Remember those Riots in France?

Well, since I have France on my mind I thought I would post something I wrote back when those Muhammad cartoons came out. It was Part II of my series on Islam (recently published Part XI on this blog). Enjoy.

Part II: Islam, Cartoons and Riots

I was chatting with a friend of mine who lives in Saudi Arabia yesterday. She has always lived there, her dad has three wives, she has never been outside of the Middle East. She is a smart lady, and witty too. I asked her about the cartoon debacle and she said what many folks here are saying: they don't have the right to offend Islam that way.

I just got back from spending some time with a very moderate Muslim friend who is not an Arab. His sisters don't wear head coverings, he doesn't go to mosque often. He compared the cartoons to people who praise the holocaust. I said that it was illegal to incite violence against a group, which is what you have in his holocaust example. Here violence was not being incited against Muslims. He responded, but it led to violence on the part of Muslims--so what's the difference?

These two twenty-somethings represent the future of the Middle East. They are well-educated, multi-lingual, intelligent people, and they are both dear friends of mine. Neither of them had even seen the cartoons though.

So what is the reason for this gulf between our approach and theirs? Let me suggest two possible factors:

The language of rights.
It is foreign to Islam, specifically in the generalized form of "human rights" or "inalienable rights." While rejecting positivism, the rights of a person are derived from the fact that they are living under a valid Islamic authority. Politics is sacramental, so a Muslim ruler is an outward sign of an inward grace, namely the subjugation and subjection of the peoples of the world to God's rule. (Note that violence can become sacred under this model.) So speaking of a right to anything that is insulting to Islam is inherently self-contradictory.

The Final Revelation.
Islam is very confident that it is the final and true revelation from God. Therefore to allow space for any belief that might contraddict this is unjustified. Christianity and Judaism are allowed to exist, but under a system of governance that assures their eventual extinction. This system has been spectacularly successful in Northern Africa and Asia Minor and the Arabian Peninsula.

These are just two points. There are others, but I think it will help us to at least size up how different the two frames of mind or worldviews are from eachother.

So how should Christians react to those who offend them? I think there is no one answer to that, but it is clear that the genesis of that action must begin with loving our enemies and blessing those who curse us.

I think Christians are so used to having our faith ridiculed that it is hard for us to imagine the novelty of what many Muslims are experiencing. But give it a try. Feel the fury, the anger, the desire to kill and to destroy. But then hear the voice of your conscience brought alive by the Spirit reminding you that you are as guilty as your enemy, that if he deserves death then so do you, and that if you are to live up to the name of Christian that you must love him. And love mercy. Pray for that zealous desire to forgive.

I think that is where Christians are obliged to start, though depending on conditions it will lead us to different places and actions. But not to hoping for nuclear destruction in this or that country or the lawless torching of embassies. Not there, I am sure.


SocietyVs said…
Great post - gave me some insights into the mindframe behind the cartoon fiasco. I think I have a tough time reasoning such acts for some pictures of Mohammed (even when some where vile). But I can see the hypocrisy in this while Middle East papers print Jewish people with swastika's (and as pigs). Don't really see the Jewish nation getting all defensive (all the time) over such depictions - why? They know they are false.

And this is where the Muslims need to move towards - self-esteem about their faith and not this 'child-like' behavior of anger.

Really enjoyed the post and I really feel for you in a country that may not respect your religious freedom - thanks for the insight.
Jason Nota said…
You talked about differences between Christianity and Islam and I think this is a perfect example of a difference. Their has been plenty of films and articles written that depict Jesus in a very negative way. But I don't hear of Christians putting out contracts on the authors life. Sure it upsets me that they try to cast doubt on who Jesus really is but killing the person over the offence goes against what Jesus teaches.
Anonymous said…
Mohammad cartoon protests aren't unique to Islam

By Michael Conlon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The violence linked to cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad is not unique to Islam, experts say, and the protests reflect political and cultural passions more than the faith's core values.

Looking for distinct features that would make Islam liable for the cartoon-related violence around the world does little to explain it, said the Rev. Patrick Gaffney, an anthropologist and expert on Islam at the University of Notre Dame.

"There are parallel behaviors in every tradition," he said. "Buddhism has a violent strain despite its pacifism ... You think about Hinduism and nonviolence but (Mohandas) Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu."

Other examples of religious violence involving various faiths abound in recent and past history. But attention has focused on Muslims this year as at least 11 people have been killed in protests in the Middle East, Asia and Africa after the publication of cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammad in newspapers in Denmark and elsewhere.

"You can't say Islam has a gene for violence," Gaffney said. "It has to do with the dynamics, political and economic, that are at play right now," especially in Europe where there has been a long history of anti-Islamic prejudice that represents "an underlying kind of powder keg."


While Muslims account for only 5 percent of the European Union's population generally, their numbers are much higher in certain countries. Worldwide there are estimated to be 1.3 billion Muslims, or 21 percent of the global population, surpassed only by Christians, who account for 2.1 billion, or 33 percent, according to the Web site

Ruediger Seesemann, a professor of religion at Northwestern University, said the present situation has exploded because beyond whatever offense the cartoons carry, "Muslims feel under siege."

On top of the "physical occupation of Iraq," he said, the cartoon controversy came "at a moment of time when it's the straw that broke the camel's back."

"It is often said in the media that Islam prohibits images of the Prophet," Seesemann said. "This is not correct. Muslims themselves have portrayed the Prophet.

