Can violence truly defend Islam? By Mustafa Akyol

Image

Alas, it happened again. An extremist Muslim attacked a Westerner to punish him for mocking Islam. This time, the victim was the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, whose controversial caricature of the Prophet Muhammad had sparked a worldwide storm five years ago. A 28-year-old man of Somali origin broke into the cartoonist’s home a few weeks ago, wielding an axe and a knife.
“We will get our revenge,” he reportedly yelled, before being shot by the police and taken into custody.
Westergaard, who had the chance to run into the “panic room” in his house, luckily survived. And I hope he will not face anything like this again. As a Muslim, I too had found his caricature, which depicted the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a fuse, offensive.
But I also believe that being offended by someone does not give you the right to attack him or her.
Yet a minority among Muslims think differently. After the publishing of Westergaard’s caricature in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005, along with 11 others, some Muslim reactions proved to be quite militant. Danish embassies in Damascus, Beirut and Tehran were set on fire by protesters. Other protesters marched in London carrying posters with bold suggestions such as, “Butcher those who mock Islam” or “Slay those who insult Islam.”
Well, there is a strange irony here, right? First, some non-Muslims depict Islam as a violent religion. Then some angry Muslims go violent to protest against it. Their very actions, in other words, prove the very criticism raised against them.
Therefore, it is necessary to sort this issue out not only for the lives of people like Westergaard, but also for the dignity of Islam. So, let me offer a few thoughts.
First, here is a question: Why are those angry Muslims who wish to “butcher those who mock Islam” obsessed with the mockery of the Prophet Muhammad, but not other prophets (such as Abraham or Moses) and, more importantly, the mockery of God?
Yes, contemporary Western culture is, unfortunately, full of themes that make fun of God, and the prophets of the Judeo-Christian tradition who are holy for Islam as well. From a strictly theological point of view, the most offensive among all these should be insults raised against God. As for the prophets, they should all be equally revered, because the Qur'an describes Muslims as “those who believe in God and His messengers and make no distinction between any of them” (4:152).
I am not trying to say that mockeries against God or other prophets should be replied to with militancy. I am just wondering whether the zeal behind the exclusive focus on the Prophet Muhammad is really rooted in faith. To me, it seems to be more rooted in some form of Muslim nationalism–a defence of “us” and “our religion” against “them.”
Secondly, let me ask this: How do those militant Muslims who wish to “slay those who insult Islam” know that this is the Islamic thing to do?
The common answer is given by referring to a few narratives about the life of Prophet Muhammad, which report incidents like the execution of two specific prisoners of war, who were satirical poets, after a battle the early Muslims had with pagans. But there are other narratives telling that he forgave such anti-Islamic propagandists of his time.
Moreover, all these narratives about the life of the Prophet, the earliest of which were written a century and a half after his death, are full of puzzles, contradictions and myths, and it is often very hard to put them in the right context. What they will mean for the context of the modern world is another challenging question. (The Prophet, after all, was a man of his time.)
On the other hand, the Qur'an is the only single disputed source for all Muslims, and it has nothing that suggests an earthly punishment for the mockers of Islam. Moreover, it has an interesting verse that commands Muslims: “When ye hear the revelations of Allah rejected and derided, sit not with them until they engage in some other conversation. Lo! in that case (if ye stayed) ye would be like unto them.” (4:140).
What I see here is a civilised form of disapproval: Muslims are not supposed to be a part of a discourse that mocks Islam. All they have to do is stay away from it. And even then, that is only until the discourse changes. Once mockery ends, dialogue can restart. (By the way, this verse is from a “Medinan” chapter. It, in other words, comes from a phase in which Muslims had military power.)
If we apply this principle to the modern world, we can say that Muslims can boycott anti-Islamic rhetoric by refusing to join conversations, buy newspapers or watch films and plays that mock the values of their faith.
But that’s it. Disapproving and boycotting is the Muslim thing to do, whereas violence and threats are not.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of Muslims already take this peaceful way. The problem is with the extremist minority who believe in glorifying Islam with violence. Little do they realise that their mindless militancy mocks our faith more than any cartoonist ever could.

###

* Mustafa Akyol is a writer and columnist based in Istanbul. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from the author.

You May Also Like

Image

October 27th: The Tyranny Continues in Kashmir. By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

October 27 marks the beginning of Indian Occupation of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It is forever scarred in the collective minds o

Image

Christianity should question healthcare system in USA. By Hem Raj Jain

It is a matter of great satisfaction and pleasure for all the people in and of the USA that President Donald Trump has recovered from Corona-virus

Image

After emerging Sunni-Ayatollah led PDM’s threat, institutional reaction of Pak police against Army will be dangerous game changer. By Hem Raj Jain

Sindh Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Mahar has merely deferred his own leave and has asked his officers to set aside their leave applications

"Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation" By Nazir S Bhatti

On demand of our readers, I have decided to release E-Book version of "Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation" on website of PCP which can also be viewed on website of Pakistan Christian Congress www.pakistanchristiancongress.org . You can read chapter wise by clicking tab on left handside of PDF format of E-Book.

nazirbhattipcc@aol.com , pakistanchristianpost@yahoo.com