Islam, Religion of Peace?

Doubtless as practiced by many, but not as urged by Pakistan's Religious Affairs minister, or Iranian members of parliament. From the Times Online:

Britain's decision to award Salman Rushdie a knighthood set off a storm of protest in the Islamic world today, with a Pakistani government minister giving warning that it could provide justification for suicide bomb attacks.

[Rushdie] has lived under police protection since the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran pronounced a fatwa (death sentence) on him over alleged blasphemies against Islam in his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses.

Today, Pakistan's religious affairs minister suggested that the knighthood was so grave an offence that any Muslim anywhere in the world would be justified in taking violent action.

"If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honour of the Prophet then it is justified," Mr ul-Haq told the National Assembly.

The minister, the son of Zia ul-Haq, the military dictator who died in a plane crash in 1988, later retracted his statement in parliament, then told the AFP news agency that he meant to say that knighting Rushdie would foster extremism.

"If someone blows himself up he will consider himself justified. How can we fight terrorism when those who commit blasphemy are rewarded by the West?" he said....

Well, how can we count on you to fight terrorism when you start by saying terrorism is justified, and then try to coerce our actions by threatening terrorism from your coreligionists?

Iran has also condemned Rushdie's knighthood, with hardliners issuing calls for his murder today. Mehdi Kuchakzadeh, a Tehran MP, declared: "It would be a hollow dream for the Queen of England to think that with such an action she could revive one of her mercenaries to oppose Islam... Rushdie died the moment the late Imam (Ayatollah Khomeini) issued the fatwa."

Backed by the Government, the Pakistan parliament today voted unanimously in favour of a resolution calling on Britain to withdraw the proferred knighthood because it is an insult to "the sentiments of Muslims across the world" and created religious hatred....

And what about the possibility that Muslim politicians' calls for murder and praise of terrorism is causing religious hostility, and even well-justified religious hatred for their fascistic brand of Islam? (I use "fascism" advisedly here, and I believe correctly.) "Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs who proposed the resolution, called Rushdie a blasphemer. 'Every religion should be respected,' he told the National Assembly." No, not your version of your religion: That should get no respect at all.

From later in the article:

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, the Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, today added his voice to the chorus of disapproval of the knighthood. "Salman Rushdie earned notoriety amongst Muslims for the highly insulting and blasphemous manner in which he portrayed early Islamic figures," he said. "The granting of a knighthood to him can only do harm to the image of our country in the eyes of hundreds of millions of Muslims across the world. Many will interpret the knighthood as a final contemptuous parting gift from Tony Blair to the Muslim world."

I would think more highly of Dr. Bari if he also made, alongside this, the following statement to the world's Muslims:

Those who call for Rushdie's murder earned notoriety amongs Westerners for the highly immoral and contemptible manner in which they have acted. The repetition of this call can only do harm to the image of our religion in the eyes of hundreds of millions of people across the world. Many will interpret the renewed calls for his death as another contemptuous gift from the Muslim world to those whose good opinion Muslims claim to seek.

If he has made such statements that weren't reported by the media, please let me know about them so I can properly report on them. Likewise, I would like to praise Muslim leaders who condemn the renewed calls for Rushdie's death, and the use of threats of Muslim terrorism as an attempt at coercion -- please e-mail me pointers to such praise, so I can give it proper credit.

Meantime, many thanks to the Queen and her advisors on this. There are times to be politic, and there are times to speak out in defense of what we believe -- religious freedom and resistance to would-be religious murderers -- even when restating our beliefs can rankle the sentiments of others.

Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.

"Radical" Attitudes About Protection for Religious Speech:

A commenter writes,

A survey of Muslims in Britain (Patrick Basham, NRO Online, Aug 2006) revealed that attitudes many would consider radical are in fact widely held in the British Muslim community. For example,

"When asked if free speech should be protected, even if it offends religious groups, 62 percent of British Muslims say No, it should not."

The Islamic Revolution is seeking conquest and subjugation of the world, and offering no respect for the lives of those who disagree with them. The "Religion of Peace" line is ludicrous propaganda.

I am certainly troubled by the finding that 62% of British Muslims conclude that free speech should not be protected if it offends religious groups. (I haven't yet gotten a copy of the survey, but I'll assume for now that it is sound.)

At the same time, opposition to protection for offensive religious speech — at least such religious speech in public places (I don't know whether the British Muslim survey expressly asked about this) — is unfortunately not "radical" in the sense of being far from the mainstream. When asked from 2000 to 2006 whether "People should be allowed to say things in public that might be offensive to religious groups," 42% to 53% of American respondents — overwhelmingly non-Muslims — said no. In the surveys, 27% to 38% said they "Strongly disagree" with the pro-religiously-offensive-speech position. Only 22% to 31% strongly agreed (though fortunately the mild agreers consistently exceeded the mild disagreers).

Now it may well be that British Muslims would endorse broader restrictions than Americans would. And 62% is higher than 42% to 53%. Nonetheless, I think it's a mistake to assume that the 62% number itself illustrates "radical" attitudes on the part of British Muslims. Unfortunately, it represents attitudes that are shared by many non-Muslims in America.

I'd also be curious what the view about protection for religious speech among British non-Muslims would be. British law generally offers less protection for offensive speech than American law does, and it's possible that Britons generally oppose protection for religiously offensive speech more than Americans would (though the opposite is also possible, perhaps because of greater secularism among non-Muslim Britons than among Americans). If anyone can point to data on general British sentiment to free speech as opposed to British Muslim sentiment, I'd love to see it.

UPDATE: I just got a copy of the survey of British muslims, and it reports not only that 62% of British Muslims generally disagreed with "Free speech even if it offends religious groups" (31% agreed), but 78% supported the position "Punish the people who published the cartoons" (15% disagreed), and 68% supported the position "British people who insult Islam should be arrested and prosecuted" (23% disagreed). So the support for some specific restrictions on religiously offensive speech among British Muslims may be even higher — but it may well be that support for some specific restrictions on religiously offensive speech among Americans (or Britons generally) may be higher, too.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. "Radical" Attitudes About Protection for Religious Speech:
  2. Islam, Religion of Peace?