The Consequences of 'Slandering' the Prophet of Islam

An author of a forbidden book on Mohammed faces down authorities in Germany.

September 25, 2012, the same day that President Barack Obama declared in an address before the United Nations (UN) General Assembly that the “future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam” (more analysis on the speech here), a legal team in Germany released a press statement concerning the charges against their client.  This case, along with other recent developments in Germany, indicates just what future implications Obama’s concept of “slander” of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, can have worldwide for free expression and intellectual inquiry.

Available in German online at Politically Incorrect (PI), a German conservative website analogous in its critical treatment of Islam to Robert Spencer’s Jihadwatch in the United States, the press release of the “for the moment anonymous defense team” discusses the criminal charges brought by the state prosecutor in Marburg, Germany, against the “renowned” medical historian Professor Dr. Armin Geus.  Geus faces prosecution under Section 166 of the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) against “Defamation of religions, religious and ideological associations.”  The two paragraphs of this section sanction with a fine or imprisonment up to three years anyone who “defames the religion or ideology of others” or a “church or other religious or ideological association within Germany, or their institutions or customs in a manner that is capable of disturbing the public peace.”  Geus’ prosecution followed a visit by the state security (Staatsschutz) section of the local police as, in the words of his lawyers, a “warning (or intimidation?),” but the Staatsschutz judged Geus as “unreasonable and uncooperative.”

State prosecutors view Geus liable under this section due to his book Die Krankheit des Propheten:  Ein pathographischer Essay (The Sickness of the Prophet:  A Pathographic Essay) distributed by the Basiliken-Presse, a small scholarly publishing firm founded by Geus in 1978.  As an online review (also available at the book’s listing) by Geus’ fellow German academician, Professor Dr. Thomas Junker, discusses, Geus in his study “has examined and evaluated without ideological blinders and false deference the manifold indications of a severe psychic disturbance of the prophet” of Islam.

As Junker’s review analyzes, such speculation concerning Muhammad’s mental soundness go back to various charges by his opponents denied in the Koran itself.  The Byzantine theologian and historian Theophanes the Confessor (760-818) also argued in a history written by him that Muhammad suffered from epilepsy.  Contemporary works not discussed by Junker explore these themes as well, as in the 2008 book Understanding Muhammad:  A Psychobiography of Allah’s Prophetby Ali Sina, a Canadian-Iranian apostate from Islam who now condemns his former faith.  Likewise, the Indian Sujit Das, who often writes for Sina’s anti-Islam website Faith Freedom International, has made available there for free download his 2010 PDF book Unmasking Muhammad: The Malignant Narcissist and His Grand Delusion Allah.

Junker notes in his review that the analysis of Geus and others “would shake the credibility of the Koran and throw up the question as to what extent the Muhammadan revelations differ from the inspirations of other prophets and from the hallucinations of psychiatric patients.”  “Islam,” Junker explains, “rests in an entirely essential manner upon the credibility of its prophet.” “Because of this very reason every criticism of Islam, to be taken seriously, must concern itself with this neurological aspect.”

The book’s conclusion “on the basis of numerous indices” (Junker), as indicated by Geus’ title and cited by Junker, is that Muhammad indeed suffered under a “paranoid-hallucinatory schizophrenia with defined delusional imaginings and characteristic sensual deceptions.”  Not only does Geus examine in his analysis the life of Muhammad, but also the characteristics attributed to what Junker describes as “Muhammad’s alter ego”, the Allah envisioned by Muhammad.  The “resulting image” of Muhammad containing “serious character flaws” such as “ruthless self-referentiality, sadism, pedophilia,” and “petty-mindedness [Krämerseele]” (Geus) is “hardly flattering.” Junker appraises Die Krankheit des Propheten as a “brave, interesting, and important book that contributes much to a realistic estimation of Islam.” “Considering the widely disseminated reluctance” to critically evaluate Muhammad, Junker judges that Geus’ work “cannot be highly enough esteemed.”

Less admiring, however, was Dr. Megren Ibrahim Al-Megren, the director of the König Fahd Akademie (King Fahd Academy, also written Fahad) a Saudi-funded secondary school (grades 1-12) in Bonn, Germany, serving some 150 students mostly from Arab countries.  As described by the press release from Geus’ lawyers, he is “not only a towering natural scientist, but also a combative man” who sent a copy of Die Krankheit des Propheten with its “undoubted medical-historically proven psychiatric understandings concerning the Prophet Mohammad” on May 11, 2012, “precisely” to the academy.  Al-Megren subsequently initiated the prosecution against Geus with a legal complaint.

The König Fahd Akademie itself is no stranger to controversy and legal difficulties.  Founded in 1995 by the Saudi royal family with 30 million Marks, the school faced closure in 2004 after the violent, hateful nature of some of its Saudi-approved instructional materials became known. The extremist tendencies of various Friday sermons at the school mosque and their congregants from the surrounding Muslim community were also troubling.  Although local German officials wanted to close the school, the German Foreign Ministry intervened with warnings of damage caused by the school closure to German-Saudi relations and to the prospects of maintaining a German school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  Subsequent compromises reached with German educational officials allowed the school to stay open with more German oversight of its programs and more limited access to the school by students freed from the ordinary compulsory attendance at German schools.

Geus’ lawyers, however, still see in the König Fahd Akademie the “extended arm of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in German educational policy and dialogue culture.” This school’s leadership “unofficially exercises the oversight over what may or may not be published in Germany without endangering oil supplies and weapons exports.”  These lawyers also express in their statement the suspicion that the reporting of Al-Megren to the Saudi ambassador has likewise turned Geus’ prosecution into a “political matter [Politikum]” under the ambassador’s supervision.

At any rate, Geus’ lawyers do not see any evidence for an objective, unbiased treatment of him by German officials.  They note that Chief Inspector [Kriminaloberkommissar] Kesseler of the Bonn police headquarters (Telephone: 0228-15-8131; Fax: 0228-15-1231) merely read an advertisement for Die Krankheit des Propheten and Junker’s review in order to judge the book criminal.  This “thought watcher” Kesseler thus did not have to justify his “foreordained” conclusion that Geus’ analysis is “not scholarly, but rather pseudo-scholarly…not serious, but rather unserious.” “Whoever wonders,” the lawyers explain,

how a simple policeman can judge a tried and tested academician who is already 75 years old and looks back upon 50 years of recognized research, should not think causally, that is, asking for reasons, but rather in final terms, that is, asking for the goal:  Where does a chief inspector stand, and how from there is the way to the police chief?

Geus’ pending case indicates the far-reaching implications of the “slander” of Islam’s prophet denounced by Obama and others.  Whether in a poor quality film like Innocence of Muslims condemned by Obama at the UN, or in Geus’ scholarly treatise, any unflattering factual investigation of Muhammad, the Koran, and Islam will be impermissible in those countries referenced by Obama at the UN as not having the same strict respect for free speech “enshrined” under the United States Constitution.  Given various Muslim threats and sensitivities of free societies, Islam will