Social media were abuzz with hashtags which were trending in the Sultanate of Oman after the Public Prosecution announced the conviction of the accused in the two offenses of blasphemy committed by them.
I saw the court orders in this regard. I was surprised that such offenses were committed in our country in recent years. This happened even though there was a continuous process of educating people and making them aware and sensitive about the faith.
Believing in Allah, his books, his prophets, the day of the judgement, and good and evil is part of our everyday life. We understand these things in all their details and depths. There is no dispute of any kind about all these elements of the faith. They are taught in all schools, mosques and everywhere and talked about in the media.
All these essential elements of our faith are instilled in the minds of the people. There is no doubt and ambiguity about it. Therefore, there is no space left for anybody to indulge in blasphemy about any gods and faiths under the pretext of meaningless freedom. I was taken by surprise particularly about those who defended these grave crimes which invite wrath of the Almighty. There should not be any mercy for those who cross these red lines.
When we look at these worrisome developments, we find that there is no lacuna left in the value system and whatever is required for their making a common practice. Yet, we are required to look into some of the aspects of guiding day-to-day behaviour so that such incidents of blasphemy are never repeated. Reining in social media is an essential element of any strategy to curb such heinous crimes in future. Whatever has happened, an act of blasphemy does not match with human nature. More awareness and sensitisation is a must through all modern means of media and communication in our country.
More rules, regulations and laws should be formulated to control the media and social media contents and which also should match with the new methods of dealing with public opinion particularly regarding the issues of faiths.
In this context, we have the Basic Law of the State promulgated under Royal Decree No. 6/2021 which criminalises any act of insult to the Almighty and religions. It has emphasised that the Sultanate of Oman is an independent Arab Islamic state with full sovereignty. The article two of the decree affirmed that the religion of the state is Islam and Sharia will be the basis of any legislation. This is because such acts deliberately undermine the pillars of social stability, affect the values of citizens and residents to which they are emotionally attached, and develop religious strife.
The article 289 of the Omani Penal Code issued under the Royal Decree No. 7/2018 stipulates that whosoever commits one of the following acts would be punished with imprisonment for a period of no less than 3 years and not more than 10 years. These acts are insulting the Almighty, the Holy Quran, the Islamic faith, or any of its rituals, or insulting any of the heavenly religions.
We have noticed that the punishment normally given under this law is at the minimum level and not at its maximum, which is 10 years of imprisonment. Any transgression against the Almighty cannot be tolerated so that such punishments should be a clear message to others. The punishment is nothing compared with the harm caused by the crime. It is a serious threat to societal security and stability. No violation against faiths and religions is tolerated in the name of freedom of expression anywhere in the world. The red lines should be clear and the younger generation should adhere to it.