A Maryland-based mosque held a memorial celebration Sunday for an Islamist assassin who was convicted of murdering a Pakistani governor for criticizing the country’s blasphemy laws.
The Gulzar E Madina mosque hosted an “Urs” for convicted murderer Mumtaz Qadri, reported Ehsan Rehan of the Rabwah Times, a Pakistan-based news agency. Urs is a traditional death anniversary usually reserved for Sufi saints celebrated by Muslims in South Asia.
A Pakistani high court charged Qadri with murder after he killed Salman Taseer, the former governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province. Qadri, who was part of Taseer’s bodyguard, shot him 27 times with an AK-47 assault rifle in the middle of a market in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Qadri surrendered to police immediately, Taseer died of his wounds.
Qadri said he killed Taseer in response to the governor’s defense of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted of blaspheming the prophet Muhammad after an argument erupted when she brought water to a female Muslim coworker.
Qadri was subsequently sentenced to death and executed, sparking protests by Islamist groups across Pakistan. More than 100,000 people reportedly attended the assassin’s funeral.
Rabwah reported that dozens of people, including children, attended the memorial event in Maryland, which included speakers who defended Qadri’s actions.
“Whoever disrespects the Holy Prophet Muhammad is worthy of death, and even if disrespects indirectly he is worthy of death. Even if someone asks for forgiveness it is not acceptable,” said one unidentified speaker, according to Rabwah.
Baltimore-based Islamic cleric Ijaz Hussain was also in attendance. He praised U.S. religious freedom, but denied that Qadri was a terrorist.
“We have some freedoms here [in the U.S.] which we do not even have in other Muslim countries, this is the beauty of this country. There are some countries where we can’t even praise the prophet, we can’t celebrate the Day of Imam Hussain, this country has freedom of religion and this is the beauty of this country,” said Hussain. “Mumtaz Qadri was not a terrorist and whoever says ‘We are with you O Prophet’ cannot be a terrorist.”
New Jersey-based Islamic scholar Syed Saad Ali asked the crowd why they did not come to the aid of Qadri after his arrest.
“Warrior Mumtaz Qadri kissed the noose in love for Prophet Muhammad. When Qadri was in jail for 5 years what did we do? What effort did we make [for his release],” asked the scholar. “Why did we not go where he was being held? Qadri did everything for us, and for the love of Islam and we could not even stand by him. People say Islam teaches peace … I say Islam teaches us Ghairat [Honor] who will now stand up?”
Some Muslims took to Facebook to condemn the mosque’s decision to honor Qadri.
“Disgusting event on Sunday. I’m a Muslim and you do not represent me,” said Sahar Shafqat in a comment on the mosque’s Facebook page. “You should be deeply ashamed of yourselves.”
“This is disgusting,” said Salman Faridi, who also posted a picture of the flyer advertising the event.
The Gulzar E Madina mosque did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment by the given Friday afternoon deadline.
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