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Weeping Mohammed


Here is a moral conundrum from the early history of Islam:

You are a seventh-century Muslim, a follower of the prophet. You have just captured some polytheist women and you plan to sell them to their families for ransom. Personal enrichment is an important prerogative of a Muslim holy warrior.

On the other hand, you haven’t, while off fighting on this long jihad, seen any of your wives for many months, and you therefore would like to rape one of the women. Is it morally acceptable to rape her and then sell her to her family, who would obviously prefer that she not be defiled?

You wonder whether that would be consistent with the divine purposes that inspire your jihad. You put the question to Mohammed, your leader and the founder of a great monotheistic religion, who concludes that, under these trying conditions, a sexually aroused jihadist is entitled to rape his prisoner and then sell her to her family. You have your moral imprimatur (cf. Koran 4.24).

A further question arises, since you are a morally scrupulous jihadist. When you rape your prisoner, should you ejaculate inside her, or should you practice coitus interruptus, out of deference to her family and to avoid the risk of impregnation? When you put the question to Mohammed, the model of a sinless man that all true believers should emulate, he concludes that coitus interruptus is unnecessary and inadvisable, elucidating in the process an important theological principle: “there is no soul which Allah has ordained to come into existence but will be created.” If a soul is divinely predestined to exist, it will eventually be embodied; conception is ultimately the result of Allah’s divine choice, not human agency. The historical substratum of this refined theological speculation was Mohammed’s authoritative declaration, as recorded in Muslim historical documents, that one of his followers could rape a captive infidel, ejaculate inside her, and then sell her to her parents.

Here is another moral conundrum from the early history of Islam, one of the many puzzling problems which recur in the record of Mohammed’s life:

Mohammed asks for a volunteer to assassinate a non-Muslim, the poet Ka’ab ibn al-Ashraf, who has insulted the prophet. Would Allah approve? Mohammed knows that Allah would indeed approve. Assassinating a non-Muslim who insults Mohammed is a religious obligation, a gesture of piety which some French Muslims, taking time off from their task of culturally enriching France, recently performed in Paris. One of their spiritual ancestors dutifully answers Mohammed’s call for a killer.

Yet again a further moral question arises. Since Ka’ab, knowing the anger he has aroused among the Muslims, is likely to run away when his would-be killer approaches, the volunteer assassin wonders whether it would be morally acceptable to pretend to be his friend and pretend to be hostile to the prophet. That way the assassin can get close to his victim and kill him when he is unprepared. He’ll think that his assassin dislikes Mohammed just as much as he does. He won’t suspect his intentions. Is such deceit morally acceptable in the all-seeing eyes of Allah the Merciful, the source and final arbiter of the moral order? Yes, Mohammed concludes, it is, so the assassin heads off, accompanied by several accomplices, one of them Ka’ab’s foster brother, to befriend his victim. After a series of skillful deceptions, the last of which bizarrely involves complimenting him on his perfumed hair, he assassinates the infidel who had mocked the prophet. Mohammed receives his head as a trophy. Soon after he would remark that Ka’ab had “offended me by his seditious speeches and his evil poetry,” and he sternly warned that his sword would again be unsheathed and others would pay the same penalty if they committed the same offenses.

The early history of Islam is filled with similar conundrums, the ethical dilemmas that perplex a rampaging horde of literal cutthroats inspired by an imaginary divine mission. These dilemmas are often resolved by choosing the option of maximum violence. Is, for example, beheading your prisoners morally better than selling them for ransom? If you cut off the heads of the non-Muslims you capture, you cannot then sell the headless corpses to their families; or, if you try, you’ll get less from them in ransom than you would if your captives had not been executed. Self-interest and the need to finance Mohammed’s ongoing jihad might suggest that mercy is the best policy, mercy in this case being a willingness to sell captives back to their families instead of beheading them. But Allah, speaking through the angel Gabriel and Mohammed, thinks differently and quickly resolves the dilemma: “It is not for any prophet to have prisoners [for ransom] until he make wide slaughter in the land” (Koran 8.67).

In other words, a prophet, specifically the world’s last and greatest prophet, must first kill large numbers of his enemies and devastate their land; only then can he show mercy to the survivors. This strategy is, in purely practical terms, likely a good system to use if you are trying to subdue stubborn opponents; it is a bad system if you are the founder of a great monotheism whose example, many centuries later, will be held up as a model for well over a billion Muslims to emulate (Koran 33.21). As William Muir, the nineteenth-century biographer of Mohammed, observed: “Converts were gained to the faith of Jesus by witnessing the constancy with which its confessors suffered death; they were gained to Islam by the spectacle of the readiness with which its adherents inflicted death.”

HebdoMohammed1 [2]Back in 2006 an issue of Charlie Hebdo put a distraught Mohammed on the cover. The prophet, the cartoonist suggested, was troubled by his modern followers. “It’s hard being loved by idiots,” he complains. The idea was that Mohammed would be disturbed by the violence too often committed in his name and by the intolerance that motivated it; his true message of peace and benevolence had been “overwhelmed by fundamentalists.”

The recent Charlie cover, created in the wake of the massacre, repeats the idea. A weeping Mohammed professes solidarity with the victims of Muslim violence in Paris, dismay at the crimes of their killers. He holds a sign saying “Je suis Charlie.” A founder of a great monotheism must have been humane and peaceful, just like Jesus, so of course he would, had it been possible, have put himself last week among the crowds in Paris expressing their horror and sorrow at the bloodshed wrongly committed in his name and in the name of the peaceful religion he founded.

We can call this a bold political correctness, at once daring and timid. Cartoons of this sort were certainly bold enough to get their brave creators murdered, but they are insufficiently bold to be even remotely convincing. We can state with great confidence that the historical Mohammed would have no objection whatever to the crimes of the Kouachi brothers. He would applaud them, and he would ask, along with Amedy Coulibaly, why more of the “vigorous young Muslims” of France have not also taken up arms. Mohammed, who once declared that the head of an enemy was “more acceptable to me than the choicest camel in all Arabia,” would not have been among the crowds across the West decrying Islamic terror.

Since we Occidentals are, tragically, often fearful and suspicious of any generalization that works to the detriment of non-Whites, I will add the obligatory qualifications. There were, no doubt, some gentle features of Mohammed’s temperament, and there are some morally uplifting teachings in his Koran. There are also, no doubt, many accomplishments of Islamic civilization that we should sincerely admire. The Arabian Nights is, for example, a priceless treasure of world literature; the West owes an important intellectual debt to medieval Muslim scholarship; Avicenna was a towering genius; and so forth. Muslims, moreover, do not form a monolith. Not all of them want to kill us. Many are offended by the terrorism of their co-religionists.

But the Islam of the Koran and the Islam of Mohammed’s life form, nevertheless, a coherent religion with definite features. One of them is hostility toward non-Muslims. Another is the obligation to punish all those who mock Islam’s prophet. Another still is the obligation to wage jihad against non-Muslims until the world becomes Islamic. There are over a hundred Koranic verses that urge Muslims to wage war against non-Muslims. That not every Muslim accepts the obligation to make the world Islamic or to murder defamers of the prophet does not alter the Koran or the sanguinary life of its author. The text of the Koran remains the same. Mohammed’s teachings remain the same. They are available to any Muslim who chooses to follow them. The religion that Mohammed founded was shaped amidst war and the hatreds that accompany war. Disbeliever and enemy were nearly identical in his mind, as they will inevitably be in the mind of anyone who faithfully seeks to emulate him.

A final scene from the prophet’s biography: a frightened father awaiting beheading begs for his life and wonders who will care for his children after his death; Mohammed tells him that “hell-fire” will be their new home and orders his execution. Here Mohammed is surely brutal by any standard. To the certainty of an enemy’s death in this world Mohammed, as a spokesman for Allah, adds the certainty of hell-fire for his enemy’s children in the next, while predicting their rapid exit from the ranks of the living.

Mohammed’s violence was, notwithstanding the claims of Muslim apologists today, striking even for a violent era and a violent place. A convert to Islam would later say that the poet Ka’ab ibn al-Ashraf had been murdered through “guile and perfidy.” We are not therefore importing back into seventh-century Arabia the standards of our own time, for a sympathetic contemporary could also be troubled by the violence of nascent Islam. But even if we pretend that Mohammed was no more violent than his enemies, the fact remains that his enemies are nameless to most of us. They did not found religions. Their beliefs are not now the beliefs of millions. Their lives are not patterns of the perfect man. They have no living adherents to murder cartoonists who might chance to insult their memory.

It is, as UKIP’s Lord Monckton said recently, “blindingly obvious” that Islamic terrorism is an expression of authentic Islamic teachings. Those who, like George Bush and Alain de Benoist, deny the blindingly obvious do so in opposition to the content and history of the religion they are trying to exculpate. They are also diverting attention, in many cases knowingly, from the gigantic demographic catastrophe afflicting our civilization: the presence of millions of Muslims in the West, their numbers growing daily. Not even deluges of skillful propaganda will enable Western multiculturalists to convince the majority of those Muslims that their Koran does not actually mean what Allah explicitly pronounced, or to convince them that Mohammed was a Christ-like altruist endowed with fine moral sensibilities. The jihadists living among us, imported into the West through deranged immigration policies, have the real message of the Koran and the facts of history on their side. We can therefore expect, to state another blindingly obvious truth, more violence from the Mohammedan religion of peace, until people of European descent finally recognize its incompatibility with our civilization.