The Philosopher and the Fatwa
By Robert Spencer
| October 2, 2006
It has happened again. On the heels of global Muslim rage against Pope Benedict XVI – which led to riots and three killings of Christians – a teacher in France has gone into hiding after receiving death threats. His offense? He published a column in the French newspaper Le Figaro in which he characterized the Muslim prophet Muhammad as “a merciless war chief, plunderer, slaughterer of Jews and a polygamist.”
Redeker said that one of the threats he received stated: “You will never feel secure on this earth. One billion, three hundred thousand Muslims are ready to kill you.” As the death threats poured in, everyone abandoned Redeker. The teacher himself noted that France’s education ministry “has not even contacted me, has not deigned to get in touch to see if I need any help.” The senior editor of Le Figaro, Pierre Rousselin, declared on Al-Jazeera that he had been mistaken to publish Redeker’s article, and hastened to assure the Islamic world that the article did not reflect the opinion of the paper. It was unclear what exactly those who are threatening Redeker are upset about. Were they contending that he had lied about Muhammad? If so, they must contend with the fact that many Muslims around the world seem to agree, unapologetically, that Muhammad was “a merciless war chief, plunderer, slaughterer of Jews and a polygamist.” As I explain in my forthcoming book The Truth About Muhammad, mujahedin throughout the world see the Prophet of Islam as the personification of the qualities they are trying to embody. They have provided abundant evidence of this in recent years:
· Merciless war chief: On September 5, 2003, Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris invoked one of Muhammad’s battles, an expedition against the Byzantine empire known as the Battle of Tabouk, when speaking of the Iraq war in a sermon broadcast by the Palestinian Authority: “If we go back in the time tunnel 1400 years, we will find that history repeats itself…. Byzantium represents America in the west…. America will collapse, as Byzantium collapsed in the west….The Prophet [Muhammad] could, by means of unbroken ranks, conquer Byzantium, the greatest power compared to today’s America — and this without a single martyr falling from among the Muslims….The Prophet could, by means of the unity of the Muslim ranks and its awakening, defeat the America of that time….America is our No. 1 enemy, and we see it as our No. 1 enemy as long as we learn from the lessons of the Battle of Tabouk [which took place in October 630 AD]: ‘Make ready for them whatever you can of armed strength and of mounted pickets’ [Koran 8:60]. We are prepared and ready, but victory is from Allah….”[i]
On November 21, 2003, Muslims poured out of the Maiduguri Road Central Mosque after Friday prayers in the Nigerian city of Kaduna, demanding the implementation of Sharia law and distributing flyers stating: “The only solution is Jihad, the type of jihad put into practise by Prophet Muhammed and exemplified by Shehu Usman Dan Fodio and the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran. We Muslims should unite and embrace this concept of jihad that will undoubtedly empower us to destroy oppression and oppressors, and in its place establish Islam.”[ii]
In October 2004, Sheikh Aamer Bin Abdallah Al-Aamer wrote this in the Al-Qaeda online journal Sawt al-Jihad: “Perform the Jihad against your enemies with your [own two] hands, sacrifice your souls and your property in fighting your enemy, as an imitation of [the acts of] your Prophet [Muhammad] in the month of Ramadan [and in order to] enrage your enemies.”[iii]
Fawwaz bin Muhammad Al-Nashami, the commander of the jihad group that killed twenty-two people in a jihad attack in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, on May 29, 2004, said that he acted in accord with Muhammad’s wishes for Arabia: “We are Mujahideen, and we want the Americans. We have not come to aim a weapon at the Muslims, but to purge the
Arabian Peninsula, according to the will of our Prophet Muhammad, of the infidels and the polytheists who are killing our brothers in
Iraq….We began to comb the site looking for infidels. We found Filipino Christians. We cut their throats and dedicated them to our brothers the Mujahideen in the Philippines. [Likewise], we found Hindu engineers and we cut their throats too, Allah be praised. That same day, we purged Muhammad’s land of many Christians and polytheists.”[iv]
