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December 30th, 2010

Akber Choudhry’s shameful interview on blasphemy law

Rashid Jahangiri has informed me that Akber Choudhry has responded on Message TV to my questions about his previous programme about Allama Iqbal. I will comment on it in a few days after listening to his response.

Before that, I make comment on his interview on Iqra TV on 19th December about the issue of the blasphemy law in Pakistan. In brief, Akber Choudhry failed even to mention the crucial religious issue at the root of this law and treated it merely as a legal question.

Moreover, it was the two Christian contributors who highlighted the true example of our Holy Prophet in this respect, which Akber Choudhry failed to do. It was a moment of shame for Muslims, that Christians could present Islam more accurately and favourably than the Muslim spokesman did.

Akber Choudhry began by stressing that a blasphemy law had already existed since 1927, brought in by the British, and this law was very effective in preventing abuse against the Holy Prophet. (Note: But Iqbal wrote in his famous statements against Ahmadis that the British are favouring Ahmadis against the interests of the rest of the Muslims!)

He then said that all that President Zia-ul-Haq did was to amend that existing law: by increasing the punishment, and by specifically mentioning abuse of Islam in it. Akber Choudhry made no mention at all of the fact that this new punishment was the death penalty, and that this was introduced because of the Ulama’s insistence that Islam prescribes the death penalty for blasphemy. This is obviously an act of concealment and distortion.

He was justifying this law on the basis that the British introduced it and that it continues in India, but made no mention of any Islamic basis.

The issue that everyone was interested in (as the later calls from viewers showed), whether this punishment has an Islamic basis, was ducked by Akber Choudhry.

He made a ridiculous claim (at 12 minutes) that this law in fact protects religious minorities in Pakistan such as Christians and even Ahmadis from abuse of their religious personalities and hate literature against them! Does Akber Choudhry think people are so ignorant that they don’t know that abusive literature against the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement is widespread in Pakistan? It is utterly blatant falsehood to suggest Ahmadis are protected by the law of blasphemy.

Then Rev. Napoleon John, a clergyman in the UK originally from Pakistan, was interviewed by phone. He ended by saying that he cannot find any support for the behaviour of the supporters of the blasphemy law in the Quran, or any Islamic source. He urged Muslims to pause and think, before applying this law to any person, whether the Prophet Muhammad would have acted in this way. How shameful for Akber Choudhry that a Christian reverend mentions the teachings of Islam, indeed shows them in a good light, while Akber Choudhry is trying to get away from Islam all the time!

Calls were received in the programme from three viewers, all asking whether there was any example in the Holy Prophet’s life of applying such a law. Akber Choudhry replied (at 54 minutes):

“I am not a religious scholar … I will pass on that question.”

The other Christian representative, who was in the studio, Mr Wilson of the British Pakistani Christian Association, then actually gave examples of clemency by the Holy Prophet towards his abusers! Another moment of disgrace for Akber Choudhry.

If Akber Choudhry is not a religious scholar, why is a group of anti-Ahmadiyya people relying on him for religious points? One of them put to me the objection that no person in Islamic history had ever himself claimed to be mujaddid in his own words. When I refuted this, he told me that they had been given that knowledge by Akber Choudhry. It seems he can be a religious scholar or not a religious scholar, depending on expediency.

Akber Choudhry also declared that there is no state-backed persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan. In the summer of 1985, when there was a Khatam-i Nubuwwat conference in London, President Zia-ul-Haq sent a message to be read out, saying that Ahmadiyyat is a cancer in Pakistan which I am determined to eliminate. Isn’t that state-backed spread of hate? There are scores of other examples. In any case, Akber Choudhry has no standing to defend the state of Pakistan; only a representative of the government of Pakistan can do that!

He also said repeatedly that international conventions allow a state to restrict the expression of religion by a community, and therefore the Pakistan government is entitled to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim “for the purposes of the law” (he stressed). So I presume that Akber Choudhry does not consider Ahmadis as non-Muslim according to the teachings of Islam, but only for the purposes of the law of Pakistan.

On this point there was a further moment of shame and disgrace for Akber Choudhry when Mr Wilson said that Christians like him don’t consider certain groups (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses) to be Christians, but they don’t ask governments to stop these groups from calling themselves Christians, rather they look to the power of God to bring them to the right path. How shameful for a Muslim, to be taught an Islamic concept by a Christian!

— Zahid Aziz

10 Responses to “Akber Choudhry’s shameful interview on blasphemy law”

  1. January 2nd, 2011 at 6:09 am
    From Rashid Jahangiri:

    People in the West are speaking what Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad spoke.
    Since 9/11, time and again we hear Islamic scholars and Professors of theology saying what Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said over 100 years ago. Al-Jazeerah English aired program Riz Khan Q&A. Title ‘War and peace in Quran and Bible’. I witnessed fulfillment of Allah’s promise with Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad: “I will take your mission to four corners of the world”.

