With the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty by an 18-year-old terrorist Abdullakh Anzorov, followed by a series of attacks across France, many people around the world have once again turned against Muslims and Islam in general.
There has even a cyberwar on social media between supporters and opponents, loaded with accusations, insults and prejudice on both sides.
There is no explanation for this barbaric act other than ignorance and cowardness. The intentional killing of a person by another is the most brutal form of violence and it should not be tolerated. This horrible crime and the subsequent violent acts that take us back to the murders and terror around the publication of Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of Prophet Mohammad, are made individually and should be labeled as terrorism. However, it is irrational to condemn 1.7 billion Muslims because of some ignorant criminals. These criminals represent radicalism and extremism and not Islam in any form. It was never mentioned in the Quran that anyone who insults the prophet should be hunted, punished, or killed. On the contrary Islam teaches its believers not to respond in any abusive way, “But do not revile those [beings] whom they invoke instead of God, lest they, in their hostility, revile God and out of ignorance.” (Surat Al An’am 6:108). Those killers thus serve only one purpose, assaulting Islam and Muslims as much as other civilians.
Unfortunately, Islamophobia has become an unbearable burden on Muslims living in the West. Freedom of speech to them is forbidden, or they are accused of terrorism. Even the freedom of not to speak is sometimes questionable. They are often asked to speak loudly and clearly condemn the violence committed by a “happen-to-be” Muslim or they are assumed to support of terrorism. That is not the case for non-Muslims in the world, meaning that any massacre committed by a non-Muslim “sociopath” is never considered as terrorism. Likewise in the United states, black people must loudly denounce every violence committed by a black person against white ones, while white people are not expected to condemn any white racist shooting kids in schools or any killing of black innocents by racist policemen, all of which are considered to be “suffering from mental issues.”
According to the Global Study on Homicide 2019 by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the two Americas have the highest homicide rate of 17.2 followed by Africa with a rate of 13, both exceeding the global average of 6.1 per 100,000 people. Furthermore, the World Data Atlas classifies Sweden, the country with the highest rape rate, as having 56.7 cases per 100,000 people. Then follow Iceland, Guyana, the United States of America and El Salvador. We barely hear about these rates or their dangerous implications, but whenever there is trouble by some coward who pretends to be Muslim, the world turns against the whole religion. Islam is then accused with the repeated allegation that “it imposes its faith by the sword” and is a religion of fierceness, hate and violence against women. The world is more inclined to believe in Muslim violence and easily labels it as terrorism.
With these constant allegations, one must recall the bases of Islam and its values of peace, tolerance, mercy and coexistence.
Islam is a religion that calls for peace: “If they incline toward peace, then incline toward peace, and trust in God, for He is All-Hearing and All Knowing (Surah Al Anfal 8:61- Quran). The prophet in his “hadith” teaches believers to always spread the greeting of “Salam” (Peace) among themselves, “You would not enter paradise until you acquire full faith, and you would not acquire full faith until you love one another.” So, whoever chooses the path of terror and murder thinking that he is serving God and the prophet actually is not and is rather condemned by them already.
Islam advocates coexistence. It sets the principles for good relationships between people based on public and mutual interests of all, regardless of their faith, color or nationality. It calls for justice, righteousness, and benevolence: “Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant” (Surah Al A’raf 7:199). Muslim leaders al through history made sure to protect the rights of other religious groups. Islamic wars were held against armies and governments, never against the people and thus Islam is not and cannot be spread by compulsion.
We live in a crucial world where people may resort to acts of injustice and violence. The sarcastic caricatures of Charlie Hebdo’s newspaper of the prophet were certainly unjust and intended to cause unnecessary harm to many Muslims around the world. Even if it is a freedom of expression, it could have been avoided knowing that it hurts. It is certainly a right but as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, exercising that right “carries special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to certain restrictions when necessary: for respect of the rights or reputation of others or for the protection of national security or of public order or of public health or morals.”
For this reason, Charlie Hebdo does not represent an appropriate model of freedom of speech, just as much as Abdallah Anzorov and his like-terrorists do not represent the appropriate model of Islam.
The Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development
Copyright © 2020, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.