Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – A far right wing senator in Australia, Fraser Anning, issued a despicable and widely condemned statement after fascist white supremacists from Australia murdered 49 persons at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
He referred to the mass murder merely as “vigilantism,” as though it were an understandable policing of a neighborhood by locals. He said that it demonstrated a “growing fear” in Australia and New Zealand “of the Muslim presence.”
The “real cause,” he said, of the mass shooting of innocents in the mosque was “the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”
Maybe we should ask the Aborigines and Maori how they feel about having all those Christian British come to their home from halfway around the world and commit genocide and kidnap children. When the British arrived in Australia in the late 18th century there were 250,000 Aborigines. By 1920 there were 60,000. Aside from a handful of nut jobs, Muslims in Australia and New Zealand have contributed to the society and economy and the flourishing of those societies. (Muslims are about 2.6% of Australia’s 24 million people, and there are only 46,000 in New Zealand, a country of 4.7 mn., so they haven’t exactly taken over).
Anning provided no evidence that the dead worshippers had been in any way ‘fanatical.’ He neglected, moreover, to note that there are white and Maori and New Zealand-born Muslims in that country (Islam, though small, is the fastest-growing religion among the Maori). There is also a vibrant movement of open-minded Sufi spirituality in New Zealand, the Western masters of which do not require attendees formally to convert to Islam. It is an elementary fallacy to equate Muslims with rigidity or with immigrants.
Anning continued, “The entire religion of Islam is simply the violent ideology of a sixth-century despot masquerading as a religious leader, which justifies endless war against anyone who opposes it and calls for the murder of unbelievers and apostates.”
He concluded by saying that the 49 corpses in Christchurch were “not blameless,” though he did not specify anything wrong that they had done.
I do not I suppose I need to opine about what a wretched specimen of humanity Anning is or how disturbing it is that he is a senator (though I understand he was appointed rather than elected and is outgoing).
Muslims will be too polite to say so, but most of the things Anning complains about are also in the Bible, which prescribes death for apostasy. Jesus even prescribes death for just cursing one’s mother and father. That seems a little extreme.
As a biographer of the Prophet Muhammad, let me just point out that everything Anning said about Islam is incorrect in addition to being bigoted.
The Prophet Muhammad, who founded the religion now referred to as Islam, did not preach in the sixth century. That would be the 500s after Christ. I personally believe he was born in 567 and his prophetic mission is traditionally given as 610-632 AD. For people who can count and have, like, read books on history, that would make him seventh-century. It would be as though Anning maintained that Columbus voyaged to the Americas in 1392. It would not strengthen your conviction that he knew a great deal about American history. As it is, he clearly knows nothing about Islam or Muslims.
As I show in my new book,
the Qur’an, the scripture Muhammad delivered to the world, urges peacemaking. It speaks, in The Criterion (25:63) of “the servants of the All-Merciful who walk humbly upon the earth—and when the unruly taunt them, they reply, ‘Peace!’” Distinguished 41:34 says: “Good and evil are not equal. Repel the latter with the highest good, and behold, your enemy will become a devoted patron.”
The Prophet, far from being a despot, was instructed by the Qur’an to consult the people of Medina, including pagans and lukewarm “hypocrites.”
In the Family of Amram 3:159 God addresses the Prophet concerning people in Medina who deserted his defensive brigade at the 625 Battle of Uhud: “By what mercy of God were you able to be so lenient with them? Had you been harsh and hard of heart, they would have surely dispersed from around you. Pardon them and beseech for them to be forgiven, and consult them in the affair.”
This is sort of like a general who faced a mutiny in which many of his troops went AWOL being ordered to issue them all a pardon and then to ask them their opinion about what should be done in future crises!
Although the Qur’an urges nonviolence in the face of harassment and persecution, it allows self-defense where people are physically attacked by bloodthirsty warriors.
But The Cow 2:190 stipulates, “Fight in the path of God those who enter into combat against you, but do not commit aggression. God does not love aggressors.” The Qur’an allows warfare only in self-defense.
I show in my book that the Qur’an’s theory of Just War resembles that of the church fathers, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose.
Since the Qur’an urges only defensive engagements, 8:38 says, “Say to the pagans that if they desist they will be forgiven for what went before. But if they backslide, the way of the ancients has already passed.” The Spoils 8:61 says, “If they incline toward peace, you must incline toward it. Trust in God—-he is all- hearing and omniscient.”
Muhammad never preached “jihad.”
Anning has been misled by the bad current translations of the Qur’an, which talk about “slaying the unbelievers” when the correct rendering is “fighting the [belligerent] pagans.” The collectivity of hostile pagans is called in the Qur’an kafirun, and Christians and Jews are never put in that group. A faction of the biblical communities is accused of joining in politically with the polytheists who were militarily attacking Medina or “paganizing” (alladhina kafaru min ahl al-kitab), but that demonstrates that the vast majority of Christians and Jews are not considered unbelievers. Indeed, the Qur’an says that righteous Jews and Christians are going to heaven.
Rather than commanding expansionist warfare, the Qur’an urges only self-defense and forbids aggression. It demands, moreover, that the believers revert to peace if their attackers ask for a ceasefire.
I do not believe most Christian armies through history have actually been governed by principles as enlightened as those that the Qur’an puts forward.
As for murder, I wrote:
- “The scripture condemns violence and promotes social harmony. Naturally, then, it forbids murder, retelling the story of Cain and Abel and then quoting the Palestinian Talmud. It says (The Table 5:32), “For this reason, we decreed for the children of Israel that those who kill another person—save in punishment for murder or the wreaking of corruption in the land—it is as though they had killed all human- kind. And those who revive someone, it is as though they gave life to all humankind. Our messengers brought them clear proofs, but many of them thereafter committed excesses in the land.” The reasoning of the rabbis had been that Adam was a single individual, and if he had been murdered, then the whole human race would have been prevented from existing. Muhammad preferred the universal form of this rabbinical teaching, equating the murder of anyone of any faith to genocide. Outside of formal defensive war on the battlefield, and outside the structured judicial context of a death penalty for murder or other capital crimes imposed by duly constituted authorities, killing is always wrong, according to the Qur’an.”
Contrary to Anning’s hate speech, the Qur’an forbids murder and is so enlightened that it does so by appealing to the rabbinical reasoning in the Jerusalem Talmud!
The Qur’an does not say anything about death for apostasy, but that was the law of the Christian Roman Empire– it is in the Code of Justinian, which is the basis for all Western legal codes. It was also the law of Zoroastrian Iran under Sasanian rule. Some later Muslims did brand apostasy a capital crime (likely under Christian and Zoroastrian influence), but other Muslims have disagreed, and, as I said, there is no such principle in the Qur’an. If the Peace Treaty of Hudaibiya of 628 is historical, it sheds further light on this issue. It stipulates that apostates are free to leave Medina and go to then-pagan Mecca without let or hindrance.
Today, out of 55 Muslim-majority countries, apostasy is not a crime at all in 33, and it is a capital crime only in a few outliers like Iran and Saudi Arabia. So neither on principle nor in legal reality is it the case that Muslims *in general* seek punishment of apostasy.
Even if all this were not true, it is not legitimate to kill a person because of abstract beliefs imputed to that person that he or she has never acted on.