    See the link below:

    War and peace in Quran and Bible
    We examine what role the Bible and the Quran played in inciting violence through the ages.
    Riz Khan


  2. A BBC news report on the assassination of Salman Taseer (marhoom and maghfoor) says:

    “One small religious party, the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan, warned that anyone who expressed grief over the assassination could suffer the same fate.

    “No Muslim should attend the funeral or even try to pray for Salman Taseer or even express any kind of regret or sympathy over the incident,” the party said in a statement.

    It said anyone who expressed sympathy over the death of a blasphemer was also committing blasphemy.”

    From Dawn, Pakistan:

    “Five hundred moderate Pakistani religious scholars have warned that anyone who expresses grief over the assassination of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer, who opposed the country’s blasphemy law, could suffer the same fate. …

    The group is one of the largest representing scholars from the moderate Barelvi sect of Sunni Muslims. They have been leading protests in favour of the blasphemy law.”

    Perhaps Akber Choudhry could comment on this religious edict in a further TV appearance discussing the blasphemy law.

    As I said in my review of his TV appearance above, he failed to mention that the Pakistan blasphemy law prescribes the death penalty, due to embarrassment. Now we learn from the Ulama (whom Akber Choudhry considers to be fully Muslims) of the extension of the death penalty as follows:

    (1) merely opposing the blasphemy law is also blasphemy, for which Mr Taseer was assassinated, and (2) to express grief over the killing of someone who opposed the blasphemy law is also blasphemy.

  3. January 5th, 2011 at 5:51 pm
    From Zahid Aziz:

    Akber Choudhry has commented on this incident in Chowk at this link.

    He is still reluctant to state the obvious issue which needs to be tackled. That issue is the belief taught by the vast majority of the Ulama that Islam requires the death penalty to be applied for blasphemy.

    As long as that belief is entertained by the religious leaders and their followers, death penalty for blasphemy will remain in the law and court judgments will be given accordingly. Moreover, ordinary persons will be incited to commit murder because they will believe that they are obeying an Islamic injunction.

    Akber Choudhry writes:

    “Is there anyone from the liberal crowd who can argue with the ulema about the theology and/or the applicability of that theology to the law? Or is there any of the ulema who can argue on the legal evolution of this law in a democracy? If so, speak up now and be counted.”

    I am not from the “liberal crowd” but from among members of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement. Some 3 to 4 years ago I wrote a book on this and related issues, entitled Islam, Peace and Tolerance, which can be read at this link and which we distribute free of charge in print. See, in particular, chapter 3.

  4. In the article by Akber Choudhry referred to above, he begins as follows:

    “It was an act of courage for him to sit down with Aasia Bibi, the illiterate Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, and promise to try for a pardon for her. I absolutely condemn the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and all the unwarranted furor that may have led to it.”

    But huge demonstrations have taken place in Pakistan against the late Governor’s action in this matter and many Ulama have ruled that anyone sympathising with him is also committing blasphemy. So now Akber Choudhry is subject to the same fatwa from the same quarters that Ahmadis have been subject to.

  5. Descent into blasphemy madness

    A Deobandi father and son in Pakistan have been convicted and jailed for life under the blasphemy law. See this news report.

    It appears they tore down a poster put up by some Barelvis announcing a milad function. Deobandis have for long been accused by Barelvis of “insulting” the Holy Prophet. No sensible person can believe for a moment that a Deobandi, being a Muslim, would actually insult the Holy Prophet in any real sense whatsoever.

    On this kind of a basis, any Muslim could find grounds for accusing any other Muslim of insulting the Holy Prophet and everyone would be in jail for the rest of their lives or would have been executed!

  6. Video clip on blasphemy law in Pakistan:

  7. There was time from 1974 to 1977 when Pakistan People Party Chairman, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was so proud of his achievement of declaring reciters of Kalima-Shahada (i.e. Ahmadis) as Kafir (non-Muslim). PPP rank and file was taking credit for great “service” to Islam. And now time has come when same PPP leaders are shying away from that crown and putting responsibility of that “service” on the collective shoulders of Pakistan Parliament in 1974. Please watch following TV interview of Salman Taseer with Meher Bukhari and listen what he says about 2nd constitutional amendment.

  8. Validity of Pakistan’s blasphemy law questioned
    Discussion on Urdu TV channel in USA
    Angle Zoom host Faraz Syed takes on Pakistan’s controversial Blasphemy Law in a two-part discussion involving experts on Islam, Dr. Khalid Siddiquie and Dr, Ikram Jehangiri. At the centre of the discussion is the recent sentencing to death by a Pakistani court of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, for allegedly blaspheming. Faraz questions the premise of that sentence and establishes quite emphatically through the two experts that there is no capital punishment for such an offence in the Holy Quran. The experts also question the ‘double standards’ being practiced by Pakistanis supporting the court’s writ.


  9. Dr Zahid Aziz referred to Akber Choudary’s shameful interview on Iqra TV channel in UK. Video of program can be watched on following link:

  10. Thanks to Rashid Jahangiri for posting this link. Now blog readers can judge whether my review of Akber Choudhry’s performance was accurate or not. (See the first post in this discussion.)