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Why Do Muslims React With Violence When Mohammed is Satirized?

By Randall Terry

Explaining "The Traditions of the Prophet" and the "Shari'a."

The plaguing question that we must discuss is: Why? Why do Muslims react with violence when Mohammed is satirized? Many people are studiously ignoring this question.

To understand the waves of protests and violence occurring across the world one must understand Islamic theology and history, and then view the current "cartoon crisis" through that grid. Only then will this seeming overreaction make any sense. Then perhaps we will be able to have an intelligent discussion about the cartoons, the value and definition of freedom, and the real goal of Muslim leaders around the world - namely, the imposition of Islamic law on every nation.

The fact that we have virtually no knowledge of Islamic history, theology, or philosophy is beginning to take a toll on us as the 'cartoon crisis' continues to unfold.

We must allow Islam to define itself; we must take Islam at its own word; we must interpret the actions of Islamic leaders through the grid that they define, not some arbitrary Western grid that we try and impose on them.

The goal of devout Muslim leaders is simply this: to obey the dictates and imitate the life of Mohammed, and to establish Islamic Law (the Shari'a) in the earth. Muslim leaders are following the "Traditions of the Prophet."

The "Traditions of the Prophet" are the words (Hadith) and the deeds (Sunnah) of Mohammed, which are NOT in the Koran. They are recorded by ancient Islamic historians. Furthermore, the Koran, and the "Traditions of the Prophet" form the foundation of Islamic Law - the Shari'a.

In other words, we must understand the life and the legacy of the Muslim prophet Mohammed - which are referred to as "The Traditions of the Prophet." Only then will we understand current events, and recognize the place of Shari'a (Islamic Law) in this struggle.

Islam allows no change, but rather deplores and condemns the very notion of change from its original message. Muslims who hold to historic, Orthodox Islam insist on "the fact that all innovations in Islam and in Islamic beliefs must be rejected. After all, Allah revealed Islam suitable for all times and all ages. Islamic beliefs can never change, and therefore new ideas or beliefs in Islam must be rejected. We must stay with the same beliefs that Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) taught his companions, the first generation of the Salaf [ancestors]." (Muslim web site, Al-Islami)

Why are "moderates" who try to avoid or alter the Shari'a (Islamic Law) ignored? Because separating Islam from the Shari'a is tantamount to blasphemy, or an act of apostasy against God himself.

Those 'moderate Muslims' who seek to remake Islam into a politically tenable western image (or in the image of say - a politically castrated Catholicism in France) have found little success in the Islamic community; they have rather incurred the wrath of the faithful. In fact, it has cost many "moderate scholars" their freedom or their lives: "In this context, the influential fundamentalist Sheikh, the late Mohammed al-Ghazali, has ruled in a notorious fetwa that every Muslim who pleads for the separation of religion and politics, that is, for the suspension of the Shari'a, is to be branded a murtad/apostate.' He also stated that any Muslims who kill these apostates should not be punished, because they were doing a service to Allah; this resulted in intellectuals being murdered in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey." (The Challenge of Fundamentalism, Page 169) [A fetwa, or fatwa, is a legal decision or sentence issued by a religious leader or scholar.]

When Mohammed conquered Mecca, he offered clemency to those who would submit to Islam - except for those who had satirized and mocked him.

The following history is recorded by the revered Islamic historian, Ibn Kathir. Mohammed's example here recorded (i.e., "The Tradition of the Prophet") is part of the foundation for the violence and assassination threats against those who have satirized him in cartoons. This history was written in the 1300s, and deals with Mohammed's conquest of Mecca.

The messenger of God [Mohammed] had instructed his commanders to refrain from doing battle against any except those who fought them. He did, however, order that a group whom he named should be put to death, even if they were found hiding beneath the hangings of the Ka'ba. [Abd-Allah] had two female singers, Fartana and a friend, who would sing songs mocking the messenger of God and the Muslims. This is why the messenger of God condemned him and the two singers to death. He was killed while he clutched the hangings of the ka'ba. One of his women singers was killed, while the other one was granted clemency." (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Mohammed, Vol. III, pages 402- 403)

Whether we like it or not, we are at war with the legacy of Mohammed. The two immediate questions we must answer are:

  1. Will we learn Islamic history and sociology so we understand what we are dealing with?
  2. Will we submit to the dictates of the Shari'a; will we surrender freedom of speech and freedom of religion to Islamic law and the dictates of Islamic mullahs and imams in foreign capitals?


Randall Terry has spent a year and a half immersed in a study of Islam. His studies have included: beginning his Arabic studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus Campus; college courses on Islamic history and sociology; spending seven weeks studying historic sites in Jerusalem, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and Greece; doing extensive research in Islamic primary sources for a lengthy project comparing Christ and Mohammed. Mr. Terry is the author of five published books; he is currently the President of the Society for Truth and Justice.

Randall Terry has a B.A. (with a concentration in communications) from the State University of New York; a B.A. from Whitfield College School of Religion; and a three-year degree from Elim Bible Institute, majoring in The Bible (Old and New Testament). His theological and communications background provide a unique vantage point from which to study and discuss the religion, history, and sociology of Islam.

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