Earlier this week, the Kuwaiti parliament voted to institute the death penalty against any Muslim who is judged by Islamic clerics to have insulted God.

As medieval as this may sound to the ears of the Western non-Muslim, the threat is real and the target is the millions of Muslims, like me, who are fed up with the clerics who have sucked the joy out of our lives for centuries.

The tradition of silencing dissident Muslims by beheading them is not new; its most famous victim was beheaded in Baghdad over a 1,000 years ago and the most recent ones are the victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Today, at the Toronto Public Library on Palmerston Street, a group of Muslims are going to say “Enough is enough.” They will honour a 21st century Muslim reformer in the name of a 10th century Muslim rebel who died for speaking the truth. This will be their rebuke to the Kuwaiti parliament.

The celebrated and controversial Canadian author Irshad Manji will receive the first “Mansoor Hallaj Freedom of Speech Award” by the Muslim Canadian Congress.

So who is Mansoor Hallaj?

Hallaj was a Persian mystic Sufi saint who had rebelled against the hierarchy of the Sufi Orders and had taken his message to the masses, making enemies in high places.

His indiscretions crossed the limits when he would fall into trances claiming he was near God himself. It was during one of these trances that he uttered the words, “Ana al-Haqq,” or “I am the Truth.” His naysayers claimed this chant meant Hallaj was claiming to be God, though he never said anything of this sort.

As his popularity against the decaying orthodoxy of the caliphate increased among ordinary Muslims, he was accused of sorcery that they said he had picked up after a visit to distant India. He was asked to recant and stay silent, but Hallaj would not and could not be silenced.

The caliph did what he did best — sent the Sufi saint to an 11-year imprisonment in a Baghdad dungeon.

That isolation gave further credence to Hallaj and his following among dissidents and rebels grew enormously. The mullahs and imams insisted that the caliph have him beheaded to end the “sorcerer’s” magical incantations.

When imprisonment did not silence him, on March 25, 922, Mansoor Hallaj was given a public trial and a death sentence was pronounced. As a last warning, the caliph had his arms chopped off and the stumps that remained were dipped in burning tar. He was given the night to ponder about his future and recant if he wished to live.

The next morning as the sun rose over Baghdad, the caliph approached Hallaj who was tied to a post and asked him to recant. Hallaj is said to have spat on the ground.

That was it. Moments later Mansoor Hallaj was no more; his head was sliced off and rolled down the bridge.

Popular myths arose that even when Hallaj was beheaded, his head kept repeating the words. “Ana al-Haqq … I am the truth.”

Since that day, no Muslim group has dared celebrate the man who died for the truth. Except today in Toronto when Irshad Manji receives the award named after the 10th century Sufi saint.

Join us this evening at the Toronto Library on Palmerston St. as we stand tall in the face of medieval madness.