Is the Anger of the Muslim Street Justifiable by Islam?
By Tawfik Hamid
In the last few decades, Muslims have committed several violent acts because they felt their religion had been insulted or attacked. These acts ranged from murders and violent riots against Salman Rushdie for writing the "Satanic Verses" to violent riots as a response to rumors of US soldiers insulting the Quran. The aggressive Muslim reaction after the publishing of cartoons of prophet Mohamed by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark is another well-known example of the Muslim world's reactions. Sadly, these acts of violence have resulted in devastating consequences such as the burning churches and the killing many innocent people.
The question many have raised is: are these violent reactions condoned by Islam and the result of Islamic teachings?
The answer to this question is that the reaction depends largely on the sources used by a particular follower and their understanding of the appropriate religious texts. The following are a few examples to illustrate how a Muslim's response to insulting Islam can vary depending on the religious references used:
Option 1: A Muslim who mainly follows the Quran and does not believe in the abrogation of the verses is likely to be forgiving if Islam or the prophet is insulted. This is because the Quran never mentions any punishment for insulting Islam. In addition, the Quran in more than one verse clearly states that a Muslim can only avoid sitting with those who insult their religion during the time of insult and that they are permitted to interact normally with them at any other time (See Quran 4:140, 6:68). In fact, the Quran in another verse mentions clearly the concept of insulting Allah himself without approving or justifying any violent reaction to this (See Quran 6:108).
Option 2: If a Muslim believes in the abrogation of the verses as described in many traditional and approved Islamic books that provide Quranic commentary, they may consider that the above peaceful verses were revealed only when Muslims were weak and that those verses were abrogated later on by violent verses (Such as Quran 2:193).
(Note: A complex theological analysis and interpretation is needed to explain how to understand the above verses in a way that produces a net outcome of peace rather than violence.)
Option 3: Another Muslim who strictly follows the Hadith and Sunna books (Non-Quranic sources for Islam) may justify the angry and violent reactions to insulting Islam. The story of prophet Muhammad ordering his men to kill the poet Asma bint Marwan for criticizing him (See Ibn Ishaq's "Sirah Rasul Allah" (Life of the Prophet of God)) is an example of this type of violence. In such a case, a sincere follower of the prophet (as described in these sources) may do crimes, in the name of the religion, if someone insulted the prophet.
Option 4: Muslims who follow the current mainstream Islamic jurisprudence books of all four legal schools can also justify barbaric reactions to insulting Islam through the well-known rule in Islamic jurisprudence This rule justifies killing those who insult the prophet or Islam (See as an example "Minhaj Al-Muslim" by Abu-Bakr Al-Jazarry Volume 2, Page 525).
The Muslim world has to choose between the above ways or options of understanding Islam. Understanding the religion and teaching it as described in Option 1 can prevent many violent acts by Muslims in the future. Ironically enough, the 'peaceful Muslims' - or the Muslims who do not use violence against those who insult Islam - are the ones who do not practice the mainstream Islamic jurisprudence and practice Sharia Laws "properly"!
The Muslim world needs to learn that Islam will be perceived by others as Muslims practice and portray it. If Sharia laws justify killing a human soul because he or she insulted the prophet Mohamed or insulted Islam, then the Muslim world must not expect others to call Islam a peaceful religion and the westerners must not expect the outcome of this teaching to be anything but violence and barbarism. When the Muslim world at large changes its teachings and understanding of their religion to promote forgiveness for those who insult the religion (as described in Option 1) then - and only then - can Muslims demand that "Islam is the religion of peace".