Sunni Ittehad: Policing deviant thought

"How dare Aasia, or anyone else, blaspheme and distort something as beautiful as Islam?" say defenders of the faith.

Madeeha Ansari November 29, 2010
The Sunni Itehad Council says that letting Aasia Bibi live is going to plunge the country into chaos.  “Anarchy” will reign, as the boundaries of right and wrong are forever altered - all due to the unthinkable idea of allowing discretion in religion.

Discretion, after all, demands context.

It would not do for the Council to think about a poor woman, humiliated to the point of anger. It must have been blind rage that prompted words of bitterness against those more powerful than she. It would not do to wonder what religion was represented by people according to whom the vessel she touched was 'unclean'.  There are some things that you’re just not supposed to say, regardless of the provocation.

The truth is that no one really knows what Aasia Bibi said that day – not even the Qari who felt obliged to report the incident. This particular case, then, is one of "thought crime." The rationale goes that if a maverick thought becomes pardonable, then nothing is inviolable. The Council’s insecurity therefore stems from a fear of having its moral authority questioned.

All this noise is not really about Aasia, or the tumult in a single life caused by a word let fly. It is about the precedent that this now high-profile case will set. For those who are riding their high horses against the idea of blasphemy, too much time has lapsed since a symbolic sacrifice was presented to the gods of principle. How dare she, or anyone else, distort something as beautiful as Islam?

The Sunni Itehad Council believes that people must be held accountable for what they think, say and do, especially when it will set a trend and affect so many others.  What it has failed to note is the bigger thought crime, which originally drove Aasia to think that the religion championed by her accusers is cruel, condescending and unjust.

The idea that human dignity can be crushed by the heels of those who declare themselves to be morally and spiritually superior. Now, whoever came up with that one is truly beyond pardon.
Madeeha Ansari A graduate of the London School of Economics who works at a development consultancy.
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