Islam should not be criticised maliciously: Bombay HC
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Last Updated: Wednesday, January 06, 2010, 23:50
Mumbai: Islam or any other religion can be criticised, but a malicious criticism aimed at promoting communal hatred and painting the whole community as villainous is not permissible, Bombay High Court held on Wednesday.

Refusing to interprete Quranic verses, Court however advised that verses must be "correlated", and historical background must be kept in mind when interpreting.

A full bench of the High Court upheld the ban on 'Islam ? A concept of Political World Invasion By Muslims', written by advocate R V Bhasin. Bhasin had challenged the ban, saying that it violated right to freedom of speech.

The book was banned in state government in 2007, on the ground that it contained derogatory remarks about Islam and prophet Mohammad and insulted Muslim sentiments.

The 3-member bench of Justices Ranjana Desai, Dhananjay Chandrachud and R S Mohite held that "In our constitutional set up, everything is open to criticism and religion is no exception to it."

"Every religion, whether it is Islam, Hinduism, Christianity or any other religion, can be criticized... Even if the author is wrong, he has right to be wrong."

But, the judges added, "But what needs to be seen is whether the author has done this exercise bona fide." In Bhasin's case that was not so, court held, saying the book might lead to communal trouble.

Bhasin's controversial book argued that philosophy of Islam encourages terrorism, and does not tolerate those of different faith.

However, court pointed out that in the case of religious scriptures, several interpretations are possible.

"Ayats (Quranic verses) will have to be correlated. Some of the Ayats are indeed strongly worded and appear to have been directed against idol worshipers. Having read the commentaries we feel that perhaps it is possible to urge that they relate to an era when the Muslims were attacked by the Pagans..." the court observed.

"An author has a right to put forth a perspective that a particular religion is not secular," court said, but added that in Bhasin's case, "the criticism is not academic. The author has gone on to pass insulting comments" about Muslims, particularly Indian Muslims.

"If writing is calculated to promote feelings of enmity or hatred it is no defence to a charge under Section 153-A of the IPC (promoting enmity between communities) that the writing contains a truthful account".

Court also observed that the entire community can be painted as villainous... "It cannot be denied that misguided Muslim youth have indulged in acts of terrorism. But misguided youth are in every religion."


First Published: Wednesday, January 06, 2010, 23:50

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