The Prophetic Voice of Enduring Insults

January 14, 2015

Muslims all over the world revere the Prophet Muhammad, and as such, are offended when he is insulted or mocked. The Quranic message declares: "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256). The prophetic example demonstrates respect for freedom of thought, religion and pursuit of life. Therefore, the violent assault on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, was a complete affront to Islamic principles and values.

The caricatures of the Prophet are offensive. However, it is within the teachings of the Quran and examples of the Prophet himself that Muslims must seek guidance on how to respond to such demeaning images and humiliating caricature.

MPAC has been consistent in its appeal to the Muslim community to follow the example of the Prophet in dealing with this kind of abuse. From the 2006 Danish cartoons controversy to as far back as Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in 1989, MPAC has always asserted freedom of expression, arguing that no matter how degrading the images or statements may be, they can never affect the dignity of the Prophet, God or Islam. Legal speech, from an Islamic point of view includes blasphemous speech as well.

Both the Quran and the Prophetic examples exhort us to react to hate speech with responsible speech.

In the Quran, God mandates that we repel bad with good: “Nor can goodness and evil be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity (will become) as though he was a devoted friend” (41:34). Muslims need to respond to such situations based purely on Islamic principles of justice, human dignity and mercy, as modeled by the Prophet.

There are numerous examples of the Prophet being physically and verbally abused during his lifetime, yet he did not react violently. To the contrary, he responded with good by asking God for mercy upon his attackers.

We have all witnessed the Prophetic tradition come to life during the Danish cartoons controversy. Amongst the violent and angry response, an impactful movement was created. Rather than responding in a violent and angry way that would eclipse the Prophet’s message, a group sought to highlight his example and responded to the cartoons by creating a Facebook page called “Honour The Prophet Muhammad Campaign.” The goal was to “spread the truth about the Prophet Muhammad.” This initiative responded to the offending cartoons by emphasizing the magnanimous character of the Prophet, one of the most highly regarded figures in human history.

Europe has come under the influence of a host of right-wing parties that spew the most vitriolic hate against minorities. According to a 2012 Amnesty International report, Europe appears to be facing a crisis of social cohesion. Anti-Muslim sentiment appears to be at an all time high, fueled by strong political rhetoric which has real impact on the lives of minorities.

It is our firm belief that following the Prophet’s example is the only Islamically valid way to address hate and discriminatory laws. Indeed, this week’s latest edition of Charlie Hebdo, even though still offensive to Muslims, speaks to the Prophet’s message of spreading peace, mercy and forgiveness: “Tout est pardonne” (all is forgiven).



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