Thursday, January 31, 2008

For Sayed Pervez Kambaksh

As some of you might have read, journalism student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has been sentenced to death by an Islamic court for...well, apparently doing what you might think a journalism student would do. As the Independent reports:

He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.

Mr Kambaksh, 23, distributed the tract to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim, he said, of provoking a debate on the matter. But a complaint was made against him and he was arrested, tried by religious judges without – say his friends and family – being allowed legal representation and sentenced to death.

This is, obviously, outrageous, but, also obvious, not at all unusual for 'Islamic courts'.

Unfortunately, as the BBC (via B&W) has reported, the sentence has been backed by Afghanistan's upper house (though apparently without being voted upon).

The Independent (also the source of the above photo) has started a campaign to put pressure on the Afghan government to free Mr. Kambaksh.

There is a petition. It's a small gesture, but we urge you to sign it.

[UPDATE]: Not too long ago, Dale made some very fine observations about this case:

Civilized people cannot accept this. The giving and receiving of offense is not and cannot be allowed to be a life-or-death matter. If it is "Islamophobic," "blasphemous," or merely "disrespectful" to affix the name "Mohammed" to all of my rolls of toilet paper, then so be it. I agree it is. It's a scurrilous, provocative, immature, and probably counterproductive thing to say. But it's nothing but words.

Respect gravitates to ideas and actions that deserve it, whether or not the respect is requested. Requiring respect is roughly as meaningful as requiring happiness or requiring love -- it doesn't work and it's a good thing it doesn't.

Killing people for impiety is indefensible barbarism, and is far more hurtful and dangerous than any series of words or any cluster of thoughts.

Indeed. Someone remind the Archbishop of Canterbury. Of course, he's busy campaigning to do important things like suppress 'thoughtless or cruel words'. Meanwhile, his colleague in Rome is doing the vital work of warning against the seductions of science.

Religion: building a better morality every day, in every way.


Anonymous said...

There's clear evidence in the Old Testament that blasphemy is punishable by death, LEVITICUS 24:16 STATES THAT THOSE WHO SPEAK BLASPHEMY "SHALL SURELY BE PUT TO DEATH".

However, there is no clear evidence in the Koran that blasphemy is punishable by death and never was the punishment of death inflicted upon those who committed blasphemy during Prophet Muhammad's rule, although many people did commit blasphemy during his life to try to insult Islam and him.

The following Qur'anic verses appear to suggest that there is no worldly punishment for blasphemy, controverting the notion that blasphemy is punishable by death:

“ When ye hear the signs of Allah held in defiance and ridicule, ye are not to sit with them unless they turn to a different theme. [Qur'an 4:140] ”
“ And when they hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say: "to us our deeds and to you yours; peace be to you. [Qur'an 28: 55] ”
“ Hold to forgiveness, command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant. [Qur'an 7:199] ”
“ Have patience with what they say, and leaves them with noble (dignity). [Qur'an 73:10] ”
“ And the servants of Allah . . . are those who walked on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say 'Peace' [Qur'an 25:63] ”
“ Allah is with those who restrain themselves. [Qur'an 16: 128] ”
“ . . . But they uttered blasphemy . . . if they repent, it will be best for them, but if they turn back, Allah will punish them." [Qur'an 9:47]

J. Carter Wood said...

Thanks for clarifying that, but, though not a scholar of the holy book myself, I am aware that your interpretation is not, shall we say, universally accepted.

That's the great thing about holy books: getting to pick and choose the bits you agree with.

I would suggest, however, that I'm not the main person you need to convince.

These people, though might be a good start.

They appear to disagree with you. Best of luck.