In the run-up to the 2004 American presidential election, a Muslim preacher invoked Muhammad to denounce democracy: “Our Prophet did not run for office in any election….He did not win any political debate. [Instead] he won the war against the infidel.”[v]
In a January 2005 article in Arab News, columnist Adil Salahi reminded his readers that Muhammad never made war on a people without first inviting them to convert to Islam: “During the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) lifetime the Muslim community had to fight many battles, because there were several sources of danger and many opponents who were keen to suppress the rising voice of the Islamic message. The Prophet made sure that in none of these battles the Muslims would exceed the limits of what is lawful in Islam….[H]e would not launch an attack without alerting the enemy and calling on them to accept Islam and live in peace with the Muslim state.”[vi]
London Muslim leader Hani Al-Sibaai in February 2005 justified the slaughters being perpetrated by Al-Zarqawi’s mujahedin in Iraq: “Do these people base themselves on Islamic law or not? They claim that they do, and to support it, they say that slaughtering appeared in a hadith by the Prophet, which was pronounces authentic by Sheik Ahmad Shaker. The Prophet told the Quraysh tribe: ‘I have brought slaughter upon you,’ making this gesture. But these are religious issues that may be disputed….[T]he Prophet drove nails into and gouged out the eyes of people from the ‘Urayna Tribe. They were merely a group of thieves who stole from sheep herders, and the Prophet drove nails into them and threw them into the Al-Hrara area, and left them there to die. He blinded them and cut off their opposite legs and arms. This is what the Prophet did on a trifling matter – let alone in war.”[vii]
· Plunderer: On March 28, 2003, the Palestinian Sheikh Muhammad Abu Al-Hunud warned in another sermon broadcast over Palestinian Authority television against those who would attempt to “mess with Allah’s book, to Americanize the region, Americanize the religion, Americanize the Koran, Americanize Muhammad’s message….” Any doubt that he meant by this that the Qur’an and Muhammad’s message would be stripped of their violent components were dispelled when he prayed about the Americans in Iraq: “Allah, make their possessions a booty for the Muslims, Allah, annihilate them and their weapons, Allah, make their children orphans and their women widows….”[viii]
As late as November 2003, the website of the Islamic Affairs Department (IAD) of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, D.C. contained exhortations to Muslims to wage violent jihad in emulation of Muhammad, and quoted Muhammad’s words about plunder: “Whoever of My slaves comes out to fight in My way seeking My pleasure, I guarantee him that I will compensate his suffering with reward and booty (during his lifetime) and if he dies, I would forgive him, have mercy on him and let him enter Paradise.”[ix]
· Slaughterer of Jews: A jihadist explaining that the Israeli/Palestinian struggle was more than just a nationalist conflict over land declared: “But all of these people don’t realize that our struggle with the Jews goes way back, ever since the first Islamic state was established in Madeenah with Muhammad (SAWS) the Messenger sent to all of mankind, as its leader. Allaah has related to us in the Qur’ân, the reality of the Jews’ malice and hatred for the ummah of Islaam and Tawheed, as he says: ‘You will surely find that the people with the most enmity towards the believers are the Jews and the polytheists.’ (Surah Al-Maa’idah: 82) [Qur’an 5:82].[x]
In July 2006 a writer on a British Muslim Internet forum declared: “I’m so fed up with these dirty, filthy Israeli dogs. May Allah curse them and destroy them all, and may they face the same fate as Banu Qurayzah!”[xi] This was an Arabian Jewish tribe that was massacred on Muhammad’s orders, and with his participation, after he came to believe that they had betrayed him. Muhammad’s first biographer, Ibn Ishaq, puts the number of those killed at “600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900.”[xii]
· Polygamist. It is not disputed by anyone that Muhammad had many wives. Muslim apologetic websites do not deny the fact, but celebrate it: Islam Online says of Muhammad’s wives that “they gave advice to their husband when he needed it, went with him to battle to nurse the wounded, accompanied him on his travels. They preserved the memory of intimate details of their married life in order to educate succeeding generations in the rules of purification and relations between spouses.”
