Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/3/2019 (959 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Canadian Muslims are rejecting a call by a radical Islamist in Pakistan to kill Asia Bibi, the Christian woman recently found innocent of blasphemy, when she arrives in this country.
The call came from Hafiz Ehtisham Ahmed after Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld her acquittal in January.
In a statement, Ahmed said "she deserves to be murdered according to Sharia. If she goes abroad, don’t Muslims live there? If she goes out of Pakistan... anybody can kill her there."
Bibi was charged with insulting the Prophet Muhammad in 2009. She maintained her innocence, but was found guilty and sentenced to death in 2010.
Last fall, Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned her conviction. She was set free, but death threats from radical religious hardliners forced her and her family into hiding.
In December, her daughters quietly slipped out of Pakistan and made their way to Canada. In January, Pakistan’s Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision to acquit her, clearing the way for Bibi to leave.
According to a family friend, Bibi and her husband, Ashiq Masih, are still in Pakistan, awaiting permission to come to Canada.
"Any calls to harm her or her family should be ignored," says Idris Elbakri, former president of the Manitoba Islamic Association.
Once here, he hopes "she finds safety and can move on with her life."
For Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association, the call to kill Bibi does nothing but give all Muslims "a bad name."
Ahmed, she says, "is a hate extremist devoid of any decency."
Sheema Khan, a Globe and Mail columnist who writes about Islamic issues, believes Canadian Muslims should aggressively "voice opposition" to the call to harm Bibi.
"If we don’t say anything, it can be taken as a sign of approval," she says. "We need to stand up against evil (like this). We need to let Canadians know this doesn’t reflect Islam."
When Bibi comes to Canada, "we should definitely welcome her with sensitivity, humility and consideration," she says.
Noting the eight years she spent in prison in fear for her life, Khan says, "If I could meet her, I would express deep personal sorrow (for what happened)."
Faisal Kutty is a scholar who teaches Islamic law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana.
The call for Bibi’s death, he says, "is the epitome of ignorance and intolerance, which is against the very essence of the Qur’an’s statement about there being no compulsion in religion."
He also urges Canadian Muslims to "speak out against (the call to kill her)" and to welcome and offer protection to Bibi and her family in Canada.
As for those, like Ahmed, who say Sharia law mandates Bibi’s death, they reveal "the ultimate in ignorance," he says.
"Just like the common law, Sharia law has jurisdictional limits and various interpretations that is specific to the time, geography, context and the facts... there are many jurists who oppose this interpretation and there have been for hundreds of years," he says.
But even if a Muslim erroneously believes blasphemers should be killed, they need to remember several things, he says.
First, "the highest Sharia court in Pakistan has acquitted her," he says.
Second, even if that court had not acquitted her, "people cannot carry out Sharia penalties. That is the mandate of the state. A clergyman cannot issue punishment edicts on his own."
Finally, he says, Sharia rulings and judgments "have no extraterritorial force. So even if she was found guilty by a Sharia court in Pakistan, which is not the case here, it has no application outside its jurisdiction."
Noting that members of minority religions in Pakistan continue to be wrongly accused of blasphemy, and that some who have spoken about against it have been assassinated, Kutty says it is time for Muslim leaders and scholars around the world to speak out against the practice.
"This lack of opposition to these outdated and out-of-context laws and the scapegoating of minorities and dissenters in far too many Muslim nations only sullies Islam and Muslims," he says.
"It is high time" to "speak out against this travesty of Islam."
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.