Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Post 80--Insulting the Prophet

In the previous post I wrote about Aasia Bibi (Sometimes her name is spelled as "Asia.") being released from prison. I also wrote how risky this action was in the face of apparently large groups of Muslim extremists who threatened social violence if she were released. I expressed admiration for a judge and a government who dared to release her. As it turns out, I was right.  The government felt compelled to negotiate with extremist groups and then took Bibi back into custody for her own safety in a secret place. Spain and France offered to take her in, but even that was not acceptable to those extremists. I will try to keep you informed as things develop.

Now Bibi's case was one of a false accusation of blasphemy.  You might react with a shrug of your shoulder, thinking that this does not concern you, especially if you live in the Western world. Pakistan is far away from us. But hold on. This post tells you that it's coming closer to us--not Pakistan (It stays where it is; it does not move.), but the Muslim position on blasphemy against the Prophet.   

Bill Warner is a blogger on  < Political Islam.com >.  I find him kind of extreme and conservative.
Now, there's nothing wrong with being conservative, but being extreme is. I am not an extremist, but I am a conservative,  a radical conservative even. Now that will probably sound ominous to you, but my radicality is not the popular kind which is just another word for "extremism." Mine means that I like to go to the radix or root of a problem. That's what "radix" means. In that sense, it is good to be radical, for it means you are not satisfied with a mere superficial interpretation of things.  And conservative? Again not in the popular street sense or even media sense of the word, but philosophically. I have respect for traditional pillars and cultures; I am not a revolutionary so much as a reformer or conserver, but one that always is open to considering new ways in a reformer sort of way. Well, I should get back from this diversion to the real topic of this post.

Warner wrote the following on his post:

"Tyrannical European Court of Human Rights says Mohammed is a Prophet, if insulted there could be blood in the streets."

By now many are familiar with the recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Elizabeth Sabitch Wolf. This ruling stated that “abusive attacks on the Prophet of Islam (Non-Muslims referring to Mohammed as the “Prophet of Islam” is an important detail to understand), [are] capable of stirring up prejudice and putting at risk religious peace, the domestic courts had come to the conclusion that the facts at issue contained elements of incitement to religious intolerance.” 

This statement by the ECHR indicates that in order to maintain religious harmony, citizens may not insult Mohammed, and this is more important than freedom of expression. This European ruling is in line with the Islamic principle of blasphemy. Under Sharia, criticizing Mohammed is equivalent to apostasyand punishable by death. Censoring ourselves to please the Sharia is an underhanded subversion of democracy, an attack on free speech—jihad of the pen and tongue—by our own hands. Without free speech, you no longer have a republic or a democracy, you have tyranny. 

Furthermore, there are two important subtexts to be noted in the ECHR ruling...[continue reading]: Sharia law has now been inserted into the laws of member states – Leading expert on Islam

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Post 79--More on the Bibi Case

This is a follow-up on Post 78.  It comes from Religion News Service, October 31, 2018.  These two posts put together leave little to the imagination. They do not give the impression that opposition to Bibi's release comes only from marginal extremists; it represents a wide swath of  the Pakistani Muslim community. Maybe not marginal extremists; rather, this sort of extremism seems to represent a large percentage of the country's population. I can be wrong here, but that's the impression I gain from the entire Bibi saga.  That impression is made more vivid when one takes into consideration the reaction of the Pakistani Government, that is using strong language and military action to protect Bibe and the rest of the Christian community. That is not a reaction to a marginal group but to a wide swath of the country's Muslim community.

I have great respect for the Government's action. I would not be surprised if it will have a wide-spread rebellion on its hand. For a government to act against such a large community of citizens takes courage and could well lead to its undoing either by violence or election. 


Asia Bibi acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan, freed from death row--by Naila Inayat

