John Humphrys was his usual dog-with-a-bone-of-contention this morning on Radio 4 as he pushed to get an answer from Taji Mustafa to the question “Do you condemn the Imams who condone violence in the face of insults to Islam?” Mustafa did not give a direct answer. Humphrys could have asked a simpler question, “If someone deliberately insults you, is it alright to punch him in the face?”
I would also have liked Humphrys to ask the question “What would Mohammed say?” And we could, in the interest of fairness, ask the question “what would Jesus say?” and “what would human reason say?”, to pit three sources of authority against each other.
The radio interview this morning exposed the limits of human reason. Humphrys argued that it was not reasonable to use the threat of violence against the person to silence people. Mustafa reasoned that every society has red lines of acceptable and unacceptable behavior and that insulting the prophet of Islam was unacceptable. As interviewer and interviewee talked past one another, it was clear that different humans and different cultures think different behavior is reasonable. Who is right? Human reason cannot arbitrate.
So, what would Jesus say? In his very first direct teaching in Luke’s gospel, Jesus commands his disciples: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” And Jesus was no hypocrite. As he bled to death in agony on the cross, he blessed his persecutors, praying “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Disciples of Jesus should seek the good of their enemies.
Now, I’m not an Islamic scholar or expert. I have a Quran and can read the English translation with footnotes. Here’s a piece of Mohammed’s teaching, which might apply:
Let those who fight
In the cause of Allah
Who sell the life of this world
for the Hereafter.
To him who fighteth
In the cause of Allah –
Whether he is slain
or gets victory –
soon shall We give him
A reward of great (value).
Footnote: It is not everyone, least of all, poltroons and faint-hearted persons, who is fit to fight in the cause of Allah. To do so is a privilege, and those who understand the privilege are prepared to sacrifice all their interests in this life, and this life itself; for they know that it is the sacrifice of something fleeting and of little value, for the sake of something everlasting, and of immense value. Whether (in appearance) they win or lose, in reality they win the prize for which they are fighting viz, honour and glory in the sight of Allah. Note the only alternatives here are death or victory! The true fighter knows no defeat.
Those who believe
fight in the cause of Allah,
and those who reject faith
Fight in the cause of Evil (Tagut):
So fight ye against the
Friends of Satan: feeble indeed
Is the cunning of Satan.
Take not friends
From their ranks (those who reject the Faith)
Until they flee
In the way of Allah
(from what is forbidden).
But if they turn renegades,
Seize them and slay them,
wherever ye find them.
Is that what Mohammed would say in this situation? ” if they turn renegades,
seize them and slay them” Is this the teaching of Mohammed that the rioters and mobs are putting into practice? I’d like to know.