Respecting the Sanctity of Prophets: Boastful crows and insincere sentiments
As we have seen, we are very protective of our religious sanctities, and while this may be commendable, one could say that this zealous protectiveness can be attributed to the instincts of the herd, rather than devotion to religion. The Muslim community, as a group feels a sense of ownership over Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as part of their Islamic fundamentalism, just like the Christian community feels a sense of ownership over Jesus. For this reason, when we see the West ridicule their own religious symbols in their movies like (Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Jesus, and Virgin Mary) we rarely find Muslims express their outrage since they do not consider them their own private property, instead they belong to the public.
This line of thinking is classified under the herd mentality. As for the mentality of believers, they are aware that any ridicule or offensive discourse directed at any of the holy prophets and messengers will not bring them any harm, and this hostile discourse will only serve extremists. For level-headed believers, all prophets bring a sense of enlightenment, tranquility, and guidance, while extremists see prophets as symbolic properties that can be owned and used to serve certain agendas. This ownership over religious symbols is close to idolatry and the worship of statues, and this fear we have over anyone going near our symbols is similar to a pagan’s fear of others destroying his statues.
Any sane individual can understand that the instincts of the herd in terms of (Christian and Islamic fundamentalism) is a phenomenon promoted and aggravated by Western countries and their allies in an effort to stand against the so-called (communist atheism). When the West no longer needed to exploit these religious fundamentalist mentalities, they failed to dismantle them entirely, and fundamentalism turned into a threat jeopardizing the stability of human civilizations.
This fundamentalism whether by Muslim or Christian extremists, has inflamed and infected many regions and the world could no longer contain it even in their fight against terrorism. The ramifications of this mentality have pushed countries worldwide to promote the culture of globalization that emphasizes pluralism, tolerance, and freedom of expression.
I believe that we should not exaggerate in our demands in terms of respecting religions. This exaggeration will result in instating strict laws that even the followers of these religions themselves will face difficulties upholding. Instead, we should be demanding more tolerance, freedom of expression and respect for other people’s differences. We should aspire to build civilized countries that foster figures like Ahmed Deedat, a prominent South African Muslim preacher, who is known for his peaceful interfaith public debates. His tolerance allowed him to walk safely and freely in countries with a Christian majority without fearing for his life or the lives of his family. He even succeeded repeatedly in defending Islam by winning rational debates.
Can we as Muslims reach this level of civility and acceptance of opposing views, or will the cultural gap remain wide, standing in the way of engaging in an amicable interfaith dialog? Will we be able to move beyond the herd mentality? During this modern day and age, we are witnessing this shift towards leaving this primitive form of thinking behind by disassembling backward beliefs. Despite Edward Said’s efforts to expose orientalism which emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts the image of Arabs, many Muslims seem to confirm this image to the West with their dogmatism.
During this critical moment in time, we are emphasizing the importance of freedom of expression, because the followers of many religious doctrines may overlook the consequences of imposing the idea of respecting religious sanctities across all communities. This imposition might lead to endless sectarian conflicts and wars. For instance, when Muslims refuse to refrain from eating beef, some might say that they are disrespecting the sanctity of the religious beliefs of billions of Hindus. This imposition might also lead to banning the distribution of the Quran in countries all over the world with a Christian majority (there are 2 billion Christians around the world) on the pretext that some verses discredit major Christian beliefs. Jews might also object and start accusing certain Quranic verses of being anti-Semitic since they do not understand their historical context.
We are emphasizing the importance of freedom of expression, because Islamic fundamentalism might deem the Christian faith as a flagrant infringement of the meaning of monotheism and therefore, some extremists might find it their duty to defend God Almighty by legitimizing the murder of all those who say that God has a son. Let us emphasize that despite all these differences between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity; Islam has permitted Muslims to take a wife from these holy religions. Islam, a 1400-year-old religion, came to emphasize the values of acceptance, tolerance and pluralism, yet unfortunately due to misinformation and blind fundamentalism, many have been misled away from the true message of this peaceful religion.
Throughout history, we have seen the devastating effects of this fundamentalism. For instance, in 1989 the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwah ordering Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie in response to his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’. Without this politicized fatwah, no one would have even heard of this novel. In 2006, many followers of politically religious groups such as the Sururism movement and the Muslim Brotherhood came together in support of Hassan Nasrallah as the alleged protector of the Islamic Revolution and the liberator of Palestine.
This fundamentalism even carried over to Denmark, when an entire campaign was fabricated on the pretext of defending the sanctity of Prophet Muhammad. At the time, many Muslims chose to dismiss the fact that Europe was more credible in its pro-Islamic stance than many others in the region who keep crowing about their Islamic affiliations and sentiments. We haven’t seen France attempt to close the Great Mosque of Paris or transform it into a church or a museum. France sees this mosque as a symbol of religious pluralism and a solid basis upholding the values of the French Revolution. These values have made it possible for Islam to be the second-most widely professed religion in France. Despite what is currently being circulated by the media, French Muslims from Arab origins, are blessed with exceptional humanitarian privileges and most of them would never consider moving back to their Islamic Arab countries. It is safe to say that the main issue here is religious fundamentalism, whether it is Islamic or Christian right-wing extremism. It is evident that they seek to turn back the clock and take us back to the age of the Crusades.
Finally, let us aspire to be firm Muslim believers who fully understand the true message of Islam and realize that murder is a grave sin that is much more serious than the destruction of the Kaaba. At the same time, we should avoid being radical Islamists with double standards; Islamists who question the validity of killing mosquitoes during the state of Ihraam yet have no qualms about slaughtering those with opposing views. If we do not want to follow the example of impressive Islamic figures like Ibn Rushd and Ibn Khaldun, then I say we can at least try to follow the lead of the Japanese, Chinese, or even the Russians in their resistance of orientalism. From now on, we must aim not to fall prey to misleading rhetoric and avoid being among those who are easily fooled and misdirected by the crows of those who are exploiting Muslims in the name of Islam by stirring up hostility and division with their insincere Islamic sentiments.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Al Watan.