When the world's 1.5 billion Muslims want to project Muhammad -- who was a vile rapist, pedophile, mass murderer, plunderer and robber -- as a pious soul and a prophet, they can do so only in engaging in barbaric laws and actions.

Why Muslims are so sensitive to defamation of Muhammad

Islamic religious concepts and practices include the five pillars of Islam, called arkan al-Islam, namely (1) the shahadah (creed), (2) daily prayers (salat), (3) almsgiving (zakah), (4) fasting during Ramadan and (5) pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime. The Shia and Sunni sects both agree on the essential details for the performance of these acts.

The Shahadah, which is the basic foundation of Islam, contains six oaths or kalemas, and the first kalema, namely kalema Taib, is most important. It says “La Ilaha Illallah, Muhammadur rasulullah”, i.e. “Allah is the only God to be worshipped and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah”. This kalema is considered the "soul" of Islam. Slightest doubt in it will make even a devout Muslim "an apostate" at once, who is to be killed.

Islam does not have strong philosophical basis; instead, it commands blind belief in the most irrational and unscientific dictates of the Koran and Sunnah. It has survived the past 14 centuries on this blind faith and fear psychosis. If a Muslim derails from this belief system, he/she would risk even his/her life. Islam is, therefore, may be imagined as an extremely brittle glassware hanging in the air with the help of a delicate thread, called kalema Taib. So, if reverence or faith in the Prophethood of Muhammad weakens, the fine thread kalema Taib would snap and entire edifice of Islam would collapse.

Therefore, the image of Muhammad is strictly guarded from suffering any damage. He was the perfect man ever. His deeds should always be praised. He must be projected as an apostle of peace and compassion, notwithstanding his extremely cruel deeds. No one is to be allowed to make critical comments on his life and actions. Divinity must be sought in his marrying 12 (or 22) wives in his declining years, even in his marrying of 6-year-old Aisha at the age of 52. Any thought contrary to this paradigm should be labeled as "blasphemy" and such blasphemers should be punished with death. Even simple statement of facts of his life, which may unmask his true color, must also be treated as blasphemy.

Saying truth about Muhammad's life is also blasphemous

The Kolkata-based English daily Statesman ran on 5 February, 2009 an article of award-winning British journalist and writer Johann Hari, entitled Why should I respect these oppressive religions?—earlier published in The Independent. In it, he wrote, “I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a ‘Prophet’ who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him.” What Mr Hari wrote is fact proudly documented in revered Islamic literature, but Muslims considered it a blasphemy of Muhammad by Hari.

Muslims protesting against Statesman

After republication of the article by Statesman, angry Muslims organized demonstrations in front of paper's office in Calcutta. Muslims allied with the Jamiat-e-Ulema e Hind (The Organisation of Indian Scholars, a leading Islamic group in India) filed a complaint with police alleging that the publication had “outraged their religious feelings”, which is an offence under Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code.

Police arrested the Statesman’s editor Ravindra Kumar and publisher Anand Sinha on charges of “hurting the religious feelings” of Muslims and produced them in court. Kumar said he had already issued a public apology for reproducing the article. “I admit it was an editorial misjudgement but it was never intentional,” Kumar told the BBC.

Demonstration by Muslim protesters, including attack on police and blockade on streets, continued for days. When police tried to chase away the protesters to restore order, "Demonstrators threw stones, soda bottles and shoes injuring four cops. Some agitators later took shelter in a nearby mosque and threw stones, empty bottles and shoes targeting policemen." On February 8, more than 20 people, including four policemen, were injured in a clash that broke out when police tried to clear Lenin Sarani.

Blasphemy law in Pakistan

Today, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is one of the most notorious for applying "blasphemy laws" to prohibit and punish blasphemy against religion. While the law in theory is designed to prevent blasphemy against all religions, it only applies to Islam. Penalties for blasphemy under this law range from a fine and prison term to death. Apart from judicial procedure, an accusation of blasphemy commonly leads to extrajudicial harassment, threats and attacks.

According to the constitution (Article 2), Islam is the state religion of Pakistan. By the constitution's Article 31, it is the country's duty to foster the Islamic way of life. By Article 33, it is the several sections of Pakistan's Criminal Code comprise its blasphemy laws. Article 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object. Article 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings. Article 295-B forbids defiling the Quran. Article 295-C forbids defaming the prophet Muhammad. Except for 295-C, the provisions of 295 require that an offence be a consequence of the accused's intent. Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life. Defaming Muhammad merits death with or without a fine. If a charge is laid under 295-C, the trial must take place in a Court of Session with a Muslim judge presiding.

