[Allen] Just as we thought Pope had found common ground with the Muslim faith, we haven't

[Allen] Just as we thought Pope had found common ground with the Muslim faith, we haven’t

Opinion
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[Crux Now] One way to measure the real nature of struggles over religious freedom in the Islamic world is by the kind of person who would show up in the United Arab Emirates over the last three days, joining Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt for a massive interreligious paean to peace, love and tolerance.

VIDEO: [NowThisReports YT Channel] Episode backgrounding Pakistan’s blasphemy laws [Sep 1, 2017]


There were more than 700 religious leaders on hand, and Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, a well-known Muslim cleric from Pakistan, is a good example of the kind of crowd the event drew.

Ashrafi is known as a “liberal” cleric in his native country, the kind of religious leader who condemns extremism and stands for tolerance and acceptance and who’s been awarded a presidential honor for the defense of peace and human rights. So real are those commitments that there was recently a push in the Pakistan Ulema Council, the main body of Islamic clerics in the country, to expel him and replace him with someone more traditional.

Certainly, Ashrafi said all the right things in Abu Dhabi in terms of the event’s official talking points.

“All religious leaders today are saying that religion doesn’t have anything to do with extremism and terrorism,” he said.

“I think the UAE has achieved a great victory, because today a message is going from the UAE to the whole world that we are Muslims, Christians, Jews and other religious people, united for brotherhood of human beings against those using the name of religion for his personal cause and personal needs,” he said.

All that is encouraging, offering a classic example of the “other face” of Islam.

Yet even such an enlightened cleric as Ashrafi defended his nation’s notorious blasphemy laws, which envisions death sentences for perceived outrages against religious figures, texts and beliefs – and what’s most telling is why.

“Because of the blasphemy laws, thousands of people have been saved,” Ashrafi insisted. “If the law weren’t there, I tell you, it’s possible that I speak blasphemy you’ll kill me, or if you do it I’ll kill you.”

He cited the well-known 2012 case of a Christian girl named Rishma, who was 14 years old at the time and who suffers from a mental disability. She was arrested under the blasphemy laws after reports that she had burned pages from a Koran, and theoretically faced execution. After the case was reviewed, and in light of her condition, she was released.

This article continues at [Crux Now] If religious freedom’s a process, why not name the elephant in the room?

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