Leaving Islam




Violently suppressing freedom of speech, not to mention freedom of religion, is a tradition that dates back to Muhammad himself. Before Theo van Gogh, there was Salman Rushdie, as well as many other less-publicized incidents involving the likes of Irshad Manji, Ibn Warraq, Ali Sina, and others. In Islamic Spain, often hailed for supposedly representing the Golden Age of enlightened Islamic tolerance and peaceful co-existence with other faiths, a martyrdom movement arose in which Christians openly challenged Islamic law regarding criticism of Islam and the prophet.

In 850 a priest named Perfectus was stopped by a group of Muslims and, seeing he was a priest, asked him to explain his Catholic faith and to give his opinions about Islam. Perfectus turned them down, fearing he would only provoke them, but when they promised to protect him he acceded. The Muslims were angered by Perfectus' harsh criticism of Islam, who proclaimed Muhammad to be one of the false prophets foretold by Christ and cited his moral depravity. A few days later the Muslims violated their vow to protect him and turned him over to the magistrate, testifying that they had blasphemed the prophet. Perfectus was later beheaded before a group of Muslims who had gathered for the feast breaking the Ramadan fast.

In 851 a monk, Isaac, approached a Cordoban qâdi (Islamic judge) and asked him about the finer points of Islam. The judge had barely had the chance to elaborate on the life of Muhammad when Isaac went on a virulent tirade against Islam, claiming Muhammad to be a false prophet who was burning in hell for deceiving the Arabs. Taken aback, the judge slapped Isaac and had him brought before the emir, Abd-ar-Rahmân II. The qâdi sentenced the monk to death; Isaac was beheaded and his headless body hung upside down for public viewing. Rahmân then proclaimed an edict threatening future violators with the same punishment. However, over the next four days, seven more Christians followed Isaac's example. Two days after Isaac's death, a Christian soldier named Sanctius was beheaded. Within two days of Sanctius' execution six more Christians presented themselves before Islamic authorities and proclaimed, "We abide by the same confession, O judge that our most holy brothers Isaac and Sanctius professed. Now hand down the sentence, multiply your cruelty, be kindled with complete fury in vengeance for your prophet. We confess Christ to be truly God and your prophet to be a precursor of antichrist and an author of a profane doctrine." In addition to beheading the violators, Rahmân ordered the arrest of the entire clerical leadership.

Of course, those of us aware of Muhammad's own life are aware of the examples of Abu Afak, Asma bint Marwan, and Kab b. al-Ashraf, among others, who spoke out against Muhammad or Islam and paid for it with their lives. Apologists are quick to point out that Abu Afak and Asma bint Marwan, found in Sirar Rasul Allah, are based on faulty chains of narration (isnad), but the story of Kab b. al-Ashraf is told in Bukhari as well as Sirat Rasul Allah. This of course is the root of the cartoon jihad; Muhammad's example is divine.

The rage surrounding these cartoons, from the protests featuring signs calling for a real Holocaust, massacring or beheading anyone who speaks out against Islam, and the downfall of Europe, to the more violent acts of Muslims in the Palestinian territories, where EU buildings in Gaza have been stormed and a German citizen was kidnapped from a Nablus hotel, as well as in Jakarta, Indonesia, another Mecca of moderate Islam, where jihadists attacked the Danish embassy, has shocked the non-Muslim world, where blasphemous depictions of Christian icons and doctrine are commonplace in art museums and theatres. With perfect timing and irony, an artist at a New York City art show depicted Jesus Christ up-side-down with the face of Osama bin Laden. And Christians no doubt will remember "artist" Chris Ofili's The Holy Virgin Mary, which featured clumps of elephant dung, as well as the famed Piss Christ, a crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's blood and urine. Amazingly, though CNN had no problem showing The Holy Virgin Mary, they stuck their head in the sand with regards to the Muhammad cartoons.

And of course newspapers like the Washington Post, who have no trouble publishing cartoons depicting American soldiers as quadruple-amputees to make political points, and talk about the chill wind of intimidation when the Joint Chiefs write a letter of protest, will no doubt, out of "respect" for the Islamic faith, refrain from printing the Muhammad cartoons.

Far more effective than an overt act of violence orchestrated by Al Qaeda, which, despite widely-available scriptural and historical evidence to the contrary, are still easily dismissed to the masses as a tiny minority of extremists, this incident has exposed how deeply entrenched the "radical", fundamentalist mentality is with the average Muslim. From Denmark to Holland to Britain to the Middle East to Indonesia , Muslim disregard for civilized notions of freedom of _expression is the rule, not the exception. Non-Muslims, as they should, find this highly offensive. We can't help but wonder: If only Muslims would show half this much rage when some "misunderstanders" of Islam highjack their peaceful religion and saw a man's head off, shouting Allahu Akbar!

Then maybe people would actually take them seriously when they get angry at this 'blasphemy'. Right now they're blowing all their capital on hypocrisy and people are seeing them for who they really are. I am ecstatic that it is happening now, when Muslims are not present in greater numbers in these communities. For this we owe these Danish cartoonists a debt of gratitude. 








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