Shouting the jihadist battle cry declared by Islam’s prophet Muhammad himself, “Allahu-akbar” (“Allah is greater”), on Saturday, February 14, 2015, a Muslim gunman opened fire on participants at a Copenhagen, Denmark, conference on freedom of expression, killing 1 and wounding 3 others.
The conference titled, “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression,” featured Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who aptly refers to himself as an “equal opportunity offender” when it comes to insulting depictions of iconic religious figures. Whether portraying Jesus as a pedophile, or Muhammad as a roundabout canine, Vilks has argued that, “You cannot make an exception. Islam is not more holy than the other ones (religions).” Yet with sad predictability, only the votaries of Islam have reacted with ceaseless threats—and now additional murderous acts—of violence.
Repeating the pattern of what transpired in the Paris, January 7, 2015, Charlie Hebdo killings of cartoonists who dared to lampoon Islam’s prophet, followed by a murderous attack on a Parisian kosher market, the Copenhagen jihadist—identified as Omar Abdel Hamid el-Hussein, whom the Danish intelligence service “knew in advance”—subsequently attacked the city’s Great Synagogue in Krystalgade. El-Hussein, who may have been assisted by at least two surviving suspects, is alleged to have undergone an “abrupt transition” from street crime to Islamic jihadism. He murdered a Jewish community member on security duty during a bat mitzvah celebration, and wounded two police officers, before being shot to death near the Nørrebro train station by Danish police.
This latest paroxysm of lethal jihadist violence against Western free speech—and Jews—began exactly 26 years to the day after Ayatollah Khomeini issued his February 14, 1989 fatwa (i.e. authoritative Islamic religious ruling), condemning to death Salman Rushdie, as well as his publishers, for producing the “blasphemous” novel The Satanic Verses. Khomeini intoned:
I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one will dare to insult Islamic sanctity. Whoever is killed doing this will be regarded as a martyr and will go directly to heaven, Allah willing.
As noted by Professor Muhammad Hashim Kamali, who, since 1985, has taught Sharia and jurisprudence at the International Islamic University of Malaysia, in his authoritative Freedom of Expression in Islam: “…no serious Muslim commentator has challenged the basic validity of the Ayatollah’s fatwa. Adjudication was generally viewed to be necessary if only to find out if Rushdie was willing to repent.” The fatwa wrought targeted murders in Europe and Japan, and a mass killing in Turkey. Khomeini’s edict reflected an ongoing, intensifying, global campaign to impose Islamic blasphemy law on non-Muslims, including those living outside Islamdom, in non-Muslim societies.
Ultimately however, the Islamic religio-political inspiration for this free speech-crushing jihad derives from Muhammad’s attitudes and behaviors. Islam’s prophet routinely ordered his “mockers” put to death, or approved of their assassination, posthumously, by his Muslim followers. Jews were targeted for such killings, featuring prominently in Muhammad’s own “dead poets society.” For example, Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law, who became the Fourth Rightly Guided Caliph, recounted the following murder of a Jewish woman for insulting Muhammad (Sunan Abu Dawud Book 033, Hadith Number 4349):
A Jewess used to abuse the Prophet and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah declared that no recompense was payable for her blood.
The Muslim translator of this hadith collection, an Islamic jurisprudence scholar, Professor Ahmad Hasan, observes appositely: “This shows that even if a Jew or any non-Muslim abuses the Prophet, he will be killed.”
Thus, according to the traditions of Muhammad and the early Muslim community, by using foul language against the Muslim prophet (or Allah, or Islam), the non-Muslim transgressors put themselves on a war footing against Muslims, and their lives became licit. Islamic jurists typically cited the case of the poet Kaab b. al-Ashraf (born of a Jewish mother), who composed poems denigrating Muhammad, and was assassinated. This “offense” was then constructed and legitimated by Muslim jurists when Islam was politically, militarily and economically dominant, so that it was expected that the non-Muslims under Islamic rule would not denigrate the religion of Islam, nor cast aspersions on its major figures or institutions. The jurists saw any such denigration as an unacceptable hostile act, punishable by death, automatically, as per three of the main Sunni schools of Islamic Law (Maliki, Shafii, Hanbali), and the major Shiite schools. According to the fourth major school of Sunni Islamic law, the Hanafi, the punishment of a non-Muslim guilty of blasphemy is left to the discretion of a Muslim judge. The death penalty was in fact most often applied by the Hanafis. Qadi Iyad (d. 1149), the great Almoravid jurist, captured the doctrine’s animating Muslim supremacism in his seminal Ash-Shifa, which includes one of the most authoritative analyses of Islamic blasphemy law’s treatment of non-Muslims, ever written: “Once Islam was firmly established and Allah had given it victory over all other religions, any such detractor that the Muslims had power over and whose affair is well-known, was put to death.”
This orthodox Islamic doctrine-incorporated, for example, into the modern Pakistani legal code (295C: “Use of derogatory remarks, etc; in respect of the Holy Prophet. Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”) has wreaked havoc, in our era, particularly among Pakistan’s small Christian minority community. “Rising Restrictions on Religion,” a report by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life issued August 9, 2011 found that application of the Sharia at present resulted in a disproportionate number of Muslim countries, twenty-one—registering the highest (i.e. worst) persecution scores on their scale. Furthermore, the Pew investigators observed, “Eight-in-ten countries in the Middle East-North Africa region have laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion, the highest share of any region.”
