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Sunday, August 18, 2013


“There should be no compulsion in religion...” Quran 2:257
“...And do not say to anyone who greets you with the greeting of peace, [i.e., salaam alaikum] ‘You are not a believer.’...”  Quran 4:95

Religious blasphemy laws are a touchy subject, especially in Pakistan. Just bringing them up and questioning their validity is considered, well… blasphemous. This is wrong.
Historically, most blasphemy laws were written to deter members of one religion from indulging in offensive speech or actions that hurt the feelings of, or provoke physical harm against, members of another religion -- Muslims against Hindus or Christians against Jews, for example. But religious persecution can and frequently does occur between groups within the same faith; Catholics against Protestants, or Sunni Muslims against Shias.
It is this sectarian persecution that can turn blasphemy laws into a double-edged sword used to cut the throats of the very people they were intended to protect. This is exactly what is happening – and has been happening for nearly thirty years – in Pakistan, where accusations by Sunni Muslims of desecrating the Quran or uttering blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) are routinely used to jail business rivals or personal enemies or members of minority sects like the Shias and the Ahmadis or members of other religions.
Because of this sad state of affairs, Pakistan today has a reputation as one of the most dangerous and religiously intolerant places on earth. And what many people in the West do not appreciate or even understand is that the inferno of religious violence and bigotry tearing Pakistan apart is being stoked not only by the anti-Western, Jihadist agendas of Al-Qaida and the Taliban, but by the tacit approval -- via legislative and Constitutional sanction -- of the Pakistan government itself.
This began in 1974 under democratically-elected president Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who endorsed and signed an amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution which declared that Ahmadi Muslims were non-Muslims. Article 260 was amended with Clause (3) below:
“(3) A person who does not believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the last of the Prophets or claims to be a Prophet, in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever, after Muhammad (peace be upon him), or recognizes such a claimant as a Prophet or a religious reformer, is not a Muslim for the purposes of the Constitution or law.”
Clause (3) of Article 260 was written specifically to legislatively nullify and deny the claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), who founded the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in 1889 in Qadian, India, for the purpose of bringing people back to God and restoring Islam to its original purity and spiritual vitality.
Ahmad proclaimed that God had appointed him the Imam Mahdi and Promised Messiah, whose advent was foretold in the Holy Quran and in the Hadith (sayings) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). What particularly incensed Muslims of his day (and to this day) was that he forbade the Jihad of the sword to convert people to Islam or wage offensive wars, replacing it instead with the Jihad of the pen.
To that end, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote over 80 books in defense of Islam, the Quran and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to remove the misconceptions and corruptions that had disfigured Islam from its true form and beauty. Ahmad’s writings and life have inspired tens of millions of Muslims (and non-Muslims alike) to dedicate themselves to God and strive in the Greatest Jihad – to become righteous, God-fearing and peaceful members of society and of his Community, whose motto is: “Love for All – Hatred for None.” They are also the only Muslims with an unbroken series of Khalifas, or spiritual leaders, guiding the Community since 1908.
With all this going for it, you would think Muslims would flock to join the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, but no – most reject it and consider the founder an apostate and his followers “wajibul qatl” – Arabic for ”deserving of death.” The obvious question most non-Muslims would ask is: why all this hatred against Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and his followers? The answer has to do with what Muslims expect the Imam Mahdi to do.   
Muslims anticipated the Imam Mahdi (literally, divinely-Guided spiritual leader) to manifest at the beginning of the Muslim 14th century -- the last quarter of the Christian 19th century (1870s). This corresponded with expectations by millions of Christians of the Second Coming of Jesus (pbuh). Ahmadis are the only Muslims who believe that both events happened as prophesized in Islam and Christianity with the advent of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. All other Muslims believe that Jesus (pbuh) was taken bodily alive to heaven before the crucifixion and that he will bodily descend from heaven after the appearance of the Mahdi.
What will ensue then won’t be peace and love, but war and bloodshed by the Mahdi and Jesus to restore the worldly power and material glory of Islam through the conquest of its main enemies, the Christians and Jews.
Because the Ahmadiyya Community founder’s mission was completely non-violent, non-political and entirely focused on spiritual and moral reformation, the extremist Muslim clerics and their followers (from the late 19th century to the present) have always opposed Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, his teachings and his followers. Peace, tolerance and non-violence are dangerous practices – especially to those who use Islam to justify their un-Islamic beliefs and barbaric actions.
Thus, Clause (3) of Article 260 has to define as “non-Muslim” anyone who makes any claims to be a reformer or prophet after the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This effectively declares anyone who ever claims to be the Imam Mahdi – who by definition must be a Muslim – is not a Muslim, along with all those who believe in and follow him.
The inherent evils of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are laid bare by just one concept central to our understanding and protection of the basic right to freedom of religion: the blasphemy laws are unjust on more than just legal grounds because no political assembly – no human assembly, period -- has any authority or right to interfere with anyone's chosen religious beliefs so long as they are not harmful to others.
Below are the blasphemy laws which do not name Ahmadis directly, but are routinely levied against Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and the members of other religious minorities in Pakistan.
Pakistan's Criminal Codes (PPCs) relating to blasphemy.
295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object.
295-A forbids outraging religious feelings.
295-B forbids defiling the Quran.
295-C forbids defaming the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)   
With the enactment of Ordinance XX, penal codes 298B and 298C specifically targeting Ahmadis were added, making it a crime punishable by fine and up to three years in prison if Ahmadis say “As-Salaam alaikum” (peace be upon you), or recite the call to prayer (Azan), or call their place of worship a “mosque,” or publicly perform any of the five daily prayers, or refer to themselves as Muslims, or propagate their faith.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and Constitutional amendment targeting Ahmadis targets everyone who believes in freedom of conscience and the end of religious bigotry and intolerance. The blasphemy laws also highlight the behavior of two distinct camps of Islam: the Ahmadis, who have never once repaid the violence they suffer with violence from their own hands; and those Muslims who either turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the evils borne of their infamous blasphemy laws, or those Muslims who applaud such evils -- or perpetrate them -- as if the intolerance and inhumanity inflicted upon the Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, Hindus and others were the sworn duty and religious obligation of every “devout” Muslim.
Every truly devout Muslim must stand up and take sides and say, “No, this is not what it means to be a Muslim.” It means standing with the Ahmadis, Shias, Christians and all others who are victims of evil at the hands of so-called Muslims. It means choosing to be the kind of Muslim that others can say without hesitation: “This is what being a good Muslim looks like.” If that ends up looking like an Ahmadi Muslim, then so be it. That shouldn’t be something other Muslims are ashamed of.

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