Islam and Freedom of Speech

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The concept of ‘freedom of speech’ is derived from the Capitalist ideology that is based on the belief that God and religion should be separated from life’s affairs (secularism). Human beings define how to live their lives free of the constraints of religion which is why freedom of individual, ownership, religion and speech are essential cornerstones of Capitalism. The right to speak and what are the limits of speech are therefore all defined by human beings.

This view completely contradicts Islam. In Islam it is the Creator of human beings Allah سبحانه وتعالى who gave the right of speech to people and defined the limits on what is acceptable and unacceptable speech.

The Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said: “Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, then let him speak good (khair) or remain silent.”[Agreed upon. Narrated by Abu Hurayra.]

Khair in this hadith means Islam or what Islam approves of.[Hizb ut-Tahrir, ‘American Campaign to Suppress Islam,’ p. 23]

According to Islamic law, it is a criminal offense to speak ill of Islam, its Prophet, and its holy Scriptures (Qur'an and Hadith). Blasphemy is punishable by death.

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The above scene is from a 2006 protest in London, UK. It was held in response to the printing of the Jyllands-Posten Danish cartoons. By the end of February 2006 more than 40 people had died[1] as a result of the angry reaction from Muslims, and its continued republication has resulted in more than 200 deaths and hundreds of injuries.[2] (more pictures)

What is Blasphemy?

As defined by Islamic Scholars:

VII. Kitab al-fiqh Ala' al-Madahib al-Arba'ah1 by 'Abd al-Rahman Jaziri (Urdu translation)
Excerpts and examples to further illustrate what constitutes blasphemy in Islam

It is necessary to have evidence of two reliable witnesses corroborating each other before a Khazi (judge) shall be required to question the witnesses. Thereupon the witnesses will have to make statements describing the words uttered or the acts done which constitute apostasy.

Apostasy can be committed in two ways: (1) by uttering expressly by tongue that he is (or has become) a Mushrik , a polytheist (i.e. one who associates others with the One God and considers them to be worthy of worship) or, by saying something which is bound to connote in its meaning a denial of the existence of God, for instance to say that God has corporeal (physical, material) existence just like any other corporeal object, or (2) by the performance of an act in which one cannot avoid the clear conclusion that it is tantamount to 'kufr' (infidelity, denial of Islam), for example, to throw away with contempt the holy Qur'an or any part of it or even a single word of it; or to throw it in the fire in an insulting, contemptuous manner; or to throw it in such a place as a garbage dump where there are filthy, dirty and repulsive things; or in a spittoon etc. These acts would be blasphemous and constitute apostasy. The same rules apply to the Most Beautiful Names of Allah as well as to books of Ahadith (Prophetic Traditions - i.e. records of the Prophet's sayings, doings and tacit approvals) and it would be considered blasphemy amounting to apostasy. The same rules apply to books of Fiqh (Muslim jurisprudence) provided the acts are done with the intention of defaming or belittling with contempt the Islamic injunctions or the Islamic code of law. This would be regarded as blasphemy/apostasy. Other examples of blasphemy/apostasy are:

• To believe in transmigration of souls or reincarnation because this amounts to rejecting the belief in life-after-death and the world of the Hereafter.

• To deny or reject something of which the whole Muslim Community (Ummah) is agreed upon, e.g. to hold that the obligatory ritual prayers or fasting are not obligatory or to deny legal permissibility (halal) of a thing on which the whole Muslim Community is agreed upon and which is definitely proven to be so on the basis of its proof from the holy Qur'an and Hadith mutawatir.

• To call names and use swear-words in respect of all such Messengers of God, Apostles, Prophets who are accepted as such by the whole Muslim Community.

• This same rule applies to angels.

• This same rule applies to angels and prophets with regard to fault-finding using taunting or derogatory or sarcastic language against them even in respect of their physical/bodily defects.

• To use sarcasm and belittling words in respect of the moral character or the way of life (religion) of the Prophet Muhammad or other prophets.

1. 'Abd al-Rahman Jaziri, Urdu translation, Munzur Ahsan Abbasi, Kitab al-fiqh Ala' al-Madahib al-Arba'ah, Lahore, Pakistan, Ulama Academy, 1985
Apostasy & Blasphemy in Islam
The Canadian Society of Muslims

Punishment for Blasphemy


Although, the Qur'an does not specify in unequivocal terms any punishment for blasphemy, we may find some serious justifications for death penalty to blasphemers:

Surely (as for) those who speak evil things of Allah and His Messenger, Allah has cursed them in this world and the here after, and He has prepared for them a chastisement bringing disgrace.
And those who speak evil things of the believing men and the believing women without their having earned (it), they are guilty indeed of a false accusation and a manifest sin.
O Prophet! say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
If the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a disease and the agitators in the city do not desist, We shall most certainly set you over them, then they shall not be your neighbors in it but for a little while;

Cursed: wherever they are found they shall be seized and murdered, a (horrible) murdering.

Also, Qur'an does specify a punishment for "spreading mischief":-

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement,
"Who can be more wicked than one who inventeth a lie against Allah?"

Hadith and Other Islamic Writings

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“Ali Beheading Nadr ibn al-Harith in the Presence of the Prophet Muhammad”, 7th Century Painting taken from Mustafa al-Darir’s Siyar-i-Nabi

Muhammad had said to his followers “Whoever curses a prophet kill him,” (Tabarani, Daraqutni)[3] and there are many examples of people during his time who were guilty of blaspheming Islam and its Prophet. Most of these people were assassinated with Muhammad's blessing, and no punishment or compensation was imposed on the murderer.