An Egyptian state security court, on November 28, 2012, issued a verdict, which sentenced to death seven expatriate Coptic Egyptians, as well as American pastor Terry Jones, for “blaspheming” Islam. Egyptian Judge Saif al Nasr Soliman stated plainly when the ruling was issued, “The accused persons were convicted of insulting the Islamic religion through participating in producing and offering a movie that insults Islam and its prophet.” Egypt’s extra-territorial application of the Sharia reflects a larger global campaign by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (subsequently renamed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC]). As the largest voting bloc in the UN, which represents mainstream, institutional Islam, and all the major Muslim countries, in addition to the Palestinian Authority—the OIC has lobbied continuously over the past two decades for a UN resolution insisting countries criminalize what it calls “defamation of religion.” The OIC, consistent with its Sharia-based “human rights” paradigm, the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, which rejects freedom of conscience and speech as defined (and upheld) in the U.S. Bill of Rights, and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is calling for a specific ban on speech allegedly impugning the character of Islam’s prophet, which the OIC terms “hate speech.” Specific “legal” targets of the OIC have included Charlie Hebdo, and Lars Vilks.
As sura (chapter) 33 of the Koran itself elucidates, Muhammad’s actions—which animate Islamic law—also represent the eternal, idealized prototype for all Muslims:
The Prophet (Muhammad) is closer to the believers than their selves and his wives are their mothers.” [Koran 33:6]
Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” [Koran 33:21]
Muhammad’s murderous behaviors towards Jews, as well as “blasphemers,” validate Omar Abdel Hamid el-Hussein’s lethal attacks in Copenhagen this past weekend.
Abu Bilal Ismail, imam at Aarhus’s Grimhøj mosque, and Mohammed al-Khaled Samha, an imam at a mosque run by the Islamic Society in Denmark (Islamisk Trossamfund) in Vollsmose, foment jihadism and Islamic Jew-hatred within the local Danish Muslim environment. It is critical to understand that the core anti-Semitic motifs imams Ismail and Samha have been promoting all derive from Islam’s canonical texts, especially the Koran. Moreover, these same themes were expounded—and acted upon—by Muhammad, validating their eternal, sacralized relevance.
While delivering a sermon at Berlin’s al-Nur mosque on July 18, 2014, the good Danish imam Ismail invoked Koranic themes of the perfidious Jews as “spreaders of corruption” (Koran 5:32–33; 5:64), and “slayers of prophets” (Koran 2:61; 2:91; 3:21; 3:112; 3:181; 4:155)—this latter motif “updated” in the canonical hadith (traditions of Muhammad), and earliest pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad, to include the Jews’ responsibility for his conspiratorial poisoning, which caused the protracted and painful death of Islam’s prophet. Sheikh Ismail concluded with a call for the extermination of the Jews. “Oh Allah, destroy the Zionist Jews. They are no challenge for you.” He added, “Count them and kill them to the very last one. Don’t spare a single one of them.” Notwithstanding this annihilationist outburst, Sheikh Ismail returned to Denmark, where he continues to preach at the Grimhøj Mosque, a popular hotbed of jihadism.
Two months afterward, imam Samha delivered a sermon in the Danish town of Funen (Fyn), uploaded to the internet September 19, 2014. Consistent with the behavior of Islam’s prophet Muhammad, invoking Koran 5:60, Samha referred to the Jews as “the offspring of apes and pigs.” Muhammad, according to his earliest Muslim biographer, Ibn Ishaq (d. 767-770), just prior to orchestrating the en masse execution of the adult males from the besieged Medinan Jewish tribe the Banu Qurayzah (and distributing their women, children, and possessions as slave “booty” for the Muslims), addressed these Jews with menacing, hateful derision: “You brothers of monkeys, has God disgraced you and brought His vengeance upon you?” (Another early Muslim biographer of Muhammad, Ibn Sa‘d [d. 845], reports that Muhammad stated, “brothers of monkeys and pigs, fear me, fear me!”). Here is Ibn Ishaq’s description of Muhammad’s mass beheading of the Banu Qurayzah’s Jewish males by his own hand:
Then they [the men, including post-pubescent boys, of the Banu Qurayzah] surrendered, and the apostle [i.e., Muhammad] confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of B. Al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah Huyayy b. Akhtab and Ka’b b. Asad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. As they were being taken out in batches to the apostle they asked Ka’b what he thought would be done with them. He replied, “Will you never understand? Don’t you see that the summoner never stops and those who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!” This went on until the apostle made an end of them.
Following a later campaign against the Jews of the Khaybar oasis, Muhammad told those surviving his slaughter, and rapine, “As for you, I hate you more than monkeys and pigs.”
Imam Samha’s September 2014 sermon also referred to Palestine as “the land of gathering (on Judgment Day).” Adding, “It is the land of the great battle.” This eschatological (end of times) “battle”—an annihilation of the Jews by the Muslims to usher in Islam’s Messianic age—was described in a canonical hadith (Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6985), whose original words were uttered by Muhammad, and repeated by Samha: “and the stones and trees will say, ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah. There is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.”
Muhammad’s lethal intolerance of blasphemers and Jews—as imbued in his followers since the advent of Islam—was manifest on the streets of Copenhagen.
The wrenching reform of Islam required to eliminate its “sacralized” violence, and render the creed compatible with modern human-rights standards, remains an inchoate, dubious proposition. Dutch politician Geert Wilders recognized this potentially intractable problem, rooted in Muhammad’s persona, and demanded, “A public debate about the true nature and character of Muhammad [which] can provide insight and support to Muslims all over the world who wish to leave Islam.” Regardless, all intellectually honest efforts at reforming Islam must include criticism of both Islam’s core sacred text and founder. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali has observed,
You cannot liberalize Islam without criticizing Muhammed and the Koran… You cannot redecorate a house without entering inside.