Blasphemy laws: PM tells Ulema not to worry

Published: January 19, 2011

Gilani denies that a committee has been formed; says govt not in favour of misuse of the law. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani reiterated his stance on the blasphemy laws in an address to ulema on Tuesday, saying the controversial laws would not be changed.

Addressing religious scholars at the “Ulema and Mashaikh Conference 2011” at the National Library in Islamabad, Gilani also stressed that no law should be misused. He urged religious scholars to bring out the true interpretation of Islam and propagate its teachings of tolerance and mutual respect for each other’s religions.

Prime Minister Gilani said a committee was set up by the Pakistan Peoples Party to see whether any legislation that is moved by its members has its (party’s) endorsement.

He said he himself was a descendent of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and the ulema must not fear that anything would be done contrary to Islam by the present government.

On the sanctity of the constitution and rule of law, the prime minister said the law of the land must be adhered to. “We are not in favour of an amendment in the blasphemy laws, but we are not in favour of its misuse either,” Gilani added. The prime minister said all acts of violence bring a bad name to religion and are seen unfavourably in the West, which makes the lives of Pakistanis living abroad difficult.

He said following the real teachings of Islam is the only way to get rid of terrorism that has spread across the globe.

Gilani assured the ulema that the issue of syllabus would be referred to the Inter Provincial Coordination (IPCC) ministry. He said his government believed in taking along all political forces on board and appreciated the opposition for being supportive on all national issues.

The prime minister also quoted from the Quran and said Islam does not impose its terms on anyone. He said the life and teachings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) clearly show that it is not binding on anyone to adopt and adhere to any particular religion. The PM said Islam was spread not through sword, but through the teachings and exemplary lives of the prophets.

Syed Khursheed Shah, minister in charge of religious affairs, said terrorism across the world was haunting humanity and people from all religions faced similar threats.

Earlier, scholars spoke about Islam’s universal message of peace, love and tolerance and that it believed in peaceful co-existence with people of all religions. They said Islam did not differentiate between people of any caste, colour or creed, and all are treated equally with justice and impartiality.

There are no two opinions about the honour and dignity accorded to the Holy Prophet (pbuh), scholars said, adding the Quran and Sunnah were very clear about it. They said no one would be allowed to bring any change in the blasphemy laws.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Jan 18, 2011 - 4:19PM

    Watched the PM speak and I must say that liberals can learn a thing or two from him. The speech was a master-class in how to get a message of moderation across to the most rabid rightists in the country. A persuasive orator. Recommend

  • Mehnaz
    Jan 18, 2011 - 4:28PM

    Invertebrates & Cowards for not standing up for own party members & amending a MAN MADE law! Recommend

  • ashok sai
    Jan 18, 2011 - 4:51PM

    Fear of death speaks !!!Recommend

  • Munnabhai
    Jan 18, 2011 - 5:18PM

    After the assassination of Punjab Governor, that too by his own bodyguard, no one would have the courage to touch it & that includes ex-strongman Musharraf.Recommend

  • maitre
    Jan 18, 2011 - 6:15PM

    Message of peace, love and tolerance means the due respect of the Allah’s last Messenger (SAW) failing which all enumerated epithets are meaningless. Islam also stresses to domesticate the minorities and never settle anything less than what has been ordained by The Creator of the Heaven and the Earth and everything within. Here is the Bristish or the West Balsphemy law: Compare it with that of Islam and see for yourself where do we stand: From the 16th century to 8 July 2008, there was law for blasphemy (against God, including denying His being or providence, all contumelious reproaches of Jesus Christ, all profane scoffing at the Holy Scriptures) in United Kingdom under which the convict were punishable by the temporal courts with death, imprisonment, corporal punishment and fine.Recommend

  • praveen
    Jan 18, 2011 - 7:36PM

    This itself is a clear indication of nearing the end of a successfull pakistan. Who will bell the cat. Recommend