  • Abu `Afak - Muhammad asked his followers to kill this man for making negative remarks about Muhammad and Islam.
  • Ka’b bin Ashraf - Muhammad asked his followers to kill this man for writing inflammatory poetry about Muhammad and Muslim women.
  • Asma Bint Marwan - Muhammad asked his followers to kill this woman for composing inflammatory poetry about Islam and Muslims.
  • Blind Man's Slave-Mother - When Muhammad learned that one of his followers had stabbed and killed his Umm walad (concubine with whom he had fathered a child) for making derogatory remarks about Muhammad, he declared that "no retaliation is payable for her blood."
  • Al-Nadr Bin Al-Harith - Al Nadir, a storyteller and poet who had mocked him. He was a prisoner of war who was not allowed to be ransomed by their clans and was executed on Muhammad's orders.

Some Muslims claim Muhammad had a Jewish neighbor who threw rubbish at him, and that one day the person became ill and Muhammad visited her. This story is not present in any Islamic texts, nor is it mentioned by any scholars of the past. Thus, this incident in Muhammad's life is most likely a fabrication. In addition, it contradicts Muhammad's nature as found in the copious amount of sahih (authentic) Islamic texts, mentioned above.


[In Islamic Fiqh] there are absolutely no opinions, no variants, no exceptions...Muhammad ibn Sahnun said that even if a man claims that it is part of his religion to insult the Messenger, and so in his religion it is lawful, that makes no difference to us. If he openly insults our Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, then our religion makes it lawful to kill him. This surely is the inescapable centre of the current affair. The arrogant kuffar have to learn that the world contains a two-billion community who have a different set of Laws from theirs, and who can never be detached from that Law
The Fiqh Concerning Those Who Insult The Messenger of Allah
Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi, February 6, 2006
“Know that all who curse Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, or blame him or attribute imperfection to him in his person, his lineage, his deen or any of his qualities, or alludes to that or its like by any means whatsoever, whether in the form of a curse or contempt or belittling him or detracting from him or finding fault with him or maligning him, the judgement regarding such a person is the same as the judgement against anyone who curses him. He is killed as we shall make clear. This judgement extends to anything which amounts to a curse or disparagement. We have no hesitation concerning this matter, be it a clear statement or allusion.

The same applies to anyone who curses him, invokes against him, desires to harm him, ascribes to him what does not befit his position or jokes about his mighty affair with foolish talk, satire, disliked words or lies, or reviles him because of any affliction or trial which happened to him or disparages him, because of any of the permissible and well-known human events which happened to him. All of this is the consensus of the ‘ulama' and the imams of fatwa from the time of the Companions until today.[4]
Qadi 'Iyad ibn Musa al-Yahsubi
According to Ayatullah al-Khu'i, it is incumbent (wajib) to kill one who insults or calumniates the Prophet when one hears the insults provided there is no danger to his self, reputation or wealth. Agha also extends this ruling to cover insults against the Imams and Bibi Fatima (A.S.). It is not essential to get the permission of a Hakim al-Shar' to carry out the act.
Islamic law on Blasphemy
Dr. Takim, 'Aalim Network QR, December 8, 1995
In Islam, a person who has committed blasphemy can either be killed or crucified, or his opposite hands and feet can be cut off, or he can be exiled from that land. On the other hand, in other religions there is no other option except capital punishment. Islam at least has four options of punishment for an act of blasphemy.
Question Hour: Ruling for Blasphemy in Islam
Dr. Zakir Naik, Islamic Voice, April, 2006

Dr. Naik fails to mention that the other world religions are not political ideologies and therefore are not incorporated in state penal codes.

The Islamic state does have the right to punish the person who commits blasphemy against the Prophet.[5]

Asif Iftikhar, PhD student of Islamic Law at McGill and a visiting faculty member at LUMS and Pakistan College of Law
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) discussed this matter at length and mentioned the ruling on one who tells lies about the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) verbally, the ruling on one who tells lies about him in a report and the ruling on one who narrates a hadeeth knowing it to be false. He was of the view that the one who tells lies about him verbally is a kaafir. He said in al-Saarim al-Maslool ‘Ala Shaatim il-Rasool (2/328-399), after quoting the hadeeth of Buraydah:

A clan of Banu Layth in Madeenah was of two minds. A man had proposed marriage to one of their womenfolk during the Jaahiliyyah but they did not accept his proposal. He came to them wearing a hullah (a suit of clothing) and said: “The Messenger of Allaah gave me this hullah to wear and told me to rule over your wealth and your blood.” Then he went and stayed with that woman whom he loved. The people sent word to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and he said: “The enemy of Allaah is lying.” Then he sent a man and said: “If you find him alive – although I do not think that you will find him alive – then strike his neck (kill him). And if you find him dead then burn him with fire.” He said: This is what the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said concerning “one who tells lies about me deliberately.” Shaykh al-Islam said: “This is a saheeh isnaad according to the conditions of al-Saheeh and we do not find any fault in it.” Then he said: There are two opinions concerning this hadeeth:
1 – That the apparent meaning should be followed and the one who deliberately tells lies about the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) should be killed. Among those who were of this view were some who said that the one who does that becomes a kaafir thereby. This was the view of several including Abu Muhammad al-Juwayni. Ibn ‘Aqeel quoted his Shaykh, Abu’l-Fadl al-Hamdaani, as saying: “The innovators, liars and fabricators of hadeeth are worse than the heretics because the heretics want to attack Islam from without but these people want to attack it from within. They are like people who try to destroy a city from within whilst the heretics are like those who are laying siege to it from without, and those who are inside open up the fortress. So they are more dangerous to Islam than those who do not appear outwardly to be Muslims.” The main point of this opinion is that telling lies about him (the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)) is tantamount to telling lies about Allaah. Hence he said: “Telling lies about me is not like telling lies about one of you.” What the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded is what Allaah commanded, and it must be followed just as the commands of Allaah must be followed. Whatever he told us must be believed, just as whatever Allaah told us must be believed. Whoever rejects what he told us or refuses to follow his command is like one who rejects what Allaah told us or refuses to follow the command of Allaah. It is well known that the one who tells lies about Allaah by claiming to be a messenger or prophet of Allaah, or tells false things about Allaah, such as Musaylimah and other fabricators of his ilk, is a kaafir whose blood may be shed, and the same applies to one who tells lies about the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Thus it is clear that telling lies about him is tantamount to disbelieving in him. Hence Allaah mentions the two things together in the verse where He says (interpretation of the meaning): “And who does more wrong than he who invents a lie against Allaah or denies the truth, when it comes to him?” [al-‘Ankaboot 29:68]

2 – The liar is to be punished severely, but he is not regarded as a kaafir and it is not permissible to kill him, because the factors that determine who is a kaafir and is to be killed are well known and this is not one of them. It is not permissible to affirm something for which there is no basis. Whoever says that he is not to be executed has to stipulate that telling lies about the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) does not imply any criticism or defamation of him. But if he says that he heard him say something that implies belittling the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) or criticizing him, such as the hadeeth about “the sweat of horses” and other such silly fabrications, this is obviously mocking him, and the one who says this is undoubtedly a kaafir whose blood may be shed. Those who were of the view that such a person is not to be executed responded to this hadeeth by saying that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) knew that he was a hypocrite so he killed him for that and not for lying, but this answer does not count for anything.

Defaming the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is a kind of kufr. If that is done by a Muslim then it is apostasy on his part, and the authorities have to defend the cause of Allaah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) by executing the one who defamed him. If the one who defamed him repents openly and is sincere, that will benefit him before Allaah, although his repentance does not waive the punishment for defaming the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), which is execution. If the person who defames him is a non-Muslim living under a treaty with the Muslim state, then this is a violation of the treaty and he must be executed, but that should be left to the authorities. If a Muslim hears a Christian or anyone else defaming the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) he has to denounce him in strong terms. It is permissible to insult that person because he is the one who started it. How can we not stand up the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)? It is also obligatory to report him to the authorities who can carry out the punishment on him. If there is no one who can carry out the hadd punishment of Allaah and stand up for the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) then the Muslim has to do whatever he can, so long as that will not lead to further mischief and harm against other people. But if a Muslim hears a kaafir defaming the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and he keeps quiet and does not respond for fear that this person may then defame him even more, this is mistaken thinking.

It is essential to respond to those who defame the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahmaan al-Barraak, Majallat al-Da’wah, Muharram, issue no. 1933. Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 14305
If a Muslim commits blasphemy against the Prophet , this is an act of disbelief which takes him out of the fold of Islam. Allaah Says (what means): {Make no excuse; you have disbelieved [i.e. rejected faith] after your belief. If We pardon one faction of you—We will punish another faction because they were criminals.}[Quran 9:66] If joking is considered as an act of apostasy, then it is more confirmed for one who is saying it intentionally. If the blasphemer does not repent, he should be killed for his apostasy. However, if he sincerely repents to Allaah, Allaah will accept his repentance. Repentance expiates all sins, even Shirk (associating partners to Allaah). Allaah Knows best.
Blasphemy against the Prophet is an act of apostasy
Islam Web Fatwa Center, Fatwa No. 17316, December 11, 2007
Whoever Curses the Prophet Peace and Blessings be Upon him, Muslim or Kafir, Must be Killed.
"The general scholars agreed that whoever curses him, Peace and Blessings be upon him, must be killed. This was stated by Malik, Al-Layth, Ahmad, Ishaaq, and Ash-Shafi'ee, and Nu'man (Abu Hanifa) said that the Dhimmi (Jizya-paying non-Muslim) is not to be killed."
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sometimes chose to forgive those who had insulted him, and sometimes he ordered that they should be executed, if that served a greater purpose. But now his forgiveness is impossible because he is dead, so the execution of the one who insults him remains the right of Allaah, His Messenger and the believers, and the one who deserves to be executed cannot be let off, so the punishment must be carried out.

Al-Saarim al-Maslool, 2/438

Insulting the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is one of the worst of forbidden actions, and it constitutes kufr and apostasy from Islam, according to scholarly consensus, whether done seriously or in jest. The one who does that is to be executed even if he repents and whether he is a Muslim or a kaafir.
Waging war against Islam is not limited only to fighting with weapons, rather it may be done verbally such as defaming Islam or the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), or attacking the Qur’aan, and so on. Waging verbal war against Islam may be worse than waging war against it with weapons in some cases.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said:

Muhaarabah (waging war against Islam) is of two types: physical and verbal. Waging war verbally against Islam may be worse than waging war physically – as stated above – hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to kill those who waged war against Islam verbally, whilst letting off some of those who waged war against Islam physically. This ruling is to be applied more strictly after the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Mischief may be caused by physical action or by words, but the damage caused by words is many times greater than that caused by physical action; and the goodness achieved by words in reforming may be many times greater than that achieved by physical action. It is proven that waging war against Allaah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) verbally is worse and the efforts on earth to undermine religion by verbal means is more effective.

