MPAC’s al-Marayati concludes this piece by saying that “we must earn our respect as Muslims by working for the prosperity of our societies. We must seek essential reforms that, along with our own honorable actions, will protect and exalt the name of Islam. The Quran provides a response to defamation in general: ‘Good and evil are not equal; so repel evil with something good and better so that the one with whom there is enmity will become a close friend.'”
That’s Qur’an 41:34, but al-Marayati himself has not been consistent in following this principle; I’ve “debated” him on several shows and found him to be a remarkably unpleasant man, an energetic practitioner of the usual Islamic supremacist “debating” tactic of sidestepping all substantive issues and instead engaging in venomous personal attacks against his opponent. Even in a field dominated by arrogant, contemptuous deceivers given to vile ad hominem assaults, al-Marayati stands out. I am sure, of course, that he is nonetheless trying valiantly but failing to live up to the Qur’an’s sterling admonition to work to make friends with “one with whom there is enmity” — and I certainly hope he is likewise failing to live up to other Qur’anic admonitions such as the one to “slay the pagans wherever you find them” (9:5) and suchlike.
But in this article, he sounds all the right notes: he condemns Pakistan’s blasphemy law, he notes how susceptible it is to abuse, he speaks out against the murders of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, and he calls for “essential reforms.” He even denounces the OIC’s campaign against the freedom of speech. What could be wrong with this? The main thing is that he misrepresents Muhammad’s words and actions regarding people who insulted him, and Islamic law regarding insults to Muhammad or Islam. And so once again: is al-Marayati a reformer or a deceiver? Wouldn’t a genuine reformer be honest about the elements of Islam that he considers in need of reforming, rather than claiming that those elements don’t even exist? Is that really too much to ask?
“Blasphemy Laws Are Against Islam,” by Salam Al Marayati in the Huffington Post, March 16:
Blasphemy laws or laws prohibiting defamation of a religion are incompatible with Islamic thought and philosophy. The concept of Defamation of Religions denies a person their free will to choose — one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity — and deprives individuals of their right to free speech and expression. It also creates a climate of intolerance that can breed discrimination and violence.
This was the message I delivered last week during a Human Rights First panel discussion in Geneva, where the United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to discuss a resolution seeking this week to criminalize “defamation of religions,” as it has done several years for the past decade. However, this year’s debate comes at a unique and particularly tumultuous time.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs, Shabbaz Bhatti, was murdered for speaking out in favor of amending the nation’s blasphemy laws. His assassination came less than two months after the murder of Governor Salmaan Taseer, who was assassinated by one of his own body guards. Taseer’s killer tried to justify his act by citing Islamic law. Taseer was an outspoken defender of a Christian woman who sentenced to death in Pakistan after being accused of blasphemy. The assassin, now in custody and facing murder charges, has been called a “hero” by a vocal and influential minority of Pakistanis who echo his misguided reasoning and support brutal blasphemy laws.
Blasphemy laws were first introduced to Muslim countries during the days of colonialism and are now a major obstacle to Islamic reform.
Al-Marayati implies here that the colonialist powers introduced blasphemy laws from Christian Europe into an Islamic world that had hitherto been peaceful and tolerant. He makes no mention of the fact that the death penalty for blasphemy is universal in Islamic law, and has existed as long as Islamic law has existed.
Often used to restrict freedom of expression and to settle personal scores, these laws have led to devastating consequences for religious minorities and others whose views differ from the majority. It has become all too common and acceptable to file an accusation of blasphemy, claims that can include insulting the Quran or Prophet Muhammad, and to condemn those who speak out against such abuses.
Those who support the “Defamation of Religions” resolution first introduced at the United Nations over a decade ago by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), argue that it serves to combat the rise of hatred and discrimination against Muslims in the world. They are wrong. In fact, this resolution does the opposite. Its implementation would illustrate Muslim suppression of Western standards of freedom of speech[.]
The Quran mandates “there shall be no coercion in matters of faith” (2:256). This Quranic injunction is meant to protect freedom of religious belief and expression for all people; it is also meant to prohibit any government or group of people from intruding on the private lives of its people. Islam calls for the freedom, not for the suppression, of free speech and it condemns violations of fundamental human rights.
Actually Islam mandates death for non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic state who mention “something impermissible about Allah, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), or Islam” (‘Umdat al-Salik, o11.10).
In fact, the Quran documents the criticism of Islam by poets and political leaders at the time of its revelation. Though the Prophet was accused of sorcery and mania, in each and every case, God did not order him to punish the blasphemers. Instead, His order to the Prophet was to respond to their hate speech with good speech and good work. In other words, Islam calls for freedom of speech and for competing freely in the marketplace of ideas. No one has the right to play the role of God on this earth.
This is where al-Marayati must know that what he is writing is not true. There are several celebrated incidents in which Muhammad lashed out violently against his opponents, ordering the murder of several poets, including Abu “˜Afak, who was over one hundred years old, and the poetess “˜Asma bint Marwan. Abu “˜Afak was killed in his sleep, in response to Muhammad’s question, “Who will avenge me on this scoundrel?” Similarly, Muhammad on another occasion cried out, “Will no one rid me of this daughter of Marwan?” One of his followers, “˜Umayr ibn “˜Adi, went to her house that night, where he found her sleeping next to her children. The youngest, a nursing babe, was in her arms. But that didn’t stop “˜Umayr from murdering her and the baby as well. Muhammad commended him: “You have done a great service to Allah and His Messenger, “˜Umayr!” (Ibn Ishaq, 674-676)
Then there was Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf. Muhammad asked: “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” One of the Muslims, Muhammad bin Maslama answered, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” When Muhammad said that he would, Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab).” Muhammad responded: “You may say it.” Muhammad bin Maslama duly lied to Ka’b, luring him into his trap, and murdered him. (Sahih Bukhari, volume 5, book 59, number 369)
If al-Marayati had mentioned these incidents, even to explain them away in some way, he would have a much greater case to be trusted.
In the Quran, there is no provision for the absolute protection of (any) religion nor any punishment mandated for those who defame religion. Just like current standards of international law, the Quran calls for the protection of individuals and their rights. It is this protection that should be at the heart of any resolution proposed to combat religious intolerance and discrimination….
The proposed U.N. resolution on “Defamation of Religions” will certainly not prevent discrimination against Muslims, nor will it fight religious intolerance. Its passage would only further fuel anti-Muslim stereotyping and hatred.
We must earn our respect as Muslims by working for the prosperity of our societies. We must seek essential reforms that, along with our own honorable actions, will protect and exalt the name of Islam. The Quran provides a response to defamation in general: “Good and evil are not equal; so repel evil with something good and better so that the one with whom there is enmity will become a close friend.”
Hope you work on that, Marayati.