  • Munnabhai
    Jan 19, 2011 - 9:27AM

    If the flow of greenbacks from Uncle Sam (who is himself borrowing from Uncle Hu these days) stops & if Pakistan has to earn what I spends, it would have ceased to exist decades ago! A lot of these greenbacks end up lining the pockets of its rulers (most of them in uniform) & common man remains poor & hungry & falls prey to the hardliners in clergy or jihadi extremists. Actually it is the failure of Pakistani intelligentsia & Press which has failed to educate its people & empower them. We are far better off in India though a minority!
    I have always wondered how every deposed President or PM of Pakistan (including Musharraf) can afford to live lavishly abroad!Recommend

  • chandran
    Jan 19, 2011 - 1:10PM

    Are blasphemy laws Islamic?
    Submitted by admin3 on 17 January 2011 – 8:35pm
    Articles Indian Muslim Muslim World News
    By A. Faizur Rahman,

    The brutal assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the outspoken Governor of Punjab, is an ominous indication that Pakistan is plunging headlong into a state of ataxia. And one wonders if it would ever come out of it. Salmaan was killed, as confessed by his murderous bodyguard, for being a staunch opponent of the blasphemy law of Pakistan and seeking Presidential pardon for Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman who was recently awarded the death penalty under section 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code for allegedly abusing Prophet Muhammad.

    It is a fact that the use of derogatory language against Prophet Muhammad, or for that matter any Prophet, is considered a great sin in Islam. But it is also no ordinary crime to sentence somebody to death without evidence. So far the charges against Aasia Bibi have not been incontrovertibly proved. Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, is on record saying that the case against her is concocted as the complainant and major witnesses were not present at the site of incident. But then the courts in Pakistan work under tremendous right-wing pressure. It may be recalled that in 1997, Lahore High Court judge Arif Iqbal Bhatti, who had acquitted two Christians accused of blasphemy in 1995, was shot dead.

    But the bigger question is: Is there any evidence in the Quran to justify capital punishment for the crimes mentioned in section 295-C of the PPC? Also, what was the Prophet’s own reaction to such personal insults? The answers to these questions assume the significance of a categorical imperative (to use a Kantian term) because, insofar as the Islamic shariah is concerned any law made in contravention of the universality of the Quranic doctrine as expounded by the Prophet is void.

    Interestingly, the Quran records some of the nasty insinuations that were hurled at the Prophet (see 25:41 and 38:4-5) and defends and consoles him without suggesting any mundane punishment for the abusers. Such invectives would certainly have hurt the Prophet and therefore, he is assuaged with, “Have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble dignity” (73:10) and, “You possess the most exalted standard of character” (68:4).

    After having comforted the Prophet thus, the Quran advises him, and through him his followers, to “forgive and overlook; for God loves those who are kind” (5:13). Another verse points out that when evil is repelled with goodness “then will he between whom and you was hatred become as if he were your intimate friend” (41:34). The Prophet followed this exhortation to the letter, a fact acknowledged by the Quran which confirmed that he indeed was kind to the people and never “harsh-hearted” (3:159).

    There are several instances in the Prophet’s life which show that he tolerated the foul language of even his sworn enemies. For instance, when a Jew who was opposed to Islam cursed him saying As-saamu-alalikum, (death be upon you) and his wife Hazrat Aisha responded with As-saamu ‘alaikum wal-laa’na (death and Allah’s curse be upon you too) he expressed his strong displeasure saying, “Be gentle and calm, Aisha.” And when one of his companions wanted to harm the Jew, the Prophet silenced him with an emphatic “No” (Sahih Bukhari). According to another tradition a man demanded his debts from the Prophet in such a rude manner that his companions wanted to beat him up. But the Prophet said, “Leave him, for he has the right to demand it” (Sahih Bukhari).

    But one of the most thought-provoking examples set by the Prophet was the pardoning of Ikrimah the son of Abu Jahal. Both father and son had fought several violent battles against the Prophet and yet when Makkah was reconquered Ikrimah too was among those who benefitted from the general amnesty declared by the Prophet who told his companions: “Ikrimah ibn Abu Jahl shall come to you as a believer and amuhajir (a refugee). Do not insult his father. Insulting the dead causes grief to the living and does not reach the dead.” It may be noted here that the companions are being asked not to curse even Abu Jahal, the bitter enemy who had died fighting the Prophet. And it was in this spirit that the Prophet warned; eeyakum wal ghulu fiddeen, fa innahu ahlaka man kaana qablakum al ghulu fiddeen (Ibn Maaja) which translates as; “Eschew extremism in religion, for extremism has destroyed its practitioners in the past.”

