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Is modern world in grip of clash of civilization

22 June, 2007

By Amjad Malik


Britain  is in the grip of latest stir caused by the knighthood status granted to  ‘Satanic Verses’ fame writer Salman Rushdie which has created an uproar in the  Islamic world though the stalwarts of Ummah are quietly observing these  developments. Several organizations have expressed dismay at the blatant disregard shown to the 2 million Muslims sensitivities in the  UK and over a billion around the world  whilst granting a Knighthood to a writer and questioned the wisdom of Tony Blair  for such recommendations on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s irthday and have  called for withdrawal as this  honour is given at a time when Muslims are on the edge to bridge the gap between  two communities after the events of September 11th and 7 July.  Muslims of Britain as well as the Western World are already subject to  victimization via various heavy handed laws and at this junction honouring those  will contribute to widen the gulf between two cultures and will alienate the  main stream Muslim community.

Pakistan  Penal Code (PPC) of 1860 dates from the British colonial period: Sections 295 to  298 of the PPC dealing with religious offences ates back to that period and  were intended to prevent and curb religious violence. The offences listed are:  defiling a place of worship (s.295), acts insulting religion or religious  beliefs (s.295 A), disturbing a religious assembly (s.296), trespassing on  burial grounds (s.297), and utterances wounding religious feelings (s.298).  These sections have a lot in common including the intention of the offender to  hurt the religious susceptibilities of others which is considered integral to  the offence; they also share a universal application, whereby hurting the  religious feelings or any group is made an offence. In particular S. 295-C of the  Pakistan Penal Code says, “ whoever by words either spoken or written or by  visible   representations or in  any manner whatsoever, or by any imputation, innuendo or institution, directly  or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall  be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to  fine.”. Islamic Shariat Bench later declared that imprisonment can not be  granted in Blasphemy proven cases and only death sentence is the right sentence  for the convicted. However  these offences have little value to the West who take freedom of expression as a  superior force to all other political and religious compulsions. Their Blasphemy  law though covers Christianity but does not cover Islam. Article 10 of European  Convention of Human Rights 1950 which is a bit similar to Article 19 of the  Constitution of Pakistan 1973 says as following: 

“1. Every one has the  right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinion  and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public  authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States  from requiring the Licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.” During  the Salman Rushdie affair in 80’s after writing a book ‘Satanic Verses’ Britain  never prosecuted Salma Rushdie under Blasphemy Laws of Britain for defiling the  Prophet of Islam as British laws only covers Christianity. Under Ex Parte  Choudhary, private prosecution was not allowed either by British Courts due to  lack of legal provisions. Britain since has introduced the Racial  and Religious Hatred Act 2006 which intends to curb preaching religious  violence, however it still does not address the core and causes of igniting religious hatred albeit blasphemy . However  in the west denial of holocaust as to whether or not Jews were oppressed by  Hitler’s Nazi regime is a criminal offence in most part of Europe. Holocaust  denial is illegal in a number of European countries: In _Austria_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austria)   (article 3h Verbotsgesetz 1947) punishable from 6 months to 20 years, _Belgium_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgium) (_Belgian  Holocaust denial law_(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgian_Holocaust_denial_law) ) punishable from Fine to 1 year, the _Czech  Republic_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_Republic)  under section 261 punishable from 6 months to 3 years, _France_ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France)   (_Loi  Gayssot_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loi_Gayssot) ) punishable from Fine or 1 month to 2 years, _Germany_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany)   (_§_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/§)   130 (3) of the penal code) also the Auschwitzlüge law section 185 punishable  from Fine or 1 month to 5 years, _Lithuania_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithuania) ,  _The  Netherlands _ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Netherlands) under articles 137c and 137e punishable from Fine or 2  years to 10 years, _Poland_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poland) , _Romania_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romania) , _Slovakia_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slovakia) ,and  _Switzerland_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland)   (article 261bis of the Penal Code) punishable from 6 months to 3-5 years. In  addition, under Law 5710-1950 it is also illegal in _Israel_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel) and punishable from 1 year to 5 years. Italy enacted a law against racial and  sexual discrimination on January 25, 2007 punishable from 3 years to 4 years.  

