“…Man was created single in order to show that to him who kills a single individual it shall be reckoned that he has slain the whole race, but to him who preserves the life of a single individual it is counted that he hath preserved the whole race.”
Mishnah Sanhedrin, 4:5 … circa 189 AD
“…whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” Qur’an 32nd verse of chapter 5 (sūrat l-māidah)
“Islamist separatism is a conscious, theorized, politico-religious project that materializes through repeated deviations from the values of the republic and which often result in the creation of a counter-society.” Emmanuel Macron, President of France
In this week’s edition of “More than Meets the Eye,” we will take a deeper look into some of the atrocities which have transpired in France over the past few weeks. Stabbings, shootings, and beheadings by Islamist extremists have rocked the French political spectrum. French President, Emmanuel Macron has decided to take a hard-line stance against what he is calling Islamist Extremism. The entire Islamic world is on edge as half of the Umma (Islamic world) has taken the position that the victims of the recent slayings deserved what they got, while the other half are claiming that the slayings had nothing to do with Islam and that President Macron’s sentiments are inflammatory. There is a lot of confusion as to exactly what the problem is. Meanwhile, the families of the slain, drown in the tears of their sorrow, over the senseless killings of their loved ones.
We will take a look at what actually happened, why it happened, and how it is being interpreted by Islamic scholars, politicians, and the guy on the street. Concerning this subject, there is so much more going on than meets the eye.
When a terrorist in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine beheaded Samuel Paty, a middle school teacher who’d shown his student’s caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, he was transformed from an educator into a national symbol. Paty is the latest of more than 260 French killed in similar attacks since 2012.
As with Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old priest whose throat was slashed by Muslim fundamentalists in 2016 in a small stone church in the village of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, Paty’s killing was portrayed as an attack on the soul of France. He “has become the face of the republic,” President Emmanuel Macron said at a memorial service on Wednesday.
In 2014, the rise of ISIS saw the beginning of a different kind of terror attack in France. Assault weapons were featured in the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks of January 2015, as well as in the attack on the Bataclan theatre in November 2015.
In some respects, the most shocking of all was another lone actor attack in Nice. On June 14, 2016, a truck driver drove at speed into hundreds of pedestrians celebrating Bastille Day on the promenade, killing 86 and injuring more than 400.
For France’s six million Muslims, the current sadness is compounded by dread and fear.
The outrageous beheading of the well-meaning teacher, Samuel Paty on October 16, and a similar attack on a 60-year-old woman and two others in the Notre-Dame cathedral in Nice two weeks later were acts of violence calculated to provoke anger.
France is in a state of panic as it is faced with a growing sense of angst over these seemingly unprovoked heinous murders. Severing someone’s head from their body and killing little old ladies is anathema in modern Western societies. It is a telling reality as to how little, many of France’s immigrants have really integrated into French society. For the average French person, they welcome immigrants with open arms. Their thoughts include: “You are welcome in France, but this is France. Leave your non-Frenchness wherever you came from. That is why you fled. If you want to immigrate to France, then adopt French values, French language, and even French culture. That is what makes France…French.” Increasingly, people are reacting to that sensibility and many immigrants are considering their present and future place in French society.
This entire tragic series of events is causing a significant stir, not only in France but across the Islamic world as well. According to a study in 2015, Islam has 1.8 billion adherents, making up about 24.1% of the world population. This is no small religious grouping. The sheer numbers lend itself to complexity, especially in a situation such as these recent murders.
As you can imagine, just as in the Christianized world, simply because a person is from a historically Muslim country does not make every person a solid model adherent of Islam any more than a person from the USA or Europe would be a good model of Christianity just because they were born in the USA or Europe. So the question that comes to mind is: Why in these incidents does the world assume that these murderers are Muslim?
Here is why it appears that the suspect, Abdoulakh A. -an 18-year-old man, born in Moscow of Chechen origin was more than just a casual member of society with no connections to Islam. Abdoulakh A. went to the college where Samuel Paty taught and asked students to point out the teacher. The attacker followed Mr. Paty, who was heading home on foot after school, inflicted multiple wounds to his head with a knife, and then beheaded the victim. Witnesses are said to have heard the attacker shout, “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Greatest.” The man then posted photos of the victim to a “Twitter” account, along with insults to Mr. Macron and French “infidels” and “dogs.” He was also carrying a Qur’an with him during the assault. This, of course, is not conclusive as to his affiliation with Islam, but his actions and motives are consistent with hundreds of other Islamist terrorists in the recent past. There are few in the French government who are arguing with the stated reality that this attacker was an Islamist terrorist.
