"All India Muslim Personal Law Board" Seeks New Blasphemy Law

Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD) issued a statement dismissing the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). On November 21, around 200 members of AIMPLB gathered in a 2-day convention in Kanpur, a city in Uttar Pradesh, India.

The AIMPLB is an NGO that works closely with the Indian government to promote the “retention and implementation of the Shariat Act.” It’s quasi-governmental role is to interpret and advise the government on matters relating to the Muslim Personal Law, particularly matter relating to marriage, inheritance, and adoption. The group’s objectives also include excluding Muslims from any laws or state legislatures that “directly or indirectly amount to interference” of the Shariat Act. The AIMPLB is conservative Muslim body that has been heavily criticized for it’s regressive approach, including prohibiting the Ahmadiyya community, a heavily persecuted minority sect, from participating in the organization.

During the November convention, AIMPLB demanded the Indian government to enact another blasphemy law that exclusively covers “those who show disrespect to Prophet Mohammad.” They also discouraged the government from “imposing the Uniform Civil Code, directly or indirectly.”

The resolution adopted by AIMPLB during their convention aims to “curbs against communal and hostile posts on social media and legal action against miscreants.”

IMSD, a group of progressive Muslims, condemns AIMPLB’s demands for another blasphemy law through a public statement. The statement has been endorsed by more than 400 individuals, mostly Muslims.

According to IMSD’s statement, elements of Hindutva (Hindu-Nationalists) are actively influencing Muslim communities to “demonize Islam and Muslims.” IMSD clarified that they support “the principle that there can be no place for a law criminalizing blasphemy in a secular State.” Instead of demanding another blasphemy law, IMSD asked AIMPLB to “take recourse to the already existing law against hate speech in our country.”

IMSD highlighted the current laws in India against hate speech. Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code imposes up to three years in prison and a fine for anyone “with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings.” 

IMSD emphasized that as equal citizens, Indian Muslims have the right to invoke Section 295 A against hate speech or any “attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs.”

The group also highlighted the current blasphemy laws enforced in Pakistan and Bangladesh. “AIMPLB cannot be unaware of the notorious blasphemy law in neighboring Pakistan, which is frequently misused to hound individuals from religious minorities,” IMSD argued.

They also pointed out Bangladesh’s adoption of Islam as the state religion, which created a punitive atmosphere towards religious minorities. According to IMSD, the government often uses secular laws to promote religious agendas, creating an atmosphere of religiously-inspired violence.

IMSD made headlines in August when the group openly criticized Muslims who were supportive of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. The group’s statement rejected the “idea of a theocratic state anywhere in the world.”

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