Blasphemy and Killing in the Name of Islam

The recent murder of a Christian trader in Northern Nigeria who was accused of blasphemy underscores the threat of Islamic extremism and the fact that Muslims with a Boko Haram mindset are not only in Sambisa forest. The mob reaction that led to the burning of churches and looting of shops shows that this murderous act enjoyed a wider support amongst the local Muslim population. This is unfortunate.

People may interpret what the Christian trader did in any way they can; there is not justification for this horrific killing and other cases of religious bloodletting in a civilized society. It is difficult to understand why any Muslim could decide to take the life of a fellow human being for making some statements about Muhammad. Mere statements! Just words!

Any intelligent observer of issues in Nigeria would testify that this killing is not an isolated incident but a pattern of reactions to real or imagined cases of blasphemy against Islam, not against Christianity or traditional religion, but against the Islamic faith and its prophet Muhammad in Nigeria. Violent reactions to purported blasphemous statements do not only target Christians and other non Muslims but also other Muslims as we witnessed recently in Kano.

These violent reactions do not reflect positively on the Islamic religion, particularly at this moment in human history. With horrific incidents like this, it is difficult for anybody to agree to the notion that Islam is a religion of peace unless the person has a twisted sense of peace. It is evident from the killing of the Christian trader and similar episodes around the globe that the peace which Islam promises is not for blasphemers or apostates or religious dissenters. The peace of Islam is not for those who say anything critical or derisive of prophet Muhammad. If the peace of Islam does not extend to those who hold or express views which some Muslims may find objectionable or disagreeable then what kind of peace is that? Is it peace in a graveyard of freedom, free thought, free inquiry and free speech?

If the peace of Islam applies only to those who say or post things that could be adjudged as respectful of prophet Muhammad, then is that a worthwhile peace? For me it is utterly shocking to see Muslims, particularly those of them from Nigeria or rather Africa, murder their fellow human beings in the name of Allah who in actual fact does not exist, in the name of a so called religion of peace that was brought by those who enslaved and killed their forefathers because they professed other religions. Is it not a shame that some Muslims think it is justifiable to kill a human being whom they see for insulting prophet Muhammad or Allah whom they do not see? I think that this idea among Muslims of reacting to purported statements that insult Muhammad or Allah is a clear demonstration of the impotency of these two entities. If prophet Muhammad feels insulted by whatever anybody does, he should be able to react, after all he was said to have gone to heaven on a flaming horse. Muslims should not react on its behalf. If Allah feels insulted by whatever anybody does, Muslims should allow their ‘most gracious’ to react and punish the person. Muslims should not react on Allah’s behalf unless they are saying that these entities are unable to do so.

Having said that, I think it is utterly senseless for any Muslims to think that they can live in a world where nobody would say, write or post anything which may be deemed offensive or blasphemous. Truths, they say, start as blasphemies. So it is with the blasphemies against prophet Muhammad, so it is with the defamation of Islam. Violent reactions to supposedly insulting statements are indicators of insecurity on the part of Muslims and a confirmation that Islam is a violent religion. Muslims in Nigeria or in any part of the world should imagine this: if everybody reacts violently by killing those who make blasphemous statements about their faiths and prophets as some Muslim fanatics did in Niger state, then there would be no person left in the world today. In fact there would be nothing like Islam. This is because Islam started as a form of blasphemy against earlier religions. In fact Prophet Muhammad was a blasphemer because he made statements and propounded teachings that some persons deem insulting to their faiths and religious personalities.

Now imagine as a blasphemer that Muhammad had been killed just as the Christian in Niger state was murdered, there might be nothing like Islam today. There might be no Muslims in the world. So prophet Muhammad lived to propagate Islam because people tolerated his blasphemies against their prophets. Muslims should learn to tolerate other people’s blasphemies against prophet Muhammad.

Though some people at his time might have disliked and disagreed with his teachings, it was not to the extent of killing him. Though Muslims may not like what other people say about prophet Muhammad, they should not kill them. Sharia states should not imprison or execute such persons.

In addition, blasphemy is a human right that Muslims have exercised throughout history and non-Muslims are entitled to as well. Muslim scholars are blasphemers. Muslim clerics blaspheme in their mosques and prayer grounds everyday. But thanks to the toleration of people of other faiths and beliefs, this blasphemy called Islam exists in the world today and continues to spread to other parts of the globe. Professors of non Muslim faiths and beliefs have extended their notion of peace to Muslim blasphemers, and Muslims in Nigeria and in other parts of the world need to reciprocate and extend the same gesture of toleration and humanity to those whom they think or imagine as making blasphemous statements against prophet Muhammad, Islam and Allah.

In the spirit of global peace.

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