Do Muslims Want to Reimpose Dhimmitude or Live As Equals?


In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving

My favorite LoonWatch author Danios is at it again, with this excellent piece about Dhimmitude. It has some excellent facts that are worth reading. It is reproduced below:


Robert Spencer, one of the leading anti-Islam ideologues of the Western world, published The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).  This is a rebuttal of chapter four of his book.

Spencer’s claim:

1.  Historically, Jews fared better in Christian Europe than in the lands of Islam.  Says Spencer: “…The Muslim laws [imposing dhimmitude] were much harsher for Jews than those of Christendom…In Christian lands there was the idea, however imperfect, of the equality of dignity and rights for all people…” [1]

Rebuttal:

Spencer’s claim contradicts the predominant opinion held by Western scholarship.  Prof. Mark R. Cohen, the leading expert in the field, concludes that “the historical evidence indicates that the Jews of Islam, especially during the formative and classical centuries (up to the thirteenth century), experienced much less persecution than did the Jews of Christendom.” [2] Spencer’s book is horribly one-sided: it mentions “dhimmitude” (a spurious term), but makes no mention of the Church’s doctrine of Perpetual Servitude.  Comparing the two, Cohen writes:  “…The dhimmi enjoyed a kind of citizenship, second class and unequal though it was…[in contrast to] Jews living in Latin Christian lands, where…[they were] legally possessed [as slaves] by this or that ruling authority.” [3]

Read my complete rebuttal here.

Spencer replied, and I counter-replied here and here.

Spencer’s claim:

2.  The Pact of Umar, a document that enumerates a number of humiliating conditions to be imposed upon non-Muslims, is “still part of the Sharia today.” [4] As soon as Muslims are able to, they will enforce it.

Rebuttal:

Numerous Islamic and Western scholars have declared the Pact of Umar to be a forgery.  Muslims do not believe that a forgery can be a “part of the Sharia.”  More importantly, although the document may have had some significance hundreds of years ago, it has now fallen into complete disuse and obscurity in the Islamic world.  It is highly unlikely that contemporary Muslims want to reimpose a document that they themselves have never heard of.  This is very similar to how most Christians today have no familiarity with the Church’s doctrine of Perpetual Servitude.  To argue that either Muslims or Christians in general want to reimpose these respective doctrines–dhimmitude and Perpetual Servitude respectively–is conspiratorial and far-fetched.  Read my complete rebuttal here.

Spencer replied, and I counter-replied here.

Spencer’s claim:

3.  Robert Spencer writes:

*Islamic law mandates second-class status for Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims in Islamic societies.

*These laws have never been abrogated or revised by any authority. [5]

Spencer challenges me, claiming that I will do

virtually anything other than actually prov[e] that there exists a sect or school of Islam that teaches that Muslims must live with non-Muslims as equals on an indefinite basis

Rebuttal:

I accept his challenge.

Spencer’s claim–that no Islamic “authority” or “sect or school” has ever “abrogated” the laws of “dhimmitude”–is quite simply false.  It is a boldfaced lie or profound ignorance, either of which casts great doubt on Spencer’s “scholarship.” Over 150 years ago, the caliph (supreme leader of the Islamic world) abolished the dhimmi system entirely.  In 1839, a caliphal decree known as the Hatt-i Sharif of Gulhane was issued, implicitly recognizing the equality of all Ottoman subjects, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.  In 1856, “the Hatt-i Humayan [was issued], in which the principles of 1839 were repeated and the guarantees of the equality of all subjects were made more explicit.  Thus, Muslim and non-Muslim were to have equal obligations…and equal opportunities…” [6] The decree abolished the jizya and dhimmi system for all time.  (Read more about these caliphal decrees here.)

In the mid-nineteenth century, a group of Islamic intellectuals emerged, known as the Young Ottomans (not to be confused with the secularized Young Turks). They expounded Ottomanism, a doctrine stating the inherent equality of all peoples in the Empire regardless of religion or ethnicity.  The Young Ottomans believed that Islam advocates constitutionalism and that the government must enter a contractual agreement with those whom they rule over.  In other words, there is to be mutual consent between the rulers and the ruled.  The Young Ottomans opposed the royal autocracy, and demanded democratization of the Empire.  They argued that not only should all religious communities be viewed equally by the state, but there were certain inalienable rights that all citizens possessed, which the government could not infringe upon. The efforts of the Ottoman government on the one hand and the Islamic intellectuals on the other hand culminated in the passage of the Nationality Law of 1869, which “reinforced the principle that all individuals living within Ottoman domains shared a common citizenship regardless of their religion.” [7] (Read more about these Islamic intellectuals here.)

The Young Ottomans had a long-lasting effect on Islamic discourse, and gave birth to the modernist school of thought.  Arguably the key figure of modernist Islam was Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), who served as rector of al-Azhar University (the foremost Sunni institution) and who held the position of Grand Mufti of Egypt (the highest ranking religious position in the country).  Abduh issued a fatwa declaring Muslims and non-Muslims “to be equal under the law, with full citizenship rights.” [8] He further supported parliamentary democracy and constitutionalism as a means to protect these individual rights.  In 1908, Mehmed Emaleddin Efendi (Turkey, 1848-1917)–the chief religious authority of the Ottoman Empire, appointed directly by the caliph–concurred with Abduh.  During this period, numerous Islamic reformers emerged, and reconciled Islam with modernity.  They revised traditional opinions dealing with jihad, women’s rights, human rights, science, and interfaith relationships.  Quite consistently, the modernist trend of Islam has held the opinion, to use Robert Spencer’s own words, that “Muslims must live with non-Muslims as equals on an indefinite basis.” (Read more about modernist Islam here.) Muhammad Abduh’s work “fostered not only a modernist school of thought but also a reformed traditionalist school…spearheaded by [the more conservative] Muhammad Rashid Rida, a disciple of Abduh.” [9] In this manner, reformist ideas seeped into the discourse of the conservative Ulema.  One can say that the fire of reform burned greatest at its modernist core, but its warmth reached even more traditionalist elements, defrosting some of their more [f]rigid opinions.

