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Anti-Blasphemy Terrorist Beheadings In Nice And Paris: Muslims Must Foil The Eulogising Of These Killers As ‘Ghazis’! Don’t Expect Even Sufi Ulema To Go Beyond Ritual Condemnation and Look Into Roots of Terrorism in Islamic Theology

France has suffered yet another terrorist incident in which an attacker with a knife killed
three people and wounded several others at Notre Dame church in the French city of Nice
today. The Mayor of Nice described this deadly stabbing as an act of “terrorism”.
According to Mayor Christian Estrosi, those who were killed included a woman and the
caretaker at the basilica and that the suspect had repeatedly cried ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is

Now there should be no dilly-dallying in honestly recognising the fact and identifying
theological motivation behind this as well as the earlier gruesome terror incident in
France, the beheading of a teacher in Paris. Both were inspired by an anti-blasphemy
radical Islamist ideology and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. But
after we have expressed solidarity with France and the French people fighting for
‘freedom of expression’, let us now dig deeper into the ideological motivations of such
terror incidents which remain equally critical to Europe as well as the Indian subcontinent
with worrisome implications.

The sole motive of the anti-blasphemy killer is the extremist Islamic Prophetology, an
inherent Islamic doctrine of defending Prophet’s honour which promotes the belief in the
necessity (wujub) of executing a blasphemer even at the hands of a non-state actor. In this
theology, such killings are considered legitimate and even expected of a common Muslim
taking the law into his own hand.

At a time when an anti-France and ‘anti-Macron’ wave is flooding across the Islamic
world, India has actually backed its ally France and President Emmanuel Macron, whom
Pakistan, Turkey, and many other Muslim countries and organisations have not just
severely condemned but also supported a public boycott of French products. In India,
from the fundamentalist organisations like Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JeIH) and Popular Front
of India (PFI) to the soft-core Islamic organisations such as World Sufi Peace Mission and
individuals like Shahi Imam of Fatehpuri Jama Masjid Mufti Mukarram, Mauala Mohsin
Taqwi of Shia Jama Masjid (Kashmiri Gate), Islamic orator and former MP Maulana
Ubaidullah Khan Azmi have all weighed in against France. They have vehemently
denounced the French President against what they called ‘anti-Islam remarks’ and the
insulting caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) being publicized in France. But none
of them had the temerity to turn inward and recognise the problem within. Not even as a
note of caution!

The question now is: why so many Muslims around the world, including even in a multireligious country like in India, tend to believe in death penalty for blasphemy that too by
non-state actors in a secular nation state like France? The answer lies in those Islamist
organisations and individuals who exploit this sensitive issue to control the masses and
further their relgio-political ends. This is precisely why, during the last few years, there
has been an increasingly profound and deep traction for the extremist anti-blasphemy
narrative through various Urdu magazines, social media posts and proliferated Islamic
literature in India and across the border. Look at the recent trends of anti-blasphemy
killings and their theological justifications based on Namus-e-Risalat (protecting
Prophet’s honour) and Khatm-e-Nabbuwat (Finality of Prophethood) in India and

On August 11 this year, violent clashes took place in the Indian city of Bangalore
following the appearance of an inflammatory Facebook post on prophet Muhammad
(pbuh). Some Muslims in Bengaluru reportedly provoked by the PFI resorted to wanton
violence in protest against a reported incident of blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed
(pbuh). Later, strict legal action against the perpetrators were demanded by a few Muslim
intellectuals and human rights activists. But no one among them tried to closely look at
the root of the problem. It was actually inspired by an immediately earlier incident in
Pakistan. Khalid Khan—now increasingly popular as ‘Ghazi Khalid’ in social media
across Indo-Pak— shot dead an American citizen accused in a blasphemy case in a
Pakistani courtroom on July 29, 2020. Thereafter, the anti-blasphemy killer was instantly
turned into an Islamic ‘warrior’ [Ghazi] catapulting from Pakistan to an Indian Islamist
section on social media. Since then, ‘Ghazi Khalid’ is trending on several Islamic social
media groups, particularly in Urdu, to the extent that he’s become the Facebook display
picture of many and virtual rose petals are being showered on him. A large section of
Islamic social media groups celebrated the anti-blasphemy killer. Some even eulogised
him as the ‘real Ertugrul Ghazi’.

