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Commentary: Blasphemy charges pervert Islam’s teachings

By Qasim Rashid
Religion News Service

Sentenced for professing his atheism, Alexander Aan was recently released after 18 months in an Indonesian prison. Masood Ahmad has served over two months in a Pakistani prison for reading the Quran as an Ahmadi Muslim. Pastor Saeed Abedini languishes in an Iranian prison for preaching Christianity.

They are but a sliver of the persecution, including murders, of Ahmadi Muslims, Shiite Muslims, Christians, Hindus and atheists at the hands of extremists claiming that Islam requires death for apostasy and blasphemy.

The famous Indian poet Sarojini Naidu once wrote, “(Islam) was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy ….” A glance at the aforementioned atrocities and one wonders how Naidu arrived at her conclusion.

Naidu and countless scholars throughout history arrived at similar conclusions by studying Islam’s authentic sources – the Quran and Prophet Muhammad. Both champion freedom of conscience and free speech. Nothing in Islam endorses, much less commands, death for apostasy or blasphemy, or vigilante justice for childish cartoons.

Regarding blasphemy, the Quran implores Muslims at least seven times that if offended, ignore and move on: “And when thou seest those who engage in vain discourse concerning Our Signs, then turn thou away from them until they engage in a discourse other than that.”

Regarding free speech, the Quran recognizes and protects free expression in more than 40 instances.

Muhammad established the Charter of Medina, a secular constitution between Muslims and Jews. The charter ensured equality, universal religious freedom, and free speech for all Medina’s residents.

Islam limits free speech on the same premise that the U.S. Supreme Court has also banned the utterance of inflammatory speech.

The Quran is clear: “There shall be no compulsion in religion.” Thus, in stripping Alexander Aan, Masood Ahmad and Saeed Abedini of their freedom of conscience, Indonesia, Pakistan and Iran have only succeeded in stripping Islam of its most noble quality.

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