26th September, 2012
ANTI-ISLAM FILM: CRIMINALIZE BLASPHEMY
The whole world was recently jolted by news of a film disparaging Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Provoked Muslims in many parts of the world reacted angrily. There were violent demonstrations in several Arab capitals. Libya was worst hit as the American Ambassador in Benghazi was killed along with three of the consulate's staff. Muslim demonstrators also suffered casualties as many of them died during clashes with the local police.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) condemns violent demonstrations. We prefer dialogue even in extreme provocations. We believe that superior argument is capable of disarming the worst enemies. Violence is a square peg. Provocation is a round hole. What we fight for is not always what we gain at the end of the day. In fact losses often outweigh the gains in such circumstances.
The world today is sandwiched between two hydra-headed monsters:
Muslim fanatics and Western extremists. Yet only a change of mindset on the part of Western countries can bring lasting solution. The West asks the Muslim world to check its fanatics but fails to restrain its own extremists from irresponsible publications.
MURIC rejects this double standard in very strong terms. It is true that there is freedom of speech, but one man's freedom stops where he starts to breach the liberty of others. Licentious publications and reckless productions targeted at other religions are manifestations of religious intolerance. They constitute palpable threats to peaceful coexistence.
Cases abound in which the West defends its own religious fanatics when the latter act recklessly. Salman Rushdie became a baby of Western countries in spite of the outrage in the Muslim world over his provocative Satanic Verses published in the 90s. The author of the Danish cartoon enjoyed the same protection. Now the same West is asking Muslims to ignore this outrageous film. The list of anti-Muslim acts is endless. Pig-heads are thrown inside mosques in the US. Faeces is thrown on the floors of mosques. Hate-pouring graffiti is painted on mosque walls overnight and the US government does nothing to stop all these in its own territory.
MURIC is of the opinion that the West is sponsoring Islamophobia. This impression will remain so until countries of the West redefine their concept of free speech. Britain can extradite Abu Hamza to the US to face charges of hate-preaching but the same Britain sees nothing wrong in a hate film. Posterity must judge whether or not the West is guilty of hypocrisy. Chamberlain had earlier remarked that the problem with the world is "brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution".
We strongly believe that blasphemy against any religion must be criminalized to serve as deterrent against potential blasphemers. The West must unleash some control mechanism on the advocatus diaboli within its system. We will hold the West responsible for the recklessness of its citizens until this is done.
Muslims have suffered immense psychological trauma from this name-calling and witch-hunting. Taking a cue from the unfortunate event which took place recently in Benghazi, Libya, the West must learn the limits of sponsoring and arming dissidents in Muslim countries.
Finally, MURIC calls on governments around the world to legislate against blasphemy. We urge the Nigerian National Assembly to take this very seriously and act on it most urgently. We nurse the fear that the world may not be the same again after the next blasphemous act.
Professor Is-haq Akintola,
Lagos State University,
P.O. Box 10211,
LASU Post Office,
HO 102 101,
I remain oppressed untill the hungry are fed, the naked clothed,
the sick healed and the homeless sheltered