Why Do Muslims Behead People?

Are the brutal beheadings done by ISIS fanatics connected with their religion?

Douglas Murray, writing here at the Spectator discusses the reluctance of any of the intelligentsia to discuss the reason for the barbarism of radical Muslims. Murray was on a BBC discussion program with a group of intellectuals who were debating the deteriorating situation in Iraq. Murray tried to make the point that there was a real link between the Islamic religion and violence.

I was once again struck – in a discussion in what remains a free country with a right of free speech – by the desperate efforts to not explore, indeed to shut down, discussion heading in one particular direction.

Myriam, as ever, remained insistent on the oft-repeated line that the bad guys are ‘misinterpreting’ Islam. But it was Lord Winston’s attempt to stop any linkage between the actions of groups like ISIS and the religion of Islam which struck me far more. Lord Winston is a scientist. In any other sphere he would be eager to follow a trail of thought, evidence, discovery and logic. But not here. ‘It’s not to do with Islam’ he scolded Ann Leslie and then me. ‘This is not a British problem and it’s not an Islamic problem either.’ True, it’s not only any one of those things. But it is partly those things, isn’t it?

Towards the end I made the point I keep trying to make – which is that although the radicals like the murderer of James Foley have what is obviously the worst interpretation of Islam, it is nevertheless a plausible interpretation.

Yes, yes, we all agree that the majority of Muslims are nice, kind people who don’t cut people’s heads off. However, Murray makes the point that the be-headings are warranted by Islamic Scriptures and by the example of the prophet Mohammed himself. He admits that the problem is complex, but at least part of the reason Muslim fanatics behead their enemies is because the Koran tells them to. Murray continues:

Surely one part of the reason beheading is chosen – if not the major part – is the fact that the Qu’ran has verses telling believers, in certain circumstances, that this is the appropriate way to kill those who are not Muslim? Is this not an important point? What about the fact that the founder of Islam himself engaged in such acts? There will be those who say I am making this up, so I suppose I ought to refer people to the sources.

I open one of my copies of the Qu’ran (Arberry translation, OUP) and read Chapter 8 (‘The Spoils [of war]’). Verse 12 has God saying:

‘I shall cast into the unbelievers’ hearts terror; so smite above the necks, and smite every finger of them.’

Now a lot of Muslims in my experience do not know such verses are there – they are as ignorant of the actual details of the Qu’ran as many Christians are of the contents of the Bible. Others simply deny it is there because they are taught about God as all-loving and all-merciful and they would rather ignore or deny that the same God seems both quick to anger and somewhat bloodthirsty afterwards. The extremists, on the other hand, know it is there, often cite it and believe they are doing what Allah has instructed them to do when they perform such savageries.

Furthermore, the example of Mohammed himself is one of terror. He was a warrior who slaughtered many of his enemies. As someone has commented, “Why are we surprised at violence in Islam considering the example of their founding prophet?” Murray observes:

Muslims are brought up to believe that the founder of their faith was the perfect human being – a man to be revered and indeed emulated. So what do they do when they read the early accounts of their prophet’s life and discover that among his exploits in war was the beheading of hundreds of Jewish men of the Banu Qurayza tribe? I’ve just been flicking through my copies of the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad). Plucking at random, what do Muslims do when they come across advice like that in the authoritative collection by Bukhari which includes (in ‘The Book of Jihad’) an answer to the question ‘If a pagan burnt a Muslim, should he be burnt?’ Of one such a group who displeased Muhammad we learn: ‘He (The Prophet) had their hands and feet cut off. Then he ordered that nails should be heated and passed over their eyes, and they were left in the rocky land of Medina. They asked for water, but none provided them with water till they died.’ [3018]

Which brings me to ask. Is Christianity simply superior to the Islamic religion? Continue Reading

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