The mainstream Muslims in India and Pakistan strongly believe in Khatm-e-Nabbuwat
(finality of Prophethood) and Tahaffuz-e-Namus-e-Risalat (protecting Prophet’s dignity).
Therefore, they hold that anyone desecrating or claiming Prophethood is a blasphemer
and must be killed. Tellingly, the killed American citizen in Paksitan Naseem Ahmad had
allegedly proclaimed himself to be a Mujaddid (Islamic reviver) and Mahdi (Messiah).
As a result of similar alleged proclamations, over 62 people have been killed in Pakistan
since 1990, according to a report by Centre for Research and Security Studies. The
textbook example of an anti-blasphemy killer is Mumtaz Qadri—who killed governor of
Punjab in Pakistan Salman Taseer. He continues to enjoy the status of a Pir (saint) for
many Sunni Muslims in India and Pakistan and his grave is venerated by thousands.
In fact, the dominant Islamic theology expects Muslims to behave in a violent way when
it comes to defending or protecting the Prophet’s honour being desecrated in any situation
or society. Though the Quran is ambiguous regarding the penalty for blasphemy, certain
hadiths from Sahin al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim (the two topmost authentic hadith
collections) are often quoted to legitimize the execution of someone known as a
‘blasphemer’. Consequently, common Muslims tend to lose all rational faculty when
Prophet’s dignity (namus-e-risalat) is in question.

Certainty, many progressive Muslim scholars have also come up with an alternate
theological interpretation of the related hadith texts which talk of killing an apostate or
blasphemer. They argue that those hadiths should be contextualised and located in a
specific situation in which the alleged apostates as well as blasphemes had indulged in a
‘sedition’ against the state and thus their execution was as a traitor rather than as apostate
or blasphemer. They extensively quote from the same hadith collections of authentic
reports on how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) disapproved of violence against someone who
abused or insulted him. There are numerous stories of how Prophet (pbuh) forgave those
who disparaged him both in Mecca and Medina. However, all these alternate narrations
remain in the textual domain of the modern Islamic scholars. They do not become part of
or the final basis of the consensus theology.

In the social media as well as in the real world, the Muslim imagination and actions are
largely shaped by the medieval Islamic jurists or the present-day clerics. Unless they are
not confronted with the strong alternative interpretations, the minds of common Muslims
are unlikely to be challenged on the issue of blasphemy. An entire social ecosystem has
developed within a large section of Islamic community on social media where those who
kill a ‘blasphemer’ are eulogised as ‘Ghazi’. Islamic slogans in Urdu like “Gustakh-eRasool Ki Saza Sar Tan Se Juda” (blasphemer’s punishment, beheading) have been doing
the rounds. Contrast this slogan with the utterances of the Chechin perpetrator of the Paris
beheading and the knife attacker in Nice, France. We never know when and where such
slogans will translate into an act of terror.

As a note of caution, Indian Muslims must understand this evil design and foil the present
and future attempts of those in India and Pakistan who are constantly trying to eulogise
the murderers like the 18-year-old Chechen Abdullakh Anzorov who beheaded a teacher
in Paris, or the 17-year-old Ghazi Khalid Khan who murdered an American citizen in
Peshawar. Such terror empathisers who turn an immature and misguided youth into an
instant Islamic ‘hero’ are actually the real culprits who vilify the peaceful atmosphere of a
democratic country. Just ask yourself why PFI or SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India)
jumped into the Bangalore protest and hijacked it? The reason is not difficult to see

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