It should be noted, however, that “few Muslims explicitly self-identify as ‘Muslim modenists,’ [and] instead refer[] to themselves simply as Muslims.” [10] The term “modernist Islam” is instead used most frequently by Western scholars–those outside of the faith–to describe a clearly discernible trend that has had profound influence on contemporary Islamic discourse. Anti-Islam ideologues often dismiss modernist interpretations, choosing instead to “look at the more conservative articulations of Islam (such as some traditional scholars) and even Muslim extremists as somehow representing ‘real’ Islam.” [11] However, modernists should not be disregarded so easily, because although they diverge from classical formulations, they maintain fidelity to the canonical texts.  Muhammad Abduh argued that his was a “properly understood interpretation of Islam”, consistent with the “standards of the Quran [and] the hadith.” [12]

In fact, the modernists argue that in reality it is “the inherited, calcified shari’a tradition” that does “not reflect the true spirit of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunna.”  They disregard the classical formulation as “centuries old legal baggage derived from the [spurious] Pact of ‘Umar.” [13] The modernists look instead to the Constitution of Medina, drafted by the Prophet Muhammad, which granted “equality” to the Jewish residents of the city.  No jizya was taken from them, and they served in the military alongside Muslims. The nineteenth century Islamic reformers “cited the ‘Constitution of Medina’ as a model of good sectarian relations.  If the Prophet could extend political rights to non-Muslims then so too could a modernist Islamic polity, without endangering its Islamic character.” [14]

The Constitution of Medina declared that the “Muslims of Quraish and Yathrib, and those [Jews] who followed them and joined them…are one nation (ummah) to the exclusion of all men.”  Nineteenth century modernists used this powerful sentence to dismiss the medieval division of the world into a Muslim ummah and a non-Muslim polity.  Instead, they argued that there was a religious ummah and a political ummah.  Muslims and non-Muslims living in the same country were then part of the same ummah, and owed their loyalty and allegiance to each other.  Similarly, Muslim Americans today believe that the United States is their ummah (nation) to which they owe their loyalty and allegiance, so when anti-Islam ideologues deride them by saying “the Muslim Americans owe their loyalty and allegiance to the ummah,” the Muslim Americans could not agree more. (Read the relevant parts of the Constitution of Medina here.)

According to the Constitution, the Muslims and Jews were obligated to defend the other in case of attack, a very real fear considering the hostile polytheist tribes surrounding Medina.  Prof. Francis E. Peters writes: “Muhammad’s attitude toward the People of the Book, as he called those who shared the same scriptural tradition with Islam, was generally favorable…But as time passed, the Quran came to look on Jews and Christians as adherents of rival rather than collegial faiths.  Some of this change in attitude was dictated by events at Medina itself, where Jewish tribes made up part of the population.  Not only did the Jews reject Muhammad’s prophetic claims; they began secretly to connive with his enemies.” [15] Fear of a fifth column prompted the Prophet Muhammad to banish the Jewish tribes of Banu Nadir and Banu Qinaqa from Medina, a controversial decision receiving its share of criticism by historians and polemicists alike.  Jewish tribes not involved in the treachery were allowed to stay in the city, so long as they honored the terms of the Constitution.

S.A. Rizvi writes: “The banishment of the Jewish tribes of Banu Nadhir and Banu Qinaqa from Medina had accentuated the animosity of the Jews towards the Muslims. These tribes had settled down at Khaibar at a distance of about eighty miles from Medina.” [16] Two years later, the banished Banu Nadir sought to exact revenge, and joined the polytheists in an assault on Medina.  The Banu Nadir bribed various tribes to join in the attack, including the Banu Ghatafan, the Bani Asad, and the Banu Sulaym.  They also convinced a Jewish tribe in Medina to attack the Muslims from the inside.  The combined forces outmatched Muhammad’s army 10,000 to 3,000.  However, the Muslims saved Medina from almost certain doom by building a trench which successfully impeded enemy advance, a tactic hitherto unknown to Arabia.  After several weeks of trying to cross the trench, the besiegers retreated, the Quraish polytheists to Mecca and the Jews of Banu Nadir to Khaibar.

The Muslims launched a counter-attack on Khaibar, and won a decisive victory.  Terms of the surrender included a provision for the defeated Jews to “relinquish any intention of maintaining a military force and to rely on Muslims for their personal security and that of their possessions in exchange for the payment of [jizya].” [17] This was the first time jizya was instituted, and the context in which it was.  In the time of the Prophet Muhammad, no other condition was placed on the dhimmis, except that of jizya and the prohibition from serving in a military capacity.  As such, the conditions placed on them seemed to be about security rather than humiliation.

As the Islamic legal tradition developed, the jizya became accepted as the normative practice towards non-Muslims (along with the trappings of the Pact of Umar), whereas the Constitution of Medina fell to the wayside.  Islamic reformers in the nineteenth century, however, argued that jizya is to be demanded only of those disbelievers who have “violated their pledges (of peace)…and attacked you first” (Quran, 9:13), those whose belligerence must be “subdued” (Quran, 9:29).  The Prophet Muhammad’s decision to demilitarize certain tribes and take jizya to fund their protection was seen more of a military consideration than a theological obligation. The modernists revived the Constitution of Medina, arguing that peaceful and loyal non-Muslims ought to be considered equal citizens alongside Muslims.  There was to be religious equality, with people of all faiths having the same rights and obligations.

These ideals were enshrined in the Objectives Resolution of 1949, a document that represents the culmination of over a century’s worth of modernist reinterpretation of Islamic texts.  This fascinating synthesis of Islam and modernity declared that “the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance, and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed…adequate provision shall be made for the [religious] minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures; Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association…adequate provisions shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of [religious] minorities…” (Read more about the Objectives Resolution of 1949 here.)

The idea of religious equality may have been considered exclusively modernist a century ago, but now finds resonance in wider Islamic circles as well. As Prof. Cleveland writes: “If, after the passage of nearly a century, Abduh’s proposals seem somewhat…conservative, we must attempt to appreciate how bold they were at the time.” [17] Accordingly, numerous contemporary scholars ranging from modernist to conservative have issued rulings declaring their belief in equal citizenship regardless of religion.  My very cursory research found several such Islamic intellectuals and scholars who have issued rulings saying as much, including:  Jasser Auda, Tariq Ramadan, Yousuf al-Qaradawi, Rashid Al-Ganoushi, Muhammad Salim al-Awa, Muqtedar Khan, Mukarram Ahmad, Muhammad Yahya, Abdul Hameed Nomani, Syed Shahabuddin, Tahir Mahmood, Mujtaba Farooq, Ataur Rahman Qasmi, Waris Mazhari, Zafar Mahmood, S.Q.R. Ilyas, Zafarul-Islam Khan,  Mirza Yawar Baig, Shahnawaz Ali Raihan, and Khaled Abou El Fadl. Representatives from the following Islamic organizations have issued these rulings: UK Board of Muslim Scholars, International Union for Muslim Scholars,  European Muslim Network, Al-Nahdha Islamic Movement, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Circle for Tradition and Progress, European Council for Fatwa and Research, International Association of Muslim Scholars, Egyptian Association for Culture and Dialogue, Association  of Muslim Social Scientists, All India Jamiat Ahl-e Hadees, Jamiat Ulama-e Hind, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, Jamaat-e Islami Hind, Muslim Personal Law Board, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, Students Islamic Organisation, and All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat. (Read these religious rulings here.)

Spencer would have unearthed this if he had only spent the couple hours I did to find it.  Or had he picked up a real history book, he would have known that over a century ago, these views became the law of the land due to the efforts of the caliph and numerous Islamic intellectuals.  He would have known that such a fatwa was passed by al-Azhar, the same university which he invokes as the absolute most ultimate Islamic authority when ranting about Reliance of the Traveler.  He would have known that the highest religious authority in all of the Ottoman Empire declared the same.  In light of all this, Spencer’s claim that the “laws [of dhimmitude] have never been abrogated or revised by any authority” is truly absurd.  The only question that remains is: is his claim willful prevarication or simply the result of his lack of scholarly training?

