Sunday, January 11, 2015

Charlie, Muhammad, and the Saudi 1000 Lashes of Raif Badawi, by Denis MacEoin

"My commitment is... to reject any repression in the name of religion... a goal we will reach in a peaceful and law-abiding way." — Raif Badawi.
If he ever leaves prison, his life will have been destroyed -- by voyeurs as sexually twisted as those of ancient Rome.
"Our Prophet," Malik said, "would have been crystal clear and unequivocal in condemning [the Charlie Hebdo massacre]. But his statement points out why there is a problem. Malik was -- quite innocently, I am sure -- completely wrong. Muhammad did the same thing – many, many times.
Today we all are Charlie, and we are all Raif.

His first 50 lashes were administered Friday. After the noon prayers, outside the mosque, Saudi writer and blogger Raif Badawi, 30, received a sentence perhaps worse than death. Accused of "insulting Islam," he is to receive 1000 lashes: 50 per week for 20 weeks -- nearly half a year. "The lashing order says Raif should 'be lashed very severely,'" a twitter notice read. "If they lash him again next week we do not know if he is going to survive. He has no medical assistance," another notice said.
After that, he is to spend ten years in prison and pay a fine of $266,000. If he ever leaves prison, his life will have been destroyed -- by voyeurs as sexually twisted as those of ancient Rome.
His wife and three children have been given asylum in Canada. Her family has filed for divorce on the grounds of his supposed apostasy.
His crime is said to have been "insulting Islam." Badawi had written, "My commitment is... to reject any repression in the name of religion... a goal that we will reach in a peaceful, law-abiding way."
He is alleged to have criticized the Wahhabi clergy who run his country hand in hand with the royal family.[1] Muslims seem not to be able to handle questions, reasoned criticism or satire. Perhaps where many come from, there is only one opinion -- the dominant majority one. If there are more, as there are, there seems a wish to stamp them out. Here in the West, a major role of government is to protect the minority from the majority.
The day before, January 8, 2015, just after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, BBC News in London broadcast a report that contained short interviews with a number of moderate Muslims who decried the attack and feared repercussions on their own communities.[2]
One of the interviewees was Nadeem Malik, the UK Director of the Bahu Trust, a Sufi Muslim charity that "espouses the virtues of tolerance, peaceful co-existence and equality." Malik said: "Our Prophet would have been absolutely crystal clear and unequivocal in condemning any such action. That's not in the name of Islam at all, and Muslims are sick of having their faith hijacked in this manner."
I do not doubt Mr. Malik's sincerity, and I respect the Islamic tradition (Barelwi) from which he comes as one more in keeping with a non-violent interpretation. But his statement sharply points out why there is a problem. He was -- quite innocently, I am sure -- completely wrong.
There is an inspiration for attacks like those on writers, cartoonists, and film-makers: France's Charlie Hebdo journalists; Amsterdam's Theo van Gogh; Denmark's Kurt Westergaard, Carsten Juste, and Flemming Rose, and Sweden's Lars Vilks -- as well as the assassination attempt on the Nobel Prize winning Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz and the fatwa for the murder of the British writer Salman Rushdie. The inspiration for this behavior is not that the Prophet Muhammad was lampooned or criticized or mocked. The inspiration for this behavior is that Muhammad himself would have ordered or approved such attacks as revenge for assaults on his honour.
How can one make such an outrageous suggestion? The answer is that Muhammad did exactly the same thing -- many, many times. This may appear to be an Islamophobic calumny, perhaps something concocted by medieval churchmen in Europe (who did make up some fancy legends about Muhammad), but it is solidly recorded in the almost canonical biography of the Prophet by Ibn Hisham and in the canonical collections of prophetic traditions (hadith) by Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.[3]
Shortly after his move from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE, for instance, when he became the effective ruler of the town, opponents emerged in the Jewish and wider communities. Poets wrote lampoons and disrespectful verses. Muhammad had them killed. Not just poets, but almost anyone who disagreed with him and his "revelations."
In 624, for example, a Jewish poet named Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf wrote verses condemning the killing of notables from Mecca. He later became a one-man Charlie Hebdo, writing obscene and erotic verses about the Muslim women. Muhammad took offense and instructed one of his companions, Muhammad ibn Maslama, to assassinate Ka'b. When Ibn Maslama expressed doubts about having to lie to Ka'b in order to trick him into going with him, Muhammad told him lying was permissible for such purposes. Ibn Maslama and some other Muslims went out with Ka'b under false pretenses and murdered him.
Ka'b ibn al-Ahraf was not Muhammad's only victim. The poets Asma' bint Marwan (a woman), Abu Afak, and Al-Nadir ibn al-Harith, and Abu Rafi' ibn Abi Al-Huqaiq were all assassinated in the same year for the same offence of mockery. In the next few years, several other poets were killed, such as Abdullah ibn Zib'ari, Al-Harith bin al-Talatil, Hubayra, Ka'b ibn Zuhayr ibn Abi Sulama, and Huwayrith ibn Nafidh. Abdullah bin Khatal and two of his slave girls were murdered for having recited poems insulting the Prophet. There is a list in WikiIslam of 43 people -- as well as all the men from the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qurayza -- who were killed on Muhammad's orders or whose murders were sanctioned by him.
Today the lashes of Raif Badawi stand with the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo as further symbols of the determination of many extremists to reject the norms of reason, tolerance, pluralism, equality, the Universal Declaration human rights and the value that begins every chapter but one of the Qur'an: mercy.
Some people ask what inspires those who kill authors, cartoonists and journalists, while others insist that it has nothing to do with Islam. If we do not learn, if our leaders do not learn, what hope is there for us?
Today, we are all Charlie. And we are all Raif.
Denis MacEoin is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a former university lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies.

[1] The Al al-Shaykh are descendants of Wahhabi founder Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792), who allied himself and his puritan belief system with the Al Sa'ud, an Arabian family with pretensions to grandeur.
[2] BBC News at Ten, 8 January 2010.
[3] For details, see Uri Rubin, "The Assassination of Kaʿb b. al-Ashraf", Oriens, Vol. 32. (1990), pp. 65-71; the entries on Ka'b in both editions of the authoritative Encyclopedia of Islam; Sahih Bukhari 5:59:369, Sahih Muslim 19:4436