Muslim groups are in a right royal tizz over former Shia Waqf Board Chief Waseem Rizvi’s petition in the Supreme Court. They accuse Rizvi of senselessly outraging sentiments by calling upon the apex court to remove 26 verses from the Holy Quran for allegedly promoting violence against other religions. For this act of ‘sacrilege’ furious adherents have announced that they will pay the ‘faithful’ Rs 11 lakhs to behead the ‘apostate’. This is not an empty threat.
In 2010, members of the Popular Front of India chopped the hand of a professor called TJ Joseph for scripting a question on the Prophet in a test paper. A few years ago, Kamlesh Tiwari, member of the Hindu Samaj Party, had his throat slit following a fatwa declared for allegedly disrespecting the Prophet. Several others have been attacked for similar transgressions. Last year, France was shocked when a teacher was beheaded for allegedly showing his students cartoons of the Prophet that had appeared in the magazine Charlie Hebdo. Freedom of expression he believed gave him the sanction to dare adherents who believe that pictorially representing the Prophet is blasphemous.
On the evidence of the fanatic display of fury in Lucknow and across the state of Uttar Pradesh Rizvi must be fearing for his life. This is particularly so as just about every human rights activist has all but abandoned the alleged blaspheme in the face of Islamist fury leaving the door open for radicals to strike. Gone is the outrage that is usually expressed in defence of the freedom of ‘rationalists’ to question Hindu traditions.
While the Supreme Court, in all its wisdom, might declare Rizvi’s petition as borne out of a mischievous attempt towards provoking his co-religionists, insulting the holy book or even a cheap attempt at publicity seeking, it still cannot be anyone’s case that he deserves to be beheaded in the public square. India, a country governed by the rule of law that draws from the high ideals of the Constitution, cannot allow its citizens and justice to be guillotined at the altar of religious edicts.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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