accusations of blasphemy, often with little or no evidence, routinely lead to the beating, imprisonment, and possible killing of Christians and other minorities every month in Pakistan.

“The available evidence in all these cases suggests that charges were brought as a measure to intimidate and punish members of minority religious communities… hostility towards religious minority groups appeared in many cases to be compounded by personal enmity, professional or economic rivalry or a desire to gain political advantage.” — Amnesty International.

“Iran sentences a 21-year-old man to death for ‘insulting Islam’ … after confessing when police promised he would be pardoned if he came clean.” — Daily Mail.

A few days ago in Pakistan, a Christian pastor who has been “tortured every day in prison” since 2012 when he was first incarcerated, was sentenced to life in prison. Zafar Bhatti, 51, is accused of sending “blasphemous” text messages from his mobile phone; but human rights activists contend that the charge “was fabricated to remove him from his role as a Pastor.” His wife, Nawab Bibi, says:

“Many Muslim people hated how quickly his church was growing; they have taken this action to undermine his work. Yet despite their actions the church grows. I wish our persecutors would see that Christians are not evil creatures. We are human beings created by God the same God that created them although they do not know this yet.”

She adds, “There have been numerous attempts to kill my husband — he is bullied everyday and he is not safe from inmates and prison staff alike.” In 2014, he “narrowly escaped assassination after a rogue prison officer,” Muhammad Yousaf, went on a shooting spree “to kill all inmates accused of blasphemy against Islam.”

Bhatti is one of countless Christian minorities to suffer under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which has helped make that country the fourth-worst nation in the world in which to be Christian.

Asia Bibi, a Christian wife and mother, has been on death row since 2010 on the accusation that she insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad. According to Section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code:

“Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Because the word of a Christian “infidel” is not valid against the word of a Muslim, accusations of blasphemy, often with little or no evidence, routinely lead to the beating, imprisonment or killing of Christians and other minorities every month in Pakistan.[1] An Amnesty International report from 1994 summarizes the situation:

Several dozen people have been charged with blasphemy in Pakistan over the last few years; in all the cases known to Amnesty International, the charges of blasphemy appear to have been arbitrarily brought, founded solely on the individuals’ minority religious beliefs… The available evidence in all these cases suggests that charges were brought as a measure to intimidate and punish members of minority religious communities… hostility towards religious minority groups appeared in many cases to be compounded by personal enmity, professional or economic rivalry or a desire to gain political advantage. As a consequence, Amnesty International has concluded that most of the individuals now facing charges of blasphemy, or convicted on such charges, are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their real or imputed religious beliefs in violation of their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Other Christians accused of blasphemy never get the chance for even a mock trial and are dealt “justice” at the hands of angry mobs — such as the young Christian couple burned alive on a spurious accusation of blasphemy in November 2014. A report from 2012 found that “Since 1990 alone, fifty-two people have been extra-judicially murdered on charges of blasphemy” in Pakistan.

Last month, three burqa-wearing sisters shot and killed a man accused of committing blasphemy in 2004. “[W]e couldn’t kill him at the time because we were too young then,” they explained.

Also last month, a 23-year-old college student “was killed and another seriously injured by a vigilante mob for allegedly ‘publishing blasphemous content online.'” The incident occurred on campus; the mob was yelling “Allahu Akbar” throughout.

Although Islam’s blasphemy law is most associated with Pakistan, several other Muslim nations use it to persecute Christians and other minorities. Days ago, around the same time Bhatti was being sentenced to life in Pakistan, in Indonesia, Ahok, the Christian governor of Jakarta, was sentenced to two years in prison on the charge of insulting Islam and desecrating the Koran.[2] Similarly, on March 30, a report appeared saying, “Iran sentences a 21-year-old man to death for ‘insulting Islam’ … after confessing when police promised he would be pardoned if he came clean.”

JAKARTA, INDONESIA – MAY 09: Members of various hardline Muslim groups celebrate after Jakarta’s Governor was convicted of committing blasphemy on May 9, 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Hardline Muslim groups gathered outside Jakarta’s court during the trial of Governor Basuki Tjahaja Pernama known widely as “Ahok”, who was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday after being found guilty of blasphemy as the trial continues to threaten social harmony in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. (Photo by Ed Wray/Getty Images)

Earlier this year in Algeria, Samir Chamek, a 34-year-old Christian man, was sentenced to a year in prison after a court found him “guilty of insulting Islam and its prophet over items he posted on his Facebook page.” They were described as “accusing the prophet Muhammad of terrorism and murder and comparing the prophet to Hitler, mentioning the persecution and massacre of the Jews.” Also in Algeria, last August, a Muslim convert to Christianity was sentenced to the maximum five years in prison for saying that the light of Jesus will outshine Islam and its prophet Muhammad on social media, which the court ruled as “blasphemous.”