Robert Spencer will learn to regret the day Danios spent $5 to buy a used copy of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)

I have a nagging suspicion that Spencer will now move the goalposts, and argue that there are some ultraconservative Muslims who don’t have such enlightened views about the topic.  But that was not his claim.  His claim was that no Islamic authority has ever “abrogated or revised” the dhimmi laws. (Can Spencer ever defend his actual argument when he debates me!?)  If Spencer limited his criticism to ultraconservative Islam alone, and argued that Islamic puritans who believe in reimposing “dhimmitude” need to be opposed, I would have absolutely no issue with him.  In fact, I would then support his work, and help him in that important task.

Of course, I would also be consistent and criticize extreme right-wing Christians who argue to this day that the Doctrine of Witness and of Perpetual Servitude should be revived; for example, this website (which boasts an impressive membership of a couple hundred thousand) argues that “the theologically correct, and socially just Catholic social policy is to subjugate [the Jews], regulate them, segregate them and expel them.”  (Here, Spencer would mistakenly invoke the tu quoque defense, not knowing that tu quoque is not always considered a fallacy but in fact has legitimate uses; see hypocrisy, argument for equal treatment, and clean hands doctrine.)

I would also point out to Spencer that the best way to undermine ultraconservative interpretations is to support modernist ones.  But Spencer wants to deny this option to Muslims, because it would mean that the entire faith of Islam could not be vilified.  The only option that should be given to the Muslim, according to Spencer’s philosophy, is to leave Islam, and of course it would be ideal to convert to Christianity.  At the end of the day, Spencer is a Catholic polemicist who is waging a crusade against Islam.  The very first words in his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) are “Deus Vult!” (God wills it!), which was “the rallying cry of the First Crusade”; and the very last sentence of his book explicitly calls for a crusade against Islam.  His book then is “Deus Vult…Crusade”, and everything in between those two words is just propaganda to justify the Crusade that God willed.

Footnotes

refer back to article 1. Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), pp.57-59. ISBN: 0-89526-013-1

refer back to article 2. Mark R. Cohen, Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages, xix. ISBN 069101082X, 9780691010823, p.xxi-xxiii

refer back to article 3. Ibid., p.195

refer back to article 4. Spencer, p.51

refer back to article 5. Ibid., p.47

refer back to article 6. William L. Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, p.83. ISBN: 0-8133-3489-6

refer back to article 7. Ibid., p. 83

refer back to article 8. William Brown, Ordering the International: History, Change, and Transformation, pp.273-275. ISBN: 0745321372, 9780745321370

refer back to article 9. Caeser E. Farah, Islam: Beliefs and Observances, p.243. ISBN: 0764122266, 9780764122262

refer back to article 10. Vincent J. Cornell, Voices of Islam, p.xvii. ISBN: 027598737X, 9780275987374

refer back to article 11. Ibid., p.xviii

refer back to article 12. Cleveland, p.125

refer back to article 13. Bruce Masters, Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World, pp.175-176, ISBN: 0521005825, 9780521005821

refer back to article 14. Ibid.

refer back to article 15. Francis E. Peters, The Monotheists: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, p.273. ISBN: 069112373X, 9780691123738

refer back to article 16. S.A. Rizvi, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad, Chapter 16. ISBN: ISBN 0-9702125-0-X

refer back to article 17. Moshe Gil, A History of Palestine, p.28. ISBN: 0521599849, 9780521599849

refer back to article 18. Cleveland, p.125

Dr. Hassaballa quoted in LoonWatch!


In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving

As I have said multiple times, I am a very big fan of the website LoonWatch. To my delightful surprise, I have been quoted by Danios, my favorite writer there! Gosh! It feels good to know that my writing is being noticed by prominent people in our community (blush). The post is reproduced below. Apparently Danios quoted my Chicago Tribune blog post. My quote is highlighted below.

South Park, the “Four Morons” of Revolution Muslim, and CNN’s Epic Fail.

The creators of South Park–Matt Stone and Trey Parker–decided that they would depict the Prophet Muhammad on the 200th episode of their show.  A radical group known as “Revolution Muslim”–based out of New York–issued thinly veiled threats against the South Park creators, hinting that their misdeed would result in their untimely deaths.  CNN picked up the story, and soon the controversy that the South Park creators so desired came to fruition. 

Muslim Americans are irate.  But not so much at South Park.  Rather, the anger is directed at two groups: CNN for their poor journalism and Revolution Muslim for their insanity.  Let’s start with CNN: Anderson Cooper covered the topic for over ten minutes and even found time to interview the famous Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  Surprisingly, Cooper did not interview a single Muslim American spokesman, thereby giving–whether he intended it or not–the false impression that Revolution Muslim represents a broad spectrum of the Muslim American population, and that the organization speaks for Islam itself.  In reality, the radical fringe group is composed of no more than two to ten members, and one could easily find similar sized extremist groups belonging to other faiths. 

The vast majority of Muslim Americans despise Revolution Muslim and their hate-filled ideology.  The New York mosque the group frequented banned them from setting foot inside the premises, forcing them to preach on the street corner.  Muslim Americans don’t even believe that Revolution Muslim are real Muslims, and instead hold them to be agent provocateurs who wish to smear Islam.  Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said Revolution Muslim is “an extreme fringe group that has absolutely no credibility within the Muslim community” and that the “wild and irresponsible things” they say has led to “a strong suspicion [in the Muslim American community] that they’re merely a setup to make Muslims and Islam look bad. ” 

Joseph Cohen, an Israeli settler and fundamentalist Jew, was the founder of Revolution Muslim Joseph Cohen, a former Israeli settler and ardent Zionist, is the founder of Revolution Muslim 

There’s reason to believe that.  The founder of the group goes by the name of Yousef al-Khattab, but his real name is Joseph Cohen.  He was born and raised in the United States as a Jew, and holds both American and Israeli citizenship.   In the late eighties, Cohen embraced an ultra-orthodox interpretation of Judaism, and began attending a yeshiva (rabbinical school).  In 1998, Cohen hearkened to the Zionist call, and packed up his bags to relocate to the Israeli Occupied Territories where he became an Israeli settler.  As an ardent Zionist, Joseph Cohen fell in with the Jewish fundamentalist group Shas, an extreme right-wing political party that believes in flouting international law based on their religious beliefs.  Less than three years later, Cohen magically “converted” to Islam, moved back to the United States, and founded the most radical Islamic group in the country. [1] His underling Younus Muhammad–the other half of the dynamic duo–is similarly a mysterious “convert” to Islam. 