Al-Saarim al-Maslool, 3/735

Practical Application in Islamic Countries

Saudi Arabia

  • 2009 - Hadi bin Sa’id bin Hamad Al Mutif, an Isma'ili death row prisoner, was sentenced to an additional 5 years imprisonment for criticizing the Saudi justice system.[6] He was sentenced to death in 1996 for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in 1993. His trial had violated numerous international fair trial standards, and basic rules of due process had not been observed from the time of his arrest to his conviction.[7]
  • 2008 - Ra'if Badawa was charged with “setting up an electronic site that insults Islam” for his website that details abuses by the Saudi religious police and questions the predominant interpretation of Islam (Wahhabism). Jeddah's prosecution service referred the case to the court and requested a 5-year prison sentence and a 3 million riyal (US$800,000) fine. Amidst arrest threats and death threats, Badawa fled the country.[8]
  • 2007 - Sabri Bogday, a Turkish barber, was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges after an unfair trial.[9] Thankfully, King Abdullah, after receiving correspondence from Turkey's president and prime minister, pardoned Bogday and he was released to Turkey.[10]
  • 2005 - Muhammad al-Harbi was sentenced by a Saudi court to more than three years in prison and 750 lashes for speaking to his students about his views on a number of current topics, such as Christianity, Judaism and the causes of terrorism.[11]
  • 2004 - Muhammad al-Sahimi was banned from teaching and sentenced to three years in prison and 300 lashes for endorsing allegedly un-Islamic sexual, social and religious practices because of his discussion on the varying concepts of love in poetry.[11]


  • 2010 - Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour were hanged on January 28 after being convicted of being "enemies of God" and members of an outlawed pro-monarchist group. The semi-official ISNA news agency said the two were charged with plotting to topple the government and had been tried in August – apparently implying that they were part of the protest movement over June's disputed presidential election. But opposition sources said the two were arrested three months before the elections.[12]
  • 2002 - Hashem Aghajari, an Iranian university professor, was originally sentenced to death on blasphemy charges after calling for religious reforms and declaring that Muslims were not "monkeys" who should blindly follow the teachings of clerics.[13] The case led to an international outcry, protests from thousands of Iranian students, and the resignation of twenty Tarbiat-Modarres University department chiefs.[14] Although he decided not to appeal the original verdict, his lawyer filed on his behalf.[15] Under pressure from Iranians as well as the international community, the court reduced his sentence to three years imprisonment, and after serving two he was released on bail in 2004.[16]



295. Injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class

295-A. Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any classby insulting Its religionor religious beliefs

295-B. Defiling, etc., of Holy Qur'an295-C. Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet

296. Disturbing religious assembly

297. Trespassing on burial places, etc.

298. Uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings

298-A. Use of derogatory remarks, etc. in respect of holy personages

298-B.Misuse of epithets, descriptions and titles, etc. reserved for certain holy personagesor places

298-C.Person of Quadiani group, etc., calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith
Pakistan Penal Code
XLV of 1860, 6th October 1860
Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.[17]
Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code
No true Muslim could tolerate blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad or against any prophets. Love of Prophet Muhammad is a fundamental part of Islamic faith.....The governor’s logic that since Islam teaches us to protect minorities and therefore blasphemy laws should be repealed is an extremely weak one.[18]
Syed Munawar Hassan, Head of Jammat-e-Islami, September, 2009
  • 2011 - Mohamed Imran had been accused, jailed, tried and cleared of blasphemy, only to be gunned-down two weeks later.[19]
  • 2011 - Although no-one convicted under the blasphemy law has been executed, more than 30 accused have been killed by lynch mobs.[20]
  • 2010 - Rubina Bibi, a Christian woman, was arrested after a Muslim woman accused her of blasphemy. The woman claimed Rubina Bibi made a derogatory remark about the Prophet Muhammad. As of March 24, she is still imprisoned.[21]
  • 2010 - Munir Masih and Ruqqiya Bibi, a Christian couple, were convicted for touching the Qur'an without washing their hands and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.[22]
  • 2010 - Qamar David, a Christian arrested in 2006,[23] was found guilty of outraging the religious feelings of Muslims and sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemous messages he sent with his cellphone.[24]
  • 2010 - Imran Masih, a 22-year-old Christian shopkeeper, was beaten by a Muslim mob, arrested, and sentenced to life imprisonment for burning what a rival shopkeeper claimed were pages of the Qur'an.[25]
  • 2009 - Hector Aleem, a 51-year-old human rights activist, was severely beaten and tortured in January 2009 on blasphemy charges after objecting to the destruction of a church.[26] As of 2014, Aleem had been released.
  • 2005 - Younus Shaik, author of Shaitan Maulvi (Satanic Cleric), was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for writing the allegedly blasphemous book about the Qur’an and the Islamic justice system.[27]
  • 2002 - Anwar Keneth, a 40-year-old former government official, was sentenced to death for declaring that he is the Christ and that Islam is a fake religion. Khalid Gill, a leader and spokesman for Pakistan's Christian Liberation Front, said, "We think justice has not been done in the case of Anwar Keneth. [He] should have been treated at a mental hospital."[28]
  • 1996 - Zaibun Nisa ("Zebunnisa"), a mentally retarded woman, was imprisoned for over 13 years for blasphemy and had never seen the inside of a courtroom until July 2010 when a Pakistani court finally ordered her release.[29][30]


