Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Monday, January 12, 2015

Charle Hebdo And The Bigger Issue

At, five Muslim academics expressed their outrage at the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Dr. Tariq Ramadan and Sheikh Omar Suleiman issued generic religion-of-peace platitudes. Dr. Wael Shihab appealed to Sura 5:32: "[W]hosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind." On the surface, it seems many jihadi supporters would find vindication for the attacks in this sura, based on an the assumption that mocking Mohammed qualifies as "corruption" (or "mischief," in some translations). Lacking the Quranic version of a Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, I can't tell you how that root Arabic word is commonly used.

Unlike the others, Drs. Khaled Hanafy and Yasir Qadhi seek to address a root issue: whether or not Islam prescribes punishment for mockery of Mohammed. Each claims that such mockery (and even direct harassment) is recorded in the Quran, and in no event did Mohammed ever order retaliation. This approach should be further expanded upon; if the claim is correct, it will be substantiated by a list of all the suras recording such prophet-mocking incidents.

But that addresses only a subset of Islamic terror attacks. Most commonly the terrorists just want to kill non-Muslims for being non-Muslims; Boko Haram serves as a classic example.

All modern jihadi movements operate under the assumptions that a) Mohammed instructed future generations of Muslims to wage war against infidels as long as there are unconquered infidels on Earth, and b) that Islam supports private parties not authorized by governments (i.e. vigilantes) to undertake such warfare. Does Islam support either of these principles? Both Muslims and non-Muslims say yes, both Muslims and non-Muslims say no.

This post will not seek to discern whose interpretations are correct. As a Christian and a humanitarian (the Muslim world historically lags behind the West re human rights) I would prefer that Islam just go away, but it isn't, so the next best thing to hope for is the defeat of the jihadi view in the war on ideas. Unfortunately, the people best equipped to engage in that war are an ill-focused, disorganized lot.

Who has any chance of swaying Muslim opinion away from the jihadi view? Robert Spencer and Bill Maher? No. Muslims will most likely be swayed by Muslim authorities - clerics, politicians, academics. These leaders who reject the jihadi view need to organize in a united front, and put together a substantive message supporting their opposition to the jihadi view. They're not doing that. If they were, the American press so desperate to push the Religion of Peace meme would have found them.

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