October 31, 2018

Pakistan protesters rally against a Supreme Court decision that ordered the release of Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five who has been on death row since 2010 accused of blasphemy, on Oct. 31, 2018, in Peshawar, Pakistan. Pakistan's top court on Wednesday acquitted Bibi, who was sentenced to death under the country's controversial blasphemy law, a landmark ruling that sparked protests by hard-line Islamists and raised fears of violence. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)LAHORE, Pakistan (RNS) — 
Hard-line Islamic leaders were furious at the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision on Wednesday (Oct. 31) to acquit Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who has been on death row since 2010 after being accused of blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad.
Addressing a protest in front of the provincial assembly in Lahore, firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, founder of the far-right Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik, and his associate, Afzal Qadri, said Muslims should rise against the military and the government of Pakistan for releasing a blasphemer.
“All soldiers of Pakistan army must rise against the army chief, General Qamar Bajwa, and the judges who gave the verdict in favor of Asia Bibi should be killed,” said Qadri.
Protesters in other major cities stormed the streets, carrying sticks and blocking roads with sit-ins.
In a short video message after Bibi’s acquittal, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a clear warning to the religious groups.
“The state will not cow down to threats and we will fulfill our responsibility of protecting the life and property of people,” he said. “I am telling you, do not take on the state. The state will exercise its power if you so as much as even decide to incite any kind of violence at a time when the whole country is trying to rise together. Don’t force us into taking action.”
The appeal to rebellion and government threat of a crackdown came after the country’s top court released a 56-page verdict finding Bibi innocent of blasphemy charges, which were leveled after she was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with her colleagues over drinking from a bucket meant for Muslims. The mother of two children and three stepchildren, she denied the allegations.
Blasphemy cases are increasingly common in Pakistan. Adopted under British rule, they carried a maximum sentence of two years. But in the 1980s, the country’s military leaders made the punishments harsher, with sentences of life imprisonment and death, to garner support among Islamic conservatives.
“Pakistan is an Islamic state. Here, people should abide by our laws. If Christians or Ahmadis have issues living here, they can leave and go to Israel,” said Mohammad Zahir, 29, a Tehreek-e-Labbaik supporter in Lahore. “Here, people will live how the Quran tells them.”

Pakistan Christians distribute sweets to celebrate the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five who has been on death row since 2010 accused of blasphemy, in Multan, Pakistan, on Oct. 31, 2018. Pakistan’s top court on Wednesday acquitted Bibi, who was sentenced to death under the country’s controversial blasphemy law, a landmark ruling that sparked protests by hard-line Islamists and raised fears of violence. (AP Photo/Irum Asim)
A total of 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmadi Muslims, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus have been charged under the blasphemy rules since 1987, the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a Catholic group, said earlier this year. Those numbers do not include vigilante killings and lynchings that occur in remote areas where the central government has little authority.
Prosecutors decided to seek the maximum penalty – death – for Bibi. If they had been successful, her death would have been the first time the government executed someone for defiling the prophet.
The court ordered Bibi, 51, released from prison, declaring that she is innocent because prosecutors failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“She appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning,'” said the judges’ verdict, which also quoted the Quran and Islamic scholars.
Bibi’s 18-year-old daughter, Eisham Ashiq, described the verdict as an answer to her family’s prayers. “This is the most wonderful moment. I can’t wait to hug my mother and then celebrate with my family. I am grateful to God for listening to our prayers,” said Ashiq.
Facing routine extremist religious persecution, Pakistan’s Christian community saw the ruling as a vindication of their human rights. The second-largest religious minority in Pakistan, Christians make up around 2 percent of the country’s population of 210 million.
“Today is like the dawn of new hope for oppressed minorities,” said Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid to the Church in Need, a group that advocates for Christians around the world. “It is important that justice is not just seen but is done.”
Those who spoke in support of Bibi over the years faced violence.
Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer, who lobbied for a presidential pardon for Bibi, was gunned down by his own security officer in 2011. A month later, Pakistani Minister of Religious Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, a vocal critic of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, was also shot dead.
The government on Wednesday dispatched troops to Christian neighborhoods in case of Muslim reprisals.
“I am extremely happy for Asia. She is one of us and her story tells how tomorrow it could be any one of us who will be imprisoned for being a minority,” said Emanuel Khan, 24, a shopkeeper in Lahore. “Honestly, looking at the situation unfold, I am scared too for my family. Our neighborhood of Youhanabad, which is the biggest Christian locale in the city, is surrounded by paramilitary forces ever since the court verdict came in. It is tense here.”
Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said the reaction to the verdict and Bibi’s suffering – she was in solitary confinement for most of her time in prison – were indications of the intolerance toward minorities in Pakistan.
“Asia Bibi has endured almost 10 years of brutal incarceration in isolation. The world has watched her suffer. Her freedom can hardly be called justice, and nothing will ever compensate her for her lost years,” said Chowdhry.
Her family told AFP earlier this month that the blasphemy case could force the family to leave the country.
“Living in Pakistan for us is very difficult,” her husband, Ashiq Mesih, said. “We don’t go out of our home and if we go, we come out very carefully.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Post 78--Release of Bibi in Pakistan

It's been quite a while ago since I drew your attention to Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was falsely accused of blasphemy and suffered in prison for many years, eight of them in solitary confinement. I am grateful to Barnabas Fund for having supported her and her family throughout.  Many people have been praying for her all this time and finally, in His own time, God caused her to be released. While she was in prison, her husband and now teen-age children have been supported by Barnabas while they were in hiding. Aasia was in prison, even in solitary confinement for her protection. Her family were in greater danger from their neighbours and had to go into hiding. Barnabas supplies them with a house. 

