What Is the Proper Islamic Response to Islamophobia?

Muhammad bore insults with patience, setting a precedent that all Muslims should follow.

American extremists returned to media coverage this week by descending on Garland.

They wasted no time from their last plots of creating disorder, targeting major American cities like San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Each attack on American minds went through without failure.

Of course, this is a reference to the Islamophobes who came to Texas to hold a contest about drawing Prophet Muhammad for a prize of $10,000. In response, two renegades drove to the event, opened fire, and were killed by police.

This Islamophobic contest, like the anti-Islam ads that littered major cities over the past several years, is legal.

After all, in America, freedom of speech applies to any speech that does not promote imminent violence.

Hate speech is legal. Yet, just because one has the freedom to do something does not mean it should be used to such extremes.

Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury, in his George Polk Career Award acceptance speech, said, “At some point, free-expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious.”

The bigoted Islamophobes and their group of anti-Islam personalities fall in this camp.

They appear as children prone to temper tantrums who are quick to write blogs about Islam and Muslims, blogs riddled with errors, fabrications, and flat-out lies — yet their readers take them as fact.

This firebrand anti-Islam circus is eerily reminiscent to treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.

Nazis often used anti-Semitic cartoons in the years leading up to Kristallnacht, which made violence against Jews a tolerable affair.

The global anti-Islamic propaganda that flows through marketing and media has undoubtedly desensitized radicals to burning Qurans, defacing mosques, and harming and killing Muslims.

In fact, anti-mosque activity is so rife in America that the ACLU has a map dedicated to tracking it, and it isn’t a pretty picture.

Yet, all is not lost. What is the antidote to such bigotry, and what is the proper Islamic response?

Far from the vulgar and false portrayal of Prophet Muhammad the Islamophobic contest attempted to legitimize, it is Prophet Muhammad himself who taught how to respond to hate directed at him.

Muhammad helped a lady who was leaving town because she heard there was a magician named Muhammad who cast spells on people.

When they reached her destination, she asked for his name. Muhammad replied that he was the same Muhammad she earlier feared.

After encountering Muhammad, her bigoted opinions changed.

According to extremists he should have attacked her the instant she made insulting remarks about him. Instead, Muhammad bore the insults with patience, setting a timeless precedent that all Muslims should continue to follow.

This also shows that if one is part of the 60 percent of Americans who do not know a Muslim and have a negative view of Islam, then they should meet a Muslim, like the aforementioned lady.

Today, the khalifa of Islam, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, follows Muhammad’s footsteps and encourages patient and compassionate responses.

The khalifa puts action to words by hosting the annual Ahmadiyya Peace Symposium in London. His Holiness travels the world speaking on the path to peace and just relations between nations.

His Holiness meets with Muslim youth to empower them to be leaders in their communities, most recently meeting with a delegation of nearly 200 American Muslims in early April.

The pope, likewise, states that Islam is a religion of peace. Last month, Vatican interfaith leaders said dialogue is needed, now more than ever, with Muslims.

In February, President Obama spoke on how Islam is a peaceful faith and extremists have perverted Islam.

Leadership matters, and these are the leaders the world should look toward when trying to build bridges of understanding and compassion.

With leaders like these, there is a chance humanity can make it out of this in one piece, no matter where extremists descend next.

This piece originally appeared at the Star-Telegram.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Salaam Bhatti
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  • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

    The muhammad drawings exhibit, and other events like draw muhammad day, are not hate speech. They’re peaceful protest against the islamic doctrine suppressing free speech. This is opposition to islam but if you want to call it islamophobic then you’re calling any challenge to any doctrine islamophobic.

    • Sam

      What “islamic doctrine suppressing free speech”?

      • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

        It’s a doctrine drawn from the quran and hadith, that depicting allah or any prophet but especially muhammad is haram. There are a few passages in the quran which are half the basis, 42, 11 and 21, 50. The explicit statement comes from the hadith, a narrative or archive (depending what one believes) of muhammad’s and his disciples’ words and actions. In the hadith, muhammad and several disciples are quoted basically saying anyone who draws or paints pictures will be punished during and after the day of resurrection. In fact the condemnation isn’t just made for muslims, but all people who create pictures. This doctrine is followed by most, but not all, muslims. It’s the doctrine suppressing free speech related to the article, which is about art, but there are others.

        I don’t need to tell you this though, I’m sure you can recall the killings, violence, and mass protests that occurred when the contentious cartoons were first being talked about.

        • Sam

          That is an interesting extrapolation and I have no doubt that the Taliban and ISIS would agree with you. How you get that depictions are haram from:

          21:50 And this [Qur’an] is a blessed message which We have sent down. Then are you with it unacquainted?

          and

          42:11 [He is] Creator of the heavens and the earth. He has made for you from yourselves, mates, and among the cattle, mates; He multiplies you thereby. There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing.

          is quite a stretch of the imagination. Graven images of God are avoided, just like the prohibition found in the Second Commandment.

