Is It Still Possible to Question Islam?
Testing the health of free speech by raising historical questions.
May 23, 2012 - 12:04 am
Is it “Islamophobic” to question whether or not the standard picture of Muhammad as depicted in Muslim texts is historically accurate?
Certainly many people think so, notably the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The OIC is a fifty-six nation body (plus the Palestinian Authority) that, since the demise of the Soviet Union, comprises the largest voting bloc at the United Nations. It has been working for years to compel the UN to criminalize “Islamophobia.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a closed-door meeting with the OIC in December 2011, apparently to facilitate just that and figure out ways to circumvent the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of speech.
Journalist Claire Berlinski notes that “the neologism ‘Islamophobia’ did not simply emerge ex nihilo”:
It was invented, deliberately, by a Muslim Brotherhood front organization, the International Institute for Islamic Thought, which is based in Northern Virginia. … Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, a former member of the IIIT who has renounced the group in disgust, was an eyewitness to the creation of the word. “This loathsome term,” he writes, “is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliche conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics.”
Yet the mainstream media has for the most part bought into this perspective, treating all investigation of how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism as “Islamophobic,” however useful it might be to understand the motives and goals of those who have vowed to destroy the U.S. and Western civilization. Into this atmosphere comes my book Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry Into Islam’s Obscure Origins, which doesn’t touch directly on terror issues at all, but does demonstrate that Islam was political, supremacist, and violent before it was religious — a fact with considerable implications for today’s political scene.
In broad outline, the accepted story of Islam’s origins is well known. It begins with an Arabian merchant of the Quraysh tribe of Mecca, known to the world as Muhammad, a name that means the “praised one.” He rejected the polytheism of his tribe and was given to frequent prayer in the hills and caves outside Mecca. In the year 610, when he was forty, he was praying in a cave on Mount Hira, about two miles from Mecca, when he was suddenly confronted by the angel Gabriel, who commanded him to recite.
For the next twenty-three years, until his death in 632, Muhammad did just that: He recited the messages he received from Gabriel, presenting them to his followers as the pure and unadulterated word of the supreme and only God. Many of his followers memorized portions. The Arabia in which Islam was born was an oral culture that respected poetic achievement, and thus the prodigious feats of memory required to memorize lengthy suras were not so unusual. After Muhammad’s death, the revelations he had received were collected together into the Qur’an, or “Recitation,” from the accounts of those who had memorized them or written them down.