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Amjad Malik,961,383

Britain is in the grip of latest stir caused by the knighthood status granted to ‘Satanic Verses’ fame writer Salman Rushdie which has created an uproar in the Islamic world though the stalwarts of Ummah are quietly observing these developments. Several organizations have expressed dismay at the blatant disregard shown to the 2 million Muslims sensitivities in the  UK and over a billion around the world whilst granting a Knighthood to a writer and questioned the wisdom of Tony Blair for such recommendations on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s birthday and have called for withdrawal as this honour is given at a time when Muslims are on the edge to bridge the gap between two communities after the events of September 11th and 7 July. Muslims of Britain as well as the Western World are already subject to victimization via various heavy handed laws and at this junction honouring those will contribute to widen the gulf between two cultures and will alienate the main stream Muslim community.

Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) of 1860 dates from the British colonial period: Sections 295 to 298 of the PPC dealing with religious offences dates back to that period and were intended to prevent and curb religious violence. The offences listed are: defiling a place of worship (s.295), acts insulting religion or religious beliefs (s.295 A), disturbing a religious assembly (s.296), trespassing on burial grounds (s.297), and utterances wounding religious feelings (s.298). These sections have a lot in common including the intention of the offender to hurt the religious susceptibilities of others which is considered integral to the offence; they also share a universal application, whereby hurting the religious feelings or any group is made an offence. In particular S. 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code says, “ whoever by words either spoken or written or by visible   representations or in any manner whatsoever, or by any imputation, innuendo or institution, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.”. Islamic Shariat Bench later declared that imprisonment can not be granted in Blasphemy proven cases and only death sentence is the right sentence for the convicted.


However these offences have little value to the West who take freedom of expression as a superior force to all other political and religious compulsions. Their Blasphemy law though covers Christianity but does not cover Islam. Article 10 of European Convention of Human Rights 1950 which is a bit similar to Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 says as following:  “1. Every one has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinion and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the Licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.” During the Salman Rushdie affair in 80’s after writing a book ‘Satanic Verses’ Britain never prosecuted Salma Rushdie under Blasphemy Laws of Britain for defiling the Prophet of Islam as British laws only covers Christianity. Under Ex Parte Choudhary, private prosecution was not allowed either by British Courts due to lack of legal provisions. Britain since has introduced the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 which intends to curb preaching religious violence, however it still does not address the core and causes of igniting religious hatred albeit blasphemy .

However in the west denial of holocaust as to whether or not Jews were oppressed by Hitler’s Nazi regime is a criminal offence in most part of Europe. Holocaust denial is illegal in a number of European countries: In Austria (article 3h Verbotsgesetz 1947) punishable from 6 months to 20 years, Belgium (Belgian Holocaust denial law) punishable from Fine to 1 year, the Czech Republic under section 261 punishable from 6 months to 3 years, France (Loi Gayssot) punishable from Fine or 1 month to 2 years, Germany (§ 130 (3) of the penal code) also the Auschwitzlüge law section 185 punishable from Fine or 1 month to 5 years, Lithuania, The Netherlands under articles 137c and 137e punishable from Fine or 2 years to 10 years, Poland, Romania, Slovakia,and Switzerland (article 261bis of the Penal Code) punishable from 6 months to 3-5 years. In addition, under Law 5710-1950 it is also illegal in Israel and punishable from 1 year to 5 years. Italy enacted a law against racial and sexual discrimination on January 25, 2007 punishable from 3 years to 4 years.

Now we see no Islamic countries in this list which outlaw holocaust denial as if you wish to enact the law in those countries you are called to scratch their back too and amend your home blasphemy laws to include the respect for Islam and its Prophet. Now looking at this tendency the way the West is showing insensitivity to the Muslim World’s feelings, It will be quite illogical if Islamic countries in a fit start awarding Saddam Hussain a highest bravery award for saying ‘God is one’ on the Gallow or Mullah Omer ‘the sword of Ali award’ for combating the foreign oppressor. These sentiments though exist which call for serious consideration by OIC and West to sit together and find a solution to this hugely charged issue as common man of each society calls for peace and harmony between ancient civilizations.

