Actor Christian Bale’s recent comments describing Moses as “schizophrenic” and “barbaric” riled some Jewish and Christian faithful who voiced their displeasure online. Despite the criticism, the Oscar winner’s words about a key figure of the Old Testament highlight the suffering those who have insulted the Muslim Prophet Muhammad have endured.
Those accused of insulting the Islamic prophet in the Muslim world — not even going as far as calling him barbaric or suffering from mental illness — have faced death penalties, fatwas and outright extrajudicial executions.
The human rights group Amnesty International has blasted institutionalized punishment under blasphemy laws where criticism of religion is considered a criminal act.
A Pakistani court last week upheld a blasphemy conviction for a Christian mother of five who was convicted in 2010 of making derogatory comments about Mohammed during an argument with coworkers on a farm. Aasia Bibi said she would appeal the conviction. Two prominent politicians were assassinated for defending her in 2011, NBC News reported.
In September, an Iranian blogger was sentenced to death after being convicted of insulting the Muslim prophet on Facebook. The British newspaper the Independent reported that Soheil Arabi, 30, described as being in “poor psychological condition” was arrested with his wife last November by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps agents.
Also in Iran, the Guardian reported in September that authorities executed a man convicted of insulting the prophet Jonah and independently interpreting the Koran.
Human rights activists said that Mohsen Amir-Aslani, 37, was arrested nine years ago on accusations of heresy. His family said he conducted psychotherapy sessions and offered his own interpretations of the Koran, including describing the story of prophet Jonah as a symbolic tale. He was hanged in September.
In Syria, jihadist militants fatally shot a 14-year-old boy after the boy reportedly had made a joke that referred to Muhammad.
Mohammed Qataa’s mother later told the Telegraph that her son was targeted over the joke. When one of the hardline Islamist rebels asked for a cup of coffee from the family shop for which he would pay later, the boy said according to his mother, good-humoredly: “I wouldn’t give the Prophet Muhammad credit if he came here today.”
The men beat up Nadia Umm Fuad’s son, then shouted to bystanders the warning, “Anyone who curses God is given three days to repent. Anyone who curses the prophet is killed immediately.” The boy was then shot three times.
Following the production of the 2012 film “Innocence of Muslims,” which was considered insulting to Islam, thousands of protesters in the Islamic world poured into the streets, while a Salafist Egyptian cleric issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to take the law into their own hands and kill those involved in the film.
The terrorism monitoring organization SITE Intelligence Group quoted cleric Ahmad Fouad Ashoush at the time as saying: “I issue a fatwa and call on the Muslim youth in America and Europe to do this duty, which is to kill the director, the producer and the actors and everyone who helped and promoted the film.”
Blogger Aussie Dave of the blog Israellycool on Sunday pointed out the different treatment understood for those who insult Jewish and Christian figures as opposed to Muslim ones.
“Insulting perhaps the greatest Jew who ever lived will certainly not hurt his career, and there will be no consequences. But imagine for a second he had made that statement about the prophet of another, certain religion. From Batman to Fatwa,” observed Israellycool.