Mumbai

Muslim forum condemns beheading in Paris

Intellectuals and activists from the Muslim community condemned the beheading of a French schoolteacher, at a webinar organised by Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD) on Sunday.

The webinar began by observing a two-minute silence to pay homage to history teacher Samuel Paty who was murdered by a Chechen extremist on October 16 for showing cartoons of Prophet Mohammed to pupils in a class discussion on free speech in a school near Paris.

IMSD convener Javed Anand said, “We are here to condemn in unequivocal terms, no ifs and buts, not only the man responsible for this barbaric act but all those who had any role in the instigation of the crime as also all those who seek to justify it. We are here not just to condemn the slaying of Mr. Paty, but also to demand the abolishing of apostasy and banishing of blasphemy anywhere and everywhere across the world.”

‘Killing against law’

Mumbai-based Islamic scholar Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali said killing people for blasphemy or apostasy is not permissible in Islam. “The Quran never mentioned such punishments. The Quran has stood for peace and justice in a non-violent way. It will be very fruitful if scholars and Ulema scrutinised and sifted through the Hadith literature, which has been pending over the years. The confirmation of a Hadith has to be in consonance with the verses of the Quraan,” she said. “Respectfully, the Paris beheading is a wake-up call to the Ulema and leaders of the Muslim world,” Dr. Zeenat added.

Delhi-based columnist Arshad Alam argued that the prime objective of such acts of terror is to silence any critique of Islam. “Charlie Hebdo cartoons must be seen within a European tradition which has for long satirised religious traditions, particularly Christianity. Since Islam is also now a European religion, the same yardstick must be applied to this religion also. Those who want to retain blasphemy laws on the statute are basically the same forces which are opposed to the liberal secular tradition and therefore should be rightly understood as indulging in rightwing politics,” he said.

Mr. Alam argued that it is incumbent on Muslims to raise their voice against the laws of blasphemy and apostasy as worldwide they are the worst victims of such laws. Moreover, these laws serve to control and intimidate the minds of Muslims and till the time they are not abrogated, Muslims and others will not have the freedom to discuss, debate and critique, something which is cardinal in order to develop a free and open society.

A.J. Jawad, Chennai-based advocate and mediator, spoke about the similarities between blasphemy and sedition as weapons of power and control used by theocracies and autocracies to suppress dissent and to whip up mob frenzy. He said religion and nationalism are excuses used to charge up emotions. Anti-blasphemy and anti-sedition laws are used to attack detractors and dissenters by theocratic and autocratic rulers.

Feroze Mithiborwala, Mumbai-based activist and writer, said the basic argument against cartoons of Prophet Mohammad is that they “mock” and “offend religious sensibilities” and should be banned. Such cartoons, which undoubtedly hurt the feelings of ordinary Muslims, actually required a non-violent response; this would have been far more effective, he said.

“On the one hand, we have a murder committed by a religious fanatic in the name of blasphemy. On the other hand, there is a secular French tradition of absolute freedom of expression, which includes the right to offend all religions,” Mr. Mithiborwala said.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 9:07:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/muslim-forum-condemns-beheading-in-paris/article32947561.ece

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