The Punishment For Insulting The Prophet

It is getting boring, dear reader, but that's not my doing: the facts happen to repeat themselves simply because the underlying motivation remains the same, namely Islam. In the Pakistani capital Islamabad Taseer Salman, the governor of the province of Panjab, also publisher of a liberal newspaper, was assassinated. He had uttered a negative opinion on the law on blasphemy, which especially imposes a penalty for insults to the Prophet Muhammad prohibited. He had visited Aasia Bibi in jail, a Christian woman convicted for insulting the Prophet, and had promised her to plead for pardon with the President.

The killer, his own bodyguard Malik Mumtaz Qadri, immediately received endorsements from all sides. The masses in many cities went to the streets to demand the death penalty for those who offend the Prophet and for those who protect blasphemers, as the assassinated Governor had done. The lawyers association immediately offered to defend the killer free of cost. Over five hundred legal scholars of the "moderate" Barelvi school hailed Qadri as a Ghazi, i.e. a Jihadi who has slain an unbeliever with his own hands. They also refused to allow prayers or expressions of sympathy for Taseer. 

The myth that Islamic extremism is the affair of a small minority has received a beating here. But no myth peddler has admitted his mistake yet.

The Danish Mohammed cartoons, already five years old, continue to make headlines regularly. Recently, a group of Muslims was arrested by Danish police while plotting an attack against Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that first published the cartoons. Wikileaks has revealed that the American ambassador in Copenhagen put pressure first on the Government and then on the newspaper not to republish the cartoons. This revelation shows once more that the U.S. is not the champion of modern liberties anymore. We already knew that ever since former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton spoke out against the freedom of expression of Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie c.q. the Danish cartoonists. And most European politicians keep aloof, or strengthen the anti-"Islamophobic" chorus. If at all there is a clash of civilizations with Islam in one camp, the North-Atlantic ruling class is not in the other. (The death of U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke casually reminds us that he and his government have militantly supported the Muslim side in East Timor, Cyprus, Bosnia, Kosovo and the Turkish EU membership question.) If ever our politicians and media are compelled to acknowledge yet another murder of a dissident or apostate from Islam, they invariably hammer away at the lie that such active bigotry is "contrary to the tenets of true Islam." 

For all my sympathy for governor Taseer, martyr for free speech, I cannot ignore that in his rejection of the blasphemy law he relied on a completely false argument. He claimed that this "black" law had only been the private project of Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan's dictator in 1977-88. Unfortunately, no. While the actual legal text can differ from country to country, the principle that insulting the prophet should be punished with death is rooted in Islam itself. Even where Muslims are not in power and there exists no such blasphemy, people do get slain for “insulting the Prophet”. Islamic law is based on the Prophet’s own model behaviour, which in this case is unambiguous. When Mohammed heard that someone criticized or mocked him, he had the offender murdered at night, or after he took power, had him or her formally executed. Qadri acted like his beloved and revered Prophet. Ultimately Taseer’s killing was Mohammed’s own doing.