The beheading of Samuel Paty, the Paris school teacher, has brought reactions from world over. While most of them straightaway condemn the heinous act, few are coated with the spice of ‘conditions’. A few others have been apologists for the killer. Among all the reactions, I read an interesting article by Zainab Sikander in ThePrint: “Quran doesn’t tell people to fight any more than Gita, Bible, Torah. Why pick on Muslims.” Even though I read the article with the utmost care, I could not find the expressed arguments in the right order.
According to Zainab, offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad have humiliated and bullied a faith that is older than fourteen centuries in the name of “freedom of expression”. If I read the author’s expressions well, then French President Emmanuel Macron’s endorsement of Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of Prophet Muhammad was a grave mistake, and a deliberate attack on Muslims — an insult to the Rasul. But, wasn’t it the same France that gave refuge to Muslims, among whom was Paty’s killer Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov?
Even before Anzorov was born, Charlie Hebdo had a reputation for being satirical on all Abrahamic faiths. Largely, the magazine has always been anti-religion. Hence, it is never of great sense to expect it to behave differently for a particular faith. As far as Macron’s endorsement is concerned, one must get the context right. The French President’s reaction came after Samuel Paty was beheaded for showing Hebdo’s caricature of Muhammad in the classroom to explain ‘freedom of expression’. As per the reports, Samuel had requested Muslim students to leave the classroom to avoid any offence. He was sensitive enough to take care of someone else’s faith. But despite that, he lost his life.
Quran and violence
Zainab says that be it 9/11, Paty’s killing, IC-814 hijack or Al-Qaeda, Prophet Muhammad cannot be held responsible for these acts.
But every incident she mentions has happened in the name of Muhammad. I, as a non-believer in Muhammad’s words, always get sceptical of his true will and desires. For a Kafir like me, the question continues to trouble — whose interpretation should I accept? Of an Islamic scholar like Zakir Naik or some other deemed-to-be Moderate Muslim? The fact is that even the Quran was penned decades after the demise of the Rasul and we have various versions of it. As per Quran, it is supposed to be the final book, but despite that, Hadiths were written. Everyone tried to become an advocate for Rasul. Unfortunately, there are verses in the Quran that talk of beheading quite clearly.
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom ’til the war lay down its burdens. (47.4)
When the Lord inspired the angels (saying) I am with you. So make those who believe stand firm. I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them each finger. (8.12)
Commentators agree that beheading is prescribed in war. And the likes of Osama bin Laden have been using Quranic verses to terrorise people. Hence, when these verses offend non-Muslims, Muslims shouldn’t be questioning them. Instead, the onus lies upon the Muslim community to first recognise the offence and protest the misuse of the Quran by terrorist organisations. Non-Muslims never have issues with Quran-defending Zainab Sikanders, but they have issues with bin Ladens and Baghdadis who, too, quote the Quran to smit the neck of innocent people. In this case, Zainab’s defence of the Quran becomes invalid because people are still out there who behead in the name of Muhammad and the Quran. Hence, it should be the duty of the Ummah to ensure that the Holy book and the Rasul don’t remain hijacked by the terrorists.
Islamic terrorists have always chanted “Allahu-Akbar” while executing the crime. The verse is considered pious by the world’s one-fourth population who thinks an ‘insult’ to Muhammad as offensive. Shouldn’t Muslims first take offence of the fact that terrorists use the name of “Muhammad” and “Allah” while they commit heinous crimes? Every liberal Hindu went “la la” to sing the tune of “Not in My Name”, but in contrast, it never appeared among the Islamic diaspora. Instead, “Ummah” always stood only to condemn and protest the acts of blasphemy.
French law allows everyone to be Samuel Paty
What Zainab also forgets in her protest of the cartoonists is that France has long abolished the blasphemy law. Hence, drawing cartoons of Muhammad or any other prophet is not a crime there. The Constitution of France gives rights to every citizen to do what Charlie Hebdo and Samuel Paty did. Why should someone have a problem with the way France has operated for so many decades? Did refugees like Anzorov not consider France’s socio-cultural fabric when they came seeking shelter in the country about a decade ago? And did any other country stand for them in their crisis, the way France did?
There have been incidents in India and world over where the silence of the Muslim community have been deafening — it’s only hurting them.
Kamlesh Tiwari was murdered because he addressed Muhammad as gay. A Dalit Congress leader’s house was set on fire in Bengaluru because his nephew shared a derogatory post about Muhammad. The Swedish city of Malmo saw rioting after far-Right activists burned the Quran. In all these incidents, I have never seen Muslims protest or come together and condemn the acts of violence. Don’t people often quote the Quran 5.32?
“… whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely…”
Does this verse from the Quran not talk about corruption in the land? If so, then breaking the rule of a country amounts to corruption. But there are no large protests against those murderers? Shouldn’t humanity outweigh the book? If Muhammad was present today, the apostle of peace that he was (as mentioned by most of my Muslim friends), he would have been the first to disown these heinous acts against non-Muslims. The people who call themselves the followers of Muhammad must ensure that the non-believers see him in a good light. Let verse 5.32 be more of Muhammad’s identity than 8.12. The action speaks louder than words.
The Muslim world needs ‘not in my name’
According to Zainab, the world has been fixated with Islam for nearly two decades because of terrorism. It appears she is ill-informed. Islamist extremists have perpetrated 31,221 terror attacks and killed 146,811 people worldwide since the ugly episode of 9/11, says the reputed German newspaper Welt in a report published a year ago. If I do basic mathematics, it gives that around five terror attacks happen every day. In India, we have seen huge support at funerals of terrorists like Burhan Wani when agitations should have occurred against them. Does it not answer why fingers are pointed at Islam? Aren’t ‘deemed-to-be-moderate’ Muslims responsible for it?
