(CNSNews.com) – A group of radical clerics in Pakistan wants the country’s Supreme Court to declare certain passages in the Bible blasphemous – because they depict as flawed certain biblical characters whom Muslims regard as Islamic prophets.
If the court fails to do so, they said, then lawyers will submit an application for the Bible to be formally banned in Pakistan.
The campaign, announced by the clerics at a Lahore mosque and reported Tuesday in the Karachi daily The News and the Urdu-language Roznama Islam, is the latest attempt by radicals to use the country’s blasphemy laws to shield Islam from perceived insults.
Citing Florida pastor Terry Jones’ Qur’an-burning act, the leader of the initiative, Abdul Rauf Farooqi, said the campaigners would like to pay back such “blasphemers” by doing the same to the Bible, but would not follow in their footsteps.
Instead, he and the other clerics in the campaign want Pakistan’s top court to rule that certain passages in the Bible are blasphemous, since they undermine prophets’ sanctity by portraying them as flawed or immoral.
Farooqi, who is leader of the Islamist organization JUI-S (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Sami-ul-Haq group), said the “insertions” in the Bible were offensive to Muslims, who hold all prophets in high esteem.
Reports on Farooqi’s statements did not include references to the supposedly blasphemous passages. So sensitive is the subject in Pakistan that people are typically accused of blasphemy without the actual offending words being repeated, lest the accuser, court official or anyone else be accused themselves of blaspheming.
Muslim teaching holds that Mohammed did not establish a new religion in the 7th century, but was the last in a long line of prophets of Islam stretching back to Adam, and including Moses and Jesus.
Among the biblical figures viewed by Muslims as Islamic prophets are some whom the Bible clearly describes as behaving immorally, such as David, who coveted a man’s wife and so sent him to face certain death on the battle frontlines; and Solomon, who later in life sought out pagan women and their gods.
On the other hand, biblical assertions that Jesus is God, that he died and rose from the dead, and that salvation comes through his name only, are all in conflict with Islamic teachings. They, too, could arguably be seen by Muslims as blasphemous – both towards the Qur’an and, indirectly, towards Mohammed, who Muslims believed received the inerrant revelation from Allah.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws include a provision (295-C) that carries life imprisonment or the death penalty for defiling the name of Muhammad, “by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly.”
Farooqi was quoted as saying he was confident blasphemy could be proven in court. If they failed to do so, he said, he and his colleagues would accept whatever punishment the court would choose to impose.
In 2006, a prominent Pakistani analyst and writer, Khaled Ahmed, warned about the possibility that radicals could use the blasphemy issue to target the Bible.
“Most Pakistanis are not aware of the dangers our law against blasphemy might entail,” Ahmed wrote at the time. “The law says no prophet shall be insulted and awards death for the offence. This means that prophets in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition are all protected.
“But do we know what the Bible says about Old Testament prophets? What if the stories of the Bible are taken to court and found blasphemous? Will we then have to burn the Bible and kill all the Christians who read it?”
Farooqi’s JUI-S party, a split from another religious party named JUI, is closely associated with jihadi organizations including the Taliban. Its founder, Sami-ul-Haq, heads a madrassa that was attended by key Taliban figures, including Mullah Omar.