Penalizing Criticism of Islam Threatens Free Speech and Reforms

Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the eminent Turkish Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was recently welcomed in Europe, the U.S. and Australia.

However, this organization has an agenda to criminalize criticism of Islam, which threatens to strangle dissent and reform.

Established in 1969 and based in Saudi Arabia, the OIC represents 57 member states with sizeable Muslim populations, and wields considerable influence in the U.N.

Professor Ihsanoglu believes “no one has the right to insult another for their beliefs” but does it follow that insults should be criminalized?

Although the OIC does not define offensive speech, the policies and practices of member states are instructive. Muslims wishing to give up Islam are branded apostates, often with dire penalties. Ahmadis and Baha’is are persecuted as “insulters” of Islam. Saudi journalist Najeeb Kashgari was recently charged with apostasy following three tweets considered heretical by Saudi clerics. He fled the country, but was arrested in Malaysia on the way to New Zealand and extradited. Christian Egyptian Naguib Sawiris faces trial for insulting Islam, after tweeting images of a bearded Mickey Mouse and veiled Minnie Mouse.

Since President Zia-ul-Haq instigated the death penalty for blasphemy in 1986, more than a thousand cases were registered in Pakistan. There were no authorized executions but Islamist vigilantes killed some of the accused. In January 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the Muslim governor of Punjab, was murdered by his bodyguard for opposing capital punishment for insulting Islam and also defending Christian Pakistani woman Asia Bibi against a blasphemy charge. Taseer’s killer received widespread support. Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minorities Minister and a Christian, was killed in March 2011 for opposing the blasphemy laws.

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