By Edmund Pickett
Following the recent killing of twelve people at a satirical magazine in Paris a group of Muslim leaders in France issued a statement deploring all violence and terrorism. French government officials (who are not Muslim) launched a manhunt, but more or less apologized for tracking down the killers, by repeatedly emphasizing that they were not in a war of religion, even though no one had suggested that they were.
The killers themselves however, were fighting a war of religion. In fact they were following in the direct footsteps of Muhammad, who murdered two poets who wrote satirical poems about him. This is not secret information, nor is it a slander invented by opponents of Islam. The murder of the two poets, and Muhammad’s role in their deaths, are part of Muslim history, recorded by pious Muslims in the hadith, or the traditions of Muhammad’s life and his personal sayings. The hadith is Muslim holy scripture, second only to the Koran as the basis of Islam.
The story is simple, and for Muslim believers, presents no problem. When Muhammad was forced to flee Mecca because of persecution, he moved to Medina and managed to get himself appointed as arbitrator between the many warring clans in that city. There was a large Jewish community and he was hoping to be accepted as a Jewish prophet. At that time he taught his followers to pray facing Jerusalem. The Jews, however, refused to accept him as a prophet, since he was illiterate and his knowledge of their scriptures was superficial. After an elderly Jew, Abu Afak, wrote a poem satirizing him, Muhammad asked his followers for a volunteer to kill the man. This was done and afterwards Muhammad praised the killer. Then a Jewish woman, Asma bint Marwan, also wrote a disrespectful poem about Muhammad. He again asked for an assassin and one stepped forward. Muslim sources report that the murderer found her sleeping with one of her children in her arms. He removed the child and killed her. Again Muhammad praised his thug.
It is worth wondering why Muslims recorded these events, since they reveal their prophet to be thin-skinned, dictatorial and well, murderous. Of course 1400 years ago the tribes of Arabia did not recognize the concept of free speech. Leaders who allowed criticism lost face, and therefore lost their right to lead. The Muslims who recorded these murders probably thought that this was a high point of Muhammad’s style of leadership, one more master stroke on his way to the control of Arabia.
Of course those French Muslim leaders who recently condemned all violence in the name of religion would be very uncomfortable if anyone asked them any hard questions about Asma bint Marwan and Abu Afak. They would be uncomfortable because they have been taught since birth that Muhammad was the most perfect human being who ever lived, that he was also the most kind and compassionate person who ever lived. They cannot criticize Muhammad or their fellow Muslims will label them as apostates, traitors to the faith, who must then be killed. The other alternative would be to question the hadith, but these murders are recorded in several places by authors who are founding scholars of Islam. To say that part of the hadith is false stains the reputation of all the hadith and that could also be labeled as apostasy.
Unfortunately, no one in France will ask the leading Muslims there any uncomfortable questions. The simple truth is that there is an old, venerable and well-attested Islamic tradition of murdering satirical journalists. That tradition was started by Muhammad himself, but any French government official who even hinted at such an obvious fact would be accused of starting a war of religion.
About the author—Edmund Pickett is a novelist and poet. His latest novel is Burning Infidels, about Islamic terrorism.