By Saher Fares
August 18, 2017
How thin can excuses wear every time an
atrocity is committed in the name of Islam?
When 13 people were killed and scores more
injured this week in a vehicle-ramming attack in Barcelona, Spain, and stabbing
men shouting "This is for Allah!" on London Bridge and in Borough
Market in June, what the victims least cared about was the Western elite
pontificating that the latest atrocity "had nothing to do with
British Prime Minister Theresa May said,
"It is time to say enough is enough" and promised a review of her
country's counter-terrorism strategy.
In the absence, however, of an honest and
tempered look at the root causes of this terrorism, sacred or not, and a
painful soul-searching by Muslims themselves of the grounds in their religion
that give rise to such violence, it will never be "enough".
One need not go back centuries to the
Muslim conquest of the Christian late classical world -- the medieval Barbary
corsair raids, the Ottoman yoke in Central and Eastern Europe or the slave
markets of Kaffa in Tatar Muslim Crimea -- to understand that this violence
clearly predates the European colonial era, the creation of the modern state of
Israel, or the issue of climate change.
Only a fortnight ago, 29 Christian Copts
were killed for refusing to say, "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad
is his prophet" while on a trip to an Egyptian monastery on May 26.
Separately, an unconfirmed number of Christians were killed and taken hostage
by a mix of Saudi, Pakistani, Chechen, Moroccan and local jihadists in the
southern Philippines during the past few weeks. In addition, 90 people were
killed in a bombing in Kabul on May 31, and 26 people were killed at an ice
cream parlor in Baghdad during Ramadan. None of these massacres had anything to
do with "Bush's war" in Iraq or U.S. President Donald J. Trump's
proposed "Muslim ban".
Countries such as China, Nigeria or Kenya
that are not Western, not "imperialist", not whatever the excuses
that Islamists make, are still spectacularly attacked by similar stabbings.
Month on month, there seems almost nowhere Islamic terror did not strike. In
January 2014, there the kidnapping and forced conversion of Christian Chibok
girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. In March 2014, there were stabbings at China's
Kunming Railway Station in by eight terrorists of the East Turkestan Islamic
Movement -- male and female attackers pulled out long-bladed knives and stabbed
and slashed passengers. In May 2014, there was the shooting at the Jewish
Museum in Brussels. In June 2014, there was the murder of 48 people in
Mpeketoni in Kenya, and the list goes on for just the first half of 2014 alone.
The slaughter at London's Parliament
Square; the Manchester Arena; the St. Petersburg Metro; Paris's Bataclan
Theatre and sports stadium; the three bombings targeting travellers in
Brussels; last Christmas's truck-ramming attack on a packed festival market in
Berlin, to name but a few of the further incidents -- all really had nothing to
do with avenging the Congolese from the onerous legacy of King Leopold.
Rather, volumes of revered Islamic texts establish
in great detail the grounds of violence and oppression of non-believers and
those deemed heretical. These supposed grounds -- made alive daily in madrassas
and mosques across the world before being acted upon by religiously trained
terrorists -- are childishly dismissed by Western liberals as immaterial.
Meanwhile, men, women and children are
being offered as human sacrifices on the altar of political cynicism. Divine
justice will doubtlessly judge not only the murderers and a creed that often
seems bloodthirsty, but also those who insist, against all evidence, that this
creed has nothing to do with those deaths.
The first step towards a solution is to
question the received knowledge tirelessly dished out by media pundits in the
West, and confirmed by too many supposed Muslim "moderates" both at
home and abroad. What is lacking is simply seeing a huge body of evidence of
theological justification for Islamist terror.
Have the statements by politicians in the
1990s (for example, at the time of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman's plot against the
World Trade Center) changed from those uttered in the wake of 9/11, or again
from those repeated after the San Bernardino attack in 2015? Do politicians
give their "Islam is a religion of peace" platitudes out of political
expediency or even the slightest knowledge of the ideology of Islam? Do they
know actually know more about Islam than many of Islam's learned Ulema
(scholars), including Ibn Taymiyyah, or the authentic Hadith (actions and
sayings of Muhammad)? One says:
"Allah's Apostle said, 'I have been
sent with the shortest expressions bearing the widest meanings, and I have been
made victorious with terror.'" (Sahih Al-Bukhari 122)
How does one read verses in the Quran such
instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers. Smite ye above their necks
and smite all their finger-tips off them. This is because they contended
against Allah and His Messenger. If any contend against Allah and His
Messenger, Allah is strict in punishment." (8:12-13)?
