A troubling precedent

Anyone paying attention to Western political leaders in the years since September 11, 2001, will have noticed that they often opine about what Islam is or is not. To cite a recent example, in responding to the massacre of the senior staff of Charlie Hebdo, a Paris magazine that published cartoons deriding Muhammad, French President Francois Hollande had this to say: 

“Those who committed these acts, these fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.” 

Is Francois Hollande an imam, or a Muslim, or even a non-Muslim specialist in the Muslim religion? No, he is just a French politician. So what qualifies him to say what is and what is not part of the Muslim religion? Nothing. And it won't take long to show that Hollande is wrong in his assertion that the murder of the satirists at Charlie Hebdo had nothing to do with Islam.

Islam is not just a “religion” in the Western sense of the term. Christians and most Westerners understand a religion to be a system of beliefs about God, the supernatural, the unseen world, moral precepts, sin, salvation, the after-life, heaven, hell, etc. Islam is a religion in this sense of the term, but Islam also incorporates a collection of laws that Muslims believe were dictated by God Himself. This body of law is known as “Sharia,” an Arabic word fairly paraphrased as, “the right path to the oasis.” Imagine a Bedouin traveling by camel through a vast trackless desert; should he fail to follow the right path from one watering hole to the next his life is forfeit, he will die a hideous death of thirst and dehydration. That should give you a sense of the importance of “the right path” to the observant Muslim. Sharia law is a vital and indispensable part of Islam. 

Sharia law comes from three sources: 1) the Qur’an, believed to have been written by Allah and dictated to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, 2) the hadith, which are collections of traditions or stories about the life of Muhammad, and 3) the sira or biographies of the life of Muhammad, foremost among which is that of Ibn Ishaq. 

One story that justifies killing those who criticize Muhammad—not the only one—is found in Ibn Ishaq's biography of Muhammad, in the story of ʻAṣmāʼ bint Marwā (Asma, daughter of Marwan) a poetess who criticized Muhammad. Asma was not a Muslim. When Muhammad conquered a tribe, Asma ridiculed those of that tribe who had converted to Islam even after Muhammad had killed their chiefs. According to Ibn Ishaq, Asma wrote:

I despise B. Malik and al-Nabit and Auf and B. al-Khazraj. You obey a stranger who is none of yours, One not of Murad or Madhhij. Do you expect good from him after the killing of your chiefs Like a hungry man waiting for a cook's broth? Is there no man of pride who would attack him by surprise And cut off the hopes of those who expect aught from him? 

When the apostle heard what she had said he said, 'Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?' Umayr b. Adiy al-Khatmi was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he [Muhammad] said, 'You have helped God and His apostle, O Umayr!' When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, 'Two goats won't butt their heads about her,' so Umayr went back to his people.

The incident is also recorded by another biographer of Muhammad, ibn Sa'd, as follows:

`Asma' was the wife of Yazid Ibn Zayd Ibn Hisn al-Khatmi. She used to revile Islam, offend the prophet and instigate against him. She composed verses. Umayr Ibn Adi came to her in the night and entered her house. Her children were sleeping around her. There was one whom she was suckling. He searched her with his hand because he was blind, and separated the child from her. He thrust his sword in her chest until it pierced up to her back. Then he offered the morning prayers with the prophet at al-Medina. The apostle of Allah said to him: 'Have you slain the daughter of Marwan?' He said: 'Yes. Is there something more for me to do?' He [Muhammad] said: 'No two goats will butt together about her.'

Note some important points in this story:

  1. ʻAṣmāʼ bint Marwān was not a Muslim believer—Sharia law applies not just to Muslim believers but to everyone fervent Muslims are able to enforce it upon.
  2. Aṣmāʼ ridiculed Muhammad through her poetry or verse—just as Charlie Hebdo ridiculed Muhammad in its cartoons.  
  3. Muhammad solicited her murder—Muhammad is the perfect example, and he clearly directed that those who ridicule him are to be killed, even if it is a woman nursing a baby.    
  4. Muhammad praised the man who murdered ʻAṣmāʼ stating that the man had helped God—those who kill people who have insulted Muhammad are to be commended. 