In October, in Ethiopia, four Christian girls — aged 18, 15, 14, and 14 — handed out a booklet entitled, “Let’s speak the truth in love.” Because it challenged Islamic accusations against Christianity, local Muslims deemed the book blasphemous and rioted. They attacked a church and assaulted Christians. The girls were arrested and, after a brief court hearing on November 15, sentenced to a month in prison.

As in Pakistan, Muslims mobs and “vigilantes” often take “the law” into their own hands. In March, in India, a Muslim-turned-atheist “was hacked to death by a four-member gang” of Muslims. Last September, a Christian writer and activist was murdered outside of a courthouse in Jordan. The 56-year-old man was earlier arrested for sharing a “blasphemous” cartoon about the Islamic prophet Muhammad. As he was walking into court to stand trial for “contempt of religion” and “inciting sectarian strife,” a man dressed in traditional Muslim garb shot him to death.

Last August, in Nigeria, after two university students got into an argument, the Muslim student accused the Christian student of insulting Muhammad. Soon a mob of Muslims assembled and said the Christian must die. Then they savagely beat and nearly killed him. The following day, mobs of Muslims rioted and vandalized Christian campuses and churches.

Such nonstop accusations, incarcerations, murders, torture and death penalties meted out to non-Muslims on the mere accusation of “blasphemy” — at the hands of mobs, vigilantes, and court judges — call into question any claims of tolerance, modernity or pluralism in many Muslim-majority nations.

Raymond Ibrahim is the author ofCrucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians(published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).

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[1] At least one but often more blasphemy-related cases appear practically every month in Pakistan and are documented in the monthly “Muslim Persecution of Christians” reports. The following are incidents that occurred in the last report, January 2017:

  • An evangelical Christian was arrested on charges of blasphemy and faces the death penalty. According to a complaint by a Muslim, Haji Nadeem, Shahbaz Babu desecrated the Koran by writing his name on some pages, tearing them up and then scattering them on the street in front of a mosque. Although the Muslim admits he did not see the accused in the act, Babu—whom rights activists say is “completely illiterate”—was nonetheless arrested. In a nation where the mere accusation that an infidel insulted Islam could get the non-Muslim killed by the mob, executed by the state or simply imprisoned, Babu’s defenders wonder at the notion that he “is supposed to have desecrated the Qurʾān in secret, but then left the evidence for everyone to see.” Others say that he was disliked by the mosque because several members had stopped attending it and listening to the evangelist who is popular in his region.
  • An imam in Lambanwali accused an elderly Christian of writing and sending to him a series of “derogatory letters” in which he defamed Islamic prophet Muhammad. Once the blasphemy accusation was made, police promptly stormed the Christian’s home in the night and arrested his entire family. Although the man denies the accusation—correctly pointing out that only a suicide would do what he is accused of doing in Pakistan—he “is likely to face an imprisonment of 10 years while there are assumptions that Section 295-C might be invoked in order to aggravate the punishment to death penalty,” said the report.
  • A blasphemy case was registered against Shaan Taseer—son of Salman Taseer, a human rights activist and defender of persecuted Christians who was assassinated by Muslims—for saying “Merry Christmas.”
  • Five Christian rights activists were known for their public opposition to the country’s blasphemy laws all went missing within the same week.

[2] The blasphemy controversy erupted when a video appeared online of Ahok saying that many Muslims misunderstand Koran 5:51 — which commands Muslims not to befriend Jews and Christians. That a Christian would dare try to distort the Koran’s call for hostility against Christians and Jews in order to boost his chances at reelection was deemed blasphemous enough to prompt mass riots and calls for his death in Indonesia.

Europe’s New Blasphemy Courts

November 4, 2016

Europe’s New Blasphemy Courts, Gatestone InstituteDouglas Murray, November 4, 2016

(Please see also, America’s “Arab Spring” — DM)

Europe is currently seeing the reintroduction of blasphemy laws through both the front and back doors, initiated in a country which once prided itself on being among the first in the world to throw off clerical intrusion into politics.

By prosecuting Wilders, the courts in Holland are effectively ruling that there is only one correct answer to the question Wilders asked. They are saying that if someone asks you whether you would like more Moroccans or fewer, people must always answer “more,” or he will be committing a crime.

At no point would it occur to me that anyone saying he did not want an endless flow of, say, British people coming into the Netherlands should be prosecuted. Nor would he be.

The long-term implications for Dutch democracy of criminalising a majority opinion are catastrophic. But the trial of Wilders is also a nakedly political move.

