In a refreshing twist on blasphemy sentences from the Middle East, three Lebanese teenagers who were charged with insulting Christianity have been given the unusual sentence of studying the references to the Virgin Mary found in the Qur'an.
It is relatively little-known that Muslims believe in the Virgin
birth of Jesus Christ. And in a move that is being hailed as a
progressive step towards interfaith relations, a Christian judge,
Joceline Matta, found the Muslim boys guilty of 'contempt of religion'
for insulting Mary.
The charge covers verbal insults or physical
defiling of religious rites and objects and can be punishable by up to
three years in prison.
But delivering her sentence last week, the
Justice said that she wanted the teenagers to learn about Islam's
reverence for the mother of Christ, calling the law 'a school and not
just a prison'.
The Independent pointed
out that Islam also regards Jesus as a major prophet of Allah, and Mary
is honoured in several Islamic texts, including the Al-Omran surah,
which reads: 'And [mention] when the angels said, "O Mary, indeed Allah
has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the
Judge Matta pointed out that a chapter of the Quran is
named after Mary, showing revealed the boys' ignorance of their own
The three teenagers must now learn verses from the Al-Omran surah in order to be released, she said.
prime minister Saad Hariri said the sentence was the 'epitome of
justice' and promotes co-existence between Muslims and Christians
together through the 'teaching of common ideas'.
1975-1990 civil war, which killed an estimated 120,000 people, Lebanon
was torn apart by sectarian violence between various Muslim, Christian
and Druze factions.
Under the country's constitution, which
emphasises religious harmony, the president must be a Maronite
Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of
parliament a Shiite Muslim.