In the wake of CNN’s Wednesday revelation that journalist/activist Pamela Geller was targeted for beheading by slain Boston area jihadist Usaama Rahim, CNN’s Chris Cuomo interviewed Ms. Geller Thursday. Most attention to the interview has been focused on Geller’s understandable reaction to Cuomo’s suggestion that non-profane, free-speech cartoons of Muhammad — for example, ex-Muslim artist Bosch Fawstin’s thoughtful drawing below, which was awarded first prize at the recent Garland, TX exhibit — were somehow too provocative.
Said Geller to Cuomo:
Drawing a cartoon … warrants chopping my head off? That’s too far? I just don’t understand this. They’re going to come for you, too, Chris. They’re coming for everybody and the media should be standing with me.
Geller’s query elicited this breathtakingly ignorant though commonly reiterated media falsehood, here asserted by Cuomo with supreme confidence:
Sharia is not mainstream Muslim thought.
Mr. Cuomo and other media figures across the political spectrum would do well — before issuing such embarrassing, factually challenged pontifications — to study the serious work of Joseph Schacht (d. 1969), who was the most authoritative modern Western Islamic legal scholar.
The sharia, or “clear path to be followed,” as Schacht demonstrated, is the “canon law of Islam,” which “denotes all the individual prescriptions composing it.”
Schacht traced the use of the term “sharia” to Koranic verses such as 45:18, 42:13, 42:21, and 5:48, noting an “old definition” of the sharia by the seminal Koranic commentator and early Muslim historian Tabari (d. 923) as comprising the law of inheritance, various commandments and prohibitions, and the so-called hadd punishments.
These latter draconian punishments, defined by the Muslim prophet Muhammad either in the Koran or in the hadith (the canonical collections of Muhammad’s deeds and pronouncements), included:
(Lethal) stoning for adultery; death for apostasy; death for highway robbery when accompanied by murder of the robbery victim; for simple highway robbery, the loss of hands and feet; for simple theft, cutting off of the right hand; for “fornication,” a hundred lashes; for drinking wine, eighty lashes.
As Schacht further noted, sharia ultimately evolved to become “understood [as] the totality of Allah’s commandments relating to the activities of man.”
The holistic sharia, he continues, is nothing less than Islam’s quintessence:
The Sharia is the most characteristic phenomenon of Islamic thought and forms the nucleus of Islam itself.
Schacht also delineated additional characteristics of the sharia which have created historically insurmountable obstacles to its reform:
Allah’s law is not to be penetrated by the intelligence . . . i.e., man has to accept it without criticism, with its apparent inconsistencies and its incomprehensible decrees, as wisdom into which it is impossible to enquire [inquire].
One must not look in it for causes in our sense, nor for principles; it is based on the will of Allah which is bound by no principles, therefore evasions are considered as a permissible means put at one’s disposal by Allah himself.
Muslim law . . . has always been considered by its followers as something elevated, high above human wisdom, and as a matter of fact human logic or system has little share in it. For this very reason, the Sharia is not “law” in the modern sense of the word, any more than it is on account of its subject matter.
It comprises without restriction, as an infallible doctrine of duties the whole of the religious, political, social, domestic and private life of those who profess Islam, and the activities of the tolerated members of other faiths so far as they may not be detrimental to Islam.
Most importantly, Schacht elucidated how sharia — via the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad war — regulated the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. These regulations make explicit the sacralized vulnerability of unvanquished non-Muslims to jihad depredations, and the permanent, deliberately humiliating legal inferiority for those who survive their jihad conquest, and incorporation into an Islamic polity governed by sharia.
Consistent with the doctrine of jihad, in accord with the Sunna (the traditions of Muhammad and the early Muslim community), by using foul language against the Muslim prophet Muhammad, Allah, or Islam, the non-Muslim transgressors put themselves on a war footing against Muslims, and their lives became licit (such as the poet Kaab b. al-Ashraf, who composed poems denigrating Muhammad, and was assassinated). (See here, here, and here.)
This “offense” was then constructed and legitimated by Muslim jurists when Islam was politically, militarily, and economically dominant, so that it was expected that the non-Muslims under Islamic rule would not denigrate the religion of Islam, nor cast aspersions on its major figures or institutions. (See here, here, and here.) The jurists saw any such denigration as an unacceptable hostile act, punishable by death, automatically, as per three of the main Sunni schools of Islamic Law (Maliki, Shafii, Hanbali), and the major Shiite schools.
According to the fourth major school of Sunni Islamic law, the Hanafi, the punishment of a non-Muslim guilty of blasphemy is left to the discretion of a Muslim judge. The death penalty was in fact most often applied by the Hanafis. (See here and here.)
Qadi Iyad (d. 1149), the great Almoravid jurist, captured the doctrine’s animating Muslim supremacism in his seminal Ash-Shifa, which includes one of the most authoritative analyses of Islamic blasphemy law’s treatment of non-Muslims ever written:
Once Islam was firmly established and Allah had given it victory over all other religions, any such detractor that the Muslims had power over and whose affair is well-known, was put to death.
On February 19, 1989, Iranian theocrat Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa condemning author Salman Rushdie to death (along with those involved in the publication of Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses) while promising eternal salvation to any Muslim “martyred” in this cause.
As noted by Muhammad Hashim Kamali, who since 1985 has taught Sharia and jurisprudence as a professor of law at the International Islamic University of Malaysia, in his authoritative Freedom of Expression in Islam:
No serious Muslim commentator has challenged the basic validity of the Ayatollah’s fatwa. Adjudication was generally viewed to be necessary if only to find out if Rushdie was willing to repent.
295C: “Use of derogatory remarks, etc; in respect of the Holy Prophet. Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
This doctrine has wreaked havoc in our era, particularly among Pakistan’s small Christian minority community.
“Rising Restrictions on Religion,” a report by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life issued August 9, 2011, found that application of the Sharia at present resulted in a disproportionate number of Muslim countries — 21 — registering the highest (i.e., worst) persecution scores on their scale.
Furthermore, the Pew investigators observed:
Eight-in-ten countries in the Middle East-North Africa region have laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion, the highest share of any region. These penalties are enforced in 60% of the countries in the region.
Moreover, an Egyptian state security court, on November 28, 2012, issued a verdict which sentenced to death seven expatriate Coptic Egyptians as well as American pastor Terry Jones for “blaspheming” Islam. Egyptian Judge Saif al Nasr Soliman stated plainly when the ruling was issued: “The accused persons were convicted of insulting the Islamic religion through participating in producing and offering a movie that insults Islam and its prophet.”
It is noteworthy that the current much ballyhooed “reformist” Egyptian government of el-Sisi has not rescinded this “blasphemy” verdict, and continues aggressively prosecuting “blasphemous” Copts, as well as Muslim secularists accused of this Sharia-based “crime.” (See here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
Egypt’s extra-territorial application of the Sharia reflects a larger global campaign by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (subsequently renamed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation). As the largest voting bloc in the UN, which represents mainstream, institutional Islam and all the major Muslim countries in addition to the Palestinian Authority, the OIC has lobbied continuously over the past two decades for a UN resolution insisting countries criminalize what it calls “defamation of religion.”
Presently, the OIC — consistent with its Sharia-based “human rights” paradigm, the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, which rejects freedom of conscience and speech as defined (and upheld) in the U.S. Bill of Rights and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights — is calling for a specific ban on speech allegedly impugning the character of Islam’s prophet, which the OIC terms “hate speech.”
This international “blasphemy law” campaign is entirely consistent with attitudes of the worldwide Muslim “umma,” or en bloc community, vis-à-vis general application of the Sharia as state law in Islamic societies. Another Pew Research Forum report, “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society,” released April 30, 2013, confirmed the broad appeal of the totalitarian Sharia, Islam’s religio-political “law,” across Islamdom.
Asked, “Do you favor or oppose making sharia law, or Islamic law, the official law of the land in our country?”, response data from the nations with the five largest Sunni Muslim populations (as per 2010) surveyed — Indonesia (204 million), Pakistan (178 million), Bengladesh (149 million), Egypt (80 million), and Nigeria (76 million) — indicated that 72% of Indonesian Muslims, 84% of Pakistani Muslims, 82% of Bengladeshi Muslims, 74% of Egyptian Muslims, and 71% of Nigerian Muslims supported making Sharia the official state law of their respective societies. The population-weighted average from these five countries was 77% supportive. Furthermore, in a separate Pew survey of Iran — the world’s major Shiite Muslim population — 83% of these Muslims favored (maintaining) the Sharia as state law.
These global trends are now increasingly evident in the U.S. Muslim population, likely reinforced to a significant extent by the 81% of American mosques that preach Sharia supremacism/jihadism. Consider the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA), which is well-accepted by the mainstream American Muslim community. The Islamic scholars affiliated with this group have attained influential positions in universities, Islamic centers, and mosques throughout the United States, and train American imams. Should the mainstream AMJA accomplish its goal of implementing Sharia in North America, the organization has already issued a ruling which sanctions the killing of non-Muslim “blasphemers,” courtesy of AMJA Secretary General Salah al-Sawy:
(Dr. Salah Al-Sawy 1/21/2009)-[F]or those scholars who say that repentance of a person who insults Allah or His Messenger shall not be accepted, [they] mean that repentance does not lift up the set punishment for cursing and insulting the Prophet, i.e., execution. Because the Prophet is the one who was actually wronged and insulted and he is no longer alive, therefore, he is not alive to practice his right to forgive him [the blasphemer] for what he did. Also, no Muslim is ever is entitled or authorized to forgive on the Prophet’s behalf.
This mirrors a shared communal understanding of their clerical leadership with regard to the application of Sharia in general, and “blasphemy law,” specifically. The results of polling data collected by Wenzel Strategies on October 22 — 26, 2012 from 600 U.S. Muslims of high socioeconomic status indicate distressingly widespread support among American votaries of Islam for rejection of the basic freedoms of expression and conscience as guaranteed under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution itself.
When asked, “Do you believe that criticism of Islam or Muhammad should be permitted under the Constitution’s First Amendment?”, 58% replied “no.” Also, 45% of respondents agreed “…that those who criticize or parody Islam in the U.S. should face criminal charges,” and fully 12% of this Muslim sample even admitted they believed in application of the draconian, Sharia-based punishment for the non-existent crime of “blasphemy” in the U.S. code, answering affirmatively,”…that Americans who criticize or parody Islam should be put to death.”
Finally, a third of these U.S. Muslims (32%), desired the Sharia as the supreme law of the land, i.e., the de facto replacement of our current U.S. Constitutional system.
In light of this hard evidence, one cannot overstate the profoundly corrosive effect of Chris Cuomo’s thoroughly uninformed yet broadly shared views within the media.