These are not the slanders of “Islamophobes.” These are the statements of people who consider themselves to be pious and knowledgeable Muslims, who wouldn’t dream of insulting Muhammad. It is noteworthy also that at least those who spoke in televised sermons seemed to assume that their Muslim audience would also know and accept that Muhammad behaved the way they say he did. Nor were there any protests raised against these or similar statements by other Muslims anywhere in the Islamic world. So why is Robert Redeker in fear for his life after threats for saying, in effect, what many Muslims around the world themselves say? It would appear that his chief crime was in saying these things as a non-Muslim, and in a disapproving way. Those Muslims who have issued threats to Redeker seem to be attempting to extend the traditional Islamic legal tenet forbidding non-Muslims in the Islamic state to insult Allah or Muhammad, or to hold any critical discussion of Muhammad by non-Muslims. It seems to be acceptable for non-Muslims to speak about Muhammad only if they speak as if they were believers, or with the sensibilities of believers paramount in their considerations. Even the noted moderate Muslim spokesman Akbar Ahmed of American University recommends something like this when speaking of the rage against Pope Benedict XVI. Ahmed hedges his support for free speech with an appeal to be sensitive to the consequences of speaking out: “Although I totally support free speech and freedom of expression, and have been saying so publicly, all of us need to be sensitive to the culture and traditions of other faiths. I am not talking of a purely academic or idealistic discussion but the possibility of people losing their lives as a result of some perceived attack on faith made across the world. I believe that the lives lost and the properties destroyed—including mosques and churches—after the Danish cartoons controversy erupted could have been avoided had there been people of greater wisdom and compassion at the start of the crisis.” (Ahmed’s “mosques and churches” statement is curious, since those who were angered by the Pope’s statement destroyed churches in Gaza, the West Bank, and Nigeria. They destroyed no mosques.)
Ahmed seems to be saying in effect that non-Muslims should tread lightly about Islamic topics simply because violence might ensue. But if someone reacts violently to another’s words, particularly if those words would be inoffensive coming from someone else, the fault lies with the one who is reacting, not with the speaker. The threats to Redeker, following so closely on the global outrage at the Pope, are yet another example of the jihadist attempt to frighten and intimidate the West into chastened silence.
That makes it all the more crucial, in these perilous times, for free people to speak out.
[i] Steven Stalinsky, “Palestinian Authority Sermons 2000-2003,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Report No. 24, December 26, 2003.
[ii] Adeyeye Joseph and Agaju Madugba, “Bomb Scare in Lagos,” This Day, November 22, 2003.
[iii] “Al-Qa’ida Internet Magazine Sawt Al-Jihad Calls to Intensify Fighting During Ramadan — ‘the Month of Jihad,’” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 804, October 22, 2004.
[iv] “Commander of the Khobar Terrorist Squad Tells the Story of the Operation,” Middle East Media Research Institute Special Dispatch Series No. 731, June 15, 2004.
[v] Amir Taheri, “Kerry Wins The Arab Vote,” New York Post, August 18, 2004.
[vi] Adil Salahi, “No Fighting Before Explaining Islam,” Arab News, January 31, 2005.
[vii] “London Islamist Dr. Hani Al-Sibaai Justifies Slaughters in Iraq: The Prophet Muhammad Used to Slaughter As Well,” Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Clip No. 576, February 22, 2005.
[viii] Steven Stalinsky, “Palestinian Authority Sermons 2000-2003,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Report No. 24, December 26, 2003.
[ix] Steven Stalinsky, “The ‘Islamic Affairs Department’ of the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C.,” Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Special Dispatch No. 23, November 26, 2003.
[x] “Our Struggle with the Jews is a Struggle for Existence, Not a Struggle for Land,” Al-Asaalah Magazine, Issue 30. http://www.allaahuakbar.net/jew/our_struggle_with_the_jews_is_a_struggle_for_existence.htm.
[xi] Yaakov Lappin, “UK Islamists: Make Jihad on Israel,” YNet News, July 2, 2006.
[xii] Ibn Ishaq, 464.