Muslim fanatics have struck yet again! From what we know so far, two masked gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar (God is great)” entered the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris and opened fire, horrifically killing at least 12 people in the process. All this, because they made some satirical cartoons about Prophet Mohammed.
Just when you think that the world cannot get any more insane, you receive heart shattering news that the terrorists have more to offer. And yet again, yet again I find myself in an awkward position because the murderers happen to share my faith that I hold so dear.
I find myself in this position of clarifying that this gruesome act is not what my faith enjoins (in mere hope that I can change someone’s mind), not what my holy book – Quran enjoins, but is the ill doing of 3 fanatic Muslims who are more troubled by satirical depictions of Prophet Mohammed, than the image they’re going to give out to the world about Islam by committing such a horrific crime.
Where to start? What to say? Puzzlingly, I have so much to say, so much anger to vent out, yet words defeat me.
To misguided Muslims, please stop. Do you see the result of upholding the erroneous belief of persecuting people just so that your delicate religious sentiments won’t get hurt? Are they really so delicate, so fragile? To hell with such potentially dangerous beliefs, then!
In absolutely clear words, warranting no discussion, the Quran never enjoins people to murder or persecute those who mock Islam or any of its precepts. On the contrary, it advises us to resolve such issues either through peaceful and civil dialogue, or by simply ignoring such remarks.
Anti-Blasphemy laws, quite ironically, are themselves a blasphemy to the message of the Quran. Not in the popular usage of that word, but because they violate the very instructions the scripture gives regarding freedom of expression (Quran 2:256, 10:99, 18:29, 109:6).
But, when I discuss the subject of blasphemy with some Muslims who deem anti-blasphemy laws as a part & parcel of Islam, the response is always the same: “Hold on. If someone mocks my religion, it prompts me to take action. You see, it makes me very emotional.”
By all means, take action. But, does it have to be violent?
No, the Quran insists.
“When you see them engaged in vain discourse about Our Signs, turn away from them unless they engage in a different subject. If Satan ever makes you forget (i.e. your mind gets engrossed in their discourse,) then as soon as you recollect, no longer sit in the company of the people who confound the truth with falsehood.” – Quran 6:68
Please take note. Far from persecuting or killing people who mock Islam, Muslims are advised to simply withdraw from such a discourse, and quite revealingly, join the gathering back, if they happen to change the subject. Certainly that means we’re not even supposed to harbor ill-feeling or enmity towards them, let alone kill them!
And, again, Quran 28:55 instructs, “Whenever they (believers) hear vain talk of ridicule, they withdraw from it decently and say, ‘“To us our deeds and to you yours; Peace be upon you, we do not seek to join the ignorant.”
Whatever happened to such golden advice given in the Quran regarding freedom of expression, the book we hold so dear, Muslims?
Ironically, we find that in the Quran, persecuting others for different religious beliefs was done by those who opposed the messengers, either by threatening to imprison or stone them (Quran, 21:68, 26:49, 26:116). Yet, such beliefs espoused by the ardent enemies of the messengers are guised in the cloak of Islam, to shut down debate and rationality.
The correct way to counter biased narratives is to put forward a better narrative, never to persecute the people who espouse it! If someone depicts Prophet Mohammad as a war-monger, or a pedophile, or whatever else, persecuting them only helps cementing that point. After all, force is only used under frustration, when there is simply no rational answer to offer. Perhaps more energy needs to be devoted to first studying the faith that you so want to defend?
What is rather more curious, in my opinion, is that Muslims who are deeply offended by the satirical depictions of Prophet Mohammad never say a word when such depictions are made on Islam’s other messengers – namely, Moses, Jesus, or Abraham for that matter. But, why? The Prophet never claimed to be a pedestal higher than other messengers. In fact, he said that he simply follows the religion of Prophet Abraham (Quran, 12:38), and that he is a human being just like anyone else (Quran, 41:6)! Or, to put it more precisely,
“I am no different from the other messengers, nor do I know what will happen to me or to you. I only follow what is inspired to me. I am no more than a clear warner.” Quran, 46:9
Why this special treatment then, this sudden outrage when it comes to him, when the Quran clearly tells us not to make any distinctions between messengers (Quran, 2:285)?
The answer to that is that some Muslims, in their ignorance of the Quran, and unknowingly perhaps, elevate Prophet Mohammad as a demi-god of some sort. That since he is the only prophet that is exclusive to Muslims, we must revere him more to “stand out from the rest”. A sense of identity certainly plays a role here, and it must have played a role in history, when Muslims were first fighting with Christian Byzantines, and later, the largely Christian West.
But, ultimately, such special reverence results in hypocrisy and double standards towards all the messengers appointed by God.
However, even then, the idea that the Prophet Mohammad cannot be depicted is a new one. In history, we find many examples to the contrary. And what is so wrong in that? After all, he was a human being! If the argument is that depictions of Prophet Mohammad will lead to idolatry; well, in that case, we’re still left with a “tangible” religious symbol in the form of the Quran. Banning all tangible forms of religious symbols should never be the solution in maintaining monotheism, rather the solution is to promote a rationalist Islam that would curb such tendencies.
Having said all that, it pains me, as a Muslim, to counter such hateful acts done in the name of Islam and Prophet Mohammad. Prophet Mohammad, who despite being thrown trash at day in & day out from an old lady, went to look for her when she didn’t cross his path that particular day.
Prophet Mohammad, who despite being called insane, a sorcerer, and all sorts of other insults throughout his life, never persecuted anybody for it, even when he gained power towards the end of his career. Rather, to me my religion and to you yours (Quran 109:6) was his ultimate motto that some contemporary Muslims have failed to recognize and appreciate.
I say this, and I say this with the utmost certainty, that if the Prophet Mohammad were to come here today, such fanatic Muslims would persecute him too! What, for one thing, his message was one of freedom of belief & expression, and some Muslims are just not all too ready for that.
Our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased.
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