Books and Documents

Islam and Tolerance

Ahmed Jawed is inviting the Muslims to think what we should do and what we should not do in response to offensive activities committed by anti-Islam elements in the West like the recent burning of the Holy Quran by self-styled priest Terry Jones. He writes: Should the Muslims also burn the Bible? Should they insult the Taurat (The Old Testament) and the Gospel? Should they attack the churches? Should they target the personages of the Christians? Should they denigrate their centres of reverence? If the Quran and Islam itself be consulted, the answer to our questions will be in the negative. The tradition of the Prophet of Islam never allows them for this. They neither can burn the Bible, nor can they attack the churches, nor can they accuse the holy personalities of the Christian religion and the centres of homage of the Christians, because, for the Muslims, the Taurat and the Bible are also as revered, as any other revealed book, or the Holy Quran

Conserving the Bamiyan Buddhas
An editorial in The Hindu

UNESCO, which is coordinating the conservation efforts in Afghanistan, deserves the highest praise. Instead of rushing to rebuild the destroyed icons, as desired by some of the heritage experts and funding countries, it opted for a three-phase project to demine the area, strengthen the mountain cliffs, and improve the vicinity. Involving local communities in conservation efforts and building their capacities has been very sensibly made a priority. This sustainable approach, adopted since 2003, has paid dividends and the Bamiyan site is now ready to be removed from the list of World Heritage sites in danger. The demand to rebuild the Bamiyan Buddhas has gained fresh momentum after experts demonstrated the feasibility of reconstructing the smaller of the two statues, using fragments from the original statues. A final decision will be taken after carefully analysing the costs and benefits of the project, including the social gains that would accrue to the local community. The Taliban's barbaric destruction of the Buddhas exposes the limits of international conventions meant to safeguard heritage structures of universal value. In general, these conventions only address the damage caused by conventional war; they are ineffective in dealing with rogue States that vandalise their own cultural properties. -- An editorial in The Hindu

ISLAMABAD: Gunmen shot and killed Shahbaz Bhatti Pakistan’s government minister for religious minorities on Wednesday, the latest attack on a high-profile Pakistani figure who had urged reforming the harsh blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam. Shahbaz Bhatti was on his way to work in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, when unknown gunmen riddled his car with bullets, police officer Mohmmad Iqbal said. The minister arrived dead at Shifa Hospital and his driver was also wounded badly, hospital spokesman Asmatullah Qureshi said. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but private Pakistani TV channels showed pamphlets at the scene of the killing that were attributed to the Pakistani Taliban warning of the same fate for anyone opposing the blasphemy laws. – A report compiled by well-known Karachi-based  blogger Aamir Mughal

Photo: Pakistani minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, who had called for changes in the country's controversial blasphemy law, was killed in a gun attack in Islamabad.


Muslim Persecution of Christians in Pakistan



DARUL Uloom Deoband, the leading Islamic seminary of the subcontinent, is in turmoil today. At the heart of the struggle is the issue of who comes to finally control it. The chances are that Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, who has been its rector for a short while, could be forced to make way for someone supported by the powerful Madni clan. ... Let us link Maulana Vastanvi’s remarks to that old Deobandi tradition of putting watan first and ignoring the differences between the ahle-watan (people of motherland). Let us not look at what he said as an attempt to take away the heat from Modi. Generosity of spirit shown by a victim does not necessarily lead to the exoneration of the aggressor, and Maulana Vastanvi's remarks may not be enough for the law to salvage Modi.

The Deoband ulema warned Indian Muslims that there was more in common between Hindus and Muslims of Bihar or UP than between Muslims of these states and Muslims of Balochistan, Punjab and the Frontier. “You are afraid of Hindu nationalism, but you will find Baloch and Pashtun nationalism more difficult to deal with”, they reasoned.

In Islam, the heirs of prophets are not necessarily their sons and grandsons, but those who carry the tradition faithfully. We know well who the real heir of Deoband’s stalwarts is and their legacy of healing the wounds of fratricidal conflicts.

people’s hearts to cool off? Does the holy Quran not say that people who have been wronged have the moral right to avenge it, but Allah loves those who would rather not take revenge and forgive, for Allah is forgiving? Let’s be clear. No society can afford to be perpetually at war with itself. This holds good for Gujarati society as well. For a while it looked and felt good for the Hindu right to announce that the “Gujarat lab experiment” was highly successful. But it does not work that way in life. Still, Islam and Mussalmans are there, like there are influential Jews in today’s Germany despite Hitler and the Holocaust. Gujarat and its Muslims have got to move on, as everybody else does. That is all Maulana Vastanvi suggested. ... Let Maulana Vastanvi be. -- Tanweer Alam