"The problem here is not the image but the way it has been published -- as a terrorist with a turban shaped like a bomb. This is what Muslims direct their outrage against."

Juan Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, said in a commentary on his Web site that the current controversy "must be understood in historical context."

"Most Muslim societies have spent the past two centuries either under European rule or heavy European influence and most colonial masters and their helpmates among the missionaries were not shy about letting local people know exactly how barbaric they thought the Muslim faith was," he wrote.


"Indeed, the same themes of Aryan superiority and Semitic backwardness in the European 'scientific racism' of the 19th and early 20th centuries ... led to the Holocaust against the Jews. ... A caricature of a Semitic prophet like Mohammad with a bomb in his turban replicates these racist themes ...

"Semites were depicted as violent and irrational and therefore as needing a firm white colonial master for their own good," Cole wrote.

John Esposito, a professor at Georgetown University and author of "What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam and Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam," agrees that there is nothing in the faith that makes its adherents prone to reacting differently to ridicule.

Martin Luther King Jr., he said, once called riots the voice of the voiceless.

"From my point of view this is a lot more about the context in which this is occurring than about the blasphemy," he said in an interview.

"It's a European context in which you have a growing right wing that is anti-immigrant and a global situation in which mainstream Muslims feel there is a war against Islam," Esposito said.

At the same time many Muslims around the world feel "a sense of powerlessness both within their own countries and, as well, in the international community that exacerbates the situation," he said."
Abu Daoud said…
Thank you Society and Jason. You both make good points.

Regarding the article from anonymous, I would like to point to Part IX of this series, on Islam and Victimhood. In that short article I propose that Islam today is inherently obsessed with being the victim, and here is a perfect example:

Muslims riot, kill people, burn down buildings, but it's not their fault! The problem was colonialism :-(

Tell that to India, the USA, Brazil, and Hong Kong which are all doing quite well post-colonialism thank you, and not rioting when people hurt their feelings.

Grow up.
-----"namely the subjugation and subjection of the peoples of the world to God's rule.------

---"Christianity and Judaism are allowed to exist, but under a system of governance that assures their eventual extinction."------

I don't think this accurately reflects the historical truth.The world renown scholar Yusuf al Qaradawi says:

----Muslims are in unanimous agreement that dhimmis enjoy the same rights and carry the same responsibilities as Muslims themselves, while being free to practice their own faiths.-----

Page 174 of The Oxford Illustrated history of Christianity states:

----The fiction that Islam was preached by the sword and Christianity by the lamb and the dove appeared early in Christian writings and still exercises a powerful influence upon the popular perception of Islam.----

The ebook can be seen here.
Abu Daoud said…
Thank you IJ,

But al Qaradawi is completely wrong about this. Muslims have inferior rights in an Islamic society because they do not have the freedom to leave Islam.

Islam, for those who wish to leave it, becomes a prison. In the words of the Prophet, man baddala diinahu fa'aqtaluuhu--whosoever changes his religion slay him.

I invite you my friend to read the injiil which is not corrupted at all, and the Qur'an agrees with me on this point. Consider Jesus--what he said and taught.

I would ask you, what do you think of him as a person, a human, like you or me, leaving aside our diinayn for the moment.

May our Lord guide both of us into his wonderful and merciful truth friend.

I assume that your main objection is Muslims being allowed to change faiths.
Other than that, you seem to agree with me.

With regards to apostasy, the important thing to point out is that the punishment is only for those who publicly preach of their conversion.

As one Saudi Cleric, Sheikh Adil Salahi, states:

--all scholars, past and contemporary, agree that no person is questioned about their faith, which means that a Muslim who converts to some other religion and keeps this to himself, or within his immediate contacts, no one will ever bother him.-----


Now I understand that some people
still think that this is a bit
But you can find similar example of this in U.S. history, as they punished blasphemy for being 'public offense'

In one description of the famous 19th century Chief Justice Shaw:

----He defended the coexistence of the constitutional provisions relating to freedom of religion and freedom of speech and press and the blasphemy statue…----

(Repressive Jurisprudence in
the Early American Republic.
page 332-334
By Phillip I. Blumberg ,dean
of law at the University of

Can be read on google books.

My previous post is also under the assumption that Islam does teach apostasy.

Though I find nothing morally wrong with this opinion (for the reasons I already mentioned), I think that the correct opinion is the one expressed by the Cambridge Scholar, Timothy Winter:

See a snipet of his lecture on
youtube channel of the famous publishing company, islamondemand

---------I invite you my friend to read the injiil which is not corrupted at all, and the Qur'an agrees with me on this point. Consider Jesus--what he said and taught. --------------

See this debate

Pay particular attention to the ending, which you can see at the last half of the video here:

Islam's teachings can be seen at:
Abu Daoud said…
Dear IJ,

The difference between the religion of Muhammad and the religion of Jesus is very clear when we look at what the followers of Jesus taught about love. Please read the following description and tell me what YOU think (not a link to some other website...)

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Tell me, my dear friend, where is this corrupted? Life awaits you. Hope awaits. Joy awaits you. You are invited to be Ibn al Hakeem and not Abd al Hakeem. The love of Allah himself extends this invitation to you and he longs for you to accept it.
I agree with much of what you say (though I may need more time to think about it)

If you want to see my main objections, look here

I notice that ''love'' is a frequent argument on this blogspot.
While I am not unwilling to discuss it, can we please keep the discussion on the topic?

Thanks for the question!

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