But she continues to be in danger, since many Muslims want to see her dead. So, continue to pray for her and her family. But above all else, for now thank God profusely for finally having heard all these prayers on her behalf.  I believe it would be best for them to leave Pakistan. She will never be at ease there and really free.

Below follows the story with thanks to Barnabas Fund:

Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturns Aasia Bibi’s conviction

31 October 2018
Pakistani Christian mother-of-five, Aasia Bibi, who has been on death row since November 2010 after being convicted under the country’s notorious “blasphemy law”, has been saved from hanging by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court. The decision to acquit and release her was announced on Wednesday 31 October in a 56-page verdict.
Aasia reportedly told her lawyer, "I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really? I just don't know what to say, I am very happy, I can't believe it."
“All my mother had done was take a drink of water”
The illiterate Christian farm worker had angered Muslim co-workers on 14 June 2009 by drinking from the shared cup when she brought them a bucket of water as they picked crops together on a sweltering summer’s day. The Muslims considered that her action made the water “unclean” for them as Muslims.
Aasia Bibi has endured eight years on death row, some of which she has spent in solitary confinement for her safety
Heated words were exchanged, and Aasia Bibi allegedly said, “Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”  She was threatened, beaten up twice, arrested, imprisoned and the following year convicted under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, for defiling the name of Muhammad. This crime carries a mandatory death penalty, although no one has yet been executed.
“All my mother had done was take a drink of water because she was thirsty,” said her daughter Eisham, now 18. As a nine-year-old, Eisham had seen her mother beaten and spat on by angry neighbours after the incident. 
Violent reaction feared on the streets of Pakistan
Aasia Bibi’s case has received much publicity both in Pakistan and internationally. Her husband and children have lived in hiding for many years, being likely targets for assassination by zealous Muslims. Hardline Islamist radicals have made it clear for years that they will not accept anything less than death for Aasia Bibi. Following the verdict, the patron-in-chief of the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik political party is reported to have stated that the chief justice and those who ordered Aasia’s release “deserve death”. In 2011 two liberal politicians in Pakistan were murdered for speaking out on her behalf and calling for reform of the “blasphemy laws”.
The court’s ruling stated that “the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt”. The judges also asserted, “it is not for the individuals, or a gathering (mob), to decide as to whether any act falling within the purview of Section 295-C has been committed or not”.
“Please keep praying,” came a message to Barnabas Fund from Pakistan shortly after the judges’ decision was announced and protest demonstrations began all over Pakistan. “We have deep concern over the security situation after the court verdict … this might lead to a fearful and violent situation for Christians.”
Barnabas Fund has been providing monthly food parcels for Aasia Bibi’s family for many years, as her father is unable to work because he is in hiding as a likely target for assassination being the husband of an alleged “blasphemer”.  We have also helped to buy them a house and provided the new house with a gas supply.
Please pray:
Praise God for the Supreme Court's acquittal of Aasia Bibi, parting the sea (Exodus 14:21) for her release in the face of threats and opposition – an answer to nearly a decade of faithful prayer from believers around the world. Pray that the Almighty will be a refuge for Aasia, keep her safe from danger and be a fortress against those who would seek to harm her or her family (Psalm 59:1). Lift up in prayer Christian communities in Pakistan who face the threat of violence as mobs mass on the streets in protest. Ask that the Lord will defend his people on every side, lifting them to safety, and thwart the malignant plans of evil (Job 5:11-12).

Monday, October 29, 2018

Post 77--Freedom of Speech and Offensive Speech

Recently the European Court of Human Rights upheld an Austrian woman's conviction of calling Prophet Muhammad a pedophile. The conviction, it ruled, did not restrict her freedom of speech. The "Court's" judgement was approved by a higher court apparently who ruled that the earlier one had "carefully  balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected."  She is said to have publicly declared that the Prophet's marriage to a young girl was akin to "pedophilia."  Back in 2011 she was convicted of "disparaging religious doctrines" and ordered to pay a fine of  $713 plus costs, a ruling that was also upheld in higher places (The Associated Press, Vancouver Sun, October 26, 2018)

I do not know enough about that marriage to argue for or against the woman's opinion.  Even if I had enough data to support her opinion, I would definitely not state it this way in public. As a Christian, I have no desire to insult what my neighbour holds dear and precious, even if I disagree with him. I may wish to convince him of another truth and change her mind about his own, but I would do so with respect in the fashion of dialogue, where two partners explain their different opinions, opposing, contradictory opinions even, but always with respect. 

