Recent protests in the Middle East and other Muslim-majority nations have underlined the vulnerability of the crowd on the street to the rhetoric of their Imams. It can be quite easy to stir up a crowd when the object of their protest is the ‘decadent West’ hiding behind an amateur film maker’s attempt to discredit Muhammad in a poorly made video.
Muslims, like any religious people, don’t like it when the practice, principles or prophet of their faith is ridiculed by others. So, when a Danish newspaper published some cartoons of Muhammad a few years ago, they responded with protest, and now they respond with protest to a poor depiction of Muhammad on film. Unfortunately when a Dutch film-maker made a documentary about the situation of women in Islam he was murdered. Unfortunately, when in 1989 Salman Rushdie published his ‘Satanic Verses’, a fatwa was issued by the Ayatollah of Iran as an Islamic ruling of a death sentence again him because his work was deemed to have blasphemed the Qu’ran.
Historically Muslims allow no depictions of Muhammad or Allah. The equivalent of Christian art depicting scenes from Jesus life would be anathema to the Muslim community. Under sharia law those who insult Muhammad or Allah are to be put to death. This idea is not clearly stated in the Qu’ran although the 33rd Sura makes a reference. More authority for the practice is found in the Hadith. According to Bukhari 3:106, “The Prophet said, “Do not tell a lie against me for whoever tells a lie against me (intentionally) then he will surely enter the Hell-fire.”
Insulting the faith of another is not a Christian practice. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love our enemies. Whether the Muslim is our neighbor or our enemy we are called to love him. However, Western Christianity has come to value the democratic ideals of freedom of speech and expression. In the words of Voltaire, we may not agree with a man’s words but we defend his right to use them.
In a current article (October 2012) in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Albrecht Hauser, a German Lutheran writes about Islamic outreach strategies. He quotes the 1980 Islamic Council of Europe strategy for the Islamization of Europe: “Once a community [of Muslims] is well organized, its leaders should strive to seek the recognition of Muslims as a religious community having its own characteristics by the authorities. Once recognized, the community should continue to request the same rights the other religious communities enjoy in the country. Eventually, the community may seek to gain political rights as a constituent community of the nation. Once these rights are obtained, then the community should seek to generalize its characteristics to the entire nation.” This articulates the clear goal that Muslims, given an opportunity, will take advantage of western freedoms for their own goal of establishing Islam and removing those freedoms.
In the meantime Christians, whether they realize it or not, live daily with the insult of Christ all around them. In our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools of learning and media the name of Christ is blasphemed on a regular basis. Perhaps more than this however is the routine blasphemy of Christ which is established in the Muslim religion. Every denial of the triune God within Islam denies the eternal coexistence of God the Son with God the Father. This denial is absolute in the Qu’ran, and absolute in the daily prayer of the Muslim. In the Christian community we should be grieved over this insult. But we do not respond with irrational violence. We are not inspired to hatred. We love, and we pray that the Muslim will be led into a true understanding of the nature of Jesus the Messiah.