As an expat Pakistani child raised in Saudi Arabia, I grew up surrounded by Islam, but it certainly didn’t look like what we see in the media today. In our house, Islam was about love, forgiveness, showing kindness and mercy. It was flexible, it was fluid and most importantly I was told that it should move with the times. Many adherents do not see it this way and the ‘correct’ interpretation will always be up for debate, of course. But there is room, for those who seek it, to look past the rigid stuff, to turn away from the violence, the punishments. It is possible to show the world a better side.Why aren’t more Muslim communities stepping up to do it? 

In childhood, I heard many examples of how the Prophet was most merciful, even to his enemies and those who wronged him. I was told that Allah is gracious and forgiving.Yet this is not the impression of Islam and Muslims I get when I look at the current world around me. There is very little forgiveness and very little mercy.

Don’t you think it’s time to step up and show people otherwise? This is the responsibility of Muslims, and no one else. 

It is our communities that ask to be coddled and infantilized; that ask for special rules to spare our feelings because we cannot be trusted to react to offence in a mature manner.

Our hearts swell with compassion for Palestine, for ‘Muslim’ suffering, for those supposedly radicalized by some fault of the West. Our empathy rarely extends to those who are deemed to be of the opposite camp, in the same way. Or to those said to be ‘blasphemers’, for whatever small fault they may have committed.

It is our people that escape the lack of freedom and harsh life in so many Muslim countries by immigrating to the West. Once there, we try to impose the same lack of freedom, and cry ‘racist’ when our demands are not met. This is especially unfortunate for those of us who face actual racism and bigotry, because this real suffering is diluted by our own constant cries of wolf. 

When someone is beheaded or shot or lashed in the name of our creator, we first scramble to see how we can shift the blame and what kind of foreign conspiracy we can turn this into. We disassociate and say 'those were not our people', we say ‘why should we apologize for the actions of others?’

No rational person asks all Muslims to apologize for the random actions of other Muslims, but when this is all happening in the name of the collective faith, others have a right to ask us why, and to ask us what it is in the faith that justifies this. This is not comparable to the child abuse scandal within Catholicism because that abuse was not happening in the name of the doctrine. If people were quoting scripture to justify the abuse, perhaps we could compare the two.

If violence happens over and over again, in the name of the faith, the faith will be scrutinized. We are the ones who appear defensive and insecure when we say, 'don’t point the finger at us; don’t question our ideas.’ 

Speaking of ideas, Saudi Arabia is flogging Raif Badawi for something he wrote online. All in the name of the religion my parents so lovingly brought me up in. It seems unreal. I wasn’t flogged at home even once for my insolent questions, I can assure you. Was our household not operating as an accurate microcosm of Shariah? And if not, why not? 

I am addressing you today for one reason alone – and that is to rise and show the world at large, what Muslim compassion looks like. How many Muslims have shown outrage over the lashings this man is getting for blogging? Have the communities put as much effort into denouncing this as they did the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo? There is global condemnation, of course, but Muslim outrage is fresh out of stock. Spent on condemning cartoonists that have paid for the crime of ‘disrespect' with their lives. 

However, in the wake of the tragedy in Paris, Saudi Arabia showed solidarity with free speech by having an official representative present in the #JeSuisCharlie march. But how can Saudi Arabia participate in a march for free speech, when someone is being lashed in Jeddah for their ‘free speech’?

This is a question that needs answering. Consistency is important.Perhaps it is time to comb out the knots in our thinking. 

The world isn’t seeing a great response from Saudis to what Raif Badawi has to endure for his crime of writing. Public lashings in the 21st century;where are the mass cries for justice?

Of course, this silence might be a symptom of fear. Even Raif’s lawyer has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for associating himself with this case – who then will have the courage to step up?

Those of us who don’t live in Saudi can speak.More Muslims and Muslim leaders can condemn this. There has been an impact even though very few Muslims have stood up for this cause. Yesterday we heard the King himself referred Raif’s case to the Supreme Court for re-examination. This is a great step in terms of this case.Many of us are hoping that Raif can get a pardon.

The world is looking at Saudi Arabia to do the right thing. But the right thing would be to not have such punishments in place at all. The right thing would be for all Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia to introspect and look at the multitude of issues caused by blasphemy laws. The right thing would be to show the world Muslim compassion. All Muslims can play a role in this. 

Whatever crime you think he may have committed, please let that be between him and Allah, the most merciful. 

Please let the world see, dear Muslims, that your faith is strong enough to endure questions, writing, drawing. 

Below are some words of inspiration from the Holy Quran, find it in yourself to raise your voice for justice, to value each precious life. It is time to do good, to pardon, to make allowances for people and to control rage. 

"Make allowances for people, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant.”

 (Surat Al-A‘raf, 199)

“Those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people – Allah loves the good-doers."

 (Surat Al ‘Imran, 134)

End blasphemy laws.

#Free Raif

Eiynah is the author of children’s book ‘My Chacha is Gay’ and is a blogger/illustrator on the topic of sexuality in Pakistan. She dreams of a progressive motherland. Follow her on Twitter