This Friday, September 22, 2006, votaries of Islam worldwide, defying the timeless wisdom of G.K. Chesterton, are preparing to “ape an ancient rage” with organized demonstrations condemning Pope Benedict XVI’s 9/12/06 remarks.
In an earlier essay, I described at some length the historical context for the comments Pope Benedict made which have so inflamed both the Muslim leadership, and masses. Benedict cited one of the later examples of a vigorous Muslim-Christian polemic that transpired for at least four centuries, during the 11th through 15th centuries. Specifically, the Pope alluded to the late 14th century Byzantine ruler Manuel II Paleologus’ statements on the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad war:
Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the ‘Book’ and the ‘infidels’, he [Manuel II Paleologus] turns to his [learned Muslim] interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.’
These excerpts—deemed so incendiary today by Muslims despite their having been recorded more than six centuries earlier—were part of a stereotypical exchange reflective of its time. For example, Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), jurist, renowned philosopher, historian, and sociologist—one of the greatest luminaries of Muslim civilization—was a contemporary of the Byzantine “philosopher king” Manuel II Paleologus. Here are Ibn Khaldun’s personal observations on Christianity, from his monumental historical treatise “The Muqaddimah”
We do not think that we should blacken the pages of this book [The Muqaddimah] with discussion of their [Christian] dogmas of unbelief. In general, they are well known. All of them are unbelief. This is clearly stated in the noble Koran. To discuss or argue those things with them is not up to us. It is for them to choose between conversion to Islam, payment of the poll tax, or death.
Not surprisingly, one of the driving forces behind these planned protests- cum-continued threats on 9/22/06 is the ubiquitous “Spiritual” leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and head of the European Fatwa Council, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi.
John Esposito, Georgetown University Professor and doyen of American apologists for jihadism, has repeatedly identified Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi as one of the most influential contemporary Muslim thinkers. The immensely popular Qaradawi reaches an enormous audience during his regular appearances on Al- Jazeera television broadcast to tens of millions of Muslim sympathizers across the globe. This past February 3, 2006, in a sermon calling for an earlier “rage” (or what I termed a “Jackass Jihad”; see below ) against the publication of 12 rather tame Danish cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad, Qaradawi exhorted his millions of Muslim followers to “rage in anger”. He maintained,
It is told that Imam Al-Shafi' [d. 820, founder of the Shafi’ite school of Islamic jurisprudence] said: 'Whoever was angered and did not rage is a jackass.' We are not a nation of jackasses. We are not jackasses for riding, but lions that roar. We are lions that zealously protect their dens, and avenge affronts to their sanctities. We are not a nation of jackasses. We are a nation that should rage for the sake of Allah, His Prophet, and His book. We are the nation of Muhammad, and we must never accept the degradation of our religion.
Sheikh Qaradawi’s calls for “days of rage”—earlier in response to the Danish cartoons, and now following Benedict’s speech—reflect his own devout jihadism, most notably Qaradawi’s previous characterization of Muhammad as the prototype jihadist.
During a June 19, 2001 broadcast of one his widely viewed Al-Jazeera religious programs, Qaradawi, in a sermon entitled, “The Prophet Muhammad as a Jihad Model”, highlighted the unique characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad when compared to the prophets that preceded him:
The prophets that Allah sent prior to Muhammad were sent for a limited time …and to a specific people. … Allah established in the life of the Prophet Muhammad general, eternal, and all inclusive characteristics, and he gave every human being the possibility to imitate him and take his life as a model…The Christian is incapable of imitating Jesus regarding war and conciliation since Jesus never fought or made peace.
Allah has…made the prophet Muhammad into an epitome for religious warriors [Mujahideen] since he ordered Muhammed to fight for religion …
Consistent with the pious Islamic narrative, i.e., the hadith, and earliest Muslim biographies of Muhammad (such as those by Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Sa'ad , and later, Tabari), Qaradawi further acknowledged that Muhammad launched armed, aggressive jihad campaigns during his sojourn in Medina. Qaradawi, in accord with all classical Islamic jurisprudence on jihad war, also maintained that there is in fact a “jihad which you seek,” i.e., invading other [countries] in order to spread the word of Islam and to remove, by force of arms, “obstacles” standing in the way of this coercive Islamization.
More ominously, Qaradawi has made unabashed appeals for Muslims to wage a “jihad re-conquest” of Europe. His public fatwa on December 2, 2002 stated,
Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and a victor after being expelled from it twice – once from the south, from Andalusia, and a second time, from the east, when it knocked several times on the doors of Athens”. Qaradawi’s fatwa ruled, in addition, that Muslims should re-conquer, “…former Islamic colonies to Andalus (Spain), southern Italy, Sicily, the Balkans and the Mediterranean islands.