This pair of former Zionists [2]–who together form Revolution Muslim–conveniently read off a script that could only be written by an Islamophobe.  For example, one of the two claimed that the Quran commands terrorism, something that no sincere Muslim would ever say (and a claim that is patently false); those are words that an Islamophobe (or Zionist) would agree with, not a Muslim.  Considering the founder’s background in an extreme right-wing and fundamentalist Israeli political party, Muslim Americans have reason to be suspicious.  Revolution Muslim is just too convenient.  Regardless, they are simply inorganic wackos that have no community support whatsoever.  Yet, that hasn’t stopped the media frenzy from portraying two “Muslims” as being representative of the millions of Muslim Americans. 

Cohen (Khattab) is just selling the mainstream media the narrative they want to hear.  According to these preconceived notions, Muslims lose their minds when the Prophet Muhammad is depicted.  The reasoning is simple enough: Muslims reacted in a frenzy to the Danish cartoons, so doesn’t it just make sense that a similar reaction would take place when South Park depicts the Prophet Muhammad?  However, the reality is that South Park has already portrayed an uncensored Muhammad in 2001, in an episode entitled “Super Best Friends”.  In fact, the image of the Prophet Muhammad was not only used in that episode, but appeared in the opening segment of the show for four entire seasons.  What was the Muslim reaction?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing happened.  No protests, no riots, and no death threats.  The Muslim American community shrugged it off, as they did the recent episode (barring the Revolution “Muslim” group).  Muslim columnist Zahed Amanullah wrote an article for the Guardian entitled “No [Muslim] freak-out over South Park”, saying: 

But has there really been any Muslim outrage? The characterisation of Muhammad in a July 2001 episode entitled “Super Best Friends“, where he teams up with Jesus, Moses, and Buddha to defeat evil (even though Buddha “doesn’t really believe in evil”), has been available for viewing online (if not on a spooked Comedy Central) for nine years without censorship, more than enough time to spark another cartoon crisis if Muslims really cared. As should be obvious by now, they don’t. 

Somehow “a couple of misfits” from Revolution Muslim are allowed to smear the entire Muslim American community.  The reality is that the vast majority of Muslims in this country barely flinched when they heard of South Park’s intention to portray the Prophet Muhammad.  Anderson Cooper covered Revolution Muslim months ago, and at that time he had concluded that “it’s just a bunch of, you know, four morons standing on the street corner, shouting at the top of their lungs–how many people are really listening?”  That summation of Revolution Muslim, “four morons standing on [a] street corner”, is exactly how Muslim Americans view them as.  Yet flash forward to the recent Cooper report and there is no mention of this fact, and they are instead portrayed as spokesmen of Islam. 

To really seal this impression, Anderson Cooper had on his show the vitriolic Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ardent Islamophobe.  Unbelievably, she told Cooper that one religion (Islam) is “beyond criticism” nowadays.  What world is Ms. Ali living in?  Today, Islam is the most vilified religion ever, and you can say things against Islam and Muslims on television that you simply could not say against any other religion or religious group.  On Fox News, that’s simply routine, and guests (and oftentimes hosts) can get away with virtually any swipe at Islam.  And on the internet, the level of Islamophobia is astronomical, with Islamophobic websites being amongst the most popular sites on the net, and anti-Islamic comments being hurled at Muslims from sites ranging from YouTube to our very own LoonWatch.  So it is actually the opposite of what Ms. Ali claims: there is no other religion which is criticized more than Islam.  And it’s gone far past criticism but entered into wholesale bigotry, which explains the hypersensitive reaction of some Muslims to this abuse. 

In any case, the idea that only Muslims have ever threatened people for portraying their prophet in a certain way is false to begin with.  The indefatigable Glenn Greenwald decimated this argument here, so I don’t need to belabor that point; for example, he mentions a play by the name of Corpus Christi which was canceled several times, due to death threats from extremist Christians.  It is clearly not a Muslim only problem, and ought not to be used as a stick to beat Muslims over the head with.  Ms. Ali takes this stick not only to all observant Muslims, but to all of Islam itself.  On Cooper’s show, she claims that the Islamic scripture itself advocates killing those who criticize the religion.  Last I checked, the Islamic scripture is the Quran, and not a single verse in it advocates such a thing.  In fact, we find quite the opposite; the Quran commands believers to say “peace be unto you” to those who insult their religion.  In the Islamic holy book, God describes the righteous: 

They are patient, and repel evil with good…When they hear vile ridicule (against their faith), they ignore it and say: “We shall have our deeds and you shall have your deeds; peace be unto you!” (Quran, 28:54-55) 

That’s what the Islamic scripture says.  As for the hadiths (Prophetic traditions), these are an amorphous body of texts, which Muslims do not hold to be inerrant like the Quran.  Rather, a large number of hadiths are rejected outright as apocryphal in nature, and controversy surrounds many others. [3] Muslim Americans focus on explicit hadiths in which the Prophet Muhammad forgave those who reviled him. [4] For example, a group of disbelievers cursed the Prophet Muhammad, and his wife angrily retaliated in kind.  The Prophet, however, admonished his wife: “Calm down.  There is not gentleness in anything except that it becomes more beautiful, and there is not harshness in anything except that it makes it ugly.  So be calm.”  He then expounded an integral Islamic belief, saying: “God is kind and lenient, and likes that one should be kind and lenient in all matters.” [5] Contemporary Muslims argue that if the Prophet Muhammad forbade even verbal aggression against non-Muslims who insulted him, then physical violence is even more loathsome. 

Similarly, if the Prophet Muhammad did not seek vengeance against those who physically assaulted him and even tried to kill him, then how could it be justified against those who merely insulted him?  For example, the Prophet Muhammad was poisoned by a woman who opposed his message, yet he forgave her and sought no retaliation against her.  When the people brought her to him, and asked: “Shall we kill her?”, the Prophet replied emphatically “no.” [6] Contemporary Muslims argue that if the Companions were forbidden to kill the one who tried to physically harm and kill the Prophet Muhammad, then it seems safe to say that it is even more forbidden to punish the one who merely insults him or draws a demeaning cartoon of him. One last example I will give here (although there are many others) is that of Labeed ibn al-Asam, a sorcerer who cursed the Prophet Muhammad, and attempted to harm him through black magic. When his wife asked him why he did not seek retaliation against the sorcerer, the Prophet Muhammad replied “I hate to cause harm to anyone.” (Sahih al-Bukhari) Contemporary Muslims ask: if the Prophet hated to cause harm to anyone, then he would hate for Muslims to kill those who merely drew cartoons of him, a “crime” much less egregious than black magic. 