  • 2008 - Pervez Kambakhsh, a journalist, was sentenced to death by a city court in Mazar-e-Sharif for downloading and distributing an article insulting Islam. He was arrested in 2007 after downloading material relating to the role of women in Islamic societies. His conviction and sentence was upheld by Afghanistan's upper house of parliament.[31] A day later the upper house quickly withdrew its support for his death sentence claiming that it had been a 'technical mistake' and had been unconstitutional. The support for the death sentence had been signed by the senate leader Sibghatullah Mojaddedi.[32] The death sentence was later changed to twenty years imprisonment,[33] but President Karzai secretly pardoned Kambakhsh and he was able to escape the country.[34] Afghanistan's upper house of parliament condemned the release of Kambakhsh as contrary to Islamic values and issued the following statement:[35]
The members of Meshrano Jirga (Upper House) expressed concern that this was not the first time a person sentenced for apostasy and impiety with the cooperation of anti-Islamic organisations is freed from punishment.

In History

The Wikipedia article on free speech in Sharia: Freedom of speech presents a few historical examples of Islamic leaders who allowed forms of "free speech." It neglects, however, to mention the countless examples of Islamic countries suppressing freedom of speech of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It also fails to provide the passages in the Qur'an and Hadith that condemn people who publicly speak out against Islam. A quick search of blasphemy law and be rewarded with an abundance of material.

'Umar bin Al-Khattab's Restrictions on Expression and Speech

The scholars of Hadith narrated from `Abdur-Rahman bin Ghanm Al-Ash`ari that he said, "I recorded for `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, the terms of the treaty of peace he conducted with the Christians of Ash-Sham: `In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. This is a document to the servant of Allah `Umar, the Leader of the faithful, from the Christians of such and such city. When you (Muslims) came to us we requested safety for ourselves, children, property and followers of our religion. We made a condition on ourselves that we will neither erect in our areas a monastery, church, or a sanctuary for a monk, nor restore any place of worship that needs restoration nor use any of them for the purpose of enmity against Muslims. We will not prevent any Muslim from resting in our churches whether they come by day or night, and we will open the doors [of our houses of worship] for the wayfarer and passerby. Those Muslims who come as guests, will enjoy boarding and food for three days. We will not allow a spy against Muslims into our churches and homes or hide deceit [or betrayal] against Muslims. We will not teach our children the Qur'an, publicize practices of Shirk, invite anyone to Shirk or prevent any of our fellows from embracing Islam, if they choose to do so. We will respect Muslims, move from the places we sit in if they choose to sit in them. We will not imitate their clothing, caps, turbans, sandals, hairstyles, speech, nicknames and title names, or ride on saddles, hang swords on the shoulders, collect weapons of any kind or carry these weapons. We will not encrypt our stamps in Arabic, or sell liquor. We will have the front of our hair cut, wear our customary clothes wherever we are, wear belts around our waist, refrain from erecting crosses on the outside of our churches and demonstrating them and our books in public in Muslim fairways and markets. We will not sound the bells in our churches, except discretely, or raise our voices while reciting our holy books inside our churches in the presence of Muslims, nor raise our voices [with prayer] at our funerals, or light torches in funeral processions in the fairways of Muslims, or their markets. We will not bury our dead next to Muslim dead, or buy servants who were captured by Muslims. We will be guides for Muslims and refrain from breaching their privacy in their homes.' When I gave this document to `Umar, he added to it, 'We will not beat any Muslim. These are the conditions that we set against ourselves and followers of our religion in return for safety and protection. If we break any of these promises that we set for your benefit against ourselves, then our Dhimmah (promise of protection) is broken and you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion.'"

Classic Islamic Law

The following excerpts are from the Reliance of the Traveler: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law (Umdat Al-Salik) by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri and Nuh Ha Mim Keller: Acts of disbelief (including verbal denials) are punished by death:

f1.3 Someone raised among Muslims who denies the obligatoriness of the prayer, zakat, fasting Ramadan, the pilgrimage, or the unlawfulness of wine and adultery, or denies something else upon which there is scholarly consensus (ijma', def: b7) and which is necessarily known as being of the religion (N: necessarily known meaning things that any Muslim would know about if asked) thereby becomes an unbeliever (kafir) and is executed for his unbelief (O: if he does not admit he is mistaken and acknowledge the obligatoriness or unlawfulness of that which there is scholarly consensus upon. As for if he denies the obligatoriness of something there is not consensus upon, then he is not adjudged an unbeliever).

Non-Muslims do not have freedom of expression or speech:

o11.5 Such non-Muslim subjects are obliged to comply with Islamic rules that pertain to safety and indemnity of life, reputation, and property. In addition, they:

(6) are forbidden to openly display wine or pork, (A: to ring church bells or display crosses,) recite the Torah or Evangel aloud, or make a public display of their funerals and feastdays;

o11.10 The agreement [with the state] is also violated (A: with respect to the offender alone) if the state has stipulated that any of the following things break it, and one of the subjects does so anyway, though if the state has not stipulated that these break agreement, then they do not; namely, if one of the subject people:

(3) leads a Mulim away from Islam;

(5) or mentions something impermissible about Allah, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), or Islam.

o11.11 When a subject's agreement with the state has been violated, the caliph chooses between the four alternatives mentioned above in connection with prisoners of war (o9.14). [See information below.]

o9.13 When a child or woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman's previous marriage is immediately annulled.

o9.14 When an adult male is taken captive, the caliph (def: o25) considers the interests (O: of Islam and the Muslims) and decides between the prisoner's death, slavery, release without paying anything, or ransoming himself in exchange for money or for a Muslim captive held by the enemy. If the prisoner becomes a Muslim (O: before the caliph chooses any of the four alternatives) then he may not be killed, and one of the other three alternatives is chosen.

