Recently a lady from Pennsylvania (Colleen LaRose, AKA Jihad Jane) was arrested for “terrorist” related activities. Now to be honest, the conspiracy to commit murder of which she is accused is not ‘terrorism’ as that is normally defined. She and her accused co-conspirators were not seeking political or ‘regime’ change by means of mass murders of innocents. They weren’t planning to place and detonate bombs in public places, fly airplanes into buildings, etc. They didn’t have a vendetta planned against a government or any of its agencies (such as the IRS). They were focused on one man (a Swedish artist) and perhaps some coworkers who had committed what they (the supposed ‘terrorists’) considered a major ‘crime’: insult and ‘blasphemy’ against the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This artist had drawn a cartoon of a dog with the head of Muhammad. These Muslims felt that such an action deserved death.
Now it’s easy to understand their anger. I can imagine the reaction among Christians (and yes, some Muslims too) if the cartoon dog had been given the head of Jesus Christ (who is blessed by God). There would certainly be a lot of outrage, and it is not at all unlikely that some Christians would feel the ‘blasphemer’ should be killed! After all, Leviticus 24:16 plainly says: “One who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death”. And there are a good number of conservative Christians who wish to reestablish Biblical Law as the law of our land. They are known as Theonomists and Christian Reconstructionists. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about them:
“Various theonomic authors have stated such goals as “the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics”, exclusion of non-Christians from voting and citizenship, and the application of Biblical law by the state.Under such a system of Biblical law, homosexual acts, adultery, witchcraft, and blasphemy would be punishable by death. Propagation of idolatry or “false religions” would be illegal and could also be punished by the death penalty.” [Watch out, Muslims. Under such laws, Islam would be considered a ‘false religion’, and if you propagate it, you could be executed!]
And here’s what a “Reformed” Christian writer has to say about it: “There have been many bitter attacks against theonomy in the press in recent years, especially because of statements by theonomists which advocate, for instance, that the civil government should execute homosexuals. To be fair, it must be pointed out that theonomists do not advocate forcing their reconstruction program on society. Rather, this has to be taught and preached to society till almost all accept it. Then there will hardly be any homosexuals and other similar problems which would require execution. This program could take hundreds of thousands of years.
The reason for theonomy’s popularity rests squarely on the religious wasteland created by liberal theology and on general social deterioration. Many people in the USA, for instance, are really upset by the lawlessness throughout society and are looking for a blueprint to rebuild morals and values and thus save American civilization. It is attracting American evangelicals, fundamentalists and some charismatics – people who are interested in seeing their faith take control of every aspect of life, including social and political spheres.”
You can see some very interesting (perhaps alarming?) quotations from a number of well known Christian leaders, concerning this establishment of Biblical Law, in the second half of an article entitled “American Muslims must defend the Constitution of the United States”.
So the point is, it’s understandable that Muslims would be angry over the insult to Muhammad, who they believe to be a Messenger of the One God. Nevertheless, murderous actions are still not acceptable or excusable. While some (or many) among conservative Christians believe that the Mosaic punishments for various sins and crimes should still be applicable, probably the majority of Christians are quite happy to believe that such laws are a thing of the past, ‘done away in Christ’. So far as the Qur’an goes, while I am still a ‘novice’ in knowledge of that venerable book, I have not yet seen anything which indicates that insults to God and His Prophets should be punished by humans, and I have seen much that indicates to me the opposite. For one thing, there is an overwhelming emphasis throughout the Qur’an on the mercy and forgiveness of God, and calls to repentance (with the accompanying promise of forgiveness) are frequent. Phrases like The Compassionate, The Merciful, and The Oft Forgiving are used as names of God; and why is there this emphasis if it is not expected that the hearers and readers should emulate God in these characteristics? If we go around killing people who offend us (or that we presume are offensive to God), where is there any room left for the ‘sinner’ to turn from his evil ways in repentance toward God, and receive God’s pardon and life? Should we not realize that “there, but for the grace of God, go I”? Rather frequently in the Qur’an believers are reminded that before God showed them mercy they were unbelievers and revilers of the One God, or that they would be now except for God’s mercy. The plain implication is that believers should therefore hope for God’s mercy to be shown to those who are presently unbelievers and revilers. In Muslim literature, there is a well known story which is similar to the familiar Christian conversion story of Saul of Tarsus. One of Muhammad’s greatest opponents and persecutors initially was a man named Abu Bakir. (I believe I have the right name there; if a Muslim friend is reading this and knows that I have the wrong name, please correct me in a comment and I will edit this article to make the correction). Yet he later became one of the Prophet’s most loyal (and famous) followers. What a shame it would have been if Muhammad (on whom be peace) had felt it necessary to kill him!
[Correction: It was not Abu Bakir who was the enemy who converted, but Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (Read more about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umar). Thanks to Mohammad Gamal for the kindness in alerting me to this.]
For a specific instance or two of God telling the Prophet to leave the unbelievers and mockers alone for God Himself to take care of, consider this passage: “The disbelievers may well come to wish they had submitted to God, so [Prophet} leave them to eat and enjoy themselves. Let [false] hopes distract them: they will come to know. Never have We destroyed a community that did not have a set time; no community can bring its time forward, nor delay it. They say, ‘Receiver of this Qur’an! You are definitely mad. Why do you not bring us the angels, if you are telling the truth?’ But We send down the angels only to bring justice and then these people will not be reprieved. We have sent down the Qur’an Ourself, and We Ourself will guard it” (15:2-9). The Prophet is being told to leave such mockers alone to enjoy themselves and entertain their false hopes. God Himself will determine their appointed time for judgment, and carry that out Himself if they don’t obtain mercy first. It reminds one of the Biblical affirmation: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay says the Lord!” The Prophet was frequently told in the Qur’an that he was only to warn; God alone has the authority to guide to the truth, or punish.
Or consider this passage (the first sentence is almost humorous): “[Prophet], are you going to worry yourself to death because they will not believe? If We had wished, We could have sent them down a sign from heaven, at which their necks would stay bowed in utter humility. Whenever they are brought a new revelation from the Lord of Mercy, they turn away: they deny it, but the truth of what they scorned will soon hit them” (26:3-6).
Don’t become so zealous for the honor of the Name of God or His Prophets that you take matters into your own hands. God is well able to defend Himself and His own honor. And who knows but that the mockers will turn and be forgiven rather than punished?
As a rule, Christians don’t accept the validity of Muhammad as a Prophet of God, or the Qur’an as a Message from God; but both Christians and Muslims recognize Jesus (who is blessed of God) as Christ and Prophet of God. (Muslims recognize that the Jewish Torah and the Christian Gospel both came from the One God, and honor them. The Qur’an is believed to be sent to confirm those previous messages from God, and to clear up any misunderstandings and errors that have crept into them through human weakness – Qur’an 3:3 and 4 for instance: “Step by step He has sent the Scripture down to you [Prophet] with the Truth, confirming what went before: He sent down the Torah and the Gospel earlier as a guide for people and He has sent down the distinction [between right and wrong]”.) Therefore, take note that in the famous (or infamous, as the case may be) passages about the “unforgivable sin”, Jesus said that “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of man will be forgiven” (Matthew 12:32). You can mock and revile the Servant and Prophet of God, and God is willing to forgive. People argue about what the ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’ is – whatever it is won’t be forgiven “in this age or the coming age”. But blaspheming the Messenger will be forgiven to the one who repents. So refrain from violent retribution against those who insult God’s Messengers, and let God handle the situation! (And let’s be sure we don’t fall into the error of ‘rendering evil for evil’ by insulting other people or those whom they revere!) Colleen LaRose’s anger is understandable, but her actions are just plain wrong (assuming she is guilty as charged).
[As a postscript, I just read this beautiful illustration of mercy shown by the Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) toward one of the Arab enemies who desecrated the Mosque. We could all learn from this example.
“Narrated Abu Huraira: A disbelieving Bedouin urinated in the mosque, and the people rushed to beat him. Allah’s Apostle ordered them to leave him, let him finish and pour a bucket or a tumbler (full) of water over the place where he has passed urine. The Prophet then explained to the Bedouin calmly, “This is a place of worship, in it is the worship of God and the reading of Qur’an.” After the Bedouin had left, the Prophet then said to his companions, ” You have been sent to make things easy (for the people) and you have not been sent to make things difficult for them.” (Muslim, Book 2, Number 559 and Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 149). Found in this commentary.]