A self-identified Birmingham Muslim has told the BBC that those who “insult Islam” should be subject to the death penalty, during a discussion on blasphemy organised by the broadcaster’s Asian Network.
On March 17th, the BBC Asian Network broadcast a programme asking listeners, “What is the right punishment for blasphemy?”
Presenter Shazia Awan framed the discussion in the context of Pakistan cracking down on blasphemy on Facebook, with the social media giant’s willing assistance. The Islamic Republic still puts blasphemers to death, and many accused of the so-called crime are murdered by angry mobs and even state officials such as prison guards.
Awan takes a particularly striking call from a caller from Birmingham named Wajid Ali, who begins with a warm greeting to “the BBC listeners”.
“Than you for joining us; such a warm friendly hello from you!” says Awan, before asking him his views on “the right punishment for blasphemy”.
“Islamically,” replies Wajid, “if somebody insults Islam, that is a capital punishment [offence].”
“But Wajid, do you think that there is just an argument for freedom of speech? Should people just be able to say and write what they want? We are in 2017, we’d like to think we’re a liberal, modern society,” she responds, clearly taken aback.
“Yes Shazia, I mean, you’re asking a Muslim. As a Muslim I would say that if a person commits blasphemy, they should have capital punishment.”
“You agree that if somebody commits blasphemy that they should be sentenced to death?”
“Absolutely, as a Muslim,” he confirms matter of factly.