Answered by Shaykh Gibril F Haddad
Wa `alaykum as-Salam:
(The article in question was titled "Nigeria's Ugly Pageant.")
The offending column of the journalist does not constitute evidence of blasphemy nor prove guilt for other than poor taste and Yes, due procedure is required in any case. Including hearing, examination, sentence, conviction, possible execution, all of which the responsibility of the accredited authorities.
"Intention of the contemnor [of the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa-Alihi wa-Sallam] must be ascertained before his conviction. Mere fact that the words uttered are contemptuous of the Prophet [upon him blessings and peace] is not an offence until it is based on malicious action or degradation. The meaning and import of words differ from place to place. Again[,] context may also suggest different meaning. It is, therefore, after the explanation that the court can decide whether the words were intended to malign and were used contemptuously or were uttered innocently."
Anwarullah, _Criminal Law of Islam_ (Brunei: Ministry of Religious Affairs, 1995) p. 223.
The procedure that was clearly violated by the gung-ho fatwa (by unaccredited authorities) was inability to adduce the unmistakable proof of blasphemy. Otherwise, you would have to convict the Muslims, one donning the garb of shaykhhood, heard affirming that if the Prophet, upon him peace, lived in our times "he would be wearing blue jeans" and other such nonsense.
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