In the Modern World

The Muhammad Cartoons Controversies

Two Pastors in Australia Battle for the Right to Criticize Islam

In 2004 two pastors in Australia, Daniel Scot and Danny Nalliah, were villified for speaking out against Islam and its teachings at a Christian conference. Found guilty in the first case, the pastors appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Victoria where they eventually won their case after spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

The Murder of Theo van Gogh

You Can't Call Muhammad a 'Pedophile' in Finland

Jussi Halla-aho, prominent Finnish writer and elected member of Helsinki City Council, was indicted for incitement against a national group and the disturbance of religious worship[36] for posting an essay addressed to Mika Illman, the Finnish state prosecuting attorney, in response to the Finnish state's prosecution of Seppo Lehto (a well-known racist) in 2008 for posting a blog featuring a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad having sex with a pig.[37]. In the essay, Halla-aho stated emphatically: Prophet Muhammad was a pedophile and Islam revers pedophilia as a religion. Islam is a religion of pedophilia. Pedophilia is Allah’s will.

Geert Wilders and Fitna

If Holland will allow the broadcast of this movie, the Iranian parliament will request to reconsider our relationship with it. In Iran, insulting Islam is a very sensitive matter and if the movie is broadcasted it will arouse a wave of popular hate that will be directed towards any government that insults Islam.[38]
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, a senior Iranian lawmaker and head of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, 2008
We in Afghanistan shall step up the attacks against the Dutch troops if the film is aired.[39]
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Taliban, 2008

Great Britain's Home Office denied entry to Dutch MP Geert Wilders when he attempted to enter England on invitation from the UK Independence Party's Lord Pearson to show his controversial film Fitna at the House of Lords.[40] The movie raised ire among Muslims around the world. Pakistan's largest Muslim party, Jamaat-e-Islami, organized a protest outside a mosque in Karachi, and some protesters demanded Pakistan cut diplomatic relations with the Netherlands.[41] Jordan charged Wilders with blasphemy and contempt of Muslims for making an anti-Koran film and ordered him to stand trial in the kingdom.[42] In 2009, the Dutch court ordered prosecutors to put Wilders on trial for making anti-Islamic statements.[43] In response to the indictments, Wilders said he wants to put Islam on trial and that he is “considering calling on radical imams and other idiots as witnesses.”[44] His trial was set for January 2010.[45] On October 13, 2009 Geert Wilders won his appeal to Britain's Asylum and Immigration Tribunal against the British government ban.[46] On November 24, 2009 the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that a planned visit to Turkey by Dutch members of parliament would not be welcome if the delegation included Geert Wilders.[47] Wilders' called the Turkish Foreign Ministry's reaction "very stupid."[48]

  • Watch Fitna here.
  • Watch Geert Wilder's speech at his trial on January 20, 1010 here.
  • Read a report on the Wilders trial from Evelyn Markus in the Netherlands here.

The Satanic Verses Controversy

Hurting the Sentiments of Muslims is a Crime in India

During a summer of 2009 interview with Time 'N Style Luxury magazine, the Muslim Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan reportedly made this statement when asked his opinion about the most impressive figure in history:[49]

There are lots of them, some negative ones like Hitler, then Napoleon, Winston Churchill and if I can call it history, then Prophet Mohammed and from recent time - Nelson Mandela. And there are the nice ones like Gandhiji and Mother Teresa.

In India a complaint was registered against Khan and the publisher of Time 'N Style:[50]

We have registered an FIR (first information report) against Shah Rukh Khan after we received an application from an advocate who alleged that the actor made some statements hurting the sentiments of Muslims. Complainant Khalid Babu Querishi alleged that in the July issue of the Time and Style magazine, Shah Rukh used objectionable language against the Prophet which was unacceptable.
Prakash George, senior police inspector of Bandra police station

Mufti Mohammed Shoeb Raza Qadri and Mufti Muti-ur-Rehman of the Darul-uloom-Mazhar-e-Islam stated that the entire Muslim community was hurt by Khan's statements and they issued a fatwa. Mufti Mohammad called Shahrukh a Kafir (non-believer) and such person should be thrown out of Islam. He also said that in an Islamic state such remarks would have called for a death penalty against the accused. He declared that Shahrukh's marriage with Gauri was nullified and Shahrukh must not be allowed to be buried in any Muslim graveyard.[51]

Shah Rukh responded to the accusations in an SMS message to IANS:[52]

Obviously I think that there is no more important figure in history than Prophet Mohammad in the most positive way possible. Also, being a Muslim and standing up for the tenets of Islam is my most important agenda. If they (MAC) have seen my interviews on TV about Islam and Prophet Mohammad, they would know it’s a writing error and not a thought or view that I believe in…

Time 'N Style clarified the interview and corrected the quote:[53]

The most impressive figure in history, according to you?

There are lots of them, some negative ones like Hitler. On the other hand there are nice ones like Napoleon, Winston Churchill and if I can call it history, then Prophet Mohammed and from recent times - Nelson Mandela. And also Gandhiji and Mother Teresa who are equally impressive.