The ultimate source of the convulsive reaction to the Pope’s speech is the Islamic belief that spiritually and physically debauched infidels have no right to express opinions—least of all negative opinions—regarding Islam’s sacred text, the Koran, the Muslim prophet, Muhammad (Ecce Homo Arabicus), or the sacred Islamic Law (Shari’a), which includes the permanent institution of jihad war.
Such deep-seated intolerance has always predominated under Muslim rule, even in that mythical paragon of Islamic ecumenism, Muslim Spain. Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq, a preeminent scholar of Muslim Spain, provides these illustrations of the religious and legal discriminations suffered by non-Muslim dhimmis (i.e., the non-Muslim populations vanquished by jihad, and governed by Islamic law, Shari’a). For “…having insulted the Prophet or blasphemed against the Word of God (i.e., The Koran)”, dhimmis were executed. But, as Dufourcq notes, even lesser offenses could result in the collective punishment of entire dhimmi communities:
…from one day to the next, all the Christians (or Jews) in a city could lose their status as a [dhimmi] people through the fault of just one of them. Everything could be called into question, including their personal liberty…Furthermore, non-payment of the legal tribute [the Koranic (verse 9:29) poll tax, or jizya] was not the only reason for abrogating the status of the ‘People of the Book [Bible]’ [i.e., dhimmi Christians and Jews]; another was ‘public outrage against the Islamic faith’, for example, leaving exposed, for Moslems to see, a cross or wine, or even pigs.
The global Muslim reactions to both the Danish cartoons, and the Pope’s Regensburg lecture manifest these same motifs of dehumanizing infidel hatred, replete with the collective punishment of non-Muslim societies and religious institutions for their modern “blasphemies”. When a single Danish newspaper published nondescript cartoons of Muhammad, Danish embassies were destroyed, and Danish goods boycotted in Muslim countries. Similarly, the Pope’s mere quotation of a late 14th century Muslim-Christian polemic has incited violent attacks (including at least two murders; here; and here) directed at Christians, and their institutions in Islamic societies.
And this ancient hatred apparently influences even the most respected, ecumenical Muslim elites. Witness the much lionized Georgetown Professor of Islamic Studies Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the quintessential, “enlightened” Muslim moderate. During an interview this week (9/19/06) on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show, Professor Nasr revealed that he cannot accept reasoned criticism of either Muhammad's sacralized violence, from which the institution of jihad arises, or Muslims acting violently at mere mention of this undeniable linkage by infidels. As columnist/blogger Mona Charen reported, Nasr
took issue with [the] description of the violence perpetrated against Christians worldwide following the Pope’s remarks as ‘unprovoked.’ He [Nasr] interjected ‘But it was provoked.’ Diane Rehm equably restated his position (I paraphrase) ‘So you think words are violence.’ He [Nasr] confirmed.
The same day, moderate Pakistani Muslim autocrat Pervez Musharrraf, also in response to the Pope’s lecture, argued for international blasphemy laws to be imposed (i.e., international Sharia) upon those who “defame Islam”. His comments give voice to a process that is being institutionalized by the Organization of the Islamic Conference on behalf of all 57 of its member nations: the Islamization, or creeping “Sharia-zation” of human rights standards, including the creation of international Sharia Courts. These developments pose a grave threat to mankind’s most basic freedoms, in particular freedom of conscience.
G.K. Chesterton, circa 1920, offered these penetrating insights on religious tolerance which remain apposite more than 85 years later:
Now a man preaching what he thinks is a platitude is far more intolerant than a man preaching what he admits is a paradox. It was exactly because it seemed self-evident, to Moslems as to Bolshevists, that their simple creed was suited to everybody, that they wished in that particular sweeping fashion to impose it on everybody…Those who complain of our creeds as elaborate often forget that the elaborate Western creeds have produced the elaborate Western constitutions; and that they are elaborate because they are emancipated.
Doubtless the protests slated for 9/22/06 will not be accompanied by condemnations of the assassination of a 65-year-old Italian nun in Somalia, another Christian in Baghdad, the burning of churches in Gaza and the West Bank, or the murderous threats and obscenities leveled at Pope Benedict himself—some earlier manifestations of this same strain of “sacralized”, infidel-hating Muslim rage. Yet again the mass pathology of a contemporary Islamic civilization still triumphantly devoid of any reasonable sense of perspective, or self-criticism, will be on public display.
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