Zainab believes that the French President’s reaction has kept France talking entirely about Islamic terrorism. But how else would have Macron reacted? Was it not Islamic terrorism that tried to curb the core principle of French democracy, which is ‘freedom of expression’? Zainab finds Marcon’s decision to keep publishing Charlie Hebdo’s work as deliberate provocation and insult to Muslims. Why is she expecting France to go against her natural character, just to appease a particular community?
While the author seems to feel the pain of the one-fourth population of the world, she ignores what happens in Hindu-majority India, most of the time. Many stand-up comedians have insulted Hindu gods/goddesses. Do these ever lead to global protests?
Protests that stand on the blood of innocents only push Muslims on the back foot. The story would have been much different had the pan-Islamic community made an exception in 2020 by bringing large assemblies condemning the attacks in France and starting a movement like ‘Not In My Name’.
Context and Quran
Zainab says that people cite Quranic verses out of context to paint Islam violent. But she fails to understand that precedents supersede contexts. The Ummah believes in the establishment of Dar al-Islam, and as per theology, until the same is fulfilled, Dar al-Harb shall ever remain an enemy State. The Muslim world, globally, needs to denounce the idea of Dar al-Islam. Until the same is done, it is impossible to believe that Ummah is not going to consider non-Muslim kafirs as enemies. B.R. Ambedkar decodes the idea in his book Pakistan or Partition of India.
Zainab states that it is wrong to cite Quran 2.191 to establish Islam’s open support for violence. According to her, verse 2.191 of Quran was revealed when Muslims on the Hajj pilgrimage were attacked and killed by the Quraysh tribe who had signed a treaty with the Prophet, promising not to attack the pilgrims. But is this claim by the author true? One needs to read Sīrat Rasūl Allāh by Ibn Ishaq to know the reality, detailed in folio 803.
After the treaty of Hudaibiya was made, two feuding tribes aligned themselves on opposing sides of the Meccan-Muslim divide. The tribe that allied with the Meccans had suffered a series of murders at the hands of the other before the alliance, which they sought to avenge. The matter can be summarised as below:
A member of Tribe Banu Bakr (later allied with Mecca) is murdered by members of Tribe Khuza’a (later allied with Prophet Muhammad). In revenge, the Bakrs murder a Khuza’a. In retaliation, Khuza’a kills three members of Tribe Banu Bakr. After this bloodshed, while Khuza’a joins the Muslim alliance, Banu Bakrs join the Meccans. Banu Bakr then seeks revenge for the last murders by killing members of Khuza’a.
Although the original chain of murder was started by Khuza’a, the fact that they were attacked by the tribe allied with the Meccans after allying with the Muslims constituted a technical breach of the treaty – which Muhammad then capitalised on by marching his superior forces into Mecca and establishing the authority of Islam by force. Hence, it would always appear that the Meccans were the first to violate the treaty. Significantly, the treaty’s main purpose was to allow Muslims to enter Mecca and perform the haj at the Kaaba. This had been the main grievance of Muhammad (Source: Sura 2 of the Quran). Not even the staunchest defender ever claims that the people of Mecca hindered Muslim pilgrims following the treaty’s signing. Hence, in plain words, they were faithful to the terms, making armed conflict unnecessary.
However, even within the realm of technicalities, Muhammad was still the first to violate the Treaty of Hudaibiya. In fact, the Quran acknowledges this, which means any knowledgeable Muslim must as well.
The terms of the treaty specified that any Muslim who flees Mecca for Medina must be returned. But when a group of Muslims did exactly that a few weeks after the treaty was signed, Muhammad did not return all of them and kept the women. The same finds justification in the Quran; 60.10. So was Muhammad given personal permission to break the treaty?
Hence, it becomes clear that Muslims were murdering Meccans well after the treaty was signed and also before for revenge killings between the opposing tribes.
Quran and Gita, a flawed comparison
Zainab also compares Quran 2.193 with Bhagwad Gita 2.33. Another wrong comparison. In the former’s case, the Meccans were forced into war and in fact, Muhammad himself had broken the treaty technically (as explained above). Also, here the history involved the establishment of a religion. But in Gita, Krishna asks Arjuna to fight for the sake of Dharma. Zainab commits the mistake of equating religion and Dharma. Religion is an institution while Dharma is the way to strive to be right. Dharma tells to reject the institution which shows the wrong path. It signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accordance with Ṛta, the natural order that makes life and universe possible. It includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues, and the right way of living. ‘Rajadharma’ means king’s duty, not religion. We mustn’t confuse “dharma” with “religion.”
It was futile to compare Gita with the Quran. When Bhagwad Gita was conceived, the concept of religion was non-existent. The fight was not about religion but about dharma — righteousness. The truth is that, however bitter it may seem, no one kills in the name of Gita. No one has ever cited verses of Gita to justify why he wishes to kill non-Hindus. But verses from the Quran have even been part of Osama bin Laden’s Jihad declaration over the US.
Muhammad will not come back and nor will Krishna, but our deeds will portray the image of them upon generations to come. With the given circumstances around, it must be understood that the image of the Quran and Prophet Muhammad lies in the hands of the Muslims, and not in its comparison with Gita, Bible or Torah.
Aabhas Maldahiyar @aabhas24 is a practicing urban designer, columnist, author and an amateur History researcher. Views are personal.