On July 3rd, the Italian translator of the infamous book 'The Satanic Verses', Ettore Capriol was stabbed in Milan. On July 11th, Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the same work, was murdered in Tokyo. Liaqat Hussain, president of the Council of Mosques of the British city of Bradford said: 'It (writing, publishing, printing, distributing and translating a book like 'The Satanic Verses') is a criminal offence under Islamic law.'
Another leading Muslim in Britain, Abdul Quddus, a former member of the Council of Mosques agreed: 'The attacks are justified because people translating the book are also insulting the faith.'
As a result of these acts of international vandalism by some Muslims and the whole-hearted support to vindicate their crimes by some others, Conor Cruise O'Brien, a British journalist, was justifiably prompted to write an article in the July 19th issues of the daily 'The Times' on the subject. He writes:
In every Western country with a Muslim population, there are now two legal codes: the ordinary law of the land and Islamic law. Where the two codes collide – as over 'The Satanic Verses' – it is by Islamic Law that the pious Muslims are bound. Laws that conflict with Koran have no validity for them. As a result, several hundred people living in the United Kingdom, and having broken none of its laws, are under a sentence of death, first pronounced by a religious leader in another country, and now reaffirmed by leaders of the Muslim community in Britain itself.
The reference to the sentence of death is clearly pointing to the religious pronouncement given by the late Ayatullah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, the writer of the blasphemous work.
What should be the behaviour of the Muslims living as members of minority communities in non-Muslim lands? Are they really required to dictate their terms no matter where live live? Muslim scholarship owes a responsibility to respond to this challenge by presenting the right answers to these questions. It needs to be appreciated that the attitude of the Muslims living as members of a minority community is the most important way available to a vast majority of the non-Muslims to know about the true Message of Allah. As yet it seems that most of the Muslim scholars, either for political reasons or for those best known to them, have not come forward to condemn the ridiculous fatva given by the late Ayatullah. In the absence of any real opinion of dissent, the non-Muslims can rightfully accuse Islam of encouraging its followers to resort, if the need be, to international terrorism in the name of Holy Jihad. In a situation like this if we find that even the more reasonable non-Muslims have, instead of coming closer to Islam, adopted an attitude of contempt for it, we should be prepared to take a substantial part of the blame.
In response to the above-mentioned article this writer wrote a letter to the editor of the aforementioned daily. It said:
The article on the above topic published in your paper on July 19th rightly criticised the attitude of those Muslims who think themselves to be immune from the law of the land they are living in. The only point that needs to be clarified – and the writer of the article, perhaps unaware himself, made no efforts to do that – is that this attitude is not approved by Islamic teachings at all. Although Muslims are expected to follow Islam no matter where they live, they have not been allowed to take the law of the land in their own hands. Indeed, they are required to avoid practising those parts of public law which are in conflict with the Divine Law, if the authorities do not insist. If they do despite best efforts to convince them, a Muslim has the option of either heaving the non-Muslim land or reluctantly following the un-Islamic laws as less as possible, if he is convinced that living in an un-Islamic country is an unavoidable necessity. Leaving the country even then would be considered definitely a better course of action.
Resorting to such violent means as would disrupt the peace of the common people, far from being an Islamic way, is punishable, according to the Qur'an, in the severest possible manner. I would therefore request you to ensure that the articles in your paper should not equate the Khomeni brand of religious verdicts with Islamic teachings.