STATEMENT ON SALMAN RUSHDIE (The following statement has been issued by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, U.K. under the direction ofHazrat Khalifatul Masih IV, Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Community in Islam) Salman Rushdie’s ill conceived book Satanic Verses has deeply offended the entire Islamic world. It is not the disagreement with the Islamic doctrine, but the most intemperate and offensive language used and the defamation of the character of many highly revered and intensely-loved persons belonging to the first period of Islamic history which has hurt the Muslims as much. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at U.K. is dismayed and disappointed, on the one hand, at the failure of the Western leadership to condemn roundly this vulgar, indecent and totally unwarranted attack on the most highly revered holy personages of Islam, including the Holy Prophet Mohamm- ad, peace be on him, his noble Companions and family members. On the other hand, it is deeply perturbed at the irresponsible and suicidal response of some Muslim leaders and communities to the ‘so-called Salman Rushdie affair. Instead of redressing the wrong done to Islam by the abusive work of Salman Rushdie, their attitude has further damaged the image of Islam in the West. As against its ill-painted image in the West, Islam is indeed an extremely tolerant’religion. It advocates total freedom of conscience and promotes unrestricted dialogue. The Holy Quran categorically declares that there is no room whatsoever for coercion in matters pertaining to faith: No compulsion in religion (Ch.2; V.257) It repeatedly and unequivocally condemns all attempts to suppress freedom of expression, be it religious or otherwise. Even blasphemy, though strongly condemned as an indecent act, is not declared to be a crime cognisable by man. The Holy Quran specifically mentions various categories of blasphemy such as committed against God (Gh.6; V.109; Ch.18; V.5 & 6), against Jesus Christ and Mary (Ch.4; V. 15 7), and finally against the Holy Prophet of Islam himself, peace be on him (Ch.63; V.9). Nowhere does the Holy Quran grant any right to any man to punish 8 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS the blasphemer, but leaves it entirely to God to exercise or not His right to punish. At the same time, the Holy Quran strongly condemns the use of abusive or derogatory language against any human being. Extreme emphasis is laid on mutual respect and the promotion of healthy relations between man and man, irrespective of caste, colour or creed. Islam is the most tolerant religion. It is the only religion in-fact which requires its followers to believe that truth is not monopolised by any one religion and that at the source every religion is true and fundamentally in agreement. Consequently, it is made incumbent on every Muslim to believe in the truth of all Messengers of God, wherever and whenever they appeared in the world. We, the Ahmadi Muslims of U.K., sincerely urge that Salman Rushdie crisis should be examined in the light of the above principles, which are universally applicable to all similar situations. Fortunately, there already exists a common law in Britain, which was primarily enacted only to protect Christian sensibilities. But because of its general nature there is no reason why it could or should not be extended to cover other similar sensitive areas. Its relevant text is as follows: Every publication is said to be blasphemous which contains any contemptuous, reviling, scurrilous or ludicrous matter relating to God, Jesus Christ or the Bible, or the formularies of the Church of England as by law established. It is not blasphemous to speak or publish opinions hostile to the Christian religion, or to deny the existence of God, if the publication is couched in decent and temperate language. The test to be applied is as to the manner in which the doctrines are advocated, and, not, as to the substance of the doctrines themselves. Everyone who publishes any blasphemous document is guilty of the offence of publishing a blasphemous libel. As is obvious from the above mentioned definition of blasphemy, its. selective application is against common sense. There is no reason why it should not be applicable elsewhere. We believe that if our plea is accepted, it will pre-empt or resolve such occurrences in the future. However, it must be emphasised that only a one-sided gesture of kindness and generosity on the part of a government extended to other communities will not resolve the problem universally. While this issue is still hot, we advise that responsible government should take the initiative of consulting such other countries as have a predominantly Hindu, RHVIHW OK RELIGIONS <•) Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Buddhist population in order to explore the possibilities of broadening the application of the said British Common Law to all religions and beliefs. As this purpose cannot be achieved merely on a unilateral or bilateral basis, international forums like the United Nations will have to be involved ultimately. Thus, a broader and wider application of the British Law of Blasphemy, mutatis mutandis, should be agreed upon on reciprocal basis by all the countries with predominantly 'Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist populations etc. This is a very delicate matter and should be studied in depth. If, for instance, in any country a government of religious fanatics does not extend the courtesy of mutual respect to the founders of other religions or sects, the consequences of such misbehaviour are bound to reverberate in other countries where the sensibilities of a section of society have been injured on religious basis by the offence albeit committed in a different country. Incidents of this nature have occurred in the past and the responsible civilised governments have also taken necessary steps to safeguard and protect the climate of peace and-harmony among different communities. The problem as. such is not an unfamiliar one. We assure the British Government and its people that as Ahmadi Muslims, we shall continue to. strive for peaceful co-existence with all communities of the world. (from page 6) to Allah for more and more light and never to loose it. Spreading Divine light requires great struggle as people will try to extinguish it. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih hoped and prayed that with Allah's help Ahmadis would be able to light more lamps of virtue in their day to day way of living. He said that in order to deserve more light from Allah persons should develop light in their hearts. Only by radiating the light of Allah can the darkness of the world be changed into light.