When it is said that Islam has nothing to
do with verses such as these, is that meant to appease Muslims, comfort the
victims of Islamic terror or support the comfort of the non-Muslim community?
If it is the first, well, as history teaches, appeasement simply does not work.
Besides, it would be an offensive to presume that Muslims, all Muslims, are to
be held responsible for a creed that, in their own understanding of it, greatly
varies from one individual to another. If the denial is intended to comfort
victims, it does not. And as for the comfort of the non-Muslim community, what
is being served up has to be based on what is visibly true. Should such
arguments not first be pitched to try to convince those who are willing to kill
and be killed in the name of Islam, rather than to those out to have a good
time on a Saturday evening?
Will the time come when reformers in the
Islamic world will have louder voices in scrutinizing Islam -- despite the
obvious dangers to their lives -- than Western elites, who are merely afraid of
being falsely accused of being "Islamophobes"? Why should it be
"Islamophobic" to want to defend yourself?
For nearly two years, a prime-time TV
program by a young Egyptian reformist, Islam el-Beheiry, has called for an
overhaul of the millennium-old compilation of hadiths. He argues that much of
it is incompatible with modernity and the best understanding of divinity and
"Such tradition has very little good
amid a multitude of evil, least of which is the insistence by all the Four Schools
of Sunni Islam that Christians can be killed with impunity. A Muslim life is
'superior' to that of a non-Muslim. Such is the Ijmaa' (jurisprudence
Beheiry was sentenced in May 2015 to five
years in prison with hard labor for "defamation of religion" --
thanks to Egypt's blasphemy law. The sentence was reduced in December 2015 to
one year. After serving most of his sentence, he was released on a presidential
Still, this Ramadan 2017, Beheiry was back
again on the screen with a program he calls "The Map", in which he is
trying to build a scientific way of judging what he thinks is divine and what
is not in the mass of Islamic literature.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, an
army general who in 2014 came to power following vast street protests against
the short-lived rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, said it was no longer feasible
that the Muslim World would set itself "in enmity against the whole
Now, in Europe, some rightly ask: If one in
a thousand is a bad apple, why should we judge all the apples. One also needs
to ask: If one in a thousand apple blows up in my yard, how many more violent
incidents will Europe get after bringing in a cartload of millions more? Or,
what if the problem is not really with the fruit, but with the tree itself?
Why is a desire to preserve one's own
culture deemed racist? I do not believe that I am better because I am or am not
a Muslim. Is it "xenophobic" to ask such questions when the violence
keeps edging closer and closer to home? Why should it be
"Islamophobic" to want to defend yourself?
I do not fear Muslims, but I fear that a
tolerant culture is being replaced by an intolerant, misogynistic, anti-Semitic
and supremacist one -- espoused, even semi-consciously, by much of the Islamic
world today. It is a world that is being assured by its scholars that such
intolerant, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and supremacist manifestations are, in
all ages, in the best spirit of Islam.
Is it "Islamophobic" to be angry
at such atrocities committed every day, or to be angry at politicians who lie
about what Islam is and is not, and merely call their challengers names while
failing to do anything to stop the atrocities?
Should European courts and parliaments
criminalize free speech that criticizes this understanding of Islam among the
bulk of Islamic jurists, when those jurists stand at the head of an
assembly-line of suicide bombers targeting Western nationals?
Should those who ask questions about
Islamic terror be ostracized by the mainstream media and academia, while those
institutions themselves give no answers to the jihadist problem of "holy
hate" in our midst?
I do not wish the world to turn against
Muslims. I only wish the sages would stop and think if all this really has
"nothing to do with Islam." Can we not say, "stop justifying
murderers in the name of your religion"?
Can we not simply say that such creeds will
not be allowed here in the West, will not be whitewashed, glossed over, or
explained away by Westerners through a mixture of cultural cringe and a
misguided sense of guilt? Can we not reject jihad, accept apostasy, and be able
freely to ask questions in our public spaces, on our television shows, in our
schools and on our streets?
Saher Fares is an Arabic linguist and researcher from the Middle East.