Bareilly-based Markazi Darul Ifta, an authority for issuing fatwas, dismissed the fatwas issued by clerics. They stated that since Shahrukh has issued clarification that he was misrepresented in his alleged statements he should not be held guilty.[54]

Malaysian Christians can't use the word "Allah" in worship

In 2007, Malaysia's internal security ministry ruled the term Allah -- long used by Christians in Malaysia to refer to God -- could no longer be used by non-Muslims.[55] When the Herald, the Catholic Church's weekly newsletter, used the word "Allah" it was warned that it was at risk of losing its publication permit.[56]

In early 2009, the Malaysian government issued a new decree restoring a ban on Christian publications using the word "Allah" to refer to God. Home Affairs Minister Syed Hamid Albar said a previous Feb. 16 decree that allowed Christian publications to use the word as long as they specified the material was not for Muslims was a mistake.[57]

In November 2009, the Malaysian government seized 10,000 Bibles because they contained the word Allah to refer to God. The government claimed that the word Allah is Islamic and that its use in Bibles could upset Muslims.[58]

The Roman Catholic Church challenged the ban in court, and in late December 2009 the High Court said it was the constitutional right for the Catholic newspaper, the Herald, to use the word "Allah."[59] The public outcry was intense. On Friday, January 8, three churches in Malaysia were attacked: one was gutted and the other two firebombed. Muslims held rallies after the attacks to protest against Christians using the word "Allah" for God.[60] The next day, a fourth church was damaged when unidentified attackers flung a home-made petrol bomb,[61] and on Sunday three more churches were firebombed and another splashed with black paint.[62][63] On Monday, January 11, a ninth church was vandalized when someone set fire to its door.[64] On Thursday, January 14, intruders ransacked the offices of the legal team that's defending a Malaysian Roman Catholic newspaper's right to use the word Allah in its Malay-language pages.[65] The Grace Global Prayer church in Rasah, Seremban, became the tenth attacked after its windows were found broken on Friday, January 15.[66] On January 20, Malaysian police announced that they had arrested 8 suspects in connection to the January 7 attack on Kuala Lumpur's Metro Tabernacle Church, which had its office gutted by fire. It was the first and most serious of all the attacks on churches.[67]

According to a PTI report for

Non-Muslims in Malaysia's Selangor state have been asked to refrain from using 35 Islamic terms and references, including the word "Allah", either orally or in writing to propagate their religion.

If a formal complaint is lodged, the violator could be charged in a court under Selangor Shariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1995 and can be fined upto RM3,000 (about 35,000 rupees) or face two years' in jail or both.

The list of terms not to be used by non-Muslims include Allah, Firman Allah (Allah's decree), solat (daily prayers), Rasul (prophet), mubaligh (missionary), mufti, iman (faith), Kaabah (the Holy cubicle), Qiblat (direction in which the Muslims pray), and Haji (Muslims who have done his pilgrimage), Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) director Mohammed Khusrin Munawi said.

"These are listed under the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religious Enactment. They cannot be used to promote religions other than Islam," he noted.

The religious diktat comes amid attacks on nine churches and a Gurdwara in Malaysia following a court verdict to allow a Catholic magazine 'Herald' to use the word "Allah" when referring to God.[68]

In a further attempt to justify the ban, Islamic experts at a conference held by the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) on January 21, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur declared that the translation of Allah as God was factually wrong because it contradicted the concept of God as espoused by Islam in Malaysia.[69] According to IKIM chairman Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the forum succeeded in achieving its objectives, which was to identify the causes and clarify the background of the problem on the translation from the perspective of religion, language social aspects and law. He stated,

The forum also stressed on the understanding and context of the use of Allah in the Quran, touched on Islamic jurisprudence on the use of the word Allah by religions and cultures other than Islam as well as reach a unity in thinking among Islamic experts and leaders.

Abdullah added that the stand of the experts would be brought to the attention of the government and that another forum on managing crises between religions would also be organized by IKIM on Jan 25. This forum would involve leaders of the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) and was aimed at seeking solutions to misunderstandings to preserve the multi-racial harmony in the country. Abdullah said IKIM hoped the followers of all religions respected the boundaries of their own religions so that unwanted incidents like what happened recently would not recur. He stated,

In today's discussion, we all agreed that all Malaysians must respect and uphold the Constitution of Malaysia, which allows freedom of religion to be practiced in peace and harmony.

Islam and Self-Censorship

The aforementioned incidents involving Islam and its followers, has lead to wide-spread self-censorship and obfuscation of facts among the media in the west. A good example of this, is the UK media handling of the 2001 "race riots" by "Asians" in Oldham, Bradford and Burnley. In reality, these outbreaks of violence had little to do with race. The government, and the then home secretary David Blunkett, were warned by the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Gurbux Singh, that more violence was to be expected from "Young Muslims who feel disenfranchised" living among the many "Muslim" hotspots in the UK.[70]

The same thing occur in 2011, amid the news of widespread grooming of young 'white' girls by 'Asian' men.[71] It was eventually brought to light that these 'Asians' were not only targeting white girls, but also young girls from Hindu and Sikh communities.[72]

Well-known political impressionist, Rory Bremner, during an interview with Sir David Frost on the BBC documentary, Frost on Satire, admitted he feared joking about Islam.