Now  we see no Islamic countries in this list which outlaw holocaust denial as if you  wish to enact the law in those countries you are called to scratch their back  too and amend your home blasphemy laws to include the respect for Islam and its  Prophet. Now  looking at this tendency the way the West is showing insensitivity to the Muslim  World’s feelings, It will be quite illogical if Islamic countries in a fit start  awarding Saddam Hussain a highest bravery award for saying ‘God is one’ on the  Gallow or Mullah Omer ‘the sword of Ali award’ for combating the foreign  oppressor. These sentiments though exist which call for serious consideration by  OIC and West to sit together and find a solution to this hugely charged issue as  common man of each society calls for peace and harmony between ancient  civilizations.  he  awarded writer’s contribution is disputed too and it is not only conflicting but  has caused hurt to scores of human souls around the world. British Government  must have gauged the fall outs as a result of such an honour announcement and  the assessment seems faulty over this knighthood and gives rise to the  contention whether it is intentional to stir worldwide outcry to secure public  support for aggression or an unintended lapse. Queen’s regiment has already been  insensitive to the public pulse at the death of Lady Diana, the princess of  Wales and here too showing little regret over this episode where thousands of  Muslim protestors are on the streets. There  is further fuel on the fire by careless statements of politicians, one of which  is of Mr. Ejaz Ul Haq a Minister of Religion of Pakistan trying to justify  suicidal attacks on the writer  which has no basis in Islamic teachings  and in law here and abroad. In particular his call is not wise when 1 million  Pakistanis reside in Britain and contribute heavily in national economy  including his own clan. Whilst urging communities to remain calm and use their  right to protest in a maximum peaceful manner, I feel the time has come for two  ancient civilization to sit together and try to form a group of countries to  have a joint ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ to identify and not to allow harbouring each other’s common criminals who defile each others religious faith.  Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) did something similar 1400 years ago and made a  pact with his opponents known as  ‘Hudabiya Pact’ and here too the Western world must have a dialogue to secure  interfaith harmony in order to bring two extremes to the middle to avoid future  conflict.

There  is no point that blasphemy law in Pakistan, Iran and Saudi is punishable to  death and writers of such books walked free in British run India for writing  ‘Colourful Prophet’ around 100 years ago, and now for writing ‘Satanic Verses’  and publishing ‘Danish Cartoons’ ridiculing the Prophet. Similarly denying  holocaust, that Nazis did or did not oppress the Jews, is a criminal offence in  the West but in the Islamic world if not penalized then it does not carry  international validity and criminals of one society will keep seeking refuge in  other’s protection indefinitely and may cause a mayhem one day. If a joint attempt to ‘give and take’  policy is not adopted, I am afraid a chain of uncalled events may emerge from  within this episode which will be regrettable but will be disastrous to the  efforts of bringing the unity in this global village.  When law does not address public anxiety  and no forum on which a complaint can be lodged is available hen those who  mutilate public feelings on the name of freedom will deepen the gulf further and  clash of civilization begins as was quoted by the US president wrongly or  rightly at the time of 9/11 referring to crusades. 

We  must all discourage any attempt to use or stir violence on religious basis,  however realizing the nature of situation OIC and Western World including European Union, US, Russia, China, and India must consider setting up a forum to  adjudicate such matters and give serious thought to the calls of Muslim  countries & West for interfaith harmony.  Islamic countries jointly must come up  with a unanimous unstinted resolution as to where no negotiation is possible and  where there is a compromise possible on the name of freedom of thought and  expression and or to include protection to Western belief. Little late and there  was no dearth of individuals like Ghazi ilam Din then in India, or Amir Cheema  now in Germany in this day an age who were and are willing to take law into  their own hands on the name of love for their religion and their Prophet when no  law or legal forum is available to address their concerns instead countries show  blatant disregard to their sentiments. The decision is simple,  its one man’s freedom against 1.5 billion  Muslims sensitivities. Muslim world unanimously banned the film ‘Passion of  Christ’ which fantasized Jesus Christ in a fiction, same reciprocal concession  must be offered from the West which does not cost them a penny.   Why both societies do not act together to  fill the lacuna so that any frenzy writer may not stir religious sentiments and  defile each others sacred belief as current law does not address those common  grouses of each community. This way we can save the clash of civilization and  nip the evil in the bud in order to save the humanity as one man’s unnatural  death is the death of the whole of humanity.

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