Pakistani Memorial Rites for Charlie Hebdo Murderers

Earlier today, the men who murdered cartoonists, editors, police personnel and innocent shoppers in Paris received funeral ceremonies in their honor in Peshawar, Pakistan. “We were prompted by our faith to organize this funeral for those two martyred brothers,” said Pir Mohammad Chishti, a religious scholar who runs a seminary in Peshawar. “I only know one thing: They killed the ones responsible for blasphemous against our beloved prophet Mohammad.: This journal knows one thing (among a great many others) as well: so long as this attitude prevails in parts of the Islamic world, there will be trouble in the Islamic world.

“Why would any Muslim of strong faith resist and not let us offer prayer for people who proved their love for the beloved prophet?” asked Mr. Chishti. While appalled by Mr. Chishti’s inhumanity, this journal does not dispute his right to pray, espouse views in support of the murders or to assemble with others to do the same. Human rights include the right to act like a jackass, and while Mr. Chishti and his ilk are abusing the privilege, one has no desire to stop them. It is to the credit of most Pakistanis that only a handful of idiots attended the ceremony.

One must be clear that this outrage was not perpetrated by the Pakistani government, which is soft of Islamist terror. Private citizens organized this, as is their right. Therefore, the anger that this provocation engenders in civilized human beings ought not to be directed at the Pakistani state but rather at some of its more misguided citizens.

That said, the climate in Pakistan makes it much easier for really bad interpretations of Islam to flourish. Pakistan Bureau Chief Tim Craig writing in the Washington Post explained, “Under the country’s strict anti-blasphemy law — which calls for capital punishment in some cases — the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo magazine very well could have been criminally charged had they ever stepped in Pakistan. The law, which has been widely condemned in the West, can be triggered if someone is even suspected of demeaning the prophet.” Nowhere in the Koran is there an injunction against blasphemy, but one would have to actually have read and understood the book to know that.

Mr. Craig also observes that in Pakistan right now “38 people are serving life sentences or are on death row after being accused of blasphemy, according to Knox Thames, director of policy and research at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.” No doubt this journal has fallen afoul of this law on more than one occasion.

This is the fundamental problem in the Islamic world, the handful of loud and violent fools who have intimidated a larger number to nod in agreement with their folly. Most Muslims are like most Christians; they are simply trying to get through their day. Yes, their religion matters, as does paying the rent, getting the kids to school, ensuring that grandma takes her pills and otherwise engaging in the nitty gritty of life. Sadly, they will have to engage with their co-religionists in uncomfortable ways to refute the Islamic equivalent of snake-handling Christians, and thus far, too few seem willing to do so.

The best place to start would be for Pakistan to abolish the blasphemy laws, pardon those convicted of violating it, and punishing those who use force against those who say unkind things about Islam as part of their free expression. Right now, Pakistan’s law is on the wrong side of the issue.

The case for its repeal is clear. Allah and his prophet Mohammad, pbuh, can take care of themselves. They certainly don’t need any help from the Pakistani legal system. To suggest otherwise is to insult them.