          Concerning the ahadith there are a variety of sources, ranging from al-Bukhari (where Muhammad is said to state that punishment by God will occur) to Abu Dawood (where Muhammad states that pictures depicting things are forbidden) to Sahih Muslim (where it is reported that Muhammad stated God will send artist to hell), where some Muslims draw their anti-image inspiration. Though this seem to stand in contrast with other ahadith though where dolls are find acceptable (Ibn Majah and Muslim). (It should be noted that this conversation does not even begin to touch on the legitimacy of the ahadith in the first place.)

          So it appears that there is a tradition of not depicting pictures, which ironically is contradicted historically and even contemporary. Pictures of the prophet and his companions have not only been commissioned historically by wealthy Muslims but are still available to be purchased in the market places of various nations such as in Tehran. This is further contradicted by Omid Safi on his article on this site entitled “Why Islam Does (Not) Ban Images of the Prophet.”

          So with all of this being clear, I am afraid you have failed to support your assertion of an “islamic doctrine suppressing free speech.” And this is true of your new statement “[t]his doctrine is followed by most, but not all, muslims.”

          The Quran and hadith actually convey that one should allow others to do as they wish. In al-Tirmidhi it is conveyed that others should be allowed to say and believe what they wish and in Sunan Abi Dawud Abu Bakr is admonished for taking revenge when insulted.
          In 2:194 the Quran outlines that if injury or insult is to be reciprocated than it must be in kind. 2:190 states that it is appropriate to fight against oppression but not to transgress that which is reasonable.

          In 2:83 God does command his followers to worship only him but over and over again the Quran makes clear that this is not to be forced on others. In 2:256 this is clearly stated:

          “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion….”

          In 28:55 (And when they hear ill speech, they turn away from it and say, “For us are our deeds, and for you are your deeds. Peace will be upon you; we seek not the ignorant.”), 73:10 (And be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance.), 16:20 (And be patient, [O Muhammad], and your patience is not but through Allah . And do not grieve over them and do not be in distress over what they conspire.), 16:125 (Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.), and 43:88 – 89 (And [ Allah acknowledges] his saying, “O my Lord, indeed these are a people who do not believe.” So turn aside from them and say, “Peace.” But they are going to know.) individuals are over and over again given the freedom to say and do as they wish and the faithful are commanded to not violate their rights to do so. This idea even is explicitly extended to personal belief in the 109 surah.

          So I am afraid that I don’t see where you get that free speech is anti-Islamic.

          If you think that mass protests are indicative of something wrong than I am curious where you stand on the protests against police violence against blacks, protests against anti-Union activities, or protests against anti-gay laws.

          I suppose though by your chain of though the murders, violence, and vandalism against muslims in the West is indicative of “most, but not all” Westerners and how they show their disagreement. Or perhaps it is rather a sign of how the few can ruin it for all?

  • bakabomb

    I love how Geller, brave crusader for free speech, hunkered in her metaphorical bunker and let a minimum-wage security guard take a bullet for her. How noble! How fearless! How praiseworthy!

    • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

      It wouldn’t be out of place to call geller a bigot, but I wouldn’t say she’s a coward. What did you expect her to do, come prepared with a gun and ready to shoot? That’s what the guards were for.

      • bakabomb

        She reminds me of the congresscritters who are always so eager to send our troops off to fight, while they themselves of course stay comfortably behind in their plush offices. The Charlie Hebdo folks at least knew they were on the front line. Did they come to work strapped up? No, they didn’t. Still, they put their own lives on the line, foolishly perhaps, but in doing so they showed a courage that I certainly don’t see in Geller.

        • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

          She and spencer have been spreading hateful propaganda about muslims in america for a while, and they both believe islam is radicalized and dangerous. I wouldn’t call her courageous like the hebdo magazine team, who had a public office and were aware of the previous killings and threats on journalists, including a firebombing of their own office. But I wouldn’t say she’s any more or less cowardly than most people.

          Now I don’t want to be confused with defending her beliefs or writings, I only dislike the common practice of splattering a variety of false or baseless insults on people we don’t like.

          • bakabomb

            Instead of characterizing her behavior as “cowardice”, then, let me just say that I have no respect for those who by their speech and actions deliberately provoke violence, then insist they bear no responsibility for same, meanwhile making sure that they themselves are never at personal risk of said violence. Especially when innocent third parties are victimized by the violence they had no part in inciting.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Hosting an art event is not an action that provokes violence. It’s like saying a woman choosing to walk home from a movie is committing an action provoking rape, because driving home would be safer. No, the entire load of responsibility rests on the individuals who perpetrate crimes against innocents. I’m very firm on this. By itself even purposely offending someone, especially when the offense-taking is literally as inane as possible, is not reasonable provocation to being assaulted.

            The above paragraph only refers to the topic of this article, the muhammad art exhibition. I have no doubt she and others like her who fear-monger against muslims bear a shared responsibility, along with the perpetrators, for the crime wave against american muslims.

  • Sam

    I always like what you have write about the spirit of Islam. Even if I disagree with the Ahmadiyya part of what you have to say, I thank you.