By Ghazala Salam
Founder, Muslim American Women's Association
The recent events leading up to the arrest of an 11-year-old girl under Pakistan's blasphemy law are unclear: A young Christian girl thought to be suffering from Down Syndrome was arrested along with her mother for allegedly using old papers found in the garbage to light a fire. These old pieces of paper may have come from the Holy Quran or a religious text used to teach children about the Quran. In either case, what is clear is that when word reached local villagers, angry mob of hundreds surrounded the girl's home, threatening to burn her alive. This mob seems to have been nothing less than violent, some reports say that the girl may have been beaten; causing Pakistani authorities to swiftly arrest the young girl under blasphemy charges along with her mother for "protection" and hold them in the local jail, until a ruling is made.
Setting aside any restraints of logic, this angry mob of Muslims in Pakistan seems to have failed at learning the lessons of Ramadan. The very observance of which teaches one to look inward by reflecting on patience, perseverance, forgiveness, understanding, mercy, compassion and kindness. It is a shame that at the very end of such a holy month, these people have demonstrated their ignorance for their religion and it's teachings in such a vile manner.
While it may be the goal of self-serving community leaders, governments and clerics to promote such false and poor image of Islam; Muslims around the world can no longer ignore such abominable behaviour from other Muslims, ignorant or not, in the name of Islam. Unless the Global Muslim community as a whole speaks out and holds these so called Islamic countries accountable for misrepresenting our religion, these terrible things will not seize from happening. If Muslims want to change the Status of Islam around the world we need to begin by looking inward.
God says, "Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant" (7:199).
The Quran teaches us to balance our obligations and prohibitions through good conduct, sincerity, honesty, and integrity so that justice can prevail. According to the Quran, justice is essential for peace and peace is essential for human development: God tells us that only when we are just can we exercise our human rights in any society. Therefore, shouldn't the first order of business for the Pakistani authorities have been to arrest the people who created this chaos and those who beat and attacked the girl, threatening to burn her alive?
In light of the actions from the past and the present alike, it is evident that nations like Pakistan are failing there people; lessons from the Quran and life of Prophet which exemplify forgiveness, patience, justice and dignity are being misconstrued by promoting archaic cultural practices rather than Islamic principles as the Word of God.
What good is accusing others of blasphemy when the accusers themselves are in contempt of it?
The Prophet Muhammad (PBH) said, "He will not enter paradise whose neighbour is not secure from his wrongful conduct" (Muslim, 1992: 15).
Muslims must view these unfortunate situations as opportunities to inspire action and promote change by working together in establishing a moral code that protects the innocent -- Muslims and non-Muslims -- from all wrongful acts that are inaccurately justified in the name of religion. We must do more to end the evil of ignorance and promote education for the sake of humanity.
What is the point of protecting sacred text when we fail to learn from it?