On February 23, Muhammad Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress and Syed Soharwardy of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada told the Toronto Star they want to see changes in Canada's Hate Laws that would make it possible to jail writers who, in their opinion, insult or mock religious beliefs.
Both Mohamed Elmasry and Syed Soharwardy are asking for changes in Canada's hate laws "so that offensive remarks or depictions of any religious figure are considered a crime."
Their demand has its origins in Egypt, where Islamists led by Sheikh Mohammed Tantawi of al-Azhar University have been lobbying Muslim leaders to ask the United Nations to write a law that "condemns insulting any religion, including the Holy Scriptures and the prophets."
The Muslim Canadian Congress questions the motives behind this initiative. Such a law can only be effective if it also includes a ban on accusations of blasphemy and apostasy by Muslim clerics; a tool used in many Muslim countries to silence political opponents. Today, writers in Iran, Jordan and Yemen, are among 11 Muslim journalists in five Muslim countries facing prosecution for printing some of the cartoons.
Any law that makes it an offence to insult or mock religion, must also allow for a respectful and healthy critique of any religion, religious leader and even religious texts. Also, the law should ensure that such a critique does not lead to imprisonment or death threats by governments, religious institutions or religious vigilantes.
Niaz Salimi, President,
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