Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sami Zaatari vs. Revolution Muslim

It's no shock to anyone that I'm not a fan of Muhammad. Nevertheless, I also believe in being nice to people, unless there's a very good reason not to be nice. Thus, I don't go around calling Muhammad a "pedophile" or drawing pictures of him--not because I care about Muhammad's feelings (he's dead), but because there's no need to pointlessly upset people. The same attitude is held by most critics of Islam, as well as by most of the people who visit this blog.

Yet many of us believe that it is morally wrong to comply with terrorist threats. To back down when threatened is to encourage further threats. When terrorists are attacking our fundamental rights, the situation is even worse. The Founding Fathers of the United States were willing to lay down their lives so that future generations would have certain freedoms. Success for groups like Revolution Muslim would mean the end of these freedoms. Thus, when terrorists say, "Don't do X, or you'll end up like Theo Van Gogh," the natural response is to show the world what all the fuss is about, and how silly it is to want to kill someone over something like this:


(I posted the Danish cartoons several years ago here when the riots started.)

But Revolution Muslim got what they wanted. Comedy Central is now terrified of even mentioning Muhammad in a cartoon. Even Molly Norris, who suggested an international "Draw Muhammad" Day, backed down almost immediately. She's now going to Muslim meetings to show that she's repented of her sin (of standing up for free speech). Yet others aren't so quick to give up their freedoms, and there is a desire to teach terrorists a lesson when they try to intimidate people. The attitude seems to be: "If you threaten us for doing X, we're going to do X even more. Eventually you'll learn to quit threatening us."

Of course, there are many different positions one may take. On one end of the spectrum, there are people who want to draw cartoons of Muhammad simply to offend Muslims. Their desire to offend Muslims has nothing to do with the recent threats to Matt Stone and Trey Parker; they're simply using this as an opportunity to vent the anger they already had. On the other end of the spectrum are Muslims who want to slaughter anyone who dares criticize, insult, or draw Muhammad. Some of them are dying for an excuse to kill a kafir. Most of us, whether Christian or Muslim, are somewhere in between these extremes.

Take Sami Zaatari, who offers a different response to cartoons of Muhammad:



Consider some of the differences between Sami's method and Revolution Muslim's method.

(1) Sami's method is less likely to start a massive cartoon campaign against Muhammad. There's nothing in the video that would be considered a threat to free speech, and therefore nothing to upset people. The angry folks at the end of the spectrum are going to continue drawing pictures of Muhammad (just as Muslims at the opposite end will continue shouting threats), but the rest of the world will have no desire to go overboard.

(2) Revolution Muslim's method is more likely to cause networks like Comedy Central to back down. That is, like it or not, the threat of violence can be effective to a certain degree. In the long run, however, such threats may be counterproductive. Consider the Danish Cartoon Controversy. If Muslims of the world had remained quiet and peaceful in response to the cartoons, no one would even remember the cartoons, and South Park wouldn't have bothered responding.

(3) Both methods are in line with Muhammad's teachings. We have records of Muhammad enduring persecution without immediate retaliation, and we have records of Muhammad ordering the deaths of those who insult him. Indeed, since the position of Muslims in the West is similar to the position of the early Muslim community in Mecca (i.e. they are a minority), and since Muhammad didn't resort to violence when he was significantly outnumbered, one could argue that Muslims in the West should not resort to violence when Muhammad is insulted (at least until the Muslim population increases dramatically).

(4) If success is the goal (that is, if Muslims really don't want to see Muhammad insulted), threats certainly aren't the way to go. It's only a matter of time before people like Parker and Stone go on a cartoon rampage, and this wouldn't happen if Muslims weren't trying to intimidate people into giving Islam a privileged status.

(5) Sami's approach leads to further dialogue and investigation, while Revolution Muslim's approach leads to further threats (from Muslims) and insults (from non-Muslims). For instance, Sami proposes videos about Muhammad's wonderful teachings. I'll most likely respond to those videos, arguing that Muslims are ripping the teachings out of context, ignoring other teachings, etc., at which point Muslims will disagree with me, and I'll disagree with them, and they'll call me an islamophobe, and I'll do three episodes of "Jesus or Muhammad" on the issues, etc. But isn't this back-and-forth better than the threats-insults-more threats-more insults exchange?

