Thanks to the University Campuses in the United States and Canada in general, and the Canadian Media in particular for taking the lead in giving space for opposing opinions. The resolution by Canada protecting religion from "defamation" is welcome news. The American Media has a lot more to learn, moving from propaganda to news coverage, and being honest in giving equal caliber an equal time. Sadly, American media is more of a business than a true media.
The concerns of Tarek Fatah and Farzana Hassan about blasphemy accusations are real, however, they will not materialize in the United States and Canada, it speaks well of our laws that protect our freedom.
Thank God, they are the same laws that prevent Pat Robertson, Tom Crendo and their ilk from becoming terrorists; either scheming to bomb or assassinate leaders of other nations.
Democratic form of Governance is preferred by Muslims indeed that is how the Muslim history took roots; the first four political leaders called Caliphs were elected through consensus after campaigning and challenging. The Prophet did not pass the political mantle to his legitimate heirs to prevent a monarchial or a hereditary form of governance. There was a clear separation of church and the state, as the faith was complete and no clergy was assigned to carry on the religious business, it was up to the individual to follow the only thing prophet left; The Qur’aan. Today, over 2/3rds of Muslims live in democracies, and the rest would opt for democracy, if they have their freedom.
Though the Propaganda would have you believe that Muslims want the Caliphate, but ask the Muslims or do an in-depth survey, you will be surprised that only a very small percentage of Muslims may want to live in strict religious system, perhaps the same percentage as the Neocons wanting a Christian form of Governance. However, if you probe further and give the option between a Just and a religious government, they will go for the Just governance, as that is what Islamic government means to the Muslims. I hope the University of Pittsburgh takes on this task.
The Muslims in the United States and Canada are like any other community living and breathing the freedom sustained in these two great nations. In the 1400 years of Muslim history, Muslims have never seriously and publicly challenged the Sharia Laws, the Hadiths (verbal traditions ascribed to the Prophet) any where in the world as they have done here in the North American continent. In the last five years that I have been managing a few forums, I have observed remarkable rational attitudes among Muslims who are not only from our continent but from all over the world. The dogma is constantly challenged and new consensus is silently emerging.
In a few years Muslim will take on the responsibility of peace makers. They will constantly seek to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill for peaceful co-existence. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; life and mater. Indeed, that is the purpose of religion, any religion.
Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, politics, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, India and civic issues. He is the founder of the World Muslim Congress, a group committed to building bridges and nurturing a world of co-existence. He also heads the foundation for pluralism, an organization committed to studying religious pluralism and pluralistic governance. His personal website is http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and his writings are on the above websites as well as several of the ancillary Blogs listed on the sites.
Reformist Muslims need legal protection from blasphemy accusations
Farzana Hassan [president, Muslim Canadian Congress] and Tarek Fatah [founder, Muslim Canadian Congress]: "How long will it take the leadership of North America's traditional Muslim leadership to embrace the First amendment of the United Sates constitution and the doctrine of the separation of religion and state? Will the concept of freedom of expression survive ever-new challenges from the defenders of medieval traditions that bar any discussion or critique of religion?
These are questions bubbling below the surface right now, but eventually are bound to erupt into the open. Moreover, when they do, chances of a rise in overt racist backlash against Muslims of all shades and opinions is a likely outcome. Certainly, the events of the past few months provide ample evidence for this trend, with two human rights complaints making newspaper headlines and leading to fierce debates about the limits of free speech and what might constitute hate literature.
The first involved a human rights complaint against Ezra Levant, the editor of the defunct [Canadian magazine the] Western Standard, while the second, more recent one, was filed against Macleans magazine, by four Osgoode law students on behalf of the Canadian Islamic Congress. Needless to say, these complaints are justifiably interpreted as assaults on freedom of speech and conscience by Canadians both Muslim and non-Muslim, leading many to question the mandate of these commissions as well as the validity or otherwise of these human rights complaints.
Historically, orthodoxy has demanded abject compliance to the closed belief systems it guards. Therefore, the freedom to question, challenge, and evaluate dogma remains an elusive ideal for those who practice it, often at great risk to their lives and persons. Though in the West, "heresy" came to be accepted as valid religious expression in the seventeen hundreds in keeping with the first amendment; Muslim societies continue to be dogged by obscurantism and a stubborn resistance to modernity. Many a time, such intransigence results in lawsuits, human rights complaints and conspiracy theories against individuals perceived as threats to the status quo.
As an example, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) recently approved a resolution protecting religion from "defamation". Once again, the drivers of this move were Islamist organizations who refuse to tolerate the slightest dissent over religious matters. What these tyrants and monarchs from the Arab world fail to realize or choose to pretend otherwise is the fact that critics of Islamist ideologies are not opposing Islam as a religion, but the use of Islam as a political ideology that hides behind religion for protection, while seeking political ascendancy.
For Muslims who believe in challenging religious dogma, who actively pursue the goal of bringing about reform in Muslim societies and who advocate the separation of religion and state, this becomes a particularly threatening scenario as charges of blasphemy and apostasy often occasion calls for the execution of "apostates" and "heretics". A Turkish man recently convicted of "ridiculing god" faces the death penalty in a Saudi prison while secular and moderate Muslims living in the West are frequently the targets of death threats or bullying tactics to silence them one way or another.
The law in Canada and the United States must look into formulating legal measures that protect reformists within various faith traditions. In particular, given the serious consequences that secular and reformist Muslims face in their efforts to challenge orthodox positions, charges of apostasy and blasphemy leveled against them by fundamentalists should be criminalized as legal safeguards against such bullying and silencing tactics. The United States and Canada must look into introducing legislation that will protect such individuals from these accusations often laden with threats to their lives and security.
As long as Islamists around the world use Islam as a political ideology in the footsteps of such jihadi ideologues as Hassan Al-Banna, Syed Qutb, Abul Ala Maudoodi and Ayatollah Khomeini, their Muslim, and non-Muslim opponents will have the right to challenge this ideology with full vigour. Hiding behind the skirts of religion to avoid being critiqued, these fascist cults demonstrate not just cowardice, but a cunningness that is fooling large segments of the liberal-left intelligentsia in the West, which will be among the first to suffer if and when Islamists use liberal democracy to extinguish its light."
Opinions expressed in JURIST's Hotline are the sole responsibility of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, or the University of Pittsburgh.