We Must Resist Islamic Blasphemy Laws | Wasiq Wasiq

When faced with a threat, there are three options: fight, flight or freeze. But it seems it is the latter two that we have chosen when it comes to Muslim fundamentalists seeking to impose blasphemy laws on the rest of us. But none of this is new. We know this yet we cannot seem to wake up to this reality. Over the last 30 years we have been sleepwalking into a nation slowly becoming a hybrid Islamic state – where the sentiments of a minority of fundamentalist Muslims are overriding British values of free speech. This is the threat we are facing and this is everyone’s fight. 

The origins of the culture of Islamic blasphemy laws in the U.K. can be traced back to 1989 – when the author Salman Rushdie published his novel The Satanic Verses. Muslims – mainly from northern industrial towns – took to the streets in protest. However, whilst protesting is a right we enjoy in the west, some of these fundamentalists decided to go one step further and burned copies of the book to gain public attention. But the controversy didn’t end there, indeed when Ayatollah Khomeini – the Supreme Leader of Iran – issued his fatwa (legal ruling) calling for Rushdie’s death, one leading Muslim figure in the U.K. at the time suggested ‘death is perhaps too easy’ for him.

Fast forward 30 years later and death remains a key tool for these fundamentalists to use as a threat or as a promise to anyone that insults Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. Indeed, there have been two recent episodes only just this year that demonstrates why this nightmare is far from over.

The case of Batley Grammar School – where a teacher had shown a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad – illustrates how the feelings of a minority of Muslims were prioritised over the actual safety and security of the teacher – who had to pack up and leave Batley and Spen in fear for his life.  So, whilst he looks to salvage what’s left of his life, Kim Leadbeater the newly elected Labour MP is sitting comfortably on an £80k salary for not speaking up for him.

Ex-Muslim and Christian evangelist Hatun Tash only knew too well what happens when you’re critical of Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. Wearing a Charlie Hebdo t-shirt – she was slashed across her face and arm in broad daylight at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park. Yet this despicable act appears to have gained little media attention. Either this attack was not worthy for news outlets or, we have just normalised what seems to happen if you are critical of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

But our issue isn’t just Muslim fundamentalists, it is also politicians laying the groundwork for a hybrid blasphemy law. Indeed, only recently it was Labour’s Bradford West MP Naz Shah that thought it suitable to compare illegally taking down statues with the apparent emotional harm incurred from critiquing religion. This thought experiment from her, seems to be nothing more than testing the waters, to see what can be achieved if the will was there. Given how the Batley Grammar School episode went, I wouldn’t be surprised if this doesn’t gain more traction because we are either freezing or flying from the problem.

Yet whilst these fundamentalists are complaining that in the U.K. everyone has a right to critique Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, this nation still remains the number one choice for minority ethnic and religious groups. Indeed, it was the U.K. that gave sanctuary to Ugandan Asians – many of whom were Muslims – after being expelled by Idi Amin. It was also this nation that provided millions of Hong Kongers a new home due to China undermining their rights and freedoms. This nation is far from perfect, but measuring perfection based on not having blasphemy laws is just ridiculous.

So, our options remain the same, either we freeze and fly away from this campaign that seeks to impose blasphemy laws through the backdoor via our politicians and Muslim fundamentalists, or we fight and resist this?  Free speech is a fundamental right that we all enjoy. Indeed, it is because of free speech that these Muslim fundamentalists are allowed to propagate their religion, something other minority religious groups cannot do in some Muslim majority countries. 

Photo Credit.

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