Two Christian pastors in Australia have been found guilty of religious vilification of Muslims. The decision threatens us all.
One of the pastors, Daniel Scot, is Pakistani. He fled his native land seventeen years ago when he ran afoul of the notorious Section 295(c) of the Penal Code — which mandates death or life in prison for anyone who blasphemes “the sacred name of the holy Prophet Muhammad.” It’s a treacherously elastic statute that has been and is often used to snare Christians: cornered and made to state that they don’t believe Muhammad was a prophet, they then find themselves charged with blasphemy.
Scot went to Australia, only to run afoul of that nation’s new religious vilification laws. Last Friday, Judge Michael Higgins of The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found him guilty of vilifying Islam in a seminar hosted by his group, Catch the Fire Ministries. The judge noted that during the seminar, Scot stated that “the Quran promotes violence, killing and looting.” In light of Qur’anic passages such as 9:5, 2:191, 9:29, 47:4, 5:33 and many others, this cannot seriously be a matter of dispute. Muslims have pointed to verses in the Bible that they would have us believe are equivalent in violence and offensiveness, or have claimed that the great majority of Muslims don’t take such verses literally; but it takes a peculiarly strong resistance to reality not only to deny that such verses are there, but to charge one who pointed them out with religious vilification.
Yet Higgins wasn’t finished. He also scored Scot for contending that the Qur’an “treats women badly; they are to be treated like a field to plough, ‘use her as you wish,'” and that in it, “domestic violence in general is encouraged.'” He charged Scot with saying that the Qur’an directs that “a thief’s hand is cut off for stealing.” Yet the idea of the field and “use her as you wish” are from Sura 2:223 of the Qur’an. Husbands are told to beat their disobedient wives in 4:34. Amputation for theft is prescribed in 5:38. What Qur’an is Higgins reading?
Higgins got not just the Qur’an but Scot’s own statements wrong. The judge charges that Scot called Muslims “demons”; but according to human rights activist Mark Durie, who was deeply involved in the case, “Scot at one point in the seminar that in the Qur’an there were jinn (spirit beings) which became Muslims in response to the message of Islam. However, in his summary the judge appears to interpret this as Scot saying that Muslims are demons. So ‘Some demons are Muslims’ becomes ‘Muslims are demons’!”
There are some hints that the outcome of the case was virtually predetermined. When during the trial Scot began to read Qur’anic verses that discriminate against women, a lawyer for the Islamic Council of Victoria, the organization that brought the suit, stopped him: reading the verses aloud, she said, would in itself be religious vilification. Dismayed, Scot replied: “How can it be vilifying to Muslims in the room when I am just reading from the Qur’an?”
With religious vilification laws now coming to Britain and no doubt soon also elsewhere in the West, Scot’s question rings out with global implications, and must be answered. If it is inciting hatred for Muslims simply when non-Muslims explore what Islam and the Qur’an actually teach, then there will be a chill on reasonable public discussion of Islam — a public discussion that is crucial to hold in this age of global jihad terrorism. Such laws actually make Muslims a protected class, beyond criticism, precisely at the moment when the Western republics need to examine the implications of having admitted into their countries people with greater allegiance to Islamic law than to the pluralist societies in which they’ve settled.
To criticize is not to incite. The courageous ex-Muslim Ibn Warraq calls upon Muslims to “admit the role of the Qur’an in the propagation of violence.” If they do not do this, what end can there possibly be to the jihad terrorism that is inspired, according to the terrorists themselves, by the Qur’an? What will keep jihadists from continuing to use the Qur’an to recruit more terrorists, right under the noses of fatuous Westerners like Judge Higgins who would prefer to pretend that what they use in the book isn’t really in there?
When Judge Higgins signed the guilty verdict on Daniel Scot, he may have been signing the death warrant for free Australia — and maybe even the entire Western world.