The Pakistan parliament has unanimously passed a resolution condemning the knighthood Britain has just awarded Salman Rushdie. In the debate, the Religious Affairs Minister of Pakistan, Ejaz-ul-Haq, is reported by Reuters, via the BBC, as saying this:
If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammad, his act is justified.
He backtracked later, minimally.
I’m not sure I understand the idea of blasphemy as a major sin – not just gratuitously offensive religious speech, which is a tort, misdemeanor, or discourtesy, and logically a lesser, not top ten, sin. How do you set about insulting the Lord of the galaxies? Spitting on a crucifix in private, burning a Torah, tearing up a Koran and flushing it down the toilet? Kicking a puppy wounds Him more. (The evil point of such acts is to do them in the presence of believers, violating their sense of the sacred; which I don’t deny is worse.)
It’s heterodoxy to say so, but the only way I can interpret the second or third of the Mosaic commandments – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” – is not primarily as a prohibition of idle or offensive speech but of false oaths, especially those of the most solemn kind sworn under God, that have a real effect on other humans. It overlaps with the eighth or ninth which places the ban on perjury in the context of fair dealing with neighbours. But there are other kinds of oath: a king, or President, can swear a false public oath to uphold the laws, a subject or visiting foreigner to obey them, a doctor to follow the Hippocratic code; neighbours, the people next door, don’t come into this.
If there is a specific sin of blasphemy, its essence is surely this: doing or abetting evil in the name of God. Tomás de Torquemada, Jarnail Bhindranwale , David Koresh, and Osama bin Laden are prime examples. Sir Salman Rushdie, KBE, isn’t the blasphemer here, it’s H.E. Ejaz-ul-Haq.