The only time I would turn more vociferous would be when "the other" becomes unjust or oppressive. If it were an extreme case, I might lose it.

You may have noticed that I placed quotation marks around "court" in the first paragraph. There's a good reason for that, at least from the Canadian point of view. Canadian human rights "courts" are anything but courts. Not infrequently they are described as "kangaroo courts." They hand out sentences without the solid data that characterize the more standard courts.  I've had no experience with them, but I read the newspapers and too often read about the soft "legal" --there's those quotation marks again!-- reasoning practiced in these  "courts," reasoning based more on bias and prejudice than on facts and legalities. Whether this holds true for their parallels in the EU, I am not sure.   

Of course, Christians who read the Bible literally can find plenty of excuses for berating other religions. The Old Testament makes short thrift of the pagan religions that surround Israel without any attempt at showing respect. The New Testament has its own examples. Jesus, in fact, castigates the leaders of His own religion something fierce, for having twisted its spirit and turning it into a vehicle of oppression. He leaves our Austrian woman far behind in the dust with His insults! The issue for Him was that the good of the best religion was so thwarted and abused that it became impossible for our Lord even to control Himself. He became totally disrespectful in public! He became a model revolutionary!

So, there is a place for lack of respect, for telling it as it really is, but there has to be a pretty good reason for that. Jesus pushed the line for appropriateness; I would  not go beyond Him, for His was based on true insight and wisdom and on love for the poor who were the victims.

In today's Vancouver, the egoism and greed of the property owners would probably evoke the same outburst from Jesus as did the religious leaders of His day. It is no wonder that entire groups of residents blare and yell it out in often brutal language. It is a shame that the Church and individual Christians are playing the same game as their secular counterparts. I am ashamed of them and am moving closer to shouting down especially church leaders who only bring bandages and ambulance service to the homeless, instead of attacking the systemic issues of greed and selfishness. 

But, to come back to our Austrian lady, should she have said what she did?  I would probably say "no."  But should she have the legal freedom of speech to say it?  I would probably say "yes."  Freedom of speech should not be restricted by emotions and bias. Political correctness is going too far. But that's human rights "courts" for you. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Post 76--Nigerian Judge: Terrorism is not Terrorism

25 September 2018
This "story" is about a Nigerian judge who denies that a long history of obvious terrorist attacks on Christian communities by Muslim Fulanis constitutes terrorism.  The causes behind it all are multi-....:  religious, tribal, political, nomads vs settlers. It is also a story about governmental interference in the court system. But whatever the causes and effects, it cannot be denied that we are dealing here with terrorism, pure and simple.  And, of course, this report coming out of the UK, there are the expected denials from prominent UK leaders that religion plays no part in this continued violence. I say "of course," for British authorities still cling to the outmoded theory that religions plays no role in such violence or, at best, a secondary role. That theory has gone to seed so long ago that it is pathetic that responsible leaders still play around with it. 
Anyhow, here it is, compliments from Barnabas Fund in the UK. 
"Nigerian Judge Backs Down from Declaring Fulani Attacks on Christian Communities as Terrorism."
A judge in the Abuja division of Nigeria’s Federal High Court has backed down from officially declaring Fulani attacks on Christian communities as acts of terrorism. The leadership and educated elite of the Fulani ethnic group, living in towns and cities, are Muslim, although many of the uneducated nomadic Fulani herdsmen follow traditional African religions.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba is the second judge to avoid ruling on the case, after the judge who was originally assigned the motion secured a promotion. Justice Dimgba ordered the case to be re-assigned to the Chief Judge of Nigeria’s Federal Court on 29 August.
A lawyer from Benue state, which has witnessed multiple Fulani attacks since the start of 2018, filed a motion in May for the Nigerian Federal Court to officially declare the “killings, massacre, [and] wanton destruction” carried out by Fulani herdsmen as acts of terrorism. In April, 16 people including two church pastors were killed in a Fulani attack on a church in Ayar-Mbalom, Benue, during a morning church service. The attackers went on to set alight 50 houses in the town.
Nigerian judge backs down from declaring Fulani attacks on Christian communities as terrorism
A judge in the Abuja division of Nigeria’s Federal High Court has refused to rule whether Fulani attacks constitute terrorism
Image credit: High Court Of The Federal Capital Territory Abuja - Nigeria
As well as claiming 50 million Naira (around £104,000) in damages for the affected communities, the case is seeking to get Nigeria’s Attorney General to rule that President Buhari has a duty under Nigerian law to act to halt the attacks.
Church leaders in Nigeria have repeatedly called on President Buhari, who is himself a Fulani Muslim, to take decisive action against the scourge of attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Christian farming communities.
The British government continues to state there is no religious motivation behind the attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Christians. Barnabas Fund patron Baroness Cox raised the issue of Fulani attacks in the House of Lords on 17 July asking, “Given the escalation of attacks on Christian communities in which many hundreds have been killed recently and that the Nigerian House of Representatives has declared this to be genocide, does the Minister agree that while the causes of such violence are complex, there is a strong ideological dimension to the Fulani attacks?”
In her response, Baroness Goldie stated, “Our assessment is that they are not religiously motivated.” During the same debate, she also refused to explicitly affirm Conservative peer Lord Elton’s assessment that “Fulani herdsmen have destroyed 500 churches since 2001 and that in the first quarter of this year [2018] they have caused 1,061 deaths, mostly in attacks on Christians.”