    The foregoing evidence proves that there is no scriptural basis for the histrionic emotionalism and the maddening perversity of thought that marks the defense of the blasphemy law in Pakistan where a cleric has placed a price of $6000 on the head of Aasia Bibi. We have here the strange case of the Prophet himself forgiving a person of unquestionable antagonism towards Islam and his devotees announcing monetary rewards to anyone who kills a poor village woman who is not a known enemy of our religion and whose guilt has not been established beyond doubt. And shockingly, this is being done in the name of a great Messenger of peace who was crowned Rahmath al lil aalameen (mercy unto humanity) by the Quran.

    It is precisely this kind of fiendish behaviour that fuels Islamophobia across the globe. In fact, Muslim extremism and Islamophobia now enjoy a symbiotic relationship feeding on each other’s fanaticism. This of course is not to condone organised attempts to malign religious personalities such as the publication of the Danish cartoons in 2005. Such defamatory campaigns are in reality Machiavellian designs to incite communal hatred and therefore they deserve to be condemned by not just Muslims but all right thinking people for the sake of world peace.

    Finally, one of the reasons for Muslim extremism to flourish today is the unrestricted flow of petro-dollars into Muslim societies which has resulted in the proliferation of prejudiced preachers and radical televangelists who populate the airwaves with their fanaticism. Such is the sway of these preachers that Muslims in large numbers are falling prey to their manipulative agenda and have started to exhibit a supremacist attitude that looks down up on all those who are reluctant to get initiated into their kind of puritanism. And the only way out of this mess is to stimulate debates among the Muslims on the interpretations of Islamic texts with the ultimate aim to countering religious chauvinism through appeals to reason and logic as done by the Prophet himself.

    (The author is Secretary-General of Chennai-based Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought among the Muslims. He may be reached at [email protected]).Recommend

  • chandran
    Jan 19, 2011 - 1:13PM

    nice article go through itRecommend

  • Balma
    Jan 20, 2011 - 8:39AM

    Mr. Prime minister: please stop this nonsense about being a syed.
    The number of syeds just in the sub-continent is more than that is mathematically or biologically possible.
    Also, who cares?
    Go back to your sajjadah-nasheeni!Recommend

  • Ben
    Jan 21, 2011 - 5:02PM

    How hypocritical of the PM. 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 scholar. 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. Read more at: link textRecommend

  • Munnabhai
    Jan 22, 2011 - 6:05PM

    Bravo, Mr. Ghamidi for your courage to condemn the cowardice of Pakistani Muslim man-on-the-street, condemn the glorification of an outright murderer, your courage to call Ulema as illiterate in contemporary disciplines and your praise of those religious scholars who have come out courageously against the blasphemy law! Jai Ho!!
    If Pakistan could produce a few more of Islamic scholars like you, the country will go places!
    If these so-called Islamic scholars hold Pakistan to ransom, then God save the motherland!
    I prey God that you remain safe, hale & hearty and attack this such dangerous trends in Pakistan from wherever you have been forced to live.
    God bless you and your family.Recommend

  • Yamine Farhatt
    Jan 31, 2011 - 9:02AM

    @maitre:
    Maitre:
    Ignorance is bliss, and with you proving how ignorant you are, how could you be blissful.
    Its been said that its better to remain silent and be deemed foolish, then to speak and prove yourself. Your comment bears merit to respond to, since it is based on your ignorance.
    Would you mind quoting a reference from the Koran or a bibliography for me to research and repond to you, when you state from the “Islam also stresses…” Ignorant man Maitre, Islam is merely the name for a religion, the teaching must come from the Koran. So I want you to show where the Koran says. You’re so full of ignorance and don’t evn know it.
    If you cannot quote references, then let me ask you to shut up and stay put in whatever hole you belong,and not spread your ignorance that may be contagious for other ignorant minds (The Islamic Ulema) such as yours.
    Thanks.Recommend

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