Are there certain texts from the hadiths and classical scholars that say otherwise?  Certainly, and I am not denying that.  But the Islamophobes put a standard to Muslims that they themselves cannot meet.  For example, the vitriolic Catholic crusader Robert Spencer would show such-and-such hadith, and then say “well, it says to kill people who insult the Prophet Muhammad, and so an observant Muslim must do that.”  Yet, his own Bible says to kill those who insult his God (Jesus), commanding the faithful to stone the blasphemous infidels to death: 

Anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death. (Leviticus, 24:16) 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s swipe at Islam can be applied here, with the condescending disclaimer that “not all Christians follow the scripture.”  And what of Anderson Cooper’s comment on his blog: “I have no respect for a prophet or god that needs its followers to defend it by threats and murder.”  Would he now think lowly of the Jewish and Christian God who–according to their most authentic scriptural source–calls for its followers to kill those who insult Him?  Or do we realize that it’s not wise to cherry-pick a passage of a religious text and then vilify an entire creed?  Islamophobes like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Robert Spencer claim that Islam itself and the scriptural sources themselves explain why the riots against the Danish cartoons occurred.  I recently covered the resurgence of Christian witch hunts in Africa; one could make the unsophisticated claim that the primary blame for the witch hunts can be attributed to the Bible and Christianity itself, since the Bible calls for witches to be killed. [7] Yet, experts understand that “poverty, exacerbated by the current world economic crisis, often lay behind the [witch hunt] phenomenon as people sought to find scapegoats for their misfortunes and the illnesses they suffered.”  Christianity was simply the currency in which the people expressed their frustration.  In other words, it is a very superficial understanding to reduce the issue to Biblical verses. 

Likewise, there were sociological factors behind the anger that fueled the Danish cartoon riots.  Yet, an unsophisticated understanding of the issue would lead one to believe that the riots were simply the result of an Islamic prohibition on the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.  The reality, however, is that–in spite of an orthodox ban on imagery of the Prophet [8]–the Prophet Muhammad has been depicted in the Islamic world for centuries.  Dr. Kenan Malik, an award winning British author, writes: 

Over the past 400 years, a number of Islamic, especially Shiite, traditions have accepted the pictorial representation of Muhammed. The Edinburgh University Library in Scotland, the Bibliotheque National in Paris, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul, all contain dozens of Persian, Ottoman and Afghan manuscripts depicting the Prophet. His face can be seen in many mosques too – even in Iran. A 17th-century mural on the Iman Zahdah Chah Zaid Mosque in the Iranian town of Isfahan, for instance, shows a Mohammed whose facial features are clearly visible… 

So, if there is no universal prohibition to the depiction of Muhammad, why were Muslims universally appalled by the caricatures? They weren’t. And those that were, were driven by political zeal rather than theological fervour.  

European Muslims have long suffered from high levels of unemployment, social alienation, and systemic discrimination–factors that contributed to the riots more than indignation over the pictorial representation of the Prophet Muhammad.  In fact, most of the rioters had not even seen the cartoons, and the caricatures were–in the words of the Islamic scholar Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl–”the straw that broke the camel’s back” (an ethnically appropriate phrase).  In the Muslim majority world, Muslims had long been suffering from what they view as Western “neo-colonialism”, and the Danish cartoons were viewed as salt on the wounds.  The bewilderment of many in the West–”how could they react this way to some cartoons?”–only underscores a profound ignorance of the problems that plague those in the East, many of which the West either causes or exacerbates. 

Dr. Malik goes on

There were demonstrations and riots in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, Nigeria, Palestine, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Danish embassies in Damascus, Beirut and Teheran were torched. But, as Jytte Klausen has observed, these protests ‘were not caused by the cartoons, but were part of conflicts in pre-existing hot spots’ such as northern Nigeria, where there exists an effective civil war between Muslim salafists and Christians. The violence surrounding the cartoon conflict, Klausen suggests, has been ‘misreported’ as expressions of spontaneous violence from Muslims ‘confronted with bad pictures’. That, she insists, ‘is absolutely not the case’. Rather ‘these images have been exploited by political groups in the pre-existing conflict over Islam.’ 

Similarly, the Salman Rushdie affair had political not theological roots: 

We have come to accept almost as self-evident the idea that the worldwide controversy was sparked by the blasphemies in The Satanic Verses that all Muslims found deeply offensive. It is not true. 

The Satanic Verses was published in September 1988. For the next five months, until the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa on Valentine’s Day 1989, most Muslims ignored the book. The campaign against the novel was largely confined to the Indian subcontinent and to Britain. Aside from the involvement of Saudi Arabia, there was little enthusiasm for a campaign against novel in the Arab world or in Turkey, or among Muslim communities in France or Germany. When the Saudi authorities tried at the end of 1988 to get the novel banned in Muslim countries worldwide, few responded except those with large subcontinental populations, such as South Africa or Malaysia. Even in Iran the book was openly available and was reviewed in many newspapers. 

As in the controversy over the Danish cartoons, it was politics, not religion, that transformed The Satanic Verses into a worldwide event of historic proportions. 

Malik then explains the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, both countries desperately competing for regional dominance.  Each seeks–with its ultraconservative implementations of the religion–to assert itself as the standard-bearer of “authentic” Islam.  Saudi Arabia had attempted to ban the book, and Iran’s fatwa was an attempt to one up the Saudis.  In the words of Kenan Malik: “The Satanic Verses became a weapon in that conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Riyadh had made the initial running (by calling for a ban on the book). The fatwa was an attempt by Iran to wrestle back the initiative…The controversy over The Satanic Verses was primarily a political, not religious, conflict.”  Unfortunately, many Westerners think it sufficient to hold superficial understandings of such complex issues (whereas others find it expedient to do so). 

The elements that led to the Danish cartoon affair simply do not exist in today’s South Park controversy, which explains why the Muslim American community–notwithstanding the “four morons on [a] street corner”–have had such a subdued response.  Interestingly, there has not even been any significant drive to boycott the show, nor any peaceful protests (let alone violent recourse)–which shows how little they care about this “controversy.”  Most Muslim Americans understand that South Park pokes fun at people of every faith, and even if they may find it personally distasteful, Muslim Americans don’t think too much of it. As CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper put it: “[Muslims] are pretty tired of this whole: ‘Let’s insult the Prophet Muhammad thing.’”  They don’t want to dwell on it, and just want the incident to pass. Internally, Muslim Americans are telling each other to “ignore it”, and they are cognizant of the fact that outrage will only publicize the South Park episode more. 

By presupposing that the reaction of Muslim Americans would be the same as their coreligionists in parts of Europe and the developing world (some) non-Muslim Westerners have placed all Muslims into one box. According to this “the other” understanding, all Muslims–of every nationality and region of the earth–ought to react similarly. Yet, one clearly understands this not to be the case when comparing Evangelicals in America with those leading witch hunts in Nigeria. The reality is that Muslims in this country have a distinctly American Islam, one which has incorporated freedom of speech into it. Therefore, it is incorrect to simply assume that the reaction of Muslim Americans would be the same as their religious brethren elsewhere. Unlike the Muslim communities in many (but not all) European countries, Muslim Americans are well integrated; unemployment and poverty do not affect them in the same way.  Instead, they tend to be rather well off, and are “overrepresented” in professional fields like medicine and engineering.  The absence of the sociological factors present in the Danish cartoon affair explains the lack of response to the South Park cartoons, and this is so even though the scriptural texts are still the same–again pointing to the fact that the protests had sociological and not theological roots. 