The Dutch courts are behaving like a religious court. They are trying to regulate public expression and opinion when it comes to the followers of one religion. In so doing they obviously aspire to keep the peace in the short term, but they cannot possibly realise what trouble they are storing up for our future.

 

Europe is currently seeing the reintroduction of blasphemy laws through both the front and back doors. In Britain, the gymnast Louis Smith has just been suspended for two months by British Gymnastics. This 27-year old sportsman’s career has been put on hold, and potentially ruined, not because of anything to do with athletics but because of something to do with Islam.

Last month a video emerged online of the four-time Olympic medal-winner and a friend getting up to drunken antics after a wedding. The video — taken on Smith’s phone in the early hours of the morning — showed a friend taking a rug off a wall and doing an imitation of Islamic prayer rituals. When the video from Smith’s phone ended up in the hands of a newspaper, there was an immediate investigation, press castigation and public humiliation for the young athlete. Smith — who is himself of mixed race — was forced to parade on daytime television in Britain and deny that he is a racist, bigot or xenophobe. Notoriously liberal figures from the UK media queued up to berate him for getting drunk or for even thinking of taking part in any mockery of religion. This in a country in which Monty Python’s Life of Brian is regularly voted the nation’s favourite comic movie.

After an “investigation,” the British sports authority has now deemed Smith’s behaviour to warrant a removal of funding and a two-month ban from sport. This is the re-entry of blasphemy laws through the back door, where newspapers, daytime chat-shows and sports authorities decide between them that one religion is worthy of particular protection. They do so because they take the religion of Islam uniquely on its own estimation and believe, as well as fear, the warnings of the Islamic blasphemy-police worldwide.

The front-door reintroduction of blasphemy laws, meantime, is being initiated in a country which once prided itself on being among the first in the world to throw off clerical intrusion into politics. The Dutch politician Geert Wilders has been put on trial before. In 2010 he was tried in the courts for the contents of his film “Fitna” as well as a number of articles. The trial collapsed after one of the expert witnesses — the late, great Dutch scholar of Islam, Hans Jansen — revealed that a judge in the case had tried in private to influence him to change his testimony. The trial was transparently rigged and made Dutch justice look like that of a tin-pot dictatorship rather than one of the world’s most developed democracies. The trial was rescheduled and, after considerable legal wrangling, Wilders was eventually found “not guilty” of a non-crime in 2011.

But it seems that the Dutch legal system, like the Mounties, is intent on always getting its man. On Monday of this week the latest trial of Geert Wilders got underway in Holland. This time Wilders is being tried because of a statement at a rally in front of his supporters in March 2014. Ahead of municipal elections, and following reports of a disproportionate amount of crimes being committed in Holland by Muslims of Moroccan origin, Wilders asked a crowd, “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?” The audience responded, “Fewer, fewer.” To which Wilders responded, “Well, we’ll arrange that, then.”

1546By prosecuting Dutch member of parliament Geert Wilders for making “politcially incorrect” statements, Dutch courts are behaving like a religious court. They are trying to regulate public expression and opinion when it comes to the followers of one religion. (Source of Wilders photo: Flickr/Metropolico)

Opinion polls suggest that around half the Dutch public want fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands and many opinion polls going back decades suggest that the Dutch people want less immigration in general. So at the very least Wilders is being put on trial for voicing an opinion which is far from fringe. The long-term implications for Dutch democracy of criminalizing a majority opinion are catastrophic. But the trial of Wilders is also a nakedly political move.

Whether or not one feels any support for Wilders’s sentiments is not in fact the point in this case. The point is that by prosecuting someone for saying what he said, the courts in Holland are effectively ruling that there is only one correct answer to the question Wilders asked. They are saying that if someone asks you whether you would like more Moroccans or fewer, people must always answer “more,” or they will be committing a crime. What kind of way is that to order a public debate on immigration or anything else? People may say, “He wouldn’t be allowed to say that about any other group of people.” And Wilders himself may not say that about any group of people, because he has his own political views and his own interpretation of the problems facing his country.

It is worth trying a thought-experiment: If Wilders or any other politician got up and asked a crowd “Do you want more or fewer British people in Holland,” I may not — as a British person — feel terribly pleased with him for asking the question, or terribly happy with the crowd if they chanted “Fewer.” Although if British expats in Holland were responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime and disorder in the country, some mitigating sympathy for the sentiment may be forthcoming. But at no point would it occur to me that anyone saying he did not want an endless flow of British people coming into the Netherlands should be prosecuted. Nor would he be.

Like the behaviour of the British Gymnastics association, the Dutch courts are behaving like a religious court. They are trying to regulate public expression and opinion when it comes to the followers of one religion. In so doing, they obviously aspire to keep the peace in the short term, but they cannot possibly realise what trouble they are storing up for our future.