What then is the Islamic world’s reactions to these killings? This is where the slope begins to get really slippery. Why did this assailant kill this man? Why did the other assailants kill a 60-year-old woman and two other Catholic congregants, in the alleged name of Allah? The Muslim world is divided on their response, from both a personal level and a political one.
What have some of the responses been? According to Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad “Macron is not showing that he is civilized. He is very primitive in blaming the religion of Islam and Muslims for the killing of the insulting schoolteacher. It is not in keeping with the teachings of Islam.”
Mahathir went on to “tweet” a rather inflammatory message. “Since you have blamed all Muslims and their religion for what was done by one angry person, the Muslims have a right to punish the French. The boycott cannot compensate the wrongs committed by the French all these years.” In another message, he wrote that Muslims had the right to kill millions of French people for all the misdeeds of their past. In defense of the 95-year-old former Malaysian Statesman, his comments might have been taken out of context, but words are still very dangerous, in or out of context. His “tweet” is highly representative of the confusion emanating from the Muslim world. He states that “killing is not in keeping with the teachings of Islam.” Then in another message, he stated that “Muslims have every right to kill millions of French for past grievances.” Which is it? The rift is a significant one.
Other leaders such as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistan’s President Imran Khan have registered vigorous complaints against President Macron’s response to the murder, but their complaints are a bit spurious as no one is sure what they are upset about. Their very visceral politically motivated complaints against Macron are not as focused on the murder of Samuel Paty as much as the fact that he showed his students cartoons of the prophet, Muhammad, which were cartoons published in Denmark and then later in the Charlie Hebdo magazine in France in 2015. It is not lost on the matter that the trials of the assailants of the Charlie Hebdo Massacre started on September 3rd, and Charlie Hebdo had re-published the cartoons of Muhammad on September 1st.
What is confusing to most Westerners is the reality that, though we know that insulting the leaders of another religion is perhaps poor form, but in a society such as France, which highly values free speech, it is legal, and because of the freedom of speech, there need not be any retribution for someone’s poor form, certainly not beheading. This is a distinctly Western way of thinking.
Islam as a whole has three major ways of looking at this.
- There is no provision for violence, especially killing another human being in Islam.
- Blasphemy against Allah, Muhammad, or the Qur’an is a crime against Allah and is punishable by death. Full stop.
- In general, killing is not condoned in Islam, but in some cases, it is allowed.
I will resist at this point, going into a deep theological discussion of Islamic theology, but will just comment on a couple of Islamic thoughts that seem to dictate the direction that some have chosen to go regarding these three positions.
Some would say that there is a moderate version of Islam, but this is not a commonly understood or accepted form of Islam. Turkey’s president has openly stated that there is no such thing as a “moderate” Islam. So where do these disparate positions on violence begin?
A common verse from the Qur’an is perhaps one of the most quoted verses. It is found in the 32nd verse of chapter 5 “…whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” Qur’an 32nd verse of chapter 5 (sūrat l-māidah). It is in this verse that many Muslims find their apologetic for Islam as a peaceful religion.
As an aside and as a contribution to examining what is more than meets the eye, I found it interesting that although this verse is attributed to Muhammad in the compilation of the Qur’an, there are older texts found in Jewish Rabbinic teachings stating virtually the same thing. “…Man was created single in order to show that to him who kills a single individual it shall be reckoned that he has slain the whole race, but to him who preserves the life of a single individual it is counted that he hath preserved the whole race.” Mishnah Sanhedrin, 4:5 … circa 189 AD
My purpose in making this point is not to disparage the message of peace or to even accuse anybody of disingenuousness, but to demonstrate that there is quite a disparity within the Muslim world on their opinions of the role of egregious violence as a response to what is considered blasphemous behavior.
What is not obvious on the surface is what is most disturbing to Muslims. Is it about the fact that someone published blasphemous cartoons of Muhammad or that President Macron’s response assigned such heinous acts of violence to Islamist extremists, therefore indicting Islam as a whole?
