Islam on Defamation of Religion
Of all the world’s faith traditions, Islam takes the most forceful stand against blasphemy and the defamation of religion. This attitude is based on the fact that sharia law specifically forbids certain blasphemous actions and often prescribes specific accompanying punishments. Insults against God or Muhammad are blasphemous, and strict interpretations call for the death of the offender. Any visual depiction of God or any of His prophets—especially Muhammad—is considered idolatry, another form of blasphemy, and is likewise punishable up to execution. Depictions of Muhammad have become a hot-button issue over the past decade, with unflattering cartoons depicting the prophet in European newspapers setting off massive protests across the Muslim world. Fatwas (religious rulings) are another source of guidance against blasphemy, such as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa calling for the death of author Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims found offensive. Muslim-majority countries have also led an as-of-yet-unsuccessful push over the past decade for the UN to condemn the defamation of religions as illicit speech.