Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for any religious deity, religious persons, acts or things. There are many countries in the world that have laws to punish blasphemy.
Blasphemy is mostly attributed to Islam and Muslims only. This is because the West has confused Blasphemy with freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is debated for a long time by western scholars as a right for anyone to express opinions on any given topic, whether religious, cultural or non-religious. This is because of the difference in the Islamic culture/state/laws and the western system. Some people debate that Blasphemy is only an Islamic topic and it does not exist in Christian and Jewish beliefs, but here are some references. Christians define blasphemy as:
“The public or criminal libel of speaking matter relating to God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, or the Book of Common Prayer, intending to wound the feelings of mankind or to excite contempt and hatred against the Church under any law established, or to promote immorality.”
Blasphemy holds capital punishment in most of the religions. It is mentioned in the Old Testament which is the authority of both Christians and Jews:
“And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him.” [Book of Leviticus 24:16]
If we take a look at some other religions like Hinduism, it is stated in Manusmriti:
“If a man born of a lower class intentionally bothers a priest, the king should punish him physically with various forms of corporal and capital punishment that make men shudder.” [Manusmriti 9:248]
This clearly means that Blasphemy is a part of every major religion in the world. And most of the religions hold capital punishment for it. Thus the claim of West that Blasphemy is associated to Islam is a false and baseless claim.
Now we will come to Blasphemy according to Islam. Blasphemy in Islam is any irreverent behavior towards Allah All Mighty, Prophet Mohammad (SAW), Quran, Prophets before Islam, Family of Prophet Mohammad (SAW) including his wives, daughters, companions, Islamic customs, religious artifacts and beliefs of Islam. Although the Quran and Hadith do not speak about blasphemy and its punishment but scholars and jurists of Islam created the offence and made it a part of Sharia. In most Muslim countries the penalty of blasphemy includes fine, imprisonment, flogging, amputation, hanging or beheading.
In the western countries, blasphemy is not given any more importance because of the difference in their government and religious system and Islamic way of life. The difference between Islamic State and a western state can be highlighted as:
- State is a political entity in west while in Islam it is a politico-religious entity.
- An individual’s allegiance is to state in western society while in Islamic society, an individual’s allegiance is to the ideology/faith.
- A rebellious person in west is considered to be disloyal to the state, while in Muslim society he is considered to be disloyal to religious faith/ideology.
- In both societies such disloyalty is called treason.
- In western society Treason is the capital crime while in Muslim society Apostasy is a capital crime.
- In the western society, blasphemy is not considered a capital crime while in Muslim society it is a capital crime.
- In western society Blasphemy does not equate to apostasy while in Muslim culture, blasphemy is equal to apostasy.
- In western society punishment is different for treason and Blasphemy while in Muslim society the punishment for both crimes is equal.
The difference between the Islamic culture and western culture is why they don’t understand the blasphemy laws of Islam. In the western society religion and everything associated to it are an individual’s personal matter. But in Islam religion governs the whole society and it is not an individual’s personal matter. Everything related to Islam is sacred for every Muslim living in the entire world. If someone disrespects any belief of Islam or Prophet of Islam (SAW) or Quran, it hurts the feelings of the entire Muslim Uma. While in the western society if someone disrespects the religion or anything associated to it, it does not creates such a huge impact. In western society the highest crime is Treason against the state because the loyalties of every citizen are towards the state. In Islam the loyalties of every Muslim are not towards the state but towards the ideology and faith i.e. towards Islam. The capital crime in Islam is considered to be treason against faith which includes crimes of blasphemy and apostasy.
Any kind of act or deed that disrespects Allah, Islam, Prophet Mohammad (SAW) and his family (may Allah be pleased with them), Quran and other things or personalities considered sacred by Muslims is considered blasphemy. In addition there are other forms of capital sins that are punishable by law in Islam like apostasy, claiming prophet hood, mocking previous Prophets etc. In the recent years there have been several incidences that have been considered blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad (SAW), his Wives (May Allah be pleased with them), Quran and Prophet Esa (AS). All these acts have severely hurt the feeling of Muslims around the world. Several protests were made to the international community but to no avail because to the western world Freedom of Speech is more important than religion.
The law of blasphemy is not just an Islamic law. It should be made a worldwide law to protect the sacredness of all religions, their personalities, books and other related items. In Muslim countries like Pakistan, blasphemy law not only protects the right of Muslims but other minorities and their religions as well.