We’re accustomed to Islamic outrage over blasphemous cartoons, but the latest cartoon crisis in Pakistan is unusual: the offending cartoon appeared in a Muslim newspaper, was presumably drawn by a Muslim, and the blasphemy involved is entirely Muslim-on-Muslim.
The Salafists who object to the cartoon are engaging in the time-honored practice of takfir: declaring other Muslims to be apostates and deserving of death due to an alleged lack of Islamic purity or zeal. The plight of Najam Sethi is a reminder that infidels are not the only ones facing death fatwas for blasphemy, and the Mr. Sethi is to be commended for his courage.
According to the Times Online:
Death threat for editor Najam Sethi over Islamic cartoon
Letter from Taleban orders journalist to repent
A newspaper editor has received death threats from militant groups for publishing a cartoon of a radical woman Islamic leader encouraging her pupils to wage holy war.
Najam Sethi, chief editor of the Daily Times, one of Pakistan’s most respected English language newspapers and its sister paper Daily Aaj Kal, now moves under heavy security after ultra-conservative Islamic elements warned him of serious consequences if he did not repent. His house in Lahore is now guarded by six army commandos.
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The threats were provoked by the publication of a cartoon in Aaj Kal depicting Umme Hassan, principal of a radical women’s madrassa, in a veil “educating” female students to wage jihad and embrace martyrdom.
Ms Hassan is the wife of Abdul Aziz, the prayer leader of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, who was jailed after the mosque was stormed by Pakistani troops last year. The madrassa she headed was demolished in the operation in which more than 100 people, including 11 soldiers, were killed. Addressing a rally on the anniversary of the Red Mosque raid in Islamabad last week, Ms Hassan declared that the cartoon was blasphemous, equating it with Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Other clerics of the Red Mosque argued that since Ms Hassan was teaching the Koran to her students in the mosque, any attempt to belittle her was blasphemous. [emphasis added]
The interesting thing about this incident is that the charge of blasphemy has been extended beyond Allah and Mohammed to include ordinary human beings. If one can be blasphemous towards Ms. Hassan, then by implication she is being worshipped as if she were herself a god. This is a great heresy in Islam, but apparently the rules may be bent freely by true believers in service of the greater good.
Nothing could illustrate more clearly the totalitarian political nature of the Islamic cult. Just as in communism or fascism, there is no rule within its own canon of orthodoxy that it will not break if doing so will maintain or extend the power of the totalitarian elite. The mujahideen of the Taliban and Al Qaeda are the “revolutionary vanguard”, and are exempt from any rules that might apply to mere mortals.
Najam Sethi is a reminder that decency and courage still exist among Muslims, who after all constitute the majority of the victims of Islamic tyranny.
Mr Sethi, who received the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) International Press Freedom award in 1999, has been an outspoken critic of Islamic extremism. AntiTaleban articles published in his papers have provoked strong reactions from militants. “By accusing the paper of blaspheming and including me in the category of antiIslamic elements the clerics have provoked people to kill me and my staff,” Mr Sethi said.
Mr Sethi has rejected the suggestion by authorities to stay out of the country until the situation is calmer.
“Extremists have always used coercion to silence their critics and that is exactly what is happening now,” he said. “This is a battle that media and country cannot afford to lose.”
I haven’t been able to locate a copy of the blasphemous cartoon. If anybody can find it, please let us know, so that we can post it in solidarity with Najam Sethi, just as we did with the Motoons and Jyllands-Posten.
Hat tip: TB.