Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation responds to critics after he expressed regret at the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of ex Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, during a broadcast on Ummah Channel. Shafiq said he only did so because he opposes the death penalty and he unequivocally condemns Taseer’s murder.
I think it is important for me to set out my views about the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri who killed the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer whom he accused of blasphemy.
There are a number of people who have used this incident to seek political advantage and attribute things to me which I do not support and have not advocated. These are my sincerely held views and I am certain regardless of what I say there will still be some haters who will continue the campaign against Islam and denigrate so many Muslims.
I went on Muslim Ummah TV last week to say what I will be setting out in this post yet there are some who still refuse to accept my own position. I have spent the week speaking to Muslim scholars, spiritual leaders, Muslim organisations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many people through social media to form what the reality is.
I have struggled to reconcile the events of the past week with my own values and experiences so I hope this blog will help you understand the events of the last few days. The only request I would say is that we could debate, disagree or challenge each other without resorting to insults, swearing or denigrating one’s intentions.
These are my sincerely held views and I respect your right to have an alternative view. These views do not make me any less of a Sunni Muslim than those that take the other side. Let us debate and discuss the issue with respect and tolerance because that is what Islam is all about in my humble opinion.
Rule of law
I believe in a democracy where we have the rule of law and due process; this is the pillar of any just society, this means that a person is deemed innocent until proven guilty, he or she will have the right to defend themselves in a court of law and if found not guilty then they are innocent.
This also means no one individual can take the law into his or her own hands and any action by any individual in this regard is seen as a criminal offence and that person is prosecuted. That is why the actions of Mumtaz Qadri were wrong; he should have pursued his case through the courts and not carry out an extra-judicial killing.
If Salman Taseer was guilty of blasphemy then he had the right to defend himself in a court of law; this was not afforded to him. I am not defending his actions, nor what type of lifestyle he led, but regardless of this he had the right to be heard in the court of law. Mumtaz Qadri decided he was guilty and therefore decided he was going to kill him – this action was wrong.
I equally would like to state that there are thousands of victims of terrorism and murder in Pakistan who are still waiting for justice; how can the Government of Pakistan take just five years to hang someone for a crime but choose to ignore the thousands of other murderers?
This was a political decision to hang him.
As Amnesty International has stated, the death penalty does not deliver true justice, it is something I have opposed my whole life and when Mumtaz Qadri was hanged I opposed his hanging on this basis. What has been really interesting to observe is so-called liberals both in Pakistan and around the world who were rejoicing at the death penalty carried out on Mumtaz Qadri when their so-called liberal values (which they keep telling us about) is to oppose the death penalty.
What you have to be despite the emotion, anger or disgust is be consistent in your values and oppose the death penalty full stop.
There is one other aspect I have struggled to reconcile with this past week: the ISIS terrorists who carried out the atrocity in the name of defending the honour of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris were condemned by all mainstream Sunni scholars and leaders; we made clear that the actions of these evil men had nothing to do with Islam and it was forbidden.
So the question I have struggled to answer is what is the difference with what Mumtaz Qadri did and what these terrorists did? When it comes to tackling terrorism we have to be consistent and sadly over the past few days we have allowed the narrative to build that the Sunni/Sufi community supports some terrorism or killing in the name of defending the honour of the beloved Prophet (pbuh).
This is alarming and deeply damaging for our community and our ability to address the issue of extremism. This cannot be allowed to continue to the point where we are just seen as terrorist sympathisers or apologists which clearly is not true – God forbid the next atrocity will happen and our scholars will be challenged, ridiculed and condemned for being selective when it comes to terrorism and killing of individuals.
Maajid Nawaz and the Quillium Foundation have zero credibility in the Muslim community; their alliances with right wing nutters like Sam Harris, The Gatestone Institute to name just a few have been exposed. Their agenda is to marginalise Islam and as a result, their atheist supporters have had a field day denigrating our faith and way of life.
We reject the poisonous ideology of terrorism and extremism and we reject the ideology of Maajid and his cronies. When it comes to speaking for or defending Muslims Maajid and his cronies are on the other side supporting the other side.
We in the British Sunni community will have a tolerant and respectful debate on this issue; it so happens I sincerely disagree with my scholars and Muslim leaders, but what I will not do as so often happens in these polarised debates is denigrate, insult, swear and do takfir on them. They are honourable people whom I happen to disagree with. We should be able to express different views with tolerance and respect.
Finally, my own personal views are just that – you can disagree with me but do not suggest that I am any less of a Sunni than you because of this post. I pray to Allah (SWT) to forgive our shortcomings and bless us with tolerance, respect and love.