Monday, October 1, 2018

Post 75--Suicide Among Muslims

Suicide is on the rise in the West, including North America. This post will familiarize you with Muslim thinking on this issue.  If we want to reduce its numbers, we need to know all the theories that are making the rounds, including the theories from the main religions. Hence, I introduce the subject with the help of  the Muslim "Sound Vision" at < info@soundvision.com >.

Now our subject does not cover terrorist suicide. This article is about suicide by ordinary people who for one reason or another have sunk into despair.

If you're a Christian, as I am, after reading this blog try to figure out the similarities and differences between the suicide perspectives of the two religions.  You may find that an interesting and fruitful exercise.


Monday | Muharram 21, 1440 AH | October 1st, 2018

Assalamu alaikum:

Earlier this month, the Muslim community of Herndon, Virginia was stunned to discover that Noera Ayaz, a 42-year-old lawyer and mother of two, had killed her two children and then turned the gun on herself.

As the horrific news spread to communities outside Virginia, Muslims across the U.S. struggled to understand suicide by one of their own.

One of the experts called in to help the Muslim community deal with its shock and grief revealed to Sound Vision last week that in the last six months, she has offered six of these post-suicide interventions across four different states.

Among young Muslims, the situation seems to be no better. Suicide was the fifth most common reason people called or texted Sound Vision’s Crisis Text Line, a crisis hotline aimed at Muslim youth who can text SALAM to the number 741741 for help.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state. In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.

While varying factors lead individuals to die this way, for Muslims, the shock is compounded by commonly-held, and sometimes erroneous beliefs, about the Islamic perspective on suicide.

Also, the connection to mental health struggles needs to be urgently addressed in every Muslim community. According to one the experts we interviewed about this topic, 90 percent of suicides are linked to diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness.

This week, we hope to shed light on how we can address suicide and mental illness head on. As one of the Muslims we interviewed who recently attempted suicide emphasized,  “It is our responsibility to make sure our community is healthy.”

Sound Vision Team
If you or somone you know is considering suicide or having suicidal thoughts, please text SALAM to 741741. This is a confidential, free, hotline that will connect you with a trained counselor you can talk to.

Suicide in the Muslim community (NEW)

By: Samana Siddiqui
When a Muslim dies by suicide, the shock and grief often give way to confusion about why he or she would take such a drastic step. In this article, experts and one Muslim who recently attempted suicide share how to handle this tragedy and what Muslims can do as a community to help prevent it. >>>Read More

Helping Muslim youth deal with suicide (NEW)

By: Samana Siddiqui
“My daughter had suicidal ideation in Ramadan. She was fasting. She came up to me at 11 at night to say that she needs to be taken to the hospital because she can't control her urges. I had no idea what was going on,” said Fatima* in an interview with Sound Vision. There are no exact numbers on how many Muslims, and specifically young Muslims, die by suicide. However, Muslim youth are no strangers to it. >>>Read More

How Sound Vision’s youth engagement leads to better youth mental health

By: Imam Malik Mujahid
While youth engagement has been part of Sound Vision’s motto of “helping tomorrow’s Muslims today” since its inception 30 years ago, it took a Harvard University-connected psychiatrist, Dr. William Slaughter, to point it out to us. He reached out to me earlier this year, inviting me to speak in a mental health conference. He stressed how important Sound Vision’s work was for the mental health of young Muslims. >>>Read More

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