Dear readers: assalamu alaikum

It's important to reflect on the actual article published in the Frontier Post. Did the Muslims do the wrong thing by reacting so strongly against Frontier Post? A certain viewpoint has emerged from secularist groups and rejectors of Hadith which goes as follows:

1. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not retaliate for attacks on himself, so why should we retaliate for attacks on him?
{Note the subtext here: The information that the Prophet (pbuh) did not curse the oppressors when they hit him at Taif COMES FROM HADITH which these people are supposed to reject.}
2. We receive so much publicity material against Islam. It does not weaken our faith. So why be so concerned that an attack on Islam in Frontier Post will weaken our faith?
3. Freedom of expression is very important. Don't we want freedom of expression? So why are we stopping Frontier Post from publishing abuse of the Prophet (pbuh)?


Premise one: We are operating in an atmosphere of "Freedom of expression." THIS IS NOT TRUE. Take America's leading daily THE NEW YORK TIMES. It publishes sophisticated attacks on Islam every week, sometimes every day. Thousands of Muslims respond to its writings. NONE OF THE RESPONSES ARE EVER PUBLISHED EVEN IN THE LETTERS COLUMNS. As far as authentic, 100% Islamic response, I doubt if even ONE has been published in the last 10 years.

MUSLIM SCHOLARS of the level of Shaikh Omar, Maudoodi, Madani (Algeria), Khomeini, and many others have been repeatedly attacked in the New York Times and a whole lineup of USA's major media. No Islamic reply has ever been published. President Saddam Hussain is regularly demonized in the US media. Have you ever seen an opposing viewpoint being published?
{Note the argument here: They will not publish replies to their attacks, but we must tolerate their attacks even on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the Qur'an.}

i. The attack is not on the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) but on the minds of the elites of the Muslim community. In every Muslim community, there is a westernized enclave. These individuals' earlier generations were handed over power by the withdrawing imperialist power. Most of these persons in the power elite do not study the Qur'an or the Hadith and seldom practice Islam in their daily lives. It is a very common phenomenon in Pakistani gatherings of the elites that obligatory prayers are ignored by most people. (This can be quite funny, as the elites hear the azan, lower their heads for a minute and then continue with their conversations. The women cover their heads for the azan and then continue as if nothing happened.)
iia. Thus the attack comes in English language papers aimed at people whose faith is already very weak. From being "tolerant" of Islam, these people can be recruited to be against Islam. A frontal attack can be very effective with these elites.
iib. They already hate the "mulla" (sometimes owing to the mulla's fault but mostly owing to the stereotype of the "mulla"). All they need now is confirmation of their prejudice to color their faith itself.
iic. More and more these westernized groups will say: The Jews must be right. How come so many Muslims cannot defeat so few Jews? In fact the Qadianis came out openly after the Gulf War to say that the whole Muslim ummah is astray; that is why it is being whipped by the Americans and the Jews.
iii. RAISING the threshhold of acceptance is very important in the overall attack on religion. In USA, for instance, the Jews, in the name of freedom of expression, have made open season on the personality of Jesus (pbuh). The most abusive attacks on Jesus (pbuh) do not get more than a cursory response from the majority Christian population in USA. Does this mean Christianity is becoming stronger in USA and can ignore abuse of Jesus? No. The fact is that the Jews have systematically made religion trivial and downright ridiculous for millions of Americans. You won't find too many USA Christians willing to give their lives or even go to prison for the honor of Jesus' name.

The more abuse Muslims can accept, the wider the door will be opened for cultural imperialism. In our countries we still honor our father and our mother. If Muslims can calmly listen to abuse of the Prophet (pbuh), then by logical progression, the cohesion of the entire Muslim way of life will be under severe pressure.

PREMISE number 2. We have Islamic leadership in Pakistan which is similar to that of the Prophet (pbuh). If the Prophet could tolerate abuse, why can't we? AGAIN, NOT TRUE. Our government is extremely weak as far as Islam is concerned. We have hardly emerged from the era of BB and NS who tarnished the basic decencies of political life. Those who walk in the path of Muhammad (pbuh), like him tolerate personal insults. Maudoodi, Khomeini, Shaikh Omar:
no Islamic scholar or leader is hurt by personal insults. They follow the example of the Prophet. Remember Ali (ra) let the kafir go whom he was going to kill on the battlefield when the kafir spat in his face. Ali (ra) did not want to fight for personal reasons.

But these attacks by the Jews are attacks on the ideological basis of Pakistan (and the Islamic community). Their purpose is not a scholarly criticism of the Prophet (pbuh) but a way of saying: I will come into your home and I will curse your father and your mother. Or I will throw a pig into masjid al-Aqsa (a Jewish woman actually tried this) or into the Ka'aba itself. So the attack has nothing to do with freedom of expression. It's part of the war on Islam, comparable to the Jews of Madinah's linkup with the Quresh in the era of the Prophet. The same messenger who would never curse the unbelievers at Taif cut the throats of the Jews of Madinah. It's the internal attack which any leader would know cannot be tolerated by a community which wants to live honorably.

PREMISE THREE: If we ignore abuse, it will go away and be ineffective. AGAIN: FALSE. There is a difference between scholarly argument and abuse. If the abuse is aimed at AN ENTIRE WEAK SEGMENT OF A NATION, it must be stopped. Rushdie's attack on the Prophet (pbuh) was the Zionists' way of checking how much tolerance the Muslim world had developed. If there had been no Fatwa against him, by now there would have been movies made in Hollywood about the Prophet (pbuh) and his family. And I am sure, the people who drink and dance in Pakistani streets on New Years' eve, who celebrated Valentine's Day and support Basant, etc, would have been watching the life of the Prophet (pbuh) as made in Hollywood on the wide screen and on VCR. The Fatwa protected the sanctities of the Muslim world for at least 12 years. Now we should expect new attacks.

If Pakistani students and people do not respond to the attacks on Islam such as the one in the Frontier Post, there is very little chance that Pakistani government will do anything. The response has to come from the grassroots.

We do have religious tolerance. We have churches, cathedrals, christian schools, temples, gurdawaras in Pakistan. Everyone is free to preach and practice a religion other than Islam. Muslims are simply saying: Pakistan's existence is based on the Qur'an and the Hadith of the Prophet (pbuh). If you walk on this sacred ground with your muddy shoes on, you will have to be stopped.

My suggestion: Let's have a thorough study of the Blasphemy law. Fine tone it. Put in place strict procedures for evidence and witnessing. Leave doors open for repentance. After that, one who attacks the Prophet (pbuh) his family or his companions in an abusive manner (to be strictly defined) should be tried, convicted and hanged in the public square.


Kaukab Siddique, Ph.D

2001-02-24 Sat 17:16ct