The Murders at #CharlieHebdo

The Murders at #CharlieHebdo January 7, 2015

Anyone who has seen the cartoons published in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo will know that they were deeply shocking and offensive.

But no one deserves to die for being offensive.

It isn’t satirical cartoonists who dishonor Muhammad. It is people who kill satirical cartoonists in his name.

According to Islamic tradition, when Muhammad and his followers returned to Mecca, from which they had earlier been driven out, rather than slaughter those who had persecuted and dishonored them, Muhammad granted them amnesty.

The murderers of those who were in the offices at Charlie Hebdo today seem not to know what Muhammad is supposed to have been like.

If drawing insulting pictures deserves death, then murdering innocent people in Muhammad’s name deserves death a hundred times more.

And if killing in the name of Muhammad, and so dishonoring his name, does not deserve death, then drawing a picture of him, however insulting, deserves death a hundred times less.


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  • histrogeek

    Some of Muhammad’s enemies in Mecca even became leading members of the Muslim community after the surrender of Mecca. Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan helped transcribe the Qur’an even though both he and his father had been leading opponents of the Prophet. Both were chosen as important governors as well. Yeah, this violent attack for perceived insults was not the Prophet’s way, any more than it is the way of Jesus.

    • Michael Wilson

      But the people of Mecca converted, I don’t think the staff at Charlie Hebo were prepared to do that. I think to that while it is expected for heads of state to glibly say that other peoples faiths are in line with their policy, for us who are not experts in Islamic history, much less Muslims to say what Muslims should do to fulfill their faith over the objections of their history and religious scholars is a little arrogant. Certainly we can investigate how Mohammed and other Muslims views blasphemy, but it seems glib to just assume they share our view.

      • The tradition as I am familiar with it does not suggest that the people of Mecca all converted or that any of them, much less all of them, were forced to do so. Do you have any evidence for your claim? Is that a variant tradition, or might you be misremembering the details?

        • Michael Wilson

          From Ibn Ishaq’s biography here,
          “The present life of Muhammad is by the earliest biographer whose work has survived. Ibn Ishaq was born in Medina about eighty-five years after the hijra (AH 85) and died in Baghdad in AH 151”

          Under the chapter dealing with the conquest of Mecca, we learn that Mohammed kills a number of non combatants for apostacy and insulting he and familly. icons of the local religions were destroyed. It says that others were forbidden to make pilgrimages and tribed that did not convert were subdued. I just looked that one up but it lines up with what I had gathered was the history of Mecca, its freedom of conscience was curtailed. This is no different than ISIS or the French gunmen.

          • If we are going to judge ancient people by modern standards, then that cuts across most societies evenly. It is not as though freedom of conscience was not curtailed in England until many centuries after the time of Muhammad. And so I’m not sure what this is supposed to demonstrate. One can look at ancient people and assume that their behavior should be our model today, or we can look at ancient people and assume that where they were more progressive at times than was the norm back then, that is what we should focus on. I don’t think that anyone would suggest that Muhammad in his ancient context reflected modern values of freedom of expression. The question is whether attempts to point to typical acts of statemanship in ancient times tell the whole story, and ought to be appealed to in justification of acts of extremism in our own context, without recognizing that there is more to the story.

          • Michael Wilson

            It is certainly possible that if Mohammed were alive today, he would feel differently about violence and faith than he did. We can look at the directions of peoples moral theory and extend them. Thus I don’t think it out of line to think that Paul might not condemn homosexuality if he knew what we know, or that Mohammed might not endorse conquest. But it seems to far a stretch to condemn people who claim to follow the example of Mohammed as hypocrites when they do what Mohammed is believed to have done. It is hard to argue, “Mohammed would have spared the cartoonists” if the man himself put those that insulted him and did not repent to death. This requires a sort of critique of Mohammed and Islam that has not yet reached a mass audience. I suspect that if conflict does not reap rewards for the violent jihadist that Muslim scholars will reinterpret how Muslims should treat these episodes. Of course some will always look to them to justify violence in the same way some Christians and Jews look to Joshua to justify violence, but I’m hopeful that a non-violent interpretation will catch on.

            But even so, from the scholarly level, I think we have justification to believe Muhammad endorsed violence against slanderers in the same way one can support the idea that Jesus thought he was messiah though some Christians find that opinion an unsavory indictment of Jesus’ ego.

      • histrogeek

        It is true Muawiyah and his father Abu Sufyan did convert, but it’s not like everyone in the Ummah was forgive and forget about it. Muhammad was clearly ahead of his followers on that. I don’t know what his stance on blasphemy was, particularly from non-believers, but I don’t recall any instances of him targeting blasphemers, as opposed to hostile non-believers, during his life. I’ll admit my knowledge is far from complete though.

  • jay

    There is more than enough information in both the Quran and Hadith to show how willing and ready Muhammad was to kill those who opposed Islam. Any denial of this is even worse than the most ridiculous denials that many fundamentalist Christians make in often defending their Bible.

    • What do you mean by “opposed”? Violently persecuted? Is responding to persecution not a form of self defense? Is your lack of sympathy for modern religion perhaps causing you to judge these ancient people in a manner that is anachronistic and unfair?

    • histrogeek

      Most of the violence associated with Muhammad was in the context of a war between his community and the leaders of Mecca, people, it should be pointed, who tried to assassinate him. He wasn’t a pacifist to be sure, but neither was he out to spread Islam by the sword, as he is often accused of. And most hadith surrounding his actions in the war point to someone who was trying to prevent an unrestrained war of massacres and revenge.