More than 500 religious clerics issued a statement in support of the assassin and declared that no Muslim should participate in the funeral prayer of Salman Taseer because the late governor was trying to release a Christian woman convicted in a blasphemy case. This statement came from anti-Taliban Barelvi scholars who had lost their leaders like Mufti Safraz Naeemi at the hands of Taliban in 2009. All the top religious scholars of Lahore, including the prayer leader at the Governor House, refused to lead the funeral prayer. Barelvi ulema took a very extreme position. On the other side, some English newspapers declared that blasphemy law was the main cause for the killing of Salman Taseer. This too was an extreme position. …

I must say that the ruling Pakistan People\'s Party is also responsible for the death of Salman Taseer. When Taseer criticized blasphemy laws, his own party, including President Zardari, never took a stand for him. Law minister Babar Awan said that nobody would be allowed to make any change in the blasphemy laws. The views of Taseer were misunderstood because the US is also demanding from Pakistan the repeal of blasphemy laws. Common Pakistanis don't like US interference in Pakistan. That was why Taseer was declared an American agent by many right-wing parties.--Hamid Mir

Prem Chand, We Are Ashamed!
Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

He gave his sweat and tears to this land of pure – and what did he get? Some religious bigot wrote “Kaafir” (English: Infidel) on his coffin. We are not short of these religious bigots whose favorite pass time is to judge and discriminate on Pakistanis on basis of their faith – but this sad incident, which killed 152 human beings was an opportunity for these religious fanatics to show their true face. The poor guy, who was born in a Hindu family and spent his life trying to work for the people of his country was given the title of “Kaafir” by someone amongst us. This particular segment of our society pounces on every opportunity to exhibit their religious fanaticism from the very beginning, when Quaid e Azam (the founder of Pakistan) was labelled as “Kaafir-e-Azam”.

Bear in mind, Pakistan was made because people of Indo-Pak subcontinent felt they were discriminated upon on the basis of their faith – The same we are doing with our minorities. -- Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

The beginning of 2010 saw much violence directed towards Indonesia's religious minorities. On 3 January, a group called the People Communication Forum burnt down the Philadelfia Church, a house of worship for the Protestant Batak Christians in Bekasi, West Java. In a separate instance, extremist groups, such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Taliban Brigade, forcefully shut down an Ahmadiyyah mosque and community centre. – Luther Kembaren

On several occasions these last months, tens of thousands of enraged people called for her head and burned her effigies. Your country protected her against death, but no longer wishes to protect her against intimidation. Her Indian visa will expire on the 17th of August, and the highest authorities have let it be known that it will not be renewed. ... We implore you not to cede to their blackmail and to violence. Do not punish Taslima on account of their intolerance. ...

Signed: Catherine Clément, writer;

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, European deputy;

Jeanne Favret-Saada, anthropologist;

Jean-François Julliard, general secretary of Reporters Without Borders;

Bertrand Delanoë, mayor of Paris.

In UK:

Fariborz Pooya (Iranian Secular Society),

Maryam Namazie, (One Law for All),

Asad Abbas, (Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain),

Mahin Alipour, (Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran),

Mina Ahadi, (International Committee against Stoning and Execution).

Ahmadiyas: Islam’s outcasts
Mohammad Wajihuddin

The Ahmadiyas’ beliefs have brought them much suffering, especially in Pakistan, where most of them migrated after Partition. In 1974, Pakistans first prime minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, declared Ahmadiyat as non-Muslim. A decade later, as part of the frenzied Islamisation process, dictator Zia-ul-Haq brought out an ordinance which prevented the sect from using Islamic descriptions and titles. Thus, the Islamic greeting, the azaan or call to prayer by the Ahmadiyas became punishable and their mosques were reduced to just ibadatgahs (places of worship).

Another feature of the Ahmadiyas, unique to them, is the institution of the Khilafat or Caliphate in the contemporary world. Its pure, theological form was abolished after the assassination of Hazrat Ali, the fourth Caliph. In modern times, Mustafa Kemal Pasha formally ended the Abbasid Caliphate, monarchical in nature, in Turkey in the 1920s. But the Ahmadiyas consider it part of the faith and fanatically root for it. Their fifth Caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmed, lives in London and commands unchallenged respect. -- Mohammad Wajihuddin


On May 20, my rickshaw puttered alongside a large rally organized by the religious party Jamaat-e-Islami. Hundreds of young male protesters moved in knots behind an overstuffed bus adorned with a banner reading: "To protect our Prophet against blasphemy, we will even sacrifice our lives!" In other times, these young men might have protested the countrywide ban on Facebook, which lasted from May 19 to 31, but last week they were marching resolutely in support of blocking the site. For them, Facebook had insulted their religion and community; for the country's leaders, the ban was political currency. Even as five bomb blasts shook Lahore and U.S. drones attacked the Federally Administered Tribal Areas last week, Pakistan's Islamist organizations pressed ahead with demonstrations against Facebook. -- Madiha R. Tahir


HELLO, and a very good morning to you. I wish I could begin by saying “may peace be on you” in Arabic but unfortunately, I’d risk being thrown into jail besides having to pay a very heavy fine. So we’ll drop that idea for now...