Like most of you, I am horrified by the mass murder of the staff of Charlie Hebdo, but the Muslims who carried out those murders were acting in an impeccably Islamic way. Their actions follow the teachings of their scriptures and fall squarely within the millennium-long tradition of the Muslims who came before them. This is what Islam is. Francois Hollande's statement that the Charlie Hebdo murders had nothing to do with Islam is not just wrong, but absurdly wrong. 

But as I noted above, Hollande is typical of the Western political class in making frequent false statements about Islam. Every Western political leader of the past 15 years, including George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and David Cameron, have said things like, “Islam is a religion of peace.” Yet there are over 100 verses in the Qur’an exhorting believers to jihad warfare to expand the domain of Islam, and berating those who will not fight jihad or at least support jihad with their means. Islam has always been spread by warfare, conquest, and repression. Historically, Muslims would conquer a territory and impose Sharia law, which entails an inferior status for non-Muslims (dhimmitude), imposing extra taxes and numerous humiliations and legal disabilities upon the unbeliever. Under Sharia law, most non-Muslims will eventually convert to Islam to avoid dhimmitude. Islam is not a “religion of peace.”

Most Western politicians have also argued that “Islam means peace,” when in fact Islam means “submission” or “surrender,” i.e., submission to Islam and the divine law of Allah, Sharia law. Almost every Western political leader has made statements to the effect that the terrorists are not true Muslims. For example, George W. Bush said this in 2002:

Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn't follow the great traditions of Islam. They've hijacked a great religion.

Yet in the Qur’an, Allah says, “I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, [so] smite them above the necks and smite their fingertips off of them.” (Qur’an 8:12) In a trusted hadith, Muhammad stated, “I have been made victorious through terror.” (Bukhari 4:52:220) So Muslims are obligated to fight jihad warfare, and both the Qur’an and the hadith seem to endorse terror as means of such warfare.

It is troubling that Western political leaders lie about Islam, but what is perhaps more troubling is that they feel at liberty to re-define Islam, to mold it into a more “modern,” Western religion. Do we really want politicians declaring what Islam is, or what Christianity is? Do we want them dictating what a religion is or is not, or can or cannot be? What if an American president said this: 

“Christianity is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Christians. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn't follow the great traditions of Christianity. Worshiping on Sabbath is not part of Christianity. The overwhelming majority of Christians do not worship on Sabbath and reject Sabbath-keeping. Sabbath-keeping is embraced only by a tiny minority of extremist Christians. They've hijacked a great religion.”

Does it sound far-fetched, or has a precedent been set?

Scripture is on the side of Sabbath-keepers; surely a politician could not attack Sabbath-keeping without dealing with the texts we are obeying when we keep the Sabbath, texts such as Gen. 2:2-3:

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done,” 

and Ex. 20:8-11: 

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. . . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

But did Francois Hollande deal with the passages that condone killing those who ridicule Muhammad, and thus place the Charlie Hebdo killings in their Islamic context? Do any of the many politicians who have been insisting that “Islam is a religion of peace” deal with the jihad texts? Of course not. No attempt is ever made to address those passages in authoritative Islamic writings that place the actions of Muslim militants in their religious context, the passages they would point to as mandating their actions. 

No, when the time comes to persecute Sabbath-keepers, the politicians will feel no compunction to mention the Scriptures that command Sabbath-keeping; they will just state that only a tiny minority of extremists keeps the Sabbath, and anyone who says otherwise is a fanatic, and has nothing to do with Christianity. 

The rulers of today's Western world have a very good reason for lying about Islam. They and their political parties have invited millions of Muslims into their countries to work in the factories and live in the rental units owned by their wealthy contributors; hence, they are loath to admit that Islam is a totalitarian religio-political ideology that is not compatible with Western principles of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. Were they ever to admit the truth, it would become too clear that their parties did not ensure prosperity by importing so many Muslims immigrants, but placed an existential question mark over their nations' futures. 

And we are told that those politicians who will persecute Sabbath-keepers will also have a very good reason for lying about Sabbath-keeping:

It will be declared that men are offending God by the violation of the Sunday sabbath; that this sin has brought calamities which will not cease until Sunday observance shall be strictly enforced; and that those who present the claims of the fourth commandment, thus destroying reverence for Sunday, are troublers of the people, preventing their restoration to divine favor and temporal prosperity. GC, p. 590. 

These reasons will seem a compelling basis to lie about Sabbath-keepers. The politicians will ignore or dismiss the scriptural basis for our beliefs. A troubling precedent has been set.

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