On one hand, there are Islamic scholars who say violence has no place in Islam and on another hand there are those who say that Muslims have every right to inflict violence on any blasphemer of Muhammad or his book, the Qur’an. There are hundreds of millions of Muslims on both sides of this matter.
Then there are those, who in general believe that violence is wrong, but they are also on the fence about when violence is optional. These are probably the representative masses. They are unversed in the teachings of the Qur’an. They only know in part what they have been taught by their local leader. There is no serious Qur’anic grounding for why they believe what they do, but they are comfortable with it as long as it is representative of their community.
This last group is increasing in number, especially in Europe and in the USA today. They are peaceful as a collective group and most likely would never commit a heinous crime such as happened in Paris. At the same time, however, they will acquiesce to the Islamic leadership and resist causing a stir, if someone else does it, and reason, that the person should never have blasphemed Islam in the first place.
Meanwhile, the French are deeply concerned. French people are a diverse people. There are French who are historically French; there are French who are of African descent; there are French who are of Asian descent. Together they form the mosaic of what it means to be French. This is not unlike the rest of Europe and the USA. The coming days will unveil how France intends to deal with such a serious and almost pervasive problem.
The problems that are being faced right now in France are just a foreshadowing of what is to come in the West regarding the integration, or perhaps the non-integration of Islamic peoples in France. These non-indigenous peoples have been marginalized for decades. There is significant segregation of peoples in France as much as in the USA.
There is a cataclysmic culture clash fomenting in France. What President Macron prescribes, is a call to reform Islam. What the 5.7 million Muslims living in France want is total equality and a dismantling of the system of marginalization. What the Muslim leaders around the world want is for France to become completely Muslim. This is not isolated to France. This same scenario will play itself out in Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Denmark, and the rest of Europe. It will migrate as a movement to the USA. How do we know this? There is a propaganda machine intensely at work across the world, that alerts everybody when the slightest action is taken against a Muslim. It is a machine that screams “Islamophobia!” when activated. When that happens, even the highest levels of government back off, fearing what may happen should they continue.
At the heart of the matter is fear. Few care if anybody makes blasphemous statements against Jesus, Buddha, or any other highly revered religious figures. Nobody stands against that kind of speech. No one is calling it Hate speech when someone defames Christianity. Perhaps it is because nobody is beheading anybody in the name of Jesus. Asian culture sees it as a strength that they are so convinced of the veracity of Islam that they are willing to kill for Allah. They see Christian ambivalence as a weakness, in that they are not willing to kill for their beliefs. They miss completely that the Christian message is the antithesis of the Islamic message. Strength is demonstrated by being willing to die for God, not kill for him.
“Every religion has strong beliefs in its own superiority, and this necessarily offends other religions.” When I first read this quote by Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, it bothered me. The more I thought about it, the less I felt offended. At the heart of monotheistic religions is the notion that “your religion” is wrong. Few may say it, but it is there. Humans have lived together for centuries believing that their religion is the only religion that is true. It does not always have to end in violence unless there is a threat that there is a doubt to the veracity of your own religion. One of Islam’s modern scholars, Yusuf al Qaradawi said in a television interview, “If it were not for ridda (punishment by death for apostasy) there would be no Islam today.
I realize these may be considered pretty provocative statements, but some of these issues are floating around out there and need to be addressed. Most Muslims are peaceful, law-abiding citizens and have no intention of ever hurting anybody. I consider many Muslims to be my friends and colleagues.
It is poor form to purposefully inflame another religion, but for many, simply holding a view that is significantly different can be just as inflammatory. It is time for people to live together in tolerance and freedom. What the world needs are more people who are willing to die for their faith rather than kill for it.
This is a total surprise for me, if it plays itself out as proposed. Under Pressure, Armenia Gives Up the Fight in Nagorno-Karabakh http://click1.crm.foreignpolicy.com/
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Skolnik, Fred; Berenbaum, Michael (2007). “Mishnah”. Encyclopaedia Judaica. 14 (2 ed.). p. 319. ISBN 978-0-02-865942-8.. Heinrich Graetz, dissenting, places the Mishnah’s compilation in 189 CE (see: H. Graetz, History of the Jews, vol. 6, Philadelphia 1898, p. 105), and which date follows that penned by Rabbi Abraham ben David in his “Sefer HaKabbalah le-Ravad,” or what was then anno 500 of the Seleucid era.