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Banning the Bible

June 15, 2011

A couple of weeks back, a few clerics of the Islamic political party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Samiul Haq Group), demanded Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo moto action against the blasphemous material inserted in the Bible. They argued that the said insertions distorted the character of several prophets and it was their right to raise a voice against it since Muslims regard all prophets highly. This matter did not gather much of media’s or Chief Justice’s attention. However, the members of JUI(S) threatened to move the court in case of Supreme Court’s failure to take notice.

It has been observed that the religious parties usually make an issue out of a non-issue for achieving petty aims and many a times their approach and rigid stance only invites more disharmony and violence in the society. In their statement the JUI(S) did not specify whether they wanted a ban on the selected parts or the entire Bible. In any event, their demand to ban Bible was not only against the inherent right of one’s freedom of choice but it also goes against the fundamental right to religion enumerated in the Constitution of Pakistan. Article 20 of the Constitution clearly guarantees the freedom to practice and profess religion moreover; it also preserves the right to maintain religious institutions according to one’s faith.

Unfortunately, there is no dearth of social and religious myopia in our society. Emotions run high when it comes to religion and people ignore to understand the implications of measures that may seem justified but can actually bounce back and hit hard. In most parts of the world including the Christian majority countries, Muslims have been given fair liberty to preach their faith. The religious organizations are free to invite non-Muslims to Islam or to revive faith of the born Muslims. They are also free to disseminate the religious literature. When in the foreign countries Muslims have freedom to practice their religion openly then why don’t the clerics of JUI(S) ready to give Christians in Pakistan the liberty to read their holy scripture? Similarly, one must ask them how they would react if the courts in western Christian states move to ban the Quran. It won’t be logical to play the ‘Muslims are always a victim’ card.

In general the non-Muslims in west are more open to reading Quran as compared to Muslims reading the Old and New Testament. There are various reasons that draw people to a study of Quran. It may either be due to curiosity or for a comparative and scholarly objective. Recently, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, told in an interview that he reads Bible and Quran daily to be “faith literate” in today’s world. He also added that he wanted to understand some of the things happening in the world. There is one thing for which Quran is often quoted or misquoted and that is jihad or the holy war and it seems he wanted to inquire himself as to what were Quran’s actual teachings regarding it.

The third US president and one of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, was also said to have studied Quran. Some scholars believe he kept a copy of Quran due to his interest in the study of natural law. He would often invoke the teaching of Quran to criticize William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law of England. Others claim that Jefferson studied Quran in order to understand the religion of an enemy and to deal with the Barbary pirates, who would attack American merchants and sailors off the Barbary Coast.

In 1786, while negotiating a treaty on behalf of the US government with the envoy of Tripoli, Abdrahman, Thomas Jefferson received a shocking reply. The ambassador claimed that the Quran sanctioned to enslave or kill all those “who should not have acknowledged their authority”. Despite that bitter reply, Jefferson didn’t try to ban Quran, instead he delved deeper into its study and identified the danger of not reading the Quran in context or without consulting the supplementary texts.

It makes an interesting thesis as to what factors drove the non-Muslim politicians to study Quran in different times. In today’s time, one lesson the religious parties in Pakistan can learn is to engage in an effective and scholarly argument and that is possible only if they indulge in a comparative study of religions instead of mobilizing for banning the Bible.

Also available on: Newsline

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2011 11:53 pm

    New name, theme and everything looks nice.

    Please don’t buy Tony Blair’s bullshit at least. You know it’s BS.

    From Tazeen’s twitter today :- Christian kid converted to Islam on ARY (had polio which was cured with recitation of kalma as well) and Hindu woman on Geo.

    And the Barbary Pirates thing, if I’m not wrong, the Treaty of Tripoly, especially it’s Article 11, has been of much interest to the separation of religion and state in the US.

    Also, Keith Ellison used the once owned by Jefferson copy of a Quran for the oath of office for House of Representatives.

    • June 16, 2011 12:15 am

      I did read Tazeen’s above mentioned tweet. I know that news sound kind of BS. Just in case if he read, I’d like to know what his actual motive and interest was.

      About Thomas Jefferson interest in Quran, a research is available, besides his copy of Quran with notes is preserved, and as you mentioned Kieth Ellison took oath on it.

      Right. Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli has been a subject of discussion for the accuracy of translation and for separation of church and state debate. Interesting to note, Thomas Jefferson himself was pretty much apathetic to any religion yet he wanted freedom of religion for all including Mohamedan and Hindoos. There is some history of that as well when they were drafting the text of First Amendment.

  2. Raheel permalink
    June 16, 2011 1:05 am

    For these so-called ‘religious’ (It hurts to call them Islamic) political parties in Pakistan, I have just a verse of Faraz.

    Naara-e-hub-e-watan mal-e-tijjarat ki tarah
    Jins-e-arzaan ki tarah deen-e-Khuda ki baatein

  3. June 16, 2011 1:54 am

    I agreed with you Ayesha,but as a muslim we doing nothing at all…….. but they are doing!!!!do you think so???

    • June 16, 2011 2:16 am

      Who do you mean by ‘they’? I’m assuming you are talking about non-Muslims following some of the basic principles that Muslims are expected to follow. If so, then yes they do follow and on top of it is the rule of law and justice.

  4. Ahmad permalink
    June 16, 2011 4:29 pm

    Religion and State should not mix. These dumb idiots are ruining Pakistan.
    Bible and Quran are same bullshit stories that changed few of the details.

  5. June 19, 2011 5:46 am

    I agree with a lot of points of you have raised in this post. Firstly, ironic is it not, that the Qur’an permits fighting if the following conditions are met:

    “Permission is given to those who fight because they have been wronged, and God is indeed able to give them victory; those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they said, “Our Lord is God”-for had it not been for God’s repelling some men by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, in which the name of God is much mentioned, would certainly have been destroyed. Verily God helps those that help Him – lo! God is Strong, Almighty – those who, if they are given power in the land, establish worship and pay the poor-due and enjoin what is good and forbid iniquity.” (Quran 22:39-41)

    Ironic is it not, that in Pakistan some so-called Muslims are hell-bent on destroying places worship which the Muslims have been commanded to protect. And I think many people forget early Islamic history, the Holy Prophet (saw) never put restrictions on any other religious group and even let Christians pray inside the mosque. Would we see that today in Pakistan? Tauba. 8-).

    The religious Muslim clergy are taking Pakistan down a very very slippery route. And they are, not the west, are going to destroy it. =/.

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