Saturday, May 31, 2008

Blasphemy and the Islamic law

"Last week on Tuesday, May 13th, Human Rights Watch urged Saudi Arabia to revoke a death sentence. Sabri Bogday, a Turkish man who had a barbershop in the Saudi kingdom, had been given a death sentence in April this year. Mr Bogday was accused of blaspheming against Allah. The incident allegedly took place 14 months ago during an argument with his neighbor, an Egyptian who ran a tailor's shop.
The Egyptian filed the complaint and then disappeared. Mr Bogday admitted charges of "swearing against Allah," but was not given a chance to repent. Mr Bogday retains his Turkish citizenship, even though he has lived in the Saudi kingdom for 11 years. The Turkish government is trying to assist his attempts to have the death sentence removed.
In Afghanistan this weekend, on Sunday May 18th, an apprentice journalist appeared briefly in court. 23-year-old Parwiz Kambakhsh was sentenced to death in Mazar-i-Sharif in the north of Afghanistan on January 22nd this year for blasphemy. Mr Khambakhsh had downloaded an article from an Iranian website, and brought it into his journalism class.
This article questioned why a man is allowed under Islam to have four wives, but a woman is not allowed four husbands. Khambakhsh maintains that he only brought the article into class for the purposes of discussion. He was given only three minutes to prepare his defense when he was taken to court, and the trial took place in secret. On Sunday, an appeal court judge told him he had one week to prepare for his appeal against the death penalty. Khambakhsh told the judge: "I'm a Muslim and will never allow myself to insult my religion."
Back in March 2006, the West was shocked when a court ruled that an Afghan man, Abdul Rahman, was sentenced to death by an Afghan court. Rahman had converted to Christianity. Apostasy, according to Judge Ansarullah Mawlawizadah, was "an attack on Islam." 500 Muslim clerics demanded the death penalty for Rahman. He was smuggled out of the country and now lives in Italy.
Even the Afghanistan Senate approved the death sentence against 23-year-year old Parwiz Kambakhsh. The trainee journalist's plight may be politically motivated - his brother Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi has written on the atrocities committed by a former leader in the Northern Alliance. This man is Haji Mohammed Mohaqeq. It appears that the harshness of Parwiz's sentence may have been intended to silence his brother's reports. Mohaqeq is head of Afghanistan's Religious and Cultural Affairs Commission, and is based in Mazar-i-Sharif.
In Pakistan, harsh laws against blasphemy were introduced by the Islamist military dictator General Zia ul-Haq, who ruled the country from July 1977 until his death in a plane crash in August 1988. Anyone who is officially accused of any of Pakistan's blasphemy laws is automatically taken into custody. These laws will be discussed in more depth later, but in practice they are frequently used to discriminate against non-Muslims.
People accused of blasphemy in Pakistan often become the victims of lynch-mobs. Last month, on April 8th a young Hindu was lynched to death by his co-workers after being accused of blaspheming against Mohammed, founder of Islam.
23-year-old Jagdeesh Kumar worked at a garment factory in Karachi, a port city in Sindh province. He was beaten to death while a contingent of police stood by and did nothing. It took days for a police report to be filed on the case, but arrests did not happen until weeks later. According to my friend, Pakistani Christian journalist Qaiser Felix, when the three workers who killed Jagdesh were arrested, they were "charged not with murder but with 'failure to inform the police that blasphemy was underway.'" Qaiser wrote that Jagdeesh was the first Hindu to die as a result of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
On Friday last week, Compass Direct reported on the case of a Pakistani Christian, Dr. Robin Sardar. This man, a father of six, lives in Punjab Province, along with most of Pakistan's small number of Christians. Dr. Sardar appears to have been falsely accused of blasphemy by a street vendor. The doctor argued with the vendor. The next day (May 5th), after the vendor had been reporting that Dr. Sardar had earlier blasphemed against Mohammed, a mob of Muslims arrived at his home, calling for his death. Police arrested Dr Sardar. His house now carries a sign outside it, bearing the words: "This is the house of a blasphemer."
According to Dr. Sardar's nephew, he had been friends with his accuser for years before the blasphemy accusation was made. A police report was filed. Since 1990, an amendment to the law means that anyone found guilty of blaspheming against Mohammed receives a mandatory death sentence. So far, no one has been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, although at least 22 individuals have been lynched to death after being accused of the crime.
One activist based in Islamabad has said: "Not a single murderer who killed anyone for blasphemy has been punished for murder. In fact, such murderers get hero's treatment in police stations. And those police officials who openly honour such murderers have never been tried for their illegal and reprehensible action."
In Bangladesh this month, a Christian pastor based in Mymensingh district was "punished" by Muslim villagers for being open about his faith and ignoring the death threats that Muslims made against him. On May 2 the 13-year-old daughter of Pastor Motilal Das was gang-raped by five Muslim villagers.
These are just a few recent cases. What do such acts of brutality and laws that support intolerance say about these societies? Why is Islam the only faith to continue to condone the killing of apostates and blasphemers?"


The above excerpt is Part one of an extensive analysis By Adrian Morgan. To read the complete artice click here..

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