Another reason why the South Park cartoons did not cause a Muslim outcry like the Danish cartoons did is that the South Park cartoons were not Islamophobic in nature.  The creators of South Park are equal-opportunity haters and have lampooned every religion, which really softened the blow.  The Danish cartoons, on the other hand, were Islamophobic in nature, and portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as a stereotypical Muslim terrorist with a bomb on his head.  (The same publisher had earlier refused to publish cartoons that were deemed offensive to Christians.)  The Danish cartoons were racist and bigoted.  Can one imagine the reaction of socioeconomically depressed African Americans had a mainstream newspaper (like the New York Times) published cartoons portraying blacks as apes (a stereotypical racist image)?  In the seventies or eighties, such a thing would have led to widespread riots. Would people still be bewildered as to how a population could react so violently to a “mere cartoon“?  How is an ape-like representation of a black person any different than a stereotypical hook-nosed Muslim with a bomb on his head? 

Freedom of speech is one of the principles of this country, and without it a democracy cannot flourish.  But let’s not forget that racial and religious tolerance is another bedrock of democracy.  It is a true oddity that certain segments of society have chosen that today freedom of speech is the most important issue to them, only because it allows them to channel their racial and religious intolerance.  The neo-conservatives who are today masquerading as the defenders of the first amendment are the same ones who just yesterday were justifying warrantless wiretapping, racial profiling, suspension of habeas corpus, secret prisons, torture, coerced confessions, state-sponsored assassinations (of even U.S. citizens), and on and on…all because these things were directed at Muslims.  In the words of Glenn Greenwald, the South Park controversy has been exploited so that the “majoritarian group [can act] as the profoundly oppressed victim at the hands of the small, marginalized, persecuted group which actually has no power [i.e. Muslim Americans].”  It is selective and unprincipled outrage expressed by unsavory folks who don’t really care about the principles of freedom and tolerance, but are instead using the incident to promote intolerance and demonization of a minority group…something which threatens our democracy far more than “four morons on [a] street corner.” 

In conclusion, this is a contrived controversy, and there was no freak-out by Muslim Americans over the South Park cartoons.  Yes, many Muslim Americans were offended, but no more so than pious Christians whose stomachs churn at the South Park episodes mocking their religious icons.  But most Muslim Americans know that this is the cost of living in a free society, and most importantly, they know that it won’t affect what they perceive is the greatness of their prophet.  As one Muslim American told me: “Barking dogs cannot harm the moon, so let them bark.”  Despite the crudeness of this analogy, it adequately depicts the indifference of Muslim Americans to the South Park cartoon. Dr. Hesham Hassaballah, a prominent Muslim spokesman and former board member of CAIR, said: 

I  must admit: I was offended. I was really bothered by the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit on Comedy Central’s satirical show “South Park.” …[But] ever since the beginning of his ministry, the Prophet Muhammad has been attacked, maligned, and insulted, including from his own uncle. The Prophet never retaliated against [them]. When he was brutally expelled from the city of Ta’if, two angels offered to crush the city under the mountains that surrounded it. The Prophet refused, hoping that their children may one day believe in God. After conquering Mecca, the Prophet issued a general amnesty to the very same people that brutally and violently opposed him, including the person who mutilated his beloved uncle Hamza after he was killed in battle. 

This is the example of the Prophet Muhammad that Muslims should seek to emulate whenever he is insulted. The Prophet once said, “I was sent to perfect the most noble of character.” He also said, “The best of you are the best in character.” Rather than pray for God to “kill Matt Stone and Trey Parker,” Mr. Chesser should have prayed for God to show Stone and Parker the beauty of the Prophet Muhammad, so they can understand more about the man whom 1.2 billion people around the world revere and honor. It is what the Prophet would have done. 

No angry pitchfork, Dr. Hassaballah?  The media thinks to itself: that won’t sell a story and certainly doesn’t fit our preconceived notions of what a stereotypical Muslim is, so let’s forget that you are a respected figure in the community and instead focus on “four morons on [a] street corner” who aren’t even allowed inside their mosque due to how much the Muslim American community dislikes their views. (Phew, that was a long sentence!) Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of CAIR-Chicago, writes: 

The latest Muhammad cartoon controversy, courtesy of Comedy Central’s South Park, seems somewhat contrived…[Revolution Muslim is] literally 5-10 people who are widely reviled by the mainstream community for their radical and confrontational style including harassing Muslims outside mosques (where they tend to be banned) with outlandishly provocative anti-American rhetoric. 

Most suspect the group is fraudulent. Its mysterious leader, born Joseph Cohen, is an American Jew who converted to Islam in 2000 after living in Israel and attending an orthodox rabbinical school there. Whether, true Muslims or agent provocateurs, the result is the same: they are five community outcasts… 

South Park’s provocation was mostly met by silence and indifference [by the Muslim American community]. The widespread Muslim attitude went something like this: this is a free country, you go on mocking Jesus and Muhammad, and we will go on keeping them in our prayers. No harm done. Muhammad’s and Jesus’ value to humanity certainly will not dip as a result of your mockery. 

The Muslim American community by and large supports freedom of speech, feeling that the right of the cartoonists to lampoon the Prophet exists and that the best thing to do is ignore such insults. Perhaps the lack of reaction by Muslim Americans has disappointed the sensationalist media looking for a story, forcing them to focus on a fundamentalist Zionist’s best impersonation of a Muslim.  Amazing how “four morons on [a] street corner” are allowed to become the spokesmen for Islam. The message to Muslim Americans is loud and clear: even if 99.9999% of you behave, that last 0.00001% will be enough to hit you over the head with. The entire community will be defined by its two (or four) village idiots. Muslim Americans can never hope to have their voices heard, unless of course they become Revolution Muslims. 

Footnotes 

refer back to article 1. Yousef al-Khattab, My Reversion to Islam, http://www.scribd.com/doc/2901290/Brother-Yousef-al-Khattabs-Reversion-to-Islam-A-Former-Jew 

refer back to article 2. I found less information on the character known as Younus Muhammad, and would welcome reader input confirming his real name and Zionist inclinations prior to his supposed conversion. 

refer back to article 3. Although several textual proofs indicate that the Prophet Muhammad forgave those who insulted and abused him, a handful of texts seem to say otherwise.  However, many contemporary Muslims view these texts to be apocryphal, including the stories involving Abu Afak (a poet), Asma bint Marwan (a poetess), and a certain blind man’s slave girl.  As for the incident of Kaab ibn al-Ashraf, it is argued that he “was assassinated only because he violated the peace treaty and assisted in the war” (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari) against the fledgling city-state of Medina.  With regard to Ibn Khattal and his two slave girls, it is said that they “all stood convicted of atrocious [war] crimes” (M. Haykal, Hayat Muhammad). 

refer back to article 4. Perhaps it would behoove me to compile these some day. 

refer back to article 5. Sahih Bukhari, Vol.9, Book 84, # 61 

refer back to article 6. Found in Sahih al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, amongst others. She was eventually found guilty of the murder of Bishr ibn Al-Bara, and punished accordingly. 

refer back to article 7. “Thou shalt not allow a sorceress to live” (Exodus, 22:18), and “sorcerers amongst you must be put to death” (Leviticus, 20:27) 

refer back to article 8. The ban was placed to prevent idolization of the Prophet Muhammad, something which early Muslims feared due to the fate of Jesus in the Christian world. However, this ban on pictorial representations carries no worldly punishment if breached, neither in classical or contemporary understandings of Islamic law.