With all of this said, I think it's too late. Sami will likely get a good response, but groups like Revolution Muslim will continue to threaten people, and people will respond with insults, and so on. I see a spiral starting.

17 comments:

Nazam said...

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=122422947769479&ref=ts

This group has been launched by Muslims to counter the “Draw Muhammad Day” event. You won’t hear about these Muslims on CNN or Fox, who counter hate with peaceful protest and intellectual arguments, but you will definitely hear about the violence caused by the minority of Muslims. The above facebook group is a great example of how the majority of Muslims have reacted to the whole controversy. Spread the word.

Asadullah Yusuf Hamza said...

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem.

I dislike the things he says about our brothers at RM, but I like his idea to counter to counter the cartoonists.

SAM said...

nazam

maybe u sud start a facebook page called THE REAL ISLAM EXPOSED. I WILL DEFINITLY JOIN THAT PAGE.

Nazam said...

Sam,
as in Shamoun?

Nazam said...

Asadullah,

I am not saying that Revolution Muslims are really non-Muslims pretending to be Muslims since I don't know what is in their hearts.

But the fact the founder of the group, Yousef al-Khattab, is viewed with supposition tell us about how little these guys represent the community overall.

SAM said...

NAZAM

SAM AS IN SIMON

mollydolly5 said...

Answering Muslims,
I like reading you.
Molly

Asadullah Yusuf Hamza said...

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem.

Nazam,

Are you a Muslim? If so, Assalaamu Alaykum! As far as RM and the American Muslim Community; so what? RM has never claimed to represent the overall community. It doesn't change the fact that these brothers are Muhmins and because of their Eeman and love for Allah and His Rasul (Salallahu Alayhee Wa Salaam), I love them more than myself.

May Allah grant them Taufeeq in this Dunya and in the Akhira. Ameen.

mkvine said...

Asadullah,

What do you dislike about what Sami says about RM? Can you be specific?

Asadullah Yusuf Hamza said...

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem.

Specifically? I dislike that he continues to propagate the false allegation that RM 'threatened' Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Still, he has the right to his opinion and his interpretations, and I have the right to like or dislike it.

At the end of the day, he is my Muslim brother and brothers disagree from time to time (An 'Iktilaf'). I'm sure though that there are many other things that he and I would absolutely agree on.

Matthew said...

Fun fact:
That's not even Muhammed in the bear suit. It's in fact Santa Claus.
No, really. It's Santa Claus.
No, really. I mean it. It's Santa Claus.

mkvine said...

Asadullah,

Nowhere in the entire video does Sami even mention RM. But would you or would you not agree with his statement that threats and violence is not the way to respond?

Asadullah Yusuf Hamza said...

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem.

mkvine said...

"Asadullah,
What do you dislike about what Sami says about RM? Can you be specific?"

Asadullah Yusuf Hamza said...

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem.

Specifically? I dislike that he continues to propagate the false allegation that RM 'threatened' Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Still, he has the right to his opinion and his interpretations, and I have the right to like or dislike it.

At the end of the day, he is my Muslim brother and brothers disagree from time to time (An 'Iktilaf'). I'm sure though that there are many other things that he and I would absolutely agree on.

Then mkvine said...

Asadullah,
Nowhere in the entire video does Sami even mention RM. But would you or would you not agree with his statement that threats and violence is not the way to respond?

@ mkvine:
Nowhere in my entire previous post did I say that Sami mentions RM this video. Sami does mention RM in this video though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUhIuWETvd

Verumi said...

Asdullah,

Your non-committal (non-)answer to mkvine's questions is an example of what I consider a dilemma for moderate Muslims (though I don't know if you consider yourself as one).

Muslims, who do not subscribe to the violent commandments of the Qur'an, sincerely love their fellowmen and do work hard to live according to the more humane aspects of Islam.

However, they cannot openly disagree with its violent aspects either, because after all, the Qur'an is infallible.

In your case, is it really enough for you to look at this dilemma as a simple disagreement? How do you personally reconcile the violent and non-violent aspects of Islam?