Article 298 states:

Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Article 298-A prohibits the use of any derogatory remark or representation in respect of Muslim holy personages. Articles 298-B and 298-C prohibit the Ahmadiyya from behaving as Muslims, and the violator is liable to imprisonment up to three years and a fine. Article 45 of the Constitution says, "The President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority." It is claimed that, no judicial execution has so far occurred under the charge of blasphemy in Pakistan. On Jan. 12, 2011, Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani once again said that there would be no amendments to the blasphemy law.

However, the punishment for the defamation of Prophet Muhammad is death under the provision Article 295C. The Federal Sharia Court (FSC) also maintains this view and says, "The penalty for contempt of the Holy Prophet… is death”. Those accused of blaspheming Muhammad are subject to immediate incarceration, and are denied bail to forestall mob violence. It is common for those, accused of blasphemy, to be put in solitary confinement for their protection from other inmates and guards. Those, who have served a sentence for blasphemy or acquitted of the charge, usually go into hiding or leave Pakistan.

In May 2010, Pakistan blocked access to Facebook, because the website hosted a page, called Everybody Draw Muhammad Day. Pakistan lifted the block after Facebook prevented access to the page. In June 2010, Pakistan blocked seventeen websites for hosting content, which the authorities considered offensive to Muslims. At the same time, Pakistan began to monitor the content of Google,YahooYouTubeAmazonMSNHotmail, and Bing.

Application of the Law

Between 1986 and 2007, Pakistani authorities charged 647 people with offences under the blasphemy law. Ironically, 50% of the people charged were non-Muslims, while they constitute only 3% of the total population. So, it is often said that Pakistan's blasphemy law is used as a tool for persecuting the minority religious communities. It is also interesting to note that 20 of the accused were murdered by fanatic Islamists and mobs.

The recent incident that aroused international attention is the case of Christian woman Asia Bibi (Noreen), who was sentenced to death in November 2010 on charges of blasphemy. An appeal against the verdict now sits before the Lahore High Court. Meanwhile, the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who felt outraged by the bogus charge against Asia Bibi and demanded amendment of the law, was shot dead by his own security guard.

His support for the acquittal of Asia Bibi and changes in the blasphemy law attracted mass protests across Pakistan. Imams of Mosques accused Salman Taseer of defying Prophet Mohammed and demanded death sentenced for him. On December 12, 2010, major Islamic parties in Pakistan launched a campaign for upholding the sanctity of Muhammad against the proposed amendment in blasphemy laws.

Next, not long after assassination of Taseer, Shahbaz Bahtti -- a Christian and the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs -- was assassinated on March 2 by unknown assailants in Islamabad. Bhatti was killed, because he had been struggling to bring changes in the blasphemy law.

A few other cases of blasphemy

In another case, the Lahore High Court, in July 2010, ordered the release of Zaibun Nisa, a woman who was jailed in 1996 on a charge of blasphemy. While a complaint that a Quran had been defiled by her was investigated by police, her lawyer reported: "There was no evidence linking her to the crime."

In July 2010, a trader in Faisalabad complained that one of his employees had been handed over a pamphlet, which contained derogatory remarks about Muhammad. According to police, the pamphlet appeared to have been issued by Christian Pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother Sajid. Both brothers denied the charge, and they were arrested without investigating the alleged offence. While policemen were escorting the brothers from a district court, fanatic Islamist gunmen shot and killed both the brothers.

Minister Shahbaz Bhatti's death may have been linked to the case of Emmanuel brother. Pakistani cleric Allama Ahmed Mian Hammadi has claimed that Minister Bhatti had himself committed blasphemy by branding the Christian brothers, recently murdered, as victims of Pakistan blasphemy laws. Bhatti had said that the murder of Rashid Emmanuel, 30, and his brother Sajid, 27, by unidentified masked gunmen inside a courthouse in Faisalabad was highly deplorable.

Pakistani Urdu daily, Daily Jasarat, had earlier quoted cleric Mr Hammadi as saying: "Muslims cannot tolerate blasphemy against Muhammad." Hammadi added: "It is not a cruelty to kill blasphemers, rather blasphemy itself is such an enormous brutality that the one who commits it neither has got a right to live in this world nor is there any pardon for the blasphemer… Muslims won't tolerate even a slightest blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad. If Shahbaz Bhatti committed blasphemy he would be beheaded."

The interesting part of Pakistan's "blasphemy law" saga is that Islam needs to legislate laws and murder people to save the image of Muhammad. There are many great men like Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Guru Nanak, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa et al, the followers of whom do not require such barbaric means (at least not any more) to protect their image. It is no wonder either that when the world's 1.5 billion Muslims want to project Muhammad, who was evidently a vile rapist, pedophile, mass murderer, plunderer and robber, as a pious soul and a prophet; they can do so only in engaging in such barbaric acts and means.

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