LoonWatch: Is Suicide Terrorism an Islamic Phenomenon?


In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving

As you know, I am a big fan of the website LoonWatch, and I saw this on the site today and wanted to share it with you. It is quite good.

Suicide Terrorism, an Islamic  Phenomenon?

by Inconnu

Resident “Islam expert” Robert Spencer is at it again, using his skills of obfuscation to smear Islam. In a recent post, he claims “suicide for jihad” is nothing new in Islam:

Actually the idea of suicide in the cause of jihad is no innovation. It is founded upon Qur’an 9:111, which guarantees Paradise to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah. It is a phenomenon that is actually found throughout Islamic history, and is not new. In the 18th century John Paul Jones wrote about Ottoman sailors setting their own ships on fire and ramming the ships of their enemies, although they knew this meant certain death for them.

And centuries before that, the Assassins, Hashishin, went into their missions knowing that death was virtually certain, and energized by the promise of Paradise that had been made vivid for them in an artful scenario that was used as a recruitment tool: the prospective assassin would be given hashish and then taken into a garden full of beautiful women, and told that he was enjoying a taste of Islamic Paradise. Then to return to that Paradise, he was told that he had to go out and kill his victim, and be killed in the process.

Wow. Let us address the verse in question (9:111):

Behold, God has bought of the believers their lives and their possessions, promising them paradise in return, [and so] they fight in God’s cause, and slay, and are slain: a promise which in truth He has willed upon Himself in [the words of] the Torah, and the Gospel, and the Quran. And who could be more faithful to his covenant than God? Rejoice, then, in the bargain which you have made with Him: for this, this is the triumph supreme!

As outlined by the Quran, fighting in Islam is allowed in defense, and aggression is prohibited (2:190-193). Thus, those who “fight in God’s cause” in the verse are fighting in a battle to defend “those [civilians] who have been expelled from their homes” (22:40) by an aggressor.  In this context, able-bodied men are called to defend the people with their lives.  When one fights a battle, he tries to kill his enemy and avoid being killed himself. Spencer, however, claims that those who “slay and are slain” are actually committing suicide. Huh?

Suicide is when you take your own life: the death blow comes from your own hand.  This is dramatically different than valiantly fighting the enemy in battle when the odds are heavily stacked against you, such that death is “near certain.” The former is suicide, the latter is not.  Unless Robert Spencer is being un-American and claiming that the countless U.S. soldiers who have thrown themselves upon the enemy–facing “near certain death” by doing so–committed suicide?  In fact, the medal of honor is routinely given to soldiers who throw themselves upon the enemy (thereby facing “near certain death”) to protect their fellow soldiers and advance their position.

There are several examples of this during World War II. For example, Private First Class Leonard Foster Mason received the medal of honor for “his exceptionally heroic act in the face of almost certain death.”  The American soldiers were under heavy fire, and with total disregard for his own life, Mason ran out of his foxhole and killed five enemy soldiers.  He was critically wounded in the arm and shoulder, and subsequently died.  Today, he is remembered as a hero who fought and died for his country.  Would Spencer like to claim that he committed suicide, and that the U.S. military has been using “suicide jihad” tactics during WWII?

Private George Phillips received the medal of honor because he “unhesitatingly threw himself on [a] deadly missile, absorbing the shattering violence of the exploding charge in his own body and protecting his comrades from serious injury.”

And let’s read about the bravery of Private First Class Harold Glenn Epperson who gave up his life for his country:

Determined to save his comrades, Pfc. Epperson unhesitatingly chose to sacrifice himself and, diving upon the deadly missile, absorbed the shattering violence of the exploding charge in his own body. Stouthearted and indomitable in the face of certain death, Pfc. Epperson fearlessly yielded his own life that his able comrades might carry on the relentless battle against a ruthless enemy. His superb valor and unfaltering devotion to duty throughout reflect the highest credit upon himself and upon the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Another suicide jihad terrorist attack, I suppose?  In fact, what about the American soldiers who took the island of Iwo Jima? According to historians, the Japanese fought tenaciously for the island, and only 216 out of more than 18,000 soldiers were alive at the end of hostilities. This invasion must have “meant certain death” for the scores of American soldiers who took part. Were these American soldiers “committing suicide”? What about the soldiers who took part in the invasion of Normandy? The odds against the Allied soldiers were tremendous, and it “meant certain death” for the scores of soldiers who valiantly chose to be on the front line. Did these American heroes also “commit suicide”?

Anyways, the Quran is crystal clear on suicide:

“And do not take a life that God has made sacred, except for just cause.” (17:33)

“And spend for the sake of God, and do not invest in ruin by your own hands. And do good, for God loves those who do good.” (2:195)

“And do not kill yourselves, for God has been merciful to you.” (4:29)

But I do know of a holy book that mentions (and seems to condone) suicide attacks. You may have heard of it, Spencer.  It’s called the Bible.  The Mighty Samson kills himself in order to kill three thousand men and women (civilians):

Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.”  Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform.  Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “O Sovereign LORD , remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”  Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.  (Judges 16:26-30)”

Samson was one of the good guys in the Bible, and nowhere are his actions condemned.  Far from it: he got the strength from God to do it.  How are his actions any different than the Palestinian suicide bombers who blow themselves up in shopping malls to kill Israeli men and women?  And in 1 Samuel 31:1-6, we have another good guy in the Bible killing himself rather than being taken alive by the enemy; in fact, it’s a group suicide–Saul, his three sons, his armor bearer, and all of his men commit group suicide in this battle. Two can play at this, Mr. Spencer.

With regard to the example of the Ottomans ramming their ships, this is a technique that dates to antiquity.  As a last resort (since they were going to lose/die anyways), the captain would order that they use the ship to ram the enemy’s.  To use another American example, even civilian boats were equipped with this capability: the Seattle fireboat Duwamish, built in 1909, was designed to ram wooden vessels, as a last resort. More “suicide jihad” I suppose?

