Ebrahim Moosa speaks at Elon University and discusses blasphemy and violence in Islam

Video, Photo and Article by Erin Valentine

Blasphemy and violence are becoming an upsetting normality in Islam.

Ebrahim Moosa, professor of religion and Islamic studies at Duke University, came to Elon University on Friday to discuss the issues and arguments surrounding recent issues in the Muslim world.

Dr. Ebrahim Moosa speaks at Elon University

Ebrahim Moosa speaks at Elon University

As part of the 2013 South Atlantic States Association of Asian and Africa Studies Meeting on the theme “Religion and Violence in Asia & Africa,” Moosa talked with scholars and undergraduates in the McBride Gathering Space in the Numen Lumen Pavilion.

“Among Muslim communities, both political and religious figures compete with each other in order to contend the teaching of Islam and sustain the legitimacy among their respective audiences,” said Moosa. “In combustible political environments, this becomes risky.”

Moosa recounted past events relating to uprisings about blasphemy in Islam. He referenced events, such as the burning of the Qur’an in Florida to the cartoons published in a Danish newspaper to Salman Rushdie’s novel, which some Muslims believe contains blasphemous references.

These events have caused uprisings throughout the worldwide community of  1.6 billion Muslims, according to the Pew Research Center as of 2010.

Courtesy of Pew Research Center

Courtesy of Pew Research Center

Unfortunately, the declaration of a blasphemous act has been used in the past as a form of vengeance, especially in smaller towns.

“This has become an inter-Muslim form of harassment,” said Moosa. “If someone is angry at somebody else, and you have a vendetta, all you need to say is ‘So-and-so committed an act of disrespect to the Qur’an.’ You don’t have to bring any proof, just announce it.”

Moosa mentioned that hisbah law, which is the upholding of life to the laws of Allah, has been taken by some Muslims to mean that any person on the street can act as the moral agitator if they feel there is a problem.

This, among other issues, has brought violence and misunderstanding to Muslim communities.

“The most powerful thing, and for the undergraduates here, that you might want to remember, that there is no church,” said Moosa. “But there is this powerful, diverse, discursive tradition. And no one person controls it.”


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