I won’t go into the details of what happened because you already know them by now. I’m going to tell you what you may not know. 
One, threats of violence have been being hurled at us for a very long time. Just recently Amnesty International released a report on minority issues in Pakistan and urged the government to take strict corrective action. Two, the government, whatever it may say, did not provide adequate security even though it was aware of the seriousness of the situation. Three, we — Ahmadis — are not agents of the CIA, Blackwater, Israel, RAW, Mossad or any other organisation or network. We are a religious community without any political affiliations, with no history of violence and are engaged in charity work throughout the world. Our official motto is ‘love for all, hatred for none’. -- Ahmad Mustafa

Certain Muslim countries who swear by Qur’an as their constitution also flagrantly violate Qur’anic provisions. Qur’an … says diversity is Allah’s creation and must be respected and celebrated. And this diversity includes linguistic, racial and religious and human beings, whatever religion, race or linguistic group they belong to, must be accorded equal dignity and which means all of them should enjoy equal rights.

 However, you will not find any Muslim country swearing by Qur’an as book of Allah implementing these ideals. You find discrimination on the basis of religion, even sects, language and ethnicity. You very much find discrimination for example in Saudi Arabia, against non-Arabs, against non-Wahabi Muslims and against other ethnic and racial groups. One finds discrimination in Iran against Sunni Muslims, against Arabs, against Bahais and against non-Persians.

 In Pakistan one finds discrimination against certain linguistic groups like Baluchis and Sindhis. It is dominated by the Punjabi majority. Not only that there is sectarian violence between Shi’ahs and Sunnis besides Christians and Hindus. It is Punjabi majority which rules the roast. One has yet to see any Muslim country which does not violate injunctions of the Qur’an while swearing in by it as one has yet to see any western democracy not violating injunctions of their own constitutions enshrining ideals and values of modern democracy. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

“Oh Allah, defeat the Kafirs [Christians & Jews]”

 “We have to establish Islam [in Canada]. I wanna see Islam in every single corner of the city; I would like to see niqabis, and hijabis [women wearing face masks and head covering] everywhere in the city. I want to see ‘brothers’ [Muslim men] in beards everywhere in the city. Because when they see more of us, they will have more respect for us. They will say, ‘look they are everywhere...we cannot go against them’.”

A Toronto-area imam is under fire for using derogatory language against Jews and Christians, calling for Allah to “destroy” the enemies of Islam from within and calling on God to “damn” the “infidels.” -- Charles Lewis

IN TODAY’S Pakistan, Shias are being target- killed; minorities are fearful for their lives; the Hudood laws are taking their toll of Muslims and non- Muslims alike. Capping the collective psychology of intolerance into which the country is rapidly sinking, the Supreme Court recently accepted a petition by a sermonising journalist and moralising retired judge to censor Indian entertainment channels on cable and satellite because of “ obscenity”. The Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, blithely ordered PEMRA, the media regulating authority, to act against such “ obscenity” within 30 days. When the regulator meekly raised the question of a working definition of obscenity, the court advised PEMRA to seek the council and advice of the very petitioners who want the ban imposed on the basis of their reactionary views on “ women” and “ sex”. Curiously enough, the obscenity of everyday life to which attention has been continuously drawn by many discerning writers and commentators — religious violence, rape and naked display of brutal power and conspicuous wealth amidst grinding poverty, oppression and exploitation — continues to escape the notice of their Lordships.


A few Muslims in Mumbai have taken King Khans’ words out of context and have filed a case against him alleging that he maligned the Prophet. (News item below). We the Muslims condemn the acts of the Aman group for initiating such an irresponsible act, and it is time for Muslims to speak up against pettiness like this. It is time for the world, not to flaunt stuff like this, you’ll find that in every group.

The filing of case against Shah Rukh Khan by the Aman group deserves condemnation on two counts: i) it is something the Prophet would not approve. The Prophet told his followers not to be judgmental about other persons, and if you hear negatives about others, it is your duty to find the truth before it gets out of your mouth. You should not spread falsities and you should not be in a position to regret. ii) It is the dumbest things to do.

A breakaway Islamic sect's struggle to survive has become a major test of tolerance for Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country. Conservative, hardline Muslims are confronting moderates over the existence of Ahmadiyya, a 100-year-old minority sect that does not accept Mohammad as the last prophet of Islam. The Ahmadis, who have worshipped in their own mosques and communities here since 1924, believe that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, is the messiah and last true prophet of Islam. The claim has energized and enraged Indonesia's disparate Muslim hardliners, who in recent years have united in a campaign to ban Ahmadiyya, labelling its followers "heretics" and "deviants". Indonesia's mild-mannered and religiously moderate President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his government are caught in the middle. In a campaign season, where conservative religious groups have electoral clout, his administration has so far managed to please neither side. A Jakarta-based freelance journalist Tom McCawley comments on the tolerance test that this is for Indonesia in an article written for Asia Times Online.

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