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15 Days for Insulting Mohammed Not Enough for Some

A British teacher was sentenced to 15 days in prison and deportation (which should be a blessing!) for insulting Mohammed. You can read the story here.

Yet this outrage is not sufficient to satisfy some Muslim hardliners. There were protests in Khartoum calling for her execution. The teacher, Gillian Gibbons, has said she doesn’t want this to raise resentment against Muslims, and she is to be commended for her tolerant attitude. I, on the other hand, suggest that this is another danger of the extreme danger of religious fundamentalism, most commonly and forcefully demonstrated in the Muslim world at the moment.

Nobody requires this kind of protection from insult. Those proclaimed as prophets should receive more, rather than less scrutiny. Truth benefits from being questioned and defended. Hyper-sensitivity is a sign of fear–fear of being totally wrong.

This should not be placed on all of Islam, but it should warn us of the extent to which extremes can take us. Religious fundamentalism is but one major manifestation.

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  1. Indeed. How would we react if a Muslim or supposed Muslim in one of our countries outrageously insulted Jesus? I’m thinking of things like the “art” on this page, or this exhibit which attracted bomb threats from “in the name of Jesus”. Surely none of this “art” is in fact by Muslims, who respect Jesus as a prophet. But I’m sure we would have strong feelings at such things. I hope we would not react like the Muslims in Sudan. But we need to be careful that we don’t have double standards in matters like this.

  2. Just so, Peter. That’s why I used “religious fundamentalism.” Right now we are seeing and hearing of this largely from the Muslim world. There is a danger that we’ll get into the habit of regarding the danger as being “fundamentalist Muslims.” We should, of course, be concerned about them if they resort to violence.

    But they don’t have an exclusive on this, even if they are front and center right now. Christian fundamentalists get just as angry about insults to Christianity here in this country, but the option of calling for execution is not available.

  3. Hi Henry

    Are you aware that the death penalty for insulting Mohammed is something that Mohammed himself instituted? After he conquered Mecca he ordered the executions of a number of people, including two slave girls whose crime was singing satirical songs about him.

    From reading your blog, Henry, I gather that your personal arch-enemy is “fundamentalism”. But that raises the question: what exactly do you mean by “fundamentalism”? Do you mean “sticking with the original interpretation” or do you mean something else?

    Take care & God bless
    Anne / WF

  4. Anne,

    Actually, something else . . .

    I seem to get into trouble when I try to write a brief post. What I want is a non-scatalogical term that refers to people who believe they are so right that they can do violence to or even kill those who disagree, and also that they should be protected from ridicule.

    These days, many of these are Muslim fundamentalists. Some are Christian fundamentalists, but not all fundamentalists fit that description. By dictionary definition, i.e. believing the proclaimed fundamentals, my father was a fundamentalist, and he refused to bear arms in war and spent his life providing medical care in under-served areas.

    Also, simply because Mohammed may have ordered executions of those who satirize him does not mean that all modern Muslims would execute such people. After all, the Bible calls for stoning rebellious teenagers, and modern Jews and Christians somehow don’t feel constrained to obey that command.

    On one online forum in which I participated, we used the term “fundie” for the folks I’m talking about and fundamentalist for the set of beliefs.

  5. I think you under-appreciate the extent to which Christians have had a later revelation than the “stone rebellious teenagers” bit, while Muslims have not. That has exegetical implications. Mohammed is consider the last best universal example for humanity in perpetuity, a place which Moses simply does not hold for Christians.

    There are Christians who may let themselves be provoked to violence in the face of insult, but that is against the teachings of Christ; a return to the origins will fix it. There are Muslims who may let themselves be provoked to violence in the face of insult, and that is in keeping with the teachings of Mohammed; a return to the origins will exacerbate it.

    They’re in an awkward spot.

    Take care & God bless
    Anne / WF

  6. Neufeld, you seem to be drawing similarities between Muslim Fundamentalists and Christian Fundamentalists. I have heard this argument before in our progressive movements.

    If I remember right, Muslim Fundamentalists were celebrating in streets all over the Middle East on and after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. I don’t think Southern Baptists or Pentecostals flew airliners into high rise buildings in the Middle East on 9-11.

    And even if they did, Fundamental Christians would not be celebrating, they would be condemning this outrageous act. Regardless, Muslim Fundamentalists and Christian Fundamentalist are not the same.

    Plus, I have a problem with Christian Fundamentalists in many areas, but I would never suggest that somehow they would act like Muslim Fundamentalists who someone find theological justification for cutting off someones head live on TV.

  7. I think that any time I write something less than five paragraphs, I get in trouble. 🙂

    I do not believe that Christian fundamentalists and Muslim fundamentalists as complete groups are the same at this time. What I do believe is that fundamentalist beliefs can combine with other social factors and feed into such anger. Using the term “fundamentalist” was a poor choice on the Christian side. I should, as I mentioned to Anne, have said simply those in a faith who believe they are so right that they have the right to kill others because of the disagreement.

    The KKK heads that way as do some radical militia groups, most of whom claim the mantle of Christianity, however much the rest of us reject them.

    At this time, again, the major fundamentalist movement is Muslim, but I am also not going to cease to make the point that when Christians divide and re-divide and advocate violence against others, we are heading in that direction. Those Christians, for example, whom I have heard expressing rage and the desire that we “wipe out all the Muslims” need to check on the attitudes of Jesus.

  8. Thanks for responding to my comments. You make a rational point. However, the word myth, when describing the Christian experience, worries me a little.

    If we define myth as being fiction, I disagree with Neufeld. If we define myth as nonfiction, as a story about the Christian experience that is truth revealed by God in his universal wonders, using myth is OK.

    I will think about this some more. Myth, I heard the Christmas story described as a myth once in a liberal church. It did not feel right. Oh well, other things do not feel right too. Gosh, I need to rest now. Take care.

  9. I believe I myth may be true in the historical sense, but need not be, and most frequently is at least adapted for its purpose through long use.

    In the case of Genesis 1-2, not all of it is of the literary genre “myth,” yet I would not regard it as true as narrative history. I believe it expresses the relationship of God to the universe as could best be done using the cosmology of the time. We now know that the cosmology of the time was largely false. That does not detract from the intended meaning, in my view.

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