I understand that you have Christian parents, but I don't know from what perspective (denomination, conditions, etc.) you saw and experienced Christianity. However, I do wonder if you were guided to understand that God IS Love, not simply capable of Love. Allah seems to encourage anger more than he does love.

mkvine said...

Asadullah,

I wasn't aware of Sami's other video, but fair enough. You didn't answer my question, though, about whether you agree or disagree with Sami's statement that violence is not the way to respond. So I will ask you again: Are threats and violence a legitimate way to respond to criticism of Islam, yes or no? Also, if a person DOES threaten or commit violence against a person who criticizes, are they Islamically justified in doing so, yes or no?

Sepher Shalom said...

Yusuf said: "It doesn't change the fact that these brothers are Muhmins and because of their Eeman and love for Allah and His Rasul (Salallahu Alayhee Wa Salaam), I love them more than myself.

May Allah grant them Taufeeq in this Dunya and in the Akhira. Ameen."


For those that don't speak "revert", allow me to translate Yusuf's comment about Revolution Muslim:

Mu'min (Muhmin) (Arabic: مؤمن‎) is an Arabic Islamic term frequently referenced in the Qur'an, meaning "believer", and denoting a person that has complete submission to the will of Allah, and has faith firmly established in his heart.

In the Qur'an it is stated:

(Rodwell 49:14) The Arabs of the desert say, "We believe." (tu/minoo) Say thou: Ye believe not; but rather say, "We profess Islam;" (aslamna) for the faith (al-imanu) hath not yet found its way into your hearts. But if ye obey God and His Apostle, he will not allow you to lose any of your actions: for God is Indulgent, Merciful.

That verse makes a distinction between a Muslim and a believer.

Also:

(Muhammad Muhsin Khan 4:136) O you who believe! Believe in Allah, and His Messenger (Muhammad), and the Book (the Quran) which He has sent down to His Messenger, and the Scripture which He sent down to those before (him), and whosoever disbelieves in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day, then indeed he has strayed far away.

That verse addresses the believers exhorting them to believe, implying multiple stages of belief."


Iman (Eeman)(Arabic: إيمان‎) is an Islamic term usually translated as belief or faith and is often used to refer to the strength of conviction in a Muslim. This refers to faith in Islam requiring a "belief in the unseen," and one who has such faith is called a mu'min. It constitutes the six Articles of faith which were delineated along with the Five Pillars of Islam in the famous hadith involving the angel Jibreel.

Iman is one of the three dimensions of the Islamic religion (Ara. ad-din): islam, iman and ihsan. Following after islam comes iman or "faith," which refers to 'true commitment' to God. According to the Qur’an (49:14), it is possible to have one and not yet the other: "Do not say 'we have accepted faith'; rather say 'we have accepted Islam,' for faith has not yet entered your hearts."


Taufeeq: success, ability

"...and my success (in my task) can only come from Allah. In Him I trust, and unto Him I look." [Surah 11:88]


Dunya: The word dunya comes from danaa (root: dal nun wau). This root word has two meanings: 1) near and 2) lowly. This life has been called al-hayaat ad-dunya because it is the near (or "nearest"), the apparent and the current existence which we know and also because it is lesser, despicable and superficial in comparison to the real life as Allah called it - the life in the hereafter

Akhirah (Arabic: الآخرة‎) is an Islamic term referring to the after life. It is repeatedly referenced in chapters of the Qur'an concerning Yaum al Qiyamah, the Islamic Day of Judgment, an important part of Islamic eschatology." [Interesting article about Akhirah and how to have your sins forgiven by eating here]

So, according to Yusuf the folks at Revolution Muslim are: 1) not just "Muslim" they are "Mu'min", true believers, the highest degree of those in Islam, 2) demonstrating proper love for Allah and Muhammad, 3) have had true faith (Iman) enter their hearts, 4) should be given success and ability in both this world and the world to come, 5) worthy of being loved more than he loves himself.

I think Yusuf's words speak for themselves about his support of the members of Revolution Muslim, their beliefs, their tactics, and their position within Islam.

mkvine said...

Hmm, I wonder why Asadullah hasn't answered my question about being Islamically justified in carrying out threats and violence against those who insult Islam....