When [I'm] writing a sketch about Islam, I'm writing a line and I think, 'If this goes down badly, I'm writing my own death warrant there.' Because there are people who will say, 'Not only do I not think that's funny but I'm going to kill you' – and that's chilling...If you're a Danish cartoonist and you work in a Western tradition, people don't take that too seriously. Suddenly you're confronted by a group of people who are fundamentalist and extreme and they say, 'We're going to kill you because of what you have said or drawn.' Where does satire go from there, because we like to be brave but not foolish.
Rory Bremner 'afraid' to joke about Islam
Nick Collins, Telegraph, June 15, 2010

Across the seas in the US, Comedy Central, after receiving threatening statements from the Islamic website Revolution Muslim,[73][74] self-censored episodes of South Park by removing the word "Muhammad" and a speech about intimidation and fear. Ironically, cartoonist Molly Norris, who created the original piece of artwork which inspired the first ever "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" in response to Comedy Central's self-censorship, eventually disassociated herself from it. Regardless of her u-turn, it was reported in July, 2010, that the American-Yemeni Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki had put her, along with eight other cartoonists, on an execution hit list. The FBI have said that Norris and the other cartoonists have been warned of the "very serious threat."[75]

In an interview with Las Vegas Weekly, The American magician, comedian, musician and writer, Penn Fraser Jillette, who was judged the number one personality who defines Vegas, said he does not tackle Islam due to having a family:

Are there any groups you won't go after?

We haven't tackled Scientology because Showtime doesn't want us to. Maybe they have deals with individual Scientologists—I'm not sure. And we haven't tackled Islam because we have families.

Meaning, you won’t attack Islam because you’re afraid it’ll attack back...

Right, and I think the worst thing you can say about a group in a free society is that you’re afraid to talk about it—I can’t think of anything more horrific. [...]

You do go after Christians, though...

Teller and I have been brutal to Christians, and their response shows that they’re good f**king Americans who believe in freedom of speech. We attack them all the time, and we still get letters that say, “We appreciate your passion. Sincerely yours, in Christ.” Christians come to our show at the Rio and give us Bibles all the time. They’re incredibly kind to us. Sure, there are a couple of them who live in garages, give themselves titles and send out death threats to me and Bill Maher and Trey Parker. But the vast majority are polite, open-minded people, and I respect them for that.

Norwegian cartoonist, Finn Graff, who was known for his satirical drawings of Jesus, has also said that he does not draw pictures mocking Muhammad “out of respect.”[76] According to Mark Goldblatt at Reason:

Americans characterize our collective deference towards the feelings of Muslims as “political correctness.” The phrase may be apt with respect to certain ethnic and religious minorities, but our tip-toeing around Islamic sensibilities is nothing more than plain, old-fashioned cowardice. MSNBC stooge Lawrence O’Donnell, for example, repeatedly slandered Mormonism during the 2008 presidential campaign as a sidebar to his creepily obsessive verbal jihad against then-candidate Mitt Romney. But when asked by radio host Hugh Hewitt whether he would insult Muhammad the way he’d insulted Joseph Smith, O’Donnell replied with rare candor: “Oh, well, I’m afraid of what the... that’s where I’m really afraid. I would like to criticize Islam much more than I do publicly, but I’m afraid for my life if I do.... Mormons are the nicest people in the world. They’ll never take a shot at me. Those other people, I’m not going to say a word about them.” That’s the problem in a nutshell. But it’s not just O’Donnell’s problem. It’s our problem. America’s problem. The West’s problem. We lack the moral courage to walk the walk, to put our individual lives on the line in order to defend the principles of free thought and free expression—the very principles that allowed the Judeo-Christian West to leave the Islamic East in the dust, literally and figuratively, three centuries ago.

See Also

  • Free Speech - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Free Speech


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  45. Wilders' discrimination case in January -, September 14, 2009
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  52. Shah Rukh Khan Reacts: Comments on Prophet Mohammad a Writing Error – Omer Jamil –, June 22, 2009
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  65. Malaysian Catholics' Lawyers Offices Ransacked - James Hookway - Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2010
  66. Tenth church hit, attack in Seremban - Syed Jaymal Zahiid - The Malaysian Insider, January 16, 2010
  67. Malaysia Police Arrest 8 in Attack on Church - Associated Press - Fox News, January 20, 2010
  68. Non-Muslims not to use 35 Islamic terms: Diktat - PTI -, January 15, 2010
  69. Allah Not An Accurate Translation For God - (Malaysian News Agency), January 23, 2010
  70. 'Summer of race riots' feared after clashes in 2001 - Alan Travis, home affairs editor - The Guardian, December 28, 2006
  71. Chris Brooke - Top detective blasts 'culture of silence' that allows Asian sex gangs to groom white girls... because police and social services fear being branded racist - Daily Mail, January 11, 2011
  72. Yudhvir Rana - 'Not just White girls, Pak Muslim men sexually target Hindu and Sikh girls as well - The Times of India, January 10, 2011
  73. Bates, Theunis. "Pakistan Bans Facebook Over Muhammad Cartoons", AOL News,, May 19, 2010. 
  74. Rodriguez, Alex. "Facebook dark in Pakistan amid uproar over Muhammad caricatures", Los Angeles Times,, May 19, 2010. 
  75. James Gordon Meek and Katie Nelson - Cleric Anwar al-Awlaki puts 'Everybody Draw Mohammed' cartoonist Molly Norris on execution hitlist - NY DAILY NEWS, July 11, 2010
  76. Hjörtur J. Guðmundsson - Scandinavian Update: Israeli Boycott, Muslim Cartoons - The Brussels Journal,