As the ripples from the Charlie Hebdo and Lindt Café terror attacks continue to spread, questions are being asked in cafes, workplaces and houses everywhere: could it happen in New Zealand? The best answer available so far is ‘unlikely but not impossible’. The media have focused on five kiwis known to have joined ISIS and nine more whose passports have been cancelled, but that overlooks one important factor – the influence of hate preachers within the NZ Islamic community is far wider than just 14 people, and it’s a story the daily news media have failed to tell you. IAN WISHART has the details:
In his seminal book on the rise of militant Islam, scholar and journalist M J Akbar recounts how insults have been traded between Christianity and Islam since Muhammad first darkened the doorways of Jerusalem.
Muhammad, he writes, has been labelled a “glutton…sex fiend..a devil…pervert…eaten by pigs”.
Akbar, of course, gets away with this precisely because he is a Muslim, a scholar and a journalist, debating the issue. He was reporting what others said, not endorsing the insults. The cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo mocked Muhammad because they don’t like religion, and were milking the subject for laughs.
Bile, writes Akbar of the historical conflict , has “infected” the debate between the two big faiths, and “the Muslim reply to character assassination was the death sentence”.
Back in the old days, a thousand or so years ago, Christians in the occupied territories like Spain and southern France regularly insulted the Prophet, knowing they would be arrested and killed by their Muslim overlords. In Cordoba, a Catholic monk by the name of Perfectus was surrounded by a Muslim crowd and taunted into defending Jesus Christ.
“It was a set up by Muslims, of course”, writes Akbar. “To deny Jesus would be to deny his own faith, but to reject Muhammad meant an invitation to a beheading. It was a capital offence.”
Perfectus, says Akbar, initially tried to answer the challenge cautiously, “but suddenly something snapped and he burst into a torrent of passionate abuse, calling Muhammad a charlatan, a sexual pervert and so on.”
The crowd dragged the monk off to the local governor, who tried to be lenient, realising Perfectus had been provoked. But then the crowd started up again and Perfectus thought ‘to hell with it’, and called the prophet a child molester and every other insult he could think of. A few minutes after losing his head in the heat of the moment, he lost his head in the heat of the moment.
A group of Franciscan monks in Jerusalem pulled a similar stunt in front of the Muslim governor of that city in 1391 AD, walking to the steps of the al Aqsa gold mosque and demanding to see the governor. When he came out, with his Muslim entourage, the monks called the Prophet a similar bunch of names that Perfectus had used.
The crowd called for their heads, the governor gave the monks a choice “Convert to Islam or die”.
“They chose death,” writes Akbar, “because by inverse logic it would ensure [eternal] damnation on the Muslims.”
What we in the West would call “extreme Islam” is not some modern aberration confined to a few crackpots, as the daily media and political leaders would have the public believe. “Islam is essentially a soldier’s religion,” says Akbar, citing historian John Bagot Glubb approvingly.
Every time there’s a terror attack, Islamic apologists appear on TV to reassure the wider community that “Islam is a religion of peace”. On Newstalk ZB’s Kerre McIvor morning show over the summer, one passionate Muslim insisted to McIvor that “nowhere in the Qur’an is violence advocated!”
McIvor swallowed it, making the appropriate sympathetic noises to her national audience, but the statement is far from true:
“When the sacred months are over, slay the unbelievers wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them,” urged Muhammad in the Qur’an, Sura 9:5
“Fight those who believe neither in God nor the Last Day, nor what has been forbidden by God and his messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, even if they are People of the Book, until they pay the tribute and have been humbled. – Sura 9:29
While it is true the Qur’an has verses urging peacefulness, those verses were written when Muhammad had virtually no power and Islam was young and weak. As Islam’s influence grew through conquest, the verses became more and more aggressive. You can pick almost any book of the Qur’an at random, and verses urging followers to violence against non-believers are everywhere:
“I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip,” says Sura 8:12, a verse authorising beheading and hand-chopping. The same chapter of the Qur’an carefully establishes that “believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely – Sura 8:2”
In case the reader still doesn’t get it, the Suras go on to note that anyone opposing the spread of Islam is a candidate for the beheading alluded to in verse 8:12:
“That is because they opposed Allah and His Messenger. And whoever opposes Allah and His Messenger – indeed, Allah is severe in penalty. Sura 8:13”
Unbelievers who resist risk losing their heads, those who surrender can be ransomed off:
“Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. – Sura 47:4”
“The prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, never told his supporters to fight other religions,” said Kerre McIvor’s caller. Evidently he wasn’t up to speed on Sura 8:39, which urges fighting until there is no resistance and Islam is in total control:
“And fight them until there is no fitnah and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah. And if they cease – then indeed, Allah is Seeing of what they do.”
For those who argue there is no precedent for spreading terror in the name of Islam, consider Sura 8:60:
“And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.”
Allegedly, Allah told Muhammad that a handful of committed Islamist fighters could take down a nation of unbelievers, because the latter don’t understand the fight they are in:
“O Prophet, urge the believers to battle. If there are among you twenty [who are] steadfast, they will overcome two hundred. And if there are among you one hundred [who are] steadfast, they will overcome a thousand of those who have disbelieved because they are a people who do not understand. – Sura 8:65”
Why then is there such a difference between what the Qur’an actually says, and what Western Muslims say it says? Part of it is undoubtedly fear of a backlash from the majority community, and part of it may also be that such messages interfere with efforts to evangelising Islam in the west as a “religion of peace”.
Whatever the reason, the end result is that politicians and the public in western countries are not getting an accurate picture of the growing Islamic communities in their midst.
In New Zealand, nearly all media comment about Islam is coordinated by the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, or “FIANZ”. FIANZ promotes “Islam Awareness Week” each year and says it’s all about being open and transparent:
“We need to build a distinctive New Zealand with one identity built on each of us being sincere in who and what we are, where we come from, what our hosting home and culture are. Openness and dialogue are important to go ahead as a nation,” says a FIANZ newsletter from 2006.
But it wasn’t being entirely straightforward – “Islam means peace”, FIANZ said in one Islam Awareness Week article. That’s not ‘peace’ in the western understanding of the word, however, that’s ‘peace’ in the sense of ‘no more resistance’ alluded to in the Sura above. The more accurate translation of “Islam” is “submission”, and the word “Muslims” means “those who submit”.
That’s one of the core doctrines of extremists. They believe “peace” in the Islamic sense can only be established in the world once everyone has been forced to “submit” to the will of Allah and the rule of his priests.
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