By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
In the above video Dr. Yasir Qadhi suggests that there are Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan and in Islam. I believe that the holy Quran is a champion for free speech. Therefore, I respectfully invite him to a written debate on the issue.
However, I am sure that he will not oblige for two reasons. Firstly, because of his theological vulnerability and secondly, many human interactions are popularity contests in reality, even though on the surface they seem a search for the truth.
If he were invited to such a debate by Javed Ghamidi, Hamza Yusuf, Yusuf Islam, Tariq Jamil or some other well known leader or celebrity Qadhi will oblige. But, he may not see any social advantage in debating me. So, it seems for now I will simply lay out my case without further adoo. Nevertheless, through advertisement in Twitter and elsewhere I will try to make sure that this article gets to him.
If my articles are boring to you, it may be that you need to read more of them, as was suggested by John Cage, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”
In the beginning of this 20 minute video I am glad that Qadhi thoroughly condemned mob justice against those accused of Blasphemy. I appreciate him for that but want him to go a step further. I agree with him that there is no mob justice in any religion or any good civilization. For his position he argues that we just need to consider, how would we feel, if the same was done to a Muslim by a Jewish mob in Israel or a Hindu mob in India. Exactly my point. If we use Blasphemy Laws to silence our critics what would we feel if we cannot argue the humanity of Jesus in the Christian countries and against his alleged divinity. The sense of justice and bilaterality is one of my main arguments in favor of free speech.
I wrote my first article about free speech and Islam in 2013: Freedom of Speech: A Core Islamic Value! Later I wrote: Is There Coercion in Islam and Christianity? and Caliph Umar Farooq versus Emperor Heraclius: Who gave us our Religious Freedoms?
In case Dr. Yasir Qadhi accepts my challenge, I am gong to make his life very easy. I am going to completely show him my hand. I have been collecting all important articles against Blasphemy Laws in our international blog, the Muslim Times, here, for the last several years. You can review all of them by clicking here.
Likewise, we have prepared a collection about free speech and hate speech in the Western world as well. Please also see: The Muslim Times Collecting Every Thing Useful about Free Speech.
One common mistake that most Muslim theologians make is that they often limit themselves to the Islamic and Muslim history and sources only, while if they cast a wider net they may get a far more broader perspective.
When it comes to Islamophobia, the West generally wants to give full license to free speech while abhorring careless anti-Semitic speech. This double standard obviously does not teach us anything worthwhile for or against free speech except for the short sightedness of many.
However, the exceptions that the European Convention on Human Rights provides for free speech are more insightful.
Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides the right to freedom of expression, subject to certain restrictions that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society”. This right includes the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas, but allows restrictions for:
- interests of national security
- territorial integrity or public safety
- prevention of disorder or crime
- protection of health or morals
- protection of the reputation or the rights of others
- preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence
- maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary
So, obviously some of the concerns that led to formulation of Blasphemy Laws in the Muslim societies can be tackled in more just and liberal ways in the above paradigm and will be far more palatable to the 6 billion non-Muslims in our global village.
Before I plead my case any further, for those who do not know Dr. Yasir Qadhi let me share a paragraph about him.
Yasir Qadhi (born January 30, 1975), is an American preacher, theologian, and imam. Since 2001, he has served as Dean of Academic Affairs at the Al-Maghrib Institute, an international Islamic educational institution with a center in Houston, Texas. He also taught in the Religious Studies department at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. He is currently the resident scholar of the East Plano Islamic Center in Plano, Texas. Qadhi has written numerous books and lectured widely on Islam and contemporary Muslim issues. A 2011 The New York Times Magazine essay by Andea Elliott described Qadhi as “one of the most influential conservative clerics in American Islam.” Writing in 2017, journalist Graeme Wood called him “one of the two most prominent Muslim scholars in the United States today.” Qadhi was previously affiliated with the Salafi movement but has since left the movement and now only identifies himself as a Sunni.
The above video presentation of Qadhi was in response to the Sialkot tragedy and let me load the burden of some other religious and political leaders on Qadhi’s back as well: Urdu Video: Javed Ghamidi’s beautiful Analysis of the Sialkot Tragedy and Sialkot Tragedy and Video Response of Different Leaders in Pakistan.
To keep this challenge brief, let me now simply present a collection of articles in favor of my position:
— The Muslim Times (@The_MuslimTimes) May 24, 2022
I have saved the above video and another of Qadhi’s video about blasphemy in the Muslim Times as well to ensure its longevity: