By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
One of the major concerns, if not obsessions of Indian ulema and Urdu journalists, expressed in the Urdu Press last few days, though now somewhat diluted in impact by the unfolding Osama story, has been “Blasphemy being perpetrated in India.” A case being used as an example is that of a publisher of comics books. Statements of ulema of all hues and columns by journalists have appeared everyday condemning this and asking for police intervention.
Delhi’s Hindustan Express has been the most active in this campaign. In its zeal to denounce the publisher of these comic books the newspaper itself published images of the Prophet for which it was condemning the publication. None of the ulema have, however, condemned this Muslim newspaper for publishing the Prophet’s images, even if it did that as an example, for which they are after the Hindu publisher’s blood. Several have said that had this happened in a Muslim-majority country the publisher would have been by now killed.
It must be noted that the recent death sentence to a Pakistani Christian woman Aasia Begum, that Indian ulema support as much as their Pakistani counterparts, was given without ascertaining what blasphemy, if any, she had actually perpetrated. The argument is that asking someone to repeat what she had said would be asking her or her accuser to perpetrate blasphemy again. So even without ascertaining if she had committed any blasphemy at all, Aasia Begum was senetenced to death and the ulema of the subcontinent support that. In fact they even support the killing of Pakistani Punjab governor Salman Taseer and the only Christian member of the Pakistani federal cabinet Shahbaz Bhatti, for showing sympathy for this hapless wronged woman.
From that criterion, however, editor and publisher of Hindustan Express should be considered as much, if not more condemnable for publishing images of the Prophet (pbuh). While one can imagine the Hindu publisher of Diamond comics not being aware of the Muslim sensitivities involved, no such defence can be made of Urdu daily Hindustan express which is running a campaign against Diamond comics and itself doing the same thing, something that is truly abhorrent to any Muslim.
Do I sound angry with Hindustan Express? Maybe I do, as I indeed am. Hindustan Express has forced me to look at Prophet Mohammad’s purported images that I never wanted to do. I have never and am never going to read Diamond comics. But I read Hindustan Express. There was no way I or any reader of the paper could have avoided looking at the images of what were supposed to be images of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), regardless of what context they were put in.
Are we at New Age Islam asking for Hindustan Express editor and publisher’s head? No. we are too conscious our own failings and shortcomings and sinfulness to ask for anything remotely like that. Also, we truly believe that Islam is a religion of peace, compassion and forgiveness. But Our ulema, who are so fond of declaring people to be qabil-e-gardan-zadni (fit to get their heads severed from their body) should have by now called for the head (s) of the editor and publisher Hindustan Express Urdu daily. By not doing that and by calling for action against the publisher of diamond comics alone, they are clearly being communal. And that in New Age Islam dictionary is a bigger crime.
The following are excerpts from an article by Perwez Suhaib Ahmad published in the Hindustan Express on 8 May 2011 (Translated from Urdu by Arman Neyazi, NewAgeIslam.com):
Blasphemous acts and talks are nothing new for Islam and Prophet Muhammad (SAW). In his life he had to face many baseless charges and even after more than 1400 years the same is continuing. Blasphemy against Prophet (SAW) in the western countries is not new. It has started and is gaining momentum in the East as well.
Even India is not free of such blasphemous acts. It has been occurring before independence and it is continuing in the independent era as well. This blasphemous propaganda has, however, attracted more people towards Islam and more people are embracing the religion now in comparison to the earlier ages. In short nothing has been able to damage Islam because of its teachings of brotherhood and love and affection with the human race.
The big question is, who are the people who indulge themselves in such meaningless, baseless and anti social propaganda against Islam. Islam is a religion against which no one can utter a single word in his conscious state of mind. Islam teaches peace and harmony among the people of whatever race, creed or religion they belong to. It means the people indulging themselves are nothing but anti-social.
Ours is an Independent and Democratic country. We all have the right of religion. No one is bound by the constitution to follow a particular set of religious duties. It is our duty to respect all religions but it is a sorry state of affairs that our history shows anti religious acts and blasphemy has been perpetrated from time to time. The requirements of democratic rights have not been fulfilled by some as far as respect for all the religions is concerned.
Various blasphemous acts have been regularly getting space in the newspapers, such as an imaginary photo of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in the annual magazine of Krishna School of Chhattisgarh, an effort of getting the innocent minds polluted by a question paper of a Private School of Delhi and now the Diamond Comics episode. Our objective is not to create any kind of anger in the Muslim minds but to get the powers that be, informed so that the anti-socials who are trying to create a rift between the religions are brought to book. Hindustan Express, Delhi had reported the printing of Prophet’s imaginary photo in Daily Hindustan, Hindi in August 2008. Subsequently the then Editor, Pramod Joshi had asked for unconditional apology to end the episode.
Diamond Comics is trying to give the blasphemy act a different colour and is saying that this is a 6/7 years old case. The police is astonished. It knows that the Publishers are trying to befool them. Even then their role in this is dubious. This is anyhow puzzling for the Muslims of India as to why the government of the day and the previous governments have not been taking any worthwhile action in this regard.
All the concerned agencies, scholars of the Islamic Sharia’h, political leaders of all the political organizations are requested to take appropriate step to stop these kinds of blasphemous acts which hurts the feeling of a particular community. It should be stopped and the respect for all the religions must be assured.