By Ralph H. Sidway, an Orthodox Christian researcher and writer, and author of Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad. He operates the Facing Islam blog.
The recent Muslim jihad attack at a Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland Texas has generated strong reactions across the political spectrum. Four of us in my church recently had a fairly rigorous discussion of some of the issues involved, with two believing the cartoon contest needlessly provoked Muslim anger, and myself and one other siding with a strong commitment to freedom of speech/expression. You can’t escape this debate. It is literally everywhere, and will likely grow in significance in the days ahead.
Although there are many expected responses along partisan lines, there have been some surprises on both the conservative and liberal ends of the teeter-totter. For example, some Fox News personalities have openly blamed Pamela Geller, the “Draw Muhammad” event coordinator, for provoking the jihad attack. (Ms. Geller has written an articulate defense, which has been published as an op-ed by TIME, Inc.)
On the flip side, MSNBC’s “All In” host Chris Hayes, in a somewhat torturous apologetic, advocated for being provocative when it flushes out extremist would-be murderers:
My feeling, though, in the wake of this, is that there’s some part of me that feels that if the thing you’re worried about is doing an event that will provoke two people rolling up in body armor and automatic weapons trying to murder people, then it actually weirdly is important that you do that… I don’t care if it was a provocation, if what it’s provoking is attempted murder, because I want to live in a society that that is essentially not okay and not tolerated.
Ryan Mauro of The Clarion Project ably cuts through the fog of words surrounding the Garland Texas jihad attack:
The media’s focus on the Mohammed drawings contest misses the mark. Whether or not one agrees with holding the event is irrelevant as to why this attack happened. It happened because of the desire to find a target; not because of the target itself.
Mauro is absolutely correct: when you’re a Muslim striving to follow as perfectly as possible the Koran and the example of Muhammad, the Dar-al-Harb is filled with targets. With ISIS commanding Muslims in America to wage jihad against non-Muslims, there will be some takers who will do just that.
For Americans and Western Europeans, cartoons of Muhammad seem to have become the flashpoint of the “clash of civilizations.” But for Christians living in the Islamic world, their very being is all the provocation Muslims need. Witness:
- ‘Arab Spring’ Muslim gangs go through buses in Cairo, Egypt checking the wrists of the passengers. Those with the cross tattooed on their wrists — a Coptic tradition — are summarily killed;
- 21 Coptic Christians in Libya are beheaded because they refuse to deny Jesus Christ and convert to Islam, or to pay the jizya;
- 30 Ethiopian Christians are shot or beheaded for refusing to deny Jesus Christ;
- The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia declares that all Christians must be expelled from the Arabian peninsula and all churches destroyed;
- 100 years after the Armenian Genocide (which taken in the larger context of Ottoman persecution saw 4 million Christians killed by their Muslim overlords and neighbors between 1894 and 1922) we are witnessing yet another Muslim genocide against Christians.
Christians themselves in the Islamic world are — by their very being, by their very presence — all the provocation Muslims need to slaughter them. No cartoons required.
Christians in the Islamic world cannot openly wear or make the Sign of the Cross without it provoking Muslims. They don’t even have to do that much, they just have to be breathing. And now with Muslim desecration of Christian grave sites, they don’t even have to be doing that.
When one has studied the phenomenon of Muslim attacks against non-Muslims for a while, one gets the sense that the term “provocation” is completely inaccurate and inappropriate. There is a better word which describes the Muslim pathology: “predisposition.”
The extent to which a Muslim grows in devout observance of Islam is the extent to which he/she is likely to follow more and more literally the commands in the Koran and the example of Muhammad. Devout observance leads to the predisposition to take action against non-Muslim targets which the Muslim believes offends his religion.
In Muslim majority nations, this predisposition becomes so intense that the mere presence of Christians or other non-Muslims cannot be tolerated at all. This very principle is clearly expressed in the Koran:
And fight them until there is no more fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone. — Sura 8.39
Spirituality is often mixed with paradox. Most Westerners cannot understand that, and therefore cannot accept that the more devout a Muslim becomes, the more likely he is to become a jihadi.
It would seem that God is not without a sense of irony, for in the Islamic world, as we have seen this tsunami of Muslim genocidal persecution of Christians, we have also seen immensely powerful examples of heightened Christian faith.
Rather than leading Christians to fear, hatred and retaliation (though one can find some examples of those humanly understandable reactions also), the Muslim slaughter of Christians has provoked (there’s that word again) responses of absolutely Christ-like behavior, with Coptic, Iraqi, Nigerian and Niger Christians forgiving and praying for the Muslims who are killing their families. These examples are the very definition of true freedom: freedom from hatred, fear, and even death itself. Meanwhile, the Muslim jihadis are slaves of rage, bloodlust, and the example of their warlord prophet.
For those who can slow down their own reactive thought processes and ponder this dichotomy between the evil, murderous behavior of devout Muslims, and the prayerful, sacrificial and forgiving response of the Christians they are persecuting, it should be clear that one of these two paths is patently false, and the other is amazingly, shiningly true.
With this in mind, it then becomes sadly clear that the future will only bring more proofs of the falsehood of Islam, in the form of more murderous Muslim jihad attacks against all manner of “provocations.”
For the devout jihadi, the entire world is filled with targets. As with the Muslim persecution of Christians, no cartoons are needed.