A Pakistan minister blasphemously justifies suicide bombing to defend the Prophet’s honour.

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.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web