As for the Hashashin, or Assassins, they belonged to an extremely heterodox extremist sect of Islam.  They did not believe in committing suicide, but rather put themselves in harms way to complete missions such that oftentimes they would be facing “near certain death.”  In any case, even at that time the orthodox Muslims used to write about how crazy they thought these Hashashin were, so how can we take the most extreme example as indicative of the general rule?  In fact, at the time of the Hashashin, there were the Crusaders.  Would Spencer like to take the bloodthirsty Crusaders (who engaged in cannibalism and mass murder) as indicative of Christianity overall?

It seems that Spencer is becoming desperate; desperate to link anything to his fanciful imaginary Islam that is totally devoid from reality. Umm…nice try.

Selective Outrage of the Islamophobes


In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving

I am a big fan of the website LoonWatch and of writer Danios especially. His/her latest post is quite excellent, and I have re-posted an excerpt below…

Witch Hunts: A Muslim Problem Only?

Ali Hussain Sibat, a Lebanese national and fortune teller, was recently arrested in Saudi Arabia and charged with the “crime” of sorcery.  Many sincere human rights groups raised awareness about his case, and international outrage prompted the Saudi government to issue him a stay of execution.  Islamophobes, such as Robert Spencer, have chosen to exploit Mr. Sibat’s plight to demonize Islam and Muslims.  For those of us living in the West, the arrest of a “sorcerer” seems beyond insane, and it is quite easy for the Islamophobes to use this incident to reinforce negative stereotypes of Muslims: “wow, those Moozlems must be really backwards.”

Yet, few Westerners realize that witch hunts are now an international problem…and it is not an area of concern limited to Muslim majority countries like Saudi Arabia.  Would it interest the Catholic apologist Robert Spencer to know that witch hunts are much more prevalent amongst Christians than Muslims?  Some Evangelicals continue to take the Bible quite literally, following its commandment: “Thou shalt not allow a sorceress to live” (Exodus, 22:18), and “sorcerers amongst you must be put to death” (Leviticus, 20:27).  The Huffington Post recently wrote a piece on the upsurge of witch hunts in Africa brought on by hardliner Evangelicals:

African Children Denounced As “Witches” By Christian Pastors

…Nwanaokwo Edet was one of an increasing number of children in Africa accused of witchcraft by pastors and then tortured or killed, often by family members. Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of “witch children” reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files. [Exodus, 22:18]

…The idea of witchcraft is hardly new, but it has taken on new life recently partly because of a rapid growth in evangelical Christianity. Campaigners against the practice say around 15,000 children have been accused in two of Nigeria’s 36 states over the past decade and around 1,000 have been murdered. In the past month alone, three Nigerian children accused of witchcraft were killed and another three were set on fire.

Nigeria is one of the heartlands of abuse, but hardly the only one: the United Nations Children’s Fund says tens of thousands of children have been targeted throughout Africa.

Saudi Arabia has recently arrested one individual for the “crime” of sorcery (it seems about five people in the last few years), and the Islamophobes like Robert Spencer have expressed their ardent outrage.  Yet, there were “15,000 children [who] have been accused…and around 1,000 have been murdered” by Christians in Africa…Where is your outrage, Mr. Spencer?  If we must conclude that Islam is the most dastardly of religions due to the persecution of a handful of people in Saudi Arabia, then should we not conclude the same for Christianity when there were 15,000 who stood accused and 1,000 executed recently?

Christian witch hunts are not limited to Africa.  In Papua New Guinea, a country which is 96% Christian, the government passed the 1976 Sorcery Act, which prescribes imprisonment for the practice of black magic.  An article written in 2009 details how one hundred “witches” were executed in Papua New Guinea in just the last year.  Witch hunts have in recent years taken place in Haiti, again by Christians (in this case aimed against non-Christians); a human rights lawyer told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that “literal witch hunts have been launched [by Evangelical Christians] against priests and practitioners of this [traditional Haitian] religion.” Similar witch hunts have been launched in Kenya, Nepal, and other regions, reaching a global stage:

Witch Hunts Are Now An International Epidemic

Yesterday a coalition of U.N. officials, NGOs, and representatives from affected countries addressed the United Nations asking for governments to face the full extent of witch hunts across the world. Far from being a localized phenomenon in “primitive” or isolated villages, witch hunts and witch killings are now global in nature and spreading.

“Murder and persecution of women and children accused of being witches is spreading around the world and destroying the lives of millions of people, experts said Wednesday … “This is becoming an international problem — it is a form of persecution and violence that is spreading around the globe,” Jeff Crisp of the U.N.’s refugee agency UNHCR told a seminar organized by human rights officials of the world body.”

According to some U.N. experts tracking the issue “at least” tens of thousands have died due to witch hunts, while millions have been beaten, abused, isolated, and turned into refugees. While economic hardship is given as a reason for the recent escalation in witch-related violence, experts at the UNHCR also claim that the rise can also be attributed to”religious practitioners” who exploit local fears and superstitions.

“Some religious practitioners make a living from exorcising alleged witches and charging exorbitant fees to those who request the ritual. In Foxcroft’s experience, the most vulnerable members of society – children and the elderly – are often the victims of these accusations.”

Who, exactly, are these “religious practitioners”? The IHEU is far more specific.

“Witchcraft is still widely practiced in many countries in Africa by witchdoctors who often use human body parts in their spells. Some witchdoctors employ gangs of young men to attack and kill victims, often young children, for their body parts, which are frequently removed while the victim is still alive. An estimated 300 people are killed each year in South Africa alone as a result of this practice. But horrific though this practice is, it is only part of the problem. In Nigeria, in both the Muslim North and the Christian South, witch hunts are not uncommon and this has led to a second form of abuse. Some unscrupulous pastors, many linked to Pentecostal churches, have a lucrative trade in making unfounded accusations of witchcraft against young children. [The pastors then agree to “cure” the witches for a substantial fee. Many children are being ostracized and abandoned by their parents as a result of these accusations.]“

These Christian pastors aren’t isolated to Africa, they tour churches in America bragging about their battles with the occult, and have established ministries in Ireland and the UK. Commingling with an increasing anti-occult fervor among some Western Christian groups. Meanwhile, actual modern Pagan communities in places like India and South Africa are facing the possible ramifications of intensifying witch-hunts and witch persecutions…

Reuters reports:

Reuters – Murder and persecution of women and children accused of being witches is spreading around the world and destroying the lives of millions of people, experts said Wednesday.

And community workers from Nepal and Papua New Guinea told the seminar, on the fringes of a session of the U.N.’s 47-member Human Rights Council, that “witch-hunting” was now common, both in rural communities and larger population centres.

The experts — United Nations officials, civil society representatives from affected countries and non-governmental organization (NGO) specialists working on the issue — urged governments to acknowledge the extent of the persecution.

“This is becoming an international problem — it is a form of persecution and violence that is spreading around the globe,” Jeff Crisp of the U.N.’s refugee agency UNHCR told a seminar organized by human rights officials of the world body.

Aides to U.N. special investigators on women’s rights and on summary executions said killings and violence against alleged witch women — often elderly people — were becoming common events in countries ranging from South Africa to India.

Read the rest of the article here.