Nine days ago (Feb. 12) the Gulzar e Madina mosque, located in a suburb of Baltimore less than 50 miles from downtown Washington, D.C., held a special celebration which it had advertised nationally to Urdu (Pakistani) readers. The celebration, known as an Urs, is a Sufi-based anniversary celebration of the death of someone who has attained saintly status.
In this case, the party was being thrown in memory of a Pakistani Muslim named Mumtaz Qadri, who died Feb. 29th, 2016. More precisely, Qadri was executed by Pakistani authorities that day by hanging for the crime of murdering the governor of the Punjab province, Salman Taseer, also a Muslim, by pumping twenty-seven bullets into his back as he was walking back to his car after a lunch meeting. To add insult to injury, Qadri was a member of Pakistan’s Special Forces, assigned to Gov. Taseer’s protection detail. (For more details on this, see my blog here.)
What led to Qadri’s murderous behavior? He was upset that the governor was working to try to free a Christian woman, Aasiya Bibi, who had been falsely convicted of breaking Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws and was facing execution. In Qadri’s mind, Taseer was guilty of demeaning the prophet of Islam (whom the blasphemy laws are designed to protect), and so should die. He was judge, jury and executioner, and carried out his plans with no hesitation. In fact, two days after the assassination, he turned himself in to authorities with a smile.
Governor Taseer’s funeral the next day attracted a few thousand people, in spite of the fact that some 500 religious leaders declared Qadri to be a hero and warned people that to honor Taseer would be to dishonor the prophet of Islam. Five years later, the day after the cowardly murderer was executed, more than 100,000 Pakistanis took to the streets to honor him as a hero and martyr for Islam.
So here in America, near the anniversary of this killer’s death, Mumtaz Qadri is being celebrated as a saint in this Pakistani community mosque. Honored speakers included Muhammad Ali Soharwardi, a famous Muslim singer presently on a US tour from Pakistan, Syed Saad Ali, an Islamic scholar from New Jersey, and Ijaz Hussain, an imam from Baltimore. (For a foreign news report on this, see here.)
One speaker, to justify Qadri’s act, declared:
“Whoever disrespects the Holy Prophet Muhammad is worthy of death, and even if [he] disrespects indirectly he is still worthy of death. Even if someone asks for forgiveness it is not acceptable.”
The Islamic scholar, Syed Saad Ali, was particularly motivational as he inspired guilt in his listeners:
“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?”
Presumably, Muslims are to rise up and kill any and all blasphemers, according to Ali. Fortunately, most Muslims in this country pay little heed to Islamic scholars like this man, though his beliefs mirror the teachings and actions of Muhammad and his early followers.
Ali made reference to another “hero,” Tanveer Ahmed, a Sunni believer presently in prison in Scotland for the murder of Asad Shah, an Ahmadi Muslim (Sunni Muslims consider the Ahmadis to be heretics). Tanveer traveled almost 250 miles from his home in Bradford, England, to confront Asad, a shopkeeper in Glasgow, Scotland. Enraged over an allegation that Asad had called himself a prophet (thus demeaning Muhammad’s status as the final prophet of Allah), Tanveer confronted Asad in his store, began to stab him repeatedly with a knife as others tried vainly to stop the attack, then dragged Asad’s inert body outside the store, “…stabbing, punching and stamping on him, shattering bones in his face.” Islamic scholar Ali was fulsome in his praise of this murderer as well:
“Our warrior Tanveer who is sitting in a jail in Scotland, I don’t know if someone knows or not, when that Mirzai [i.e., the Ahmadi Asad Shah] spoke his ‘sacrilegious rubbish’ he went there and stabbed him 27 times and the police arrested him and right now he is in a jail in Scotland. So if we just take a step forward, angels will automatically come for our help. But what Mumtaz Qadri has done is something amazing, he has surpassed all these warriors.”
So the message from Syed Saad Ali is that Tanveer Ahmed is a hero of Islam, but that Mumtaz Qadri is a lion of the faith for taking down a major target. And now, if only those listening to him will step forth after the example of these two, the angels of Allah will immediately fly to their aid in killing blasphemers!
Not to be left out, Imam Ijaz Hussain from Baltimore chimed in his professional opinion:
“Mumtaz Qadri was not a terrorist, and whoever says ‘We are with you, O Prophet’ cannot be a terrorist.”
How reassuring, from the leader of one of America’s Sufi Muslim communities.
I got to thinking about what might be a parallel situation here in the United States among Christian groups, and came up with this hypothetical scenario:
Suppose a white supremacist “Christian” group, who hated everything Martin Luther King, Jr., stood for, decided to hold a celebration on April 23rd this year to mark the 19th year anniversary of the death of James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of America’s great civil rights leader of the 1960s. They publicize the event widely across the country using white supremacist media outlets, and on the day of the event they celebrate James Earl Ray as an American hero, even more as a sainted man who carried out God’s will at the end of a rifle. Would we not rightly be repulsed, horrified, angered by such a travesty? Would we not be motivated to do something about such blindness and celebration of evil? Would we not want our fellow citizens to know of such a cancer in our midst? I would hope so.
To my knowledge, no such event has ever taken place, nor by God’s justice, will one ever happen. But, the February 12th Urs honoring Mumtaz Qadri actually did take place, less than 50 miles from the Capitol, the White House and the Supreme Court, and our leaders remain ignorant, our mainstream media apparently couldn’t be bothered to research and report on this, and the American Muslim community sits silent — where is the condemnation of CAIR, ISNA, ICNA, IIIT, and the Fiqh Council of North America? Where is the Southern Poverty Law Center, so committed as they are to the extermination of hate and the teaching of tolerance — or does that only apply to conservative Americans?
It’s well past time to shine the light of clarity into the dark corners of Islamic teaching and behavior that condones the hatred and intolerance of non-Muslims simply because they reject the claim of Muhammad as a true prophet and will not bow down before Islam’s supremacist claims. The celebration of vigilante killers, and the exhortation to imitate them, should have no place in America, or anyplace else for that matter. But let us tend to our own house, and pray that the rest of the world will do likewise.