Understanding the Death Fatwa on Taslima Nasreen
18 March, 2007
In a news conference a couple of days ago the President of All India Muslim Personal Board Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan said that if the Government of India doesn’t restrict Taslima Nasreen from entering India then he was announcing a 5 lakhs (approx US$11,363) reward for any faithful Muslim who would behead Taslima.
Taslima Nasreen is a woman who grew up in Bangladesh and became a rationalist and who has criticized religion in her writings. She wrote various newspaper articles that dared to criticize Islam as part of the force behind the oppression of women in her native land as well as a later novel called Lajja (Shame) that highlighted the plight of the countries minority Hindus who faced pogroms and mistreatment particularly in the wake of the Babri demolition in neighboring India.
She was forced to flee Bangladesh when similar death fatwas were pronounced on her there and the Government banned her books to appease this fundamentalist rage. She gained asylum in Sweden but preferred to move back to West Bengal where her native Bengali language is spoken and was as close to home as she could return in relative safety.
Taslima is not the first and will certainly not be the last critic of Islam to face such death fatwas which have been a regular feature accompanying Islam’s 1400 year history. From the earliest days of Islam it was made clear that criticizing the Prophet of Islam Muhammad was totally unacceptable and the sentence for such act should be death.
When Prophet Muhammad started putting together his poetic revelations reworking Biblical stories and threatening burning in hell for those who refused to accept him as a prophet of Allah as the pagan Arabs faced such criticisms they often responded in kind by writing poetic rhymes that criticized the actions and claims of Muhammad.
Once the Prophet Muhammad had gained political power in Medina he no longer had patience to bear such impudence on the part of others and moved to incite his brainwashed followers to murder his critics.
Abu Afak an elderly Jewish man who petitioned the Medinans to leave Muhammad got on the nerves of the Prophet who said to some of his followers "Who will deal with this rascal for me?"
Salim Ibn Umayr who was one of the great weepers and who had participated in Badr, said, "I take a vow that I shall either kill Abu Afak or die before him. He waited for an opportunity until a hot night came, and Abu Afak slept in an open place. Salim Ibn Umayr knew it, so he placed the sword on his liver and pressed it till it reached his bed. The enemy of Allah screamed and the people who were his followers, rushed to him, took him to his house and interred him.
Later Asma Bint Marwan a woman who composed verses ridiculing the prophet for his barbarity came under the radar of Muhammad. He said "Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?" `Umayr b. `Adiy al-Khatmi who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he [Muhammad] said, "You have helped God and His apostle, O `Umayr!" When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, "Two goats won't butt their heads about her", so `Umayr went back to his people.
This set a precedent of action for believing Muslims seeing their perfect prophet murdering any who dared to criticise him (for more examples of Muhammad assasinations of opponents, ridiculors read this).
It became a standardised practice to kill anyone who might criticise Muhammad from then on.
The following sahih hadith gives another example of this:
Book 38, Number 4349:
Narrated Ali ibn AbuTalib:
A Jewess used to abuse the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) declared that no recompense was payable for her blood.
The blood of anyone who insulted Islam and Muhammad thus became halal and in fact it became an act of merit to kill them. Muslims go on faithfully following teaching this lesson to their young innocent children so this teaching continues as part of Islam.
We saw in reaction to cartoons depicting Muhammad the following placards expressing this in London and many other cities around the world faced riots and demonstrations that claimed a number of lives.
It has become a time honoured tactic to incite the faithful into attacking and murdering those who dare to criticise Islam and has served the spread of Islam well by terrorizing people into submission and silencing opposition.
Many Islamic countries have laws on their statute that criminalise blasphemy and make it punishable by death. These laws follow upon this sunnah (example) of Prophet Muhammad who set the examples which pious Muslims must seek to emulate.
So it is of little surprise to see a leading Indian Sunni cleric like Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan issuing the above death fatwa on Taslima Nasreen. He is not personally to be blamed for such as he is merely faithfully following the tenets of his religion which he has learnt from birth and which he has been taught to respect as the message of God.
The Times of India in a small follow up piece tried reasoning with Maulana Khan questioning if Islam really condoned such harsh behavior against a woman. This ignorant question incensed the Maulana who said "It (Taslima Nasreen matter) is not a gender issue. Anyone who opposes the Prophet does not deserve to live,"
We can see that yes it is an equal opportunity murdering of those who blaspheme against Islam by a few recent examples:
Ashiq Nabi a poor man in Pakistan quarelled with his wife and damaged a Koran and was brutally murdered by a mob for blasphemy.
"Pakistani says got fatwa from Mecca to kill preacher" who blasphemed.
Nobel Prize winning Egyptian novelist narrowly escaped death when he was stabbed in the neck after a leading cleric called his work blasphemous.
Egyptian secularist Faraj Foda murdered by Islamists over his apostasy.
Bangladeshi writer killed by Islamist for blasphemy in 2000.
Ayub Masih, a Pakistani Christian, sentenced to death for blasphemy, but later pardoned and escaped.
Woman stands trial for 'blasphemy' in Pakistan. Article mentions 23 people killed by Islamists after being accused of blasphemy in that country.
Salman Rushdie had a death fatwa put on him by the Iranian Islamic Govt of Ayatollah Khomeini and various translators were attacked and killed.
The above 10 examples illustrate the contemporary use of fatwa death threats and their implementation that make this an issue of ongoing concern.
Readers should understand that such acts do not represent the isolated crazy act of one or the other religious fanatic but are a common problem rooted in Islamic theology and the historical actions of a so-called prophet of God.