Archive | Blasphemy

Murders Committed by People Upset by Alleged Anti-Islam Blasphemy — or by Violent Men Angered by Their Ex-Lovers

I haven’t had much to say about the murders committed by the Afghans angered by the Terry Jones Koran-burning. But as readers might imagine, I refuse to blame Terry Jones for the crimes, even in part. (I blame him for his largely pointless, non-substantive rudeness — as opposed to fair and substantive criticism of Islam, which would be perfectly proper — but that’s a different matter.)

I refuse to blame Salman Rushdie for the deaths, injuries, and property damage caused by people upset by his Satanic Verses (see here for some examples); I’m not sure how many of the deaths were of innocents as opposed to of the rioters, but I would likewise not blame him for deaths of innocents. Nor do I blame the Mohammed cartoonists for the deaths, injuries, and property damage caused by people upset by the cartoons. Nor do I blame the Indonesian man for the damage caused by church-burning rioters upset by his alleged blasphemy against Islam. Nor do I blame a woman who “provokes” her violent husband or boyfriend by leaving him — or even provokes him by saying insulting things about him, or for that matter by cheating on him — which then leads him to violently attack her family or friends or coworkers or anyone else. I think Terry Jones is in the same moral position as these people.

To be sure, all these people, including Jones, are factual causes of the deaths, injuries, and other damage. And they might even have foreseen that there would be a violent reaction to their actions. But that foreseeable risk of harm cannot constrain their liberty, either legally or morally. People are entitled to speak their mind. If their speech is unkind or irrational or similarly improper, it should be condemned on those [...]

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More on the Burnings of Churches in Ethiopia (Triggered by Allegations of Desecration of a Koran)

The Voice of America reports further developments and more details related to the story I noted yesterday:

Police in Ethiopia have arrested 130 people described as religious extremists in connection with a series of church burnings in a Muslim-majority area….

Ethiopian government spokesman Shimelis Kemal told VOA two Christians had been killed in the incidents. In a telephone interview, he said police reinforcements had moved in and restored order.

“In Jimma area, some extremists and some fundamentalists have instigated some people to burn a few prayer places, praying places, and this has been investigated by police and those who are suspected to have set fire on those churches have been apprehended,” he said.

Shimelis said 130 suspects had been charged with instigating religious hatred and violence.

One political activist working in Jimma, who asked not to be identified, quoted Muslim residents in the region as saying the attacks erupted after reports spread that a Christian had desecrated a Koran. That information could not be confirmed….

Moga Firisa, head of the opposition Oromo Federal Democratic Movement and a native of the region, said he was conducting his own investigation. He said the burnings had occurred over a period of several days beginning late last week….

Please leave comments on the initial post on this subject. [...]

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At Least Two “Houses Used for Worship” Burned in Ethiopia Following Alleged Koran Desecration

ChristianNewsToday reports that there were many more attacks — “At least one Christian was killed and others injured when thousands of Islamic extremists set fire to 59 churches and at least 28 homes in western Ethiopia in the past five days, Christian leaders said,” with “More than 4,000 Christians … displaced as a result of attacks that began on Wednesday (March 2) after Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating the Quran by tearing up a copy, sources said.” Bloomberg News reports allegations of a smaller number of attacks (but that was as of Friday, while the ChristianNewsToday report is as of Monday). It also quotes “Ethiopian Communications Minister Bereket Simon” as acknowledging that two “houses used for worship” were burned, though stating that no-one has died and labeling it “a very minor, isolated incident.”

I don’t know where exactly the truth lies, but I thought I’d note it, especially since there seems to be confirmation of at least two burnings. If anyone has pointers to more stories, outside those from advocacy groups (of which there are quite a few, see here), please let me know. Of course, sometimes advocacy groups are right, and sometimes they are more reliable than ostensibly impartial media; but on balance, I prefer to see some confirmation from non-advocacy-group sources (such as the Bloomberg News story I mentioned). Thanks to Paul Marshall (National Review Online) for the pointer.

UPDATE: The Voice of America reports further developments (which I also noted in a separate post above):

Police in Ethiopia have arrested 130 people described as religious extremists in connection with a series of church burnings in a Muslim-majority area….

Ethiopian government spokesman Shimelis Kemal told VOA two Christians had been killed in the incidents. In a telephone interview, he said police reinforcements had moved in and

[...]
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Pakistan Cabinet Member Murdered Over Opposition to Blasphemy Law

CNN reports:

A Pakistani government minister who had said he was getting death threats because of his opposition to a controversial blasphemy law was shot to death Wednesday.

Shahbaz Bhatti was the only Christian member of the Cabinet in Pakistan, where 95 percent of people are Muslim. He served as the government’s minister of minority affairs….

The Taliban claimed responsibility. “(The) assassination of Bhatti is a message to all of those who are against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws,” said Ihsanullah Ihsan, a Taliban spokesman.

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer. Two months ago, a governor of a Pakistan state — Salman Taseer — was murdered for the same reason. [...]

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Blasphemy Conviction in Austria

Nina Shea (The Corner) reports:

Today, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a young Viennese mother, was convicted under section 283 of the Austrian penal code of vilifying religious teachings for her negative commentary on Islam in a lecture before a political-party gathering in Vienna; she was fined 480 Euros. Sabaditsch-Wolff, a diplomat’s daughter, had lived and worked for several years in various Middle Eastern Muslim countries, and at the lecture in question spoke critically of the treatment of women and the practice of jihad in Iran, Libya, and other places that she had lived in. The court found that Austria’s free-speech guarantees protected her from hate-speech charges.

However, it seems the case turned on the judge’s reasoning that her statement that Islam’s prophet Mohammed was a “pedophile” was defamatory since his child bride Aisha (age six at the time of marriage and nine at the time it was consummated) remained his wife when she turned 18. The case was brought by prosecutors after complaints by a mainstream Austrian weekly magazine that had secretly taped and then wrote about her lecture. She plans to appeal.

If anyone has a pointer to the judge’s written opinion — preferably an English translation, but I’d be happy to try to generate one from the German original — please let me know.

Thanks to commenter Neo for the pointer. [...]

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“A Muslim Mob Burned Churches … as [Mob Members] Demanded the Death Penalty for a Christian Man Convicted of Blaspheming Against Islam”

Agence France Press reports:

A Muslim mob burned churches and clashed with police in Indonesia on Tuesday as they demanded the death penalty for a Christian man convicted of blaspheming against Islam, police said.

Two days after a Muslim lynch mob killed three members of a minority Islamic sect [the Ahmadiyahs], crowds of furious Muslims set two churches alight as they rampaged in anger over the [five-year] prison sentence imposed on defendant Antonius Bawengan, 58….

[The sentence] enraged the crowd, who said the sentence was too lenient, police said….

About 1,500 protesters took to the streets and threw stones at the police ….

They chanted “kill, kill” outside the court and “burn, burn” as they set upon the churches….

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer. [...]

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We Can’t Say What Blasphemy the Arrestee Committed — That Would Itself Be Blasphemous

The Independent (UK) reports on a story from Pakistan:

[A 17-year-old] schoolboy … was arrested and imprisoned for writing alleged blasphemous remarks about the Prophet Muhammad on an exam paper….

It is unclear what Mr Samiullah may have written. When the police were asked about his alleged offence, they declined to elaborate, suggesting that it would blasphemous to repeat the words written.

Wouldn’t want to say “Jehovah” now …

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer. [...]

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“Two Christian Women Were Beaten and Publicly Humiliated by an Angry Mob in Pakistan Over Apparently Frivolous Blasphemy Allegations”

“[S]ubsequently, the duo, along with the family, has gone in hiding over fears of being killed.” So reports Karachi News.Net, and adds:

According to the family, the blasphemy allegations stemmed from a dispute between a Muslim woman and her sister-in-law, who is a Christian, in an East Lahore locality.

A day after the two got into an argument, the Muslim woman walked out onto the street and started shouting that her sister-in-law had abused the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

A short while later, a group of men forced their way into the house and started slapping the Christian woman, said another of her brothers.

“Other men and women from the neighbourhood started gathering at the house too and they beat up my sister and mother. They were the only people in the house,” he added.

A participant in the beating said that the women’s faces were blackened, and that they were made to wear necklaces of shoes and paraded around the locality on donkeys to humiliate them. The women denied blaspheming and repeatedly touched their feet, seeking mercy, he added.

A member of a religious organisation, with which Taseer’s assassin Malik Mumtaz Qadri is also associated, said he was very proud that his wife beat the Christian woman “more than anyone else[.]”

What strikes me as especially troubling here is the participation of ordinary residents from the neighborhood, and not just of some preexisting extremist organization. Such an organization may well have been involved — the Press Trust of India account reports that the “group of men” was “led by Muhammad Sameer, a member of a religious organisation ‘keen on raising its sectarian profile'” — but apparently many neighbors felt no compunction about joining in. And this in a nuclear power, the 6th-most populous nation in the world, and a [...]

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Assign Supposedly Blasphemous Paper to Your Students — Get Your Hand Chopped Off

The Press Trust of India reports:

The police has filed a chargesheet against 27 accused in the brutal attack on Professor T. J. Joseph, a private college lecturer in Kerala. His right hand had been chopped off allegedly by [Muslim radical] activists of the … Popular Front of India (PFI) on July 4, 2010 … for preparing a question paper for … students which reportedly had some references to Prophet Mohammed.

Thanks to commenter Neo for the pointer. [...]

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Life Imprisonment in Pakistan for Muslim-vs.-Muslim Blasphemy

Agence France Press reports:

Mohammad Shafi, 45, [an imam at a local mosque,] and his son Mohammad Aslam, 20, were arrested in April last year for removing a poster outside their grocery shop advertising an Islamic event in a nearby village which allegedly contained Koranic verses [and were sentenced to life in prison on Monday]….

The prosecution alleged organisers of the event, which commemorated the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammad’s birth, said the pair had “pulled the poster down, tore it and trampled it under their feet,” Karim said….

Defence counsel Arif Gurmani [said,] … “… The case is the result of differences between Deobandi and Barelvi sects of Sunni Muslims,” he said.

According to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause), “Islamic sects differ on whether celebrating Mawlid (the Prophet’s birth) is permissible…. Apparently those promoting the event were members of the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam which publicly celebrates Mawlid, while defendants are members of the Deobandi sect of Sunni Islam which considers the celebration forbidden.” No word on which sect breaks eggs on the larger end and which on the smaller. [...]

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Support in Pakistan for Murderer of the Pakistani Governor Who Had Opposed Blasphemy Punishment

I noted Tuesday, quoting the Washington Post that Salman Tasser, governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, “was assassinated … allegedly by one of his own security guards [who told the police] he was angered by Taseer’s recent public endorsement of a pardon for a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) now has this follow-up:

AP reported yesterday on [suspect Malik Mumtaz Hussain] Qadri’s first appearance in court:

A rowdy crowd slapped Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri on the back and kissed his cheek as he was escorted inside the court today. nbsp;Lawyers not involved in his case tossed rose petals, while hundreds of sympathisers chanted slogans in his favour and one gave him a flower necklace.

According to a report from 660 News Radio, a group of influential clerics and scholars from the anti-Taliban Barelvi sect praised Taseer’s assassination. A statement from their organization, Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, said: “The supporter is as equally guilty as one who committed blasphemy,” and warned that a lesson should have been learned from Taseer’s “exemplary death.”

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Pakistani Governor Assassinated By Own Security Guard, Allegedly Because of Governor’s Opposition to Blasphemy Punishment

The Washington Post reports:

The governor of Pakistan’s largest province was assassinated Tuesday at a genteel market in the nation’s capital — allegedly by one of his own security guards ….

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said one of the governor’s guards surrendered to police after the shooting and told them he was angered by Taseer’s recent public endorsement of a pardon for a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

That position had earned Taseer threats from Islamist parties, who held a strike last week against proposed changes to the nation’s controversial anti-blasphemy laws. Taseer stood by his stance, posting on Dec. 30 on his Twitter account: “I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing.” …

Militancy “has infiltrated and creeped into every segment of society, whether they are police force or army or bureaucracy,” Khwaja Asif, a leader of the political opposition, told Pakistani reporters Tuesday. “This intolerance has become a sort of disease in our society.” …

“Extremist people are not in the majority,” Taseer said [in an interview last June following the massive bombings of two minority sect mosques in Lahore]. “This is a very narrow minority, but … they are always prepared to do and die. That is their strength.”

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer. [...]

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Arrests in Plot to Murder People at Danish Newspaper That Published the Mohammed Cartoons

The New York Times reports:

A group of men arrested in Denmark on Wednesday were about to mount a “Mumbai style” attack on the Danish newspaper that ignited Muslim fury around the world by publishing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, the head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service said….

Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen of Denmark told reporters that he was “shocked” by the planned attack.

“Regardless of today’s event, it remains my conviction that terrorism must not lead us to change our open society and our values, especially democracy and free speech,” he said.

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer. UPDATE: A commenter asked for a link to the cartoons, so I thought I’d mention that they are reproduced and discussed in this post. [...]

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Blasphemy Prosecution in England

From the Guardian (UK):

A 15-year-old girl has been arrested in the West Midlands on suspicion of inciting religious hatred after allegedly burning an English-language version of the Qur’an — and then posting video footage of the act on Facebook….

The incident comes just two and a half months after six people were arrested after filming themselves dousing a Qur’an with fuel and setting it ablaze behind a pub in Tyneside….

I call this a blasphemy prosecution because it’s based on the supposed sacrilege involved in the action, and the offense it causes — the religious hatred that is supposedly incited stems precisely from the feeling that one’s religion is being blasphemed. (Note that the burning apparently happened at the school, and might well have violated content-neutral rules barring the burning of objects at a school; but the prosecution stems precisely from the religious offensiveness of the act, and not the risk of fire that it poses.)

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer. [...]

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Death Sentence for Blasphemy in Pakistan

The Herald-Sun (Australia) reports:

A Pakistani court has sentenced to death a Christian mother-of-five for blasphemy ….

Pakistan has yet to execute anyone for blasphemy, but the case spotlights the Muslim country’s controversial laws on the subject …

Asia’s case dates back to June 2009 when she was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields.

But a group of Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim, she should not touch the water bowl.

A few days later the women went to a local cleric and alleged that Asia made made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

The cleric went to local police, who opened an investigation….

Sentencing her to hang, Judge Naveed Iqbal “totally ruled out” any chance that Asia was falsely implicated and said there were “no mitigating circumstances”, according to a copy of the verdict seen by Agence-France Presse….

The sentence is being appealed. The story also notes that “Last July, two Christian brothers accused of writing a blasphemous pamphlet critical of the Prophet Mohammed were shot dead outside a court in Punjab.”

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer. [...]

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