by Ro Waseem, Patheos
Pakistan is known for its notorious anti-blasphemy laws. Under the Pakistan Penal Code, making blasphemous remarks about Prophet Mohammad can get you imprisoned for life, or be sentenced to death. Making blasphemous remarks about the Quran will get you imprisoned for life. While, making blasphemous remarks about his family or his companions will cost you 3 years in prison.
When “preserving” the sanctity of religious figures becomes more important than human lives, then that is an indicator for some serious introspection. Something we Muslims have been shying away from, for too long!
It would take too much space to expand on that, but I’ve previously argued in one of my articles that anti-blasphemy and apostasy laws differ from the Quranic commandments, on a most foundational level (You might want to read that here). No, Islam is not so feeble that it needs protecting from citizens who have probably never even read the Quran in their own language. So, perhaps what you are really protecting is your ignorance and your superficial understanding of Islam, gathered through pseudo scholars and the likes.
Moving swiftly on, an interesting (and quite revealing) case broke out recently with Junaid Jamshed, who is popularly known for his transformation from a prominent singer to quite a conservative Islamic preacher. A short clip from one of his sermons recently got viral, in which he is accused to be “blaspheming” against Hazrat Ayesha, one of the wives of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).
He starts off, seemingly in a jovial mood, talking about how she would always demand more attention from Prophet Mohammad. So, one day she decided to fake sickness by wrapping a towel around her head.
“What happened, what happened?” inquired Prophet Mohammad.
“Ah, my head is bursting with pain!” she complained.
To which, he said: “Oh Ayesha, if you were to pass away, the Prophet of God would personally offer your funeral prayers. How fortunate would you be?”
She stood up at once: “This is what you ardently desire–that I die, so you could spend more time with your other wives.”
Using this as a reference point, Junaid Jamshed goes on further to add some disgusting & misogynistic comments about the supposed flaws of women. But, I’m quite sure that is not what’s bothering those who seem to have been offended.
Although what Junaid Jamshed said about Hazrat Ayesha seems like an attempt of character assassination, I fail to see how that is more blasphemous than ISIS slaughtering people in the name of Islam, and why the outrage is not directed there. Regardless, soon after, a Fatwa (religious opinion) was issued against Junaid Jamshed by “Sunni Tehreek”, and some people were seen protesting against him.
Given that Junaid Jamshed is a member of “Tableeghi Jamat”, they obviously did not want bad press associated with their movement, which could perhaps delegitimize the authority they enjoy in mainstream Muslim circles. Thus, Maulana Tariq Jameel, a senior member of the Tableeghi Jamat, released a video in which he expressed his sorrow over the “blasphemous” remarks made by Junaid Jamshed, and repeatedly clarified that these views were neither endorsed by him nor the Tableeghi Jamat as a whole. He said human beings are bound to make mistakes, and so Junaid Jamshed should apologize and seek forgiveness from everyone.
Now, the issue had become way too sensitive. So, Junaid Jamshed put on an embarrassed face, and released a video in which he apologized for his “blasphemous” remarks, and pleaded everyone to forgive him. “People make mistakes”, he said. And, judging by the top comments under the video, it seems that people have indeed forgiven him. Case resolved. What a happy ending!
Yet, is it really?
Needless to say that I do not think he should be charged for blasphemy and that I feel relieved that Muslims have forgiven him, I think this partial attitude does more harm than good, for it promotes double standards and hypocrisy! I wonder, why are people who belong to minority groups in Pakistan not given the same privilege, the same benefit of doubt when accused of blasphemy? Why are they not given the luxury of apologizing for their “mistake”, a mistake they may or may not even have committed? Why does the state not recognize that anti-blasphemy laws are mostly used to settle personal disputes and prejudices?
Furthermore, what happened to the central Quranic commandment of standing up for justice impartially, even if it be against ourselves, or our family (Quran 4:135)? Conveniently ignored, as always?
Hence, the question that begs to be asked is: What if this “mistake” was made by someone not as religiously influential as he is? Would they deserve the same fate as the scores of people who have been murdered or put to death, in the name of “preserving” a religion that is increasingly becoming more and more intolerant & detached from the Quran? Wouldn’t this then be blatant hypocrisy?
So, let us recall what the Quran says about hypocrites, and put an end to the façade of criminals posing as Muslims:
“Without a matter of doubt, the hypocrites shall be in the lowest depths of the Fire – and never will you find for them a helper.” Quran, 4:145
No, Junaid Jamshed should not be tried for blasphemy, but neither should anyone else be. The fact that Veena Malik is sentenced to prison for 26 years for “blasphemy”, while Junaid Jamshed is immediately forgiven is a reflector of our double standards. “We strongly believe in our religion and respect it. It is beyond our wildest imagination to even think of disrespecting the institution.”, said Veena Malik.
Why is her apology not acceptable? Is it because of the fact that we judge people’s character by how “Muslim” they look, instead of looking at their values? Maybe if Veena Malik could grow a beard, we would embrace her too?