The awarded writer’s contribution is disputed too and it is not only conflicting but has caused hurt to scores of human souls around the world. British Government must have gauged the fall outs as a result of such an honour announcement and the assessment seems faulty over this knighthood and gives rise to the contention whether it is intentional to stir worldwide outcry to secure public support for aggression or an unintended lapse. Queen’s regiment has already been insensitive to the public pulse at the death of Lady Diana, the princess of Wales and here too showing little regret over this episode where thousands of Muslim protestors are on the streets.

There is further fuel on the fire by careless statements of politicians, one of which is of Mr. Ejaz Ul Haq a Minister of Religion of Pakistan trying to justify suicidal attacks on the writer  which has no basis in Islamic teachings and in law here and abroad. In particular his call is not wise when 1 million Pakistanis reside in Britain and contribute heavily in national economy including his own clan. Whilst urging communities to remain calm and use their right to protest in a maximum peaceful manner, I feel the time has come for two ancient civilization to sit together and try to form a group of countries to have a joint ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ to identify and not to allow harbouring each other’s common criminals who defile each others religious faith. Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) did something similar 1400 years ago and made a  pact with his opponents known as ‘Hudabiya Pact’ and here too the Western world must have a dialogue to secure interfaith harmony in order to bring two extremes to the middle to avoid future conflict.

There is no point that blasphemy law in Pakistan, Iran and Saudi is punishable to death and writers of such books walked free in British run India for writing ‘Colourful Prophet’ around 100 years ago, and now for writing ‘Satanic Verses’ and publishing ‘Danish Cartoons’ ridiculing the Prophet. Similarly denying holocaust, that Nazis did or did not oppress the Jews, is a criminal offence in the West but in the Islamic world if not penalized then it does not carry international validity and criminals of one society will keep seeking refuge in other’s protection indefinitely and may cause a mayhem one day.  If a joint attempt to ‘give and take’ policy is not adopted, I am afraid a chain of uncalled events may emerge from within this episode which will be regrettable but will be disastrous to the efforts of bringing the unity in this global village.  When law does not address public anxiety and no forum on which a complaint can be lodged is available then those who mutilate public feelings on the name of freedom will deepen the gulf further and clash of civilization begins as was quoted by the US president wrongly or rightly at the time of 9/11 referring to crusades.

We must all discourage any attempt to use or stir violence on religious basis, however realizing the nature of situation OIC and Western World including European Union, US, Russia, China, and India must consider setting up a forum to adjudicate such matters and give serious thought to the calls of Muslim countries & West for interfaith harmony.  Islamic countries jointly must come up with a unanimous unstinted resolution as to where no negotiation is possible and where there is a compromise possible on the name of freedom of thought and expression and or to include protection to Western belief. Little late and there was no dearth of individuals like Ghazi ilam Din then in India, or Amir Cheema now in Germany in this day an age who were and are willing to take law into their own hands on the name of love for their religion and their Prophet when no law or legal forum is available to address their concerns instead countries show blatant disregard to their sentiments. The decision is simple,  its one man’s freedom against 1.5 billion Muslims sensitivities. Muslim world unanimously banned the film ‘Passion of Christ’ which fantasized Jesus Christ in a fiction, same reciprocal concession must be offered from the West which does not cost them a penny.   Why both societies do not act together to fill the lacuna so that any frenzy writer may not stir religious sentiments and defile each others sacred belief as current law does not address those common grouses of each community. This way we can save the clash of civilization and nip the evil in the bud in order to save the humanity as one man’s unnatural death is the death of the whole of humanity.

Amjad Malik is a Solicitor-Advocate of the Supreme Court (England), an expert of human rights law and Chair of Association of Pakistani Lawyers

The committee that proposed Salman Rushdie for a knighthood failed to consider whether it would provoke a negative reaction from the Muslim world, it was claimed today. The group, which put forward the Indian-born author for the Queen's birthday honours, believed the decision would improve relations between Britain and Asia. The committee, chaired by investment banker Lord Rothschild, included BBC director Jenny Abramsky, former Sunday Telegraph theatre critic John Gross and former editor of the Independent Andreas Whittam Smith.

Mr Whittam Smith said: "We were concerned only with merit."
The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the knighthood as a "provocation" but called for restraint from Muslims. It said the author had "earned notoriety throughout the world for the vilifying manner in which he portrayed Islamic figures".

£80,000 reward to 'execute' Rushdie as knighthood row escalates

Flames and the fury: Pakistani Muslims torch a Union Flag during protests in Lahore.Meanwhile, Whitehall sources have claimed the controversial nomination for Rushdie's knighthood came from the Culture Department's top mandarin because of 'public demand'.
The author is understood to have been put forward by Jonathan Stephens, the department's Permanent Secretary, who sits on a committee that considers honours for leading figures in the arts and media. As bitter protests continued in the Muslim world over the award, senior MPs expressed incredulity at the idea of a wave of public demands for Mr Rushdie to be ennobled.

They were also astonished that the backlash against the award in the Muslim world had not been better anticipated. Whitehall sources said the knighthood was approved by the arts and media committee chaired by multimillionaire philanthropist Lord Rothschild. Other members of the committee included Mr Stephens, a career civil servant who previously worked on public services at the Treasury, the BBC's director of radio and music Jenny Abramsky CBE, former theatre critic John Gross, novelist Ben Okri, and former editor of the Independent newspaper Andreas Whittam Smith.

A Whitehall source insisted: "Members of the public wrote to the honours committee. "He was nominated by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the strength of representations from the public for his contribution to literature. "He has an internationally recognised body of work over many years, he's won the Booker Prize, he's a world-famous author."

After being approved by the arts and media committee, the nomination went up to the main honours committee, chaired by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell. He agreed the final list for submission to Tony Blair and then to the Queen.

Tory MP Stewart Jackson, chairman of the all-party group on Pakistan, said: "I have tried to read one or two of his books myself, and I would have got more stimulation from the Yellow Pages.

"The suggestion that the British public have been queueing up to demand that Salman Rushdie is given a knighthood is frankly a joke.

"A few cappuccino-sipping Lefties in Hampstead may have thought this was a good move, but the idea he is a popular cultural icon is laughable."
Sworn enemies: Effigies of Rushdie and the Queen go up in flames

Tory MP Rob Wilson, vice-chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Pakistan group, said: "I am amazed that the people involved in this didn't anticipate the controversy it would cause."

A Foreign Office source said its officials had expected a backlash, but insisted they could not have intervened on those grounds.

"We certainly anticipated that the award would not be uncontroversial in the Muslim world," the source said.

"But it was an award for Salman Rushdie's literary merit. Other considerations could not come into play."

Westminster observers noted that Mr Rushdie is published by Vintage, a division of Random House.

The chief executive of Random House is Gail Rebuck, who is married to Philip Gould, Tony Blair's long-time polling guru.

But there is no suggestion that she or her husband played any role in nominating Mr Rushdie for an honour.

Last night, Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned Britain's Ambassador to Tehran, Geoffrey Adams, to protest about the "provocative" award.

Earlier, Pakistan summoned Robert Brinkley, the British High Commissioner in Islamabad, and told him the knighthood was insensitive and contrary to efforts to foster understanding between religions. Effigies of the Queen and the 59-year-old author were burned for a second day.

In Iran, MPs accused the Queen of living in a "dream world" over the award.

Rome, 19 June - Historians, scholars of religion, political scientists, philosophers, senior officials and commentators from Europe and the Mediterranean will on Tuesday and Wednesday gather in the Italian capital, Rome, to examine the current state of dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslim countries in the region at a time of upheaval in the Middle East. 'The Mediterranean. Alliance or Clash of Civilisations?' international conference, promoted by the Lazio region, forms part of the 'Lazio between Europe and the Mediterranean' Festival, now in its second year, which is taking place from 5 June until 8 July. The conference aims to draw attention to the many people living in countries that are in political and economic turmoil, who respect different cultural identities and back dialogue and face to face discussion to combat the wall of incomprehension and hatred between people of different faiths and traditions that too often results in acts of violence and terrorism. The event will be opened by the Lazio region's president Pierro Marrazzo. The first speaker is Franco Rizzi, director general of UNIMED - an association of 74 Mediterranean universities founded under the auspices of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. It promotes multidisciplinary research cooperation between universities in the area of cultural heritage, health, and economy and new technologies. Other speakers include Bosnian intellectual and former European Union advisor on the Mediterrean area, Predrag Matvejevic, the president of France's consultative body on secularism (laicité), Mohammed Arkoun, Italian expert on Sciism, Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti, the Italian medieval historian and Mediterranean expert, Salvatore Bono and others


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