Casablanca - In the first part of this article series published I introduced Mark A. Gabriel’s Islamophobic book Islam and terrorism, and provided a general review of it. In the second part I delved into the first discursive technique, Decontextualizing the Texts, which is used by the author to arise a feeling of hostility toward Islam and Muslims.
Casablanca – In the first part of this article series published I introduced Mark A. Gabriel’s Islamophobic book Islam and terrorism, and provided a general review of it. In the second part I delved into the first discursive technique, Decontextualizing the Texts, which is used by the author to arise a feeling of hostility toward Islam and Muslims.
This article dissects another technique, Nurturing Fear, which serves the same purpose of demonizing the religion of over one-and-a-half billion people around the world.
The author’s entire discourse is characterized by an emotive nuance. Nurturing fear is sought throughout the book in three major ways: (1) by dramatizing historical events, (2) by building a rapport with the non-Muslim reader, and (3) by exaggerating the features of war in Islam and neglecting those of peace. Since the first two methods are not as ubiquitous in the book as the third, a brief example of these two methods should suffice.
(1) Dramatizing historical events:
“Sayyid Qutb’s execution by the Egyptian government elevated his writings to a level of great authority in the Islamic world.”
(2) Building a report with the non-Muslim reader:
“You may find it interesting to imagine what it would have been like if Jesus had behaved the same way [as prophet Mohamed].”
(3) Exaggerating the features of war in Islam.
The author talks about the Islamic concept of Jihad in all the book’s chapters and defines it as “struggle” whereas its literal definition is “the act of striving”. In chapter three, Core Beliefs of Islam, he introduces the Islamic sources of reference, namely the Quran, Hadith, and Sharia; the author then goes onto discusses the requirements to be a Muslim. He asserts that since admission into paradise in Islam is not guaranteed to Muslims – like in Christianity for instance – but requires that his/her good deeds overbalance the bad deeds, then martyrdom is the only thing that guarantees this admission. Because of this, Muslims see guaranteed salvation in Jihad.
This reasoning however goes against the mainstream understanding of Jihad in the Muslim world, as can be deduced from this statement by the Prophet (PBUH): “Do not wish to meet the enemy [in wartimes] and pray Allah for wellness. But if you [had to] meet them, stand firm and mention the name of Allah …” (Sunan AL-Darimi, my translation). Jihad for Muslims, therefore, is occasional and periodic. It is related to the indignant positioning in the world and resistance against oppression. Warping the concept of Jihad is the author’s attempt to play on the stings of fear and present Islam as an imminent danger to the security of non-Muslims. In fact, statements like his “Jihad now is the call of every Muslim.” are what constitute a real danger for coexistence in the world today.
It must be said that the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) was not a prophet of peace like many would unapologetically claim, but one of reality. He believed in his aspirations of bringing down the Meccan corrupt socio-economic system and establishing a legal system that guarantees equal treatment and opportunities for all social classes; he managed to tame the reality around him for this purpose. He preached peacefully in Mecca for ten years where he and his followers underwent persecution, ridicule, commercial boycott, and subsequently severe starvation. This reality necessitated that he master the only language Arabs of the time spoke, that of military confrontation. He excelled at this, not by bloodshed, but by persistence and rigorous strategic planning and alliances.
Martyrdom is another concept that is defaced in “Islam and Terrorism”. Contrary to what the author maintains about martyrdom being only about engaging in offensive assaults against non-Muslims, most Muslims know that martyrdom includes dying under many different circumstances. These could include dying in a fire, during childbirth, in a war, as a victim of a robbery or burglary, from drowning, and so on. Consequently, the author’s assertion that dying while offending non-Muslims is the only secure way to heaven is invalidated by the prophet’s statement, that “Whoever is killed without any allegiance to a murder, is a martyr, and whoever is killed without purpose is also a martyr, and whoever is killed because of religious inclination is also a martyr”.
Furthermore, the author contends that martyrdom during war guarantees Muslims incontestable access to paradise. This contention is an inaccurate representation of the Islamic tradition, as refuted in the books of Sirah (records of prophetic traditions). These texts recount an incident where in a Muslim died in a war and the other Muslims celebrated his heroic courage and praised him. The prophet (PBUH) nullified their assumption that he was in heaven and said “but rather in hell” for his motives for participating in the war were not as noble. Given this argument, the concept of Martyrdom is clearly twisted by the author to create fear in the reader’s mind, and concomitantly, guarantee some attention for his book.
Deceit in Islam
The author’s mission to establish fear as a predominant sentiment toward Muslims continues in other parts of his book. In a chapter entitled “Misinformed by the Media”, he splits Muslims into two categories, “One is using guns and bombs, and another is using words and lies to increase the numbers of Muslims worldwide.” In a cinematic scene, he gives more reasons to fear Muslims – especially the Muslim communities in the West – by maintaining that Islam permits Muslims to lie to non-Muslim if they are a minority.
What’s more, he warns that if Muslims claim being peaceful, it is only because they are in a situation of powerlessness and that gaining power will change that. He uses the story of Ammar Ibn Yassir, the prophet’s companion who was caught by the enemies of the Prophet (PBUH), and forced to renounce Islam and curse the prophet. The author says the fact that the prophet forgave him for that gives Muslims the authorization to lie to non-Muslims.
The problem with the author’s argument is that it is based on only part of a larger story, omitting details that provide a solid understanding of how Islam views deceit: Ammar Ibn Yasser was caught by the enemy, but along with his parents as well. The three of them underwent extreme physical abuse and torture to persuade them to curse the prophet. Ammar’s father was killed first and his mother second (she is considered the first female martyr in Islam) for not agreeing to insult the prophet. Having seen his parents’ painful and slow deaths, Ammar decided to do as ordered and cursed the prophet. When released, he rushed to the prophet, concerned that what he was forced to say would make him a traitor. The heartbroken prophet comforted him and assured him that lying is authorized under similar circumstances. Today, scholars use this story to prove that lying is authorized in Islam. In Islam, this is known as Takkiyah, and it is permitted only when one’s life is at stake.
Muslim’s place of worship is the mosque. It is there where they pray, five times a day, after every call for prayer. It is also where sermons are delivered to those Muslims wishing to know more about their religion; the prophet’s use of the Mosque went beyond that. It was a center for political and social discussions, a court, and a military base where weapons were stored and war strategies were planned. This multipurpose use was due to the fact that the separation of these institutions was not yet conceived. The mosque was the only public building where people could gather.
Today, the fabrications heard about Muslims – which are to a large extent the product of the islamophobes’ imagination – warn the West about the danger that Mosques represent, claiming they are used to plot terrorist attacks. In “Mohamed’s Use of Mosques”, a chapter where all sorts of conspiracies gather, Gabriel says “In modern times mosques are still used as centers of war” and insinuates that they should be closed in the West to reduce the potentiality of danger.
This disposition to attack mosques as dens of evil is widespread nowadays. The presidential candidates and Republican senators Donald Trump and Marko Rubio are not the first to say that mosques need to be closed in the US. More worrisome than these sorts of Islamophobic attacks are the physical ones. In the week that followed the Paris attacks on November, 13th, a number of mosques had been vandalized in Spain, the US, Canada, and elsewhere while numerous imams received death threats.
The reality today is that mosques in the West are the least likely places where terrorism can hatch and spread, and this is for a number of reasons. First of all, the Muslim communities’ terror is two-fold. Terrorism endangers their lives too (they have been victims in all the attacks), and they are fed up of being the scapegoat in the West every time an attack occurs. Therefore, they have developed a readiness to report anything they believe unlawful in the mosques.
An example of this is the story of Morten Storm, who conceded to the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in 2012 that he worked for the Danish Intelligence service and the CIA as Muslim convert to recruit the youth in extremist groups. In an article published in Muslim Village, the author Elham Asaad Buaras said that Storm, or ‘Murad Danish’ was criticized by the Imams as a radicalist and “soon left to his own accord when he realised that worshippers here was very clued up in terms of ideology.”
Secondly, facts today indicate that the internet is a much more fertile platform for terrorism to operate, given its transnational nature. Finally, Mohamed Abdessalam, brother of Salah Abdessalam – one of the masterminds of the Paris attack – said in an interview aired on the French BFMTV on November, 17th that, contrary to what has been said, his brother did not have any affiliation with any mosque.
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