Last Sunday a mosque outside Baltimore reportedly honored the assassin of a Pakistani statesman who criticized his country’s blasphemy law.
According to Ehsan Rehan in the Rabwah Times, an online Pakistani newspaper often specializing in religious persecution reporting, here is what happened:
The Gulzar E Madina Mosque in Pikesville, Maryland hosted an “Urs” in honor of the infamous killer on February 12th. Urs is a traditional commemoration usually given to Saints and Holy personages. The Mosque also advertised the event in the February 9th edition of Urdu Times, America’s most widely distributed Urdu language newspaper.
Salman Taseer was governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province when he was killed in 2011 by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri for criticizing Pakistan’s law prohibiting blasphemy against Islam. Specifically Taseer had defended Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman under death sentence since 2009 for supposedly insulting Islam. Another senior Pakistani statesman, Shahbaz Bhati, was also assassinated in 2011 for publicly defending her.
The killer, who shot Taseer 27 times, was unrepentant and was widely supported by protests until his execution under Pakistani law last year. His grave has become a pilgrimage site, and a popular mosque in Islamabad is named in his honor.
That an assassin should be honored, much less at a religious service, would strike nearly all Americans as outrageous. A church honoring James Earl Ray or Lee Harvey Oswald is unimaginable.
But the Gulzar E Madina Mosque in Pikesville apparently had no reluctance about honoring an assassin who killed for his faith. According to the Rabwah Times report, one speaker at the mosque said:
Whoever disrespects the Holy Prophet Muhammad is worthy of death, and even if disrespects indirectly he is still worthy of death. Even if someone asks for forgiveness it is not acceptable.
Another speaker, an Islamic scholar, said:
Warrior Mumtaz Qadri kissed the noose in love for Prophet Muhammad. When Qadri was in jail for 5 years what did we do? What effort did we make (for his release)? Why did we not go where he was being held? Qadri did everything for us, and for the love of Islam and we could not even stand by him. People say Islam teaches peace…..I say Islam teaches us Ghairat (Honor). Who will now stand up?
A third speaker, who was a local cleric, said:
Mumtaz Qadri was not a terrorist and whoever says “We are with you O Prophet” cannot be a terrorist.
Interestingly, this speaker also praised liberty for Islam in America:
We have some freedoms here (in the U.S.) which we do not even have in other Muslim countries, this is the beauty of this country. There are some countries where we can’t even praise the prophet, we can’t celebrate the Day of Imam Hussain, this country has freedom of religion and this is the beauty of this country.
But apparently, according to this cleric, liberty should not be afforded to the imprisoned Christian Pakistani woman or the assassinated officials who defended her.
America rightly affords freedom of speech to all citizens. This Maryland mosque can celebrate assassination as a religious duty. Klansmen can march. Nazis can don swastikas. Communists can advocate dictatorship. There is no opinion not protected by the Constitution.
But our democracy depends on the majority of citizens rejecting these hateful views and affirming liberty for all. I do not know how many who attended this mosque celebration of assassination were immigrants. But they should never have been permitted into this country. The Constitution protects free speech for all citizens but it does not require an open door to persons who abhore American freedoms and who advocate murder.
Many Christian leaders are outspoken advocates of permissive immigration and refugee policies. They rightly celebrate America as a refuge for the persecuted. But America should not become a refuge for persecutors.
Hopefully some churches and other places of worship will honor Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhati, plus the imprisoned Asia Bhibi, who after 8 years is still fighting her death sentence for blasphemy. She deserves our support and needs our prayers.