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"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: Amjad_Malik
Full Name: Amjad Malik
User since: 15/Jun/2007
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AVOIDABLE CLASH OF CIVILISATION AND OUR COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY

By Barrister Amjad Malik

 

Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him) rightly is an embodiment of guidance to mankind and his sunnah (his acts and deeds) enlighten us to act upon the teaching emanating  from Quran and Hadith thus all Muslims hold him the dearest. His profound teachings and actions promote tolerance and  medina under his rule was a sanctuary for all races colours and religions and mosques were a centre for guidance, help and enlightenment.

 

Pakistan is in the grip of latest stir caused by the Blasphemy allegation on a Christian girl Asia Bibi under trial and the death of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer who was shot down by his own guard. The police man was later tried and sentenced to death which was carried out in March 2016. His funeral was massive and created uproar in the country and several organizations have expressed dismay on carrying out the death sentence. It has further ignited a debate as to the way the law is used and any apprehensions. It is an ever growing debate of theologians and civil libertarians who are at each other’s throats making their point.

 

Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) of 1860 dates from the British colonial period: Sections 295 to  298 of the PPC dealing with religious offences dates back to that period and  were intended to prevent and curb religious violence. The offences listed are:  defiling a place of worship (s.295), acts insulting religion or religious  beliefs (s.295 A), disturbing a religious assembly (s.296), trespassing on  burial grounds (s.297), and utterances wounding religious feelings (s.298).  These sections have a lot in common including the intention of the offender to  hurt the religious susceptibilities of others which is considered integral to  the offence; they also share a universal application, whereby hurting the  religious feelings or any group is made an offence. In particular S. 295-C of the  Pakistan Penal Code says, “ whoever by words either spoken or written or by  visible   representations or in  any manner whatsoever, or by any imputation, innuendo or institution, directly  or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall  be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to  fine.”. Islamic Shariat Bench later declared that imprisonment can not be  granted in Blasphemy proven cases and only death sentence is the right sentence  for the convicted.

However  these offences have little value to the West who take freedom of expression as a  superior force to all other political and religious compulsions. Their Blasphemy  law though covers Christianity but does not cover Islam. Article 10 of European  Convention of Human Rights 1950 which is a bit similar to Article 19 of the  Constitution of Pakistan 1973 says as following:  “1. Every one has the  right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinion  and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public  authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States  from requiring the Licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.”

 

During  the Salman Rushdie affair in 80’s after writing a book ‘Satanic Verses’ Britain  never prosecuted Salma Rushdie under Blasphemy Laws of Britain for defiling the  Prophet of Islam as British laws only covers Christianity. Under Ex Parte  Choudhary,  a private prosecution was not allowed either by British Courts due to  lack of legal provisions. Britain since has introduced the Racial  and Religious Hatred Act 2006 which intends to curb preaching religious  violence, however it still does not address the core and causes of igniting religious hatred albeit blasphemy .

 

However in the west denial of holocaust as to whether or not Jews were oppressed by  Hitler’s Nazi regime is a criminal offence in most part of Europe. Holocaust  denial is illegal in a number of European countries:

In Austria  (article 3h Verbotsgesetz 1947) punishable from 6 months to 20 years, In Belgium (Belgian  Holocaust denial law) punishable from Fine to 1 year, the _Czech  Republic under section 261 punishable from 6 months to 3 years. In France  (_Loi  Gayssot ) punishable from Fine or 1 month to 2 years. In Germany §130 (3) of the penal code) also the Auschwitzlüge law section 185 punishable  from Fine or 1 month to 5 years. In Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia it is an offence, In the  Netherlands under articles 137c and 137e punishable from Fine or 2  years to 10 years. In Switzerland article 261bis of the Penal Code) punishable from 6 months to 3-5 years. In  addition, under Law 5710-1950 it is also illegal in Israel and punishable from 1 year to 5 years. Italy enacted a law against racial and  sexual discrimination on January 25, 2007 punishable from 3 years to 4 years.   

 

 

 

 

 

Now  we see no Islamic countries in this list which outlaw holocaust denial as if one wishes to enact the law in those countries you are called to scratch their back  too and amend your home blasphemy laws to include the respect for Islam and its  Prophet. Now  looking at this tendency the way the West is showing insensitivity to the Muslim  World’s feelings, It will be quite illogical if Islamic countries will ever try to understand western logic.

 

Radical and extreme sentiments though exist which may be exploited by forces like ISIS which call for serious consideration by OIC and West to sit together and find a solution to this hugely charged issue as  common man of each society calls for peace and harmony between ancient  civilizations. 

 

The divide is visible on views in Britain too. Over 1 million  Pakistanis reside in Britain and contribute heavily in national economy  including their own homes back home. Whilst urging communities to remain calm and use their  right to protest in a maximum peaceful manner, I feel the time has come for two  ancient civilization to sit together and try to form a group of countries to  have a joint ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ to identify and not to allow harbouring each other’s common criminals who defile each other’s religious faith. 

 

Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) did something similar 1400 years ago and made a  pact with his opponents known as  ‘Hudabiya Pact’ and here too the Eastern and Western world must have a dialogue to secure  interfaith harmony in order to bring two extremes to the middle to avoid future  conflict. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There  is no point that blasphemy law in Pakistan, Iran and Saudi is punishable to  death and writers of such books walked free in British run India for writing  ‘Colourful Prophet’ around 100 years ago, and now for writing ‘Satanic Verses’  and publishing ‘Danish Cartoons’ ridiculing the Prophet. Similarly denying  holocaust, that Nazis did or did not oppress the Jews, is a criminal offence in  the West but in the Islamic world if not penalized then it does not carry  international validity and criminals of one society will keep seeking refuge in  other’s protection indefinitely and may cause a mayhem one day.

 

If a joint attempt to ‘give and take’  policy is not adopted, I am afraid a chain of uncalled events may emerge from  within these incidents which may be regrettable but will be disastrous to the  efforts of bringing the unity in this global village and will bring nearer to a clash.  When law does not address public anxiety  and no forum on which a complaint can be lodged is available hen those who  mutilate public feelings on the name of freedom will deepen the gulf further and  clash of civilization begins as was quoted by the US president wrongly or  rightly at the time of 9/11 referring to crusades.  

We must all discourage any attempt to use or stir violence on religious basis,  however realizing the nature of situation OIC and Western World including European Union, US, Russia, China, and India must consider setting up a forum to  adjudicate such matters and give serious thought to the calls of Muslim  countries & West for interfaith harmony. 

 

Islamic countries jointly must come up  with a unanimous unstinted resolution as to where no negotiation is possible and  where there is a compromise possible on the name of freedom of thought and  expression and or to include protection to Western belief. Little late and there  was no dearth of individuals like Ghazi Ilam Din then in India, or Amir Cheema  in Germany and Qadri (despite having the law in Pakistan ) in this day and age who were and are willing to take law into  their own hands on the name of love for their religion and their Prophet when no  law or legal forum is available to address their concerns instead countries show  blatant disregard to their sentiments.

 

The decision is simple, its one man’s freedom against 1.5 billion  Muslims sensitivities. Muslim world unanimously banned the film ‘Passion of  Christ’ which fantasized Jesus Christ in a fiction, same reciprocal concession  must be offered from the West which does not cost them a penny if they had shown compassion on Muslim plight at the time Sam Bacilli’s fictional film on prophet or Danish cartoons. Why both societies do not act together to  fill the lacuna in law so that any frenzy writer may not stir religious sentiments and defile each other’s sacred belief as current law does not address those common  grouses of each community in East and West. This way we can save the clash of civilization and nip the evil in the bud in order to save the humanity as one man’s unnatural  death is the death of the whole of humanity.

 

On 18 June 2007, I wrote to Lord Goldsmith then Attorney General of Great Britain that Salman Rushdie’s knighthood will cause to divide the communities and will widen the gulf between the Muslims and western world. I wrote, “this honour is given at a time when Muslims are working hard to bridge both communities after the events of September 11th and 7th July and are subject to victimisation via various heavy handed laws and honouring those who cause to divide further  will alienate the main stream community and will not go well with the Muslim community and demanded withdrawal of that status forthwith as the writer’s contribution is not only conflicting but has caused to hut billions of human souls around the world.”

 

23 May 2013  as the Chair of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers (APL) sought Chief justice of Pakistan’s intervention drawing his attention towards ever increasing blasphemous material circulating in the internet domain whether it is Face book, YouTube and or other modem of internet communications having far reaching implications on the minds, the lives and liberties of the main stream Muslim population and matter may become a law an order situation if public is manipulated about the contents due to emotions involved. 

 

APL request the office of the Chief Justice for necessary direction(s) to PTA, Govt, and the institution(s) to block those individual objectionable page(s) promoting blasphemy on the name of freedom of expression, and take meaningful steps for an international covenant to protect the name of the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) and we prayed that to order an enquiry as to what steps have been taken at Govt level and at the levels of PTA (technical level) and/or foreign office level to block, deter and defeat efforts to defile the name of the beloved Prophet and what efforts are taken if any to promote a culture of tolerance where name of the above remains protected internationally. We asked the following directions in the interim on this human rights action:- “(1) Kindly Direct PTA for an action to block all blasphemous pages at social media networks (Face book, twitter, YouTube) in the jurisdiction of Pakistan;(2) Kindly direct the Federal Govt of Pakistan to seek international cooperation through OIC/USA/UNO to block the said blasphemous film and seek to deter and defeat efforts to defile the name of the beloved Prophet (PBUH) (3) Kindly direct the Federal Govt of Pakistan to seek an international cooperation to enact an international covenant to block, deter and defeat efforts to defile the name of the beloved Prophet and other prophets and to promote a culture of tolerance where name of the above remains protected internationally.(4) Kindly direct the Govt of Pakistan and PTA to scrutinise the above page and order it’s blocking if that page is deemed slanderous.”

 

On our application an action to remove contents defiling

Prophet Muhammad PBUH (ref HRC No. 20789/2013) on 10

June 2013 Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry

Took suo motu notice regarding blasphemous content

circulating on the internet and has sought a report from

chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) within a

week, and later with guarantees it caused to close down

thousands of pages on web carrying malicious contents and

opened with YouTube on special arrangements in Pakistan in

2016.

 

UK blocks thousands of sites which carry indecent images and

or pornography material. Internet watch organisation facilitate

such action. Now that’s the job of our leaders to struggle to

pave way for a law where there is no law and make its

application secure and transparent where law is available

and avenue is provided.

 

Where we go from here, Pakistan which has the law is observing the conflict of view in its application. A policeman slained a governor of Punjab on the premises that he allegedly committed blasphemy. He was sentenced to death for murder on February 29, 2016. Religious clerics insist him not guilty of any offence as he was following shariah, the supreme court held different view on his trial and appeals. Hundreds flocked to attend his funeral in Rawalpindi. Pakistan sees off many unholy alliances and If Raymond Davis after killing can go scot free using ‘diyyat’ under international pressure, then it begs the question that why clerics could not gather storm at President palace when his mercy for clemency was under consideration as he could have been pardoned or his sentence could have been reduced to ‘life imprisonment’ or ‘diyat’ was available too as an avenue, is a food for thought for ulemas.

 

 

 

 

In the same tone in January 2016, a Daska boy cut off his own hand following a public accusation of blasphemy in a religious ceremony when he raised hand misconstruing the words of an imam. Though imam is charged but village boy is amputated for life.

 

We need to define and draw lines to accept that loving the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a peaceful thing and that when law is available then to struggle where it is not and use our strength for tolerantly doing some good deeds to make our society peaceful, constructive and a welfare one.

Public must utilise 'Tolerant' way to express their opinions especially on religious matters when Pakistan is head on fighting against radicalisation, extremism and any form of violence through Zarab e Azab on military front and national Action Plan an effort to change the mindset and rebuild and reboot infrastructure which deter violence.  That is the way forward than taking extreme stand to glorify those who take law in their own hands than to resort to legal recourse available to address their grouses, public concerns and legitimate complaints and claims at a lawful forum. When state has provided a avenue then it is a state responsibility to ensure implementation and handle any law and order situation as a public responsibility. Otherwise if public is going to discharge summary justice then no law judge or jury will be able to stop public wrath and we will  reverse what we achieved so far post ghazi Ilm Din struggle for a law. In Pakistan, We have moved far from that stage of India when there was no law to a stage our protest where we have now a law to curb deter detect and punish those who violates blasphemy law of the land though there is a room of improvement how the cases are duly register protecting due process and fairness under such ordinance so that no innocent is caught in personal rivalry or revenge to ensure fairness.

 

 

Religious critics are in a President Bush style calling names and asking , ‘either you are with us or against’ when it comes to blasphemy, is not the way forward. The Sunnah we observe, The Prophet Muhammad ) peace be upon him dealt with affection to those who threw dirt on him and with his character and conduct left a lasting impression on his critics. Islam believes in humanity that’s why one man’s unnecessary death was considered as a death of whole mankind.

 

Dialogue between clash of civilisations is a must to protect our belief faith and tolerance in society in situations like Salman Rushdie’s ‘satanic verses’ , Tasleema Nasreen's book , Sam Bacilli's film on Prophet , Danish cartoons, or Terry Jones attempts to burn Quran and or holocaust denial and OIC and UNO, and major populations and religion carriers such as China and India  can play vital role at international forum and UNO front in seeking that harmony amongst community of nations. A call to a new pact is a saner one, which is a way forward, a new pact that we will not allow written and or verbal debauchery with any religion of God and intl community will not let each other’s criminals use safe heavens of east or west or provide sanctuaries of each other to those who malign faith of each other. That is a challenge those protestors must be taking as a challenge to enact than ripping their own clothes. Lets bridge the gap, as the gap is fast being used by forces like ‘ISIS’ and lets have the necessary dialogue like ‘Hudabbiya’ and discharge our moral obligation and public duty to avoid clash of civilisation which is fast becoming unavoidable and tolerance is being lost in translation.

 

Barrister Amjad Malik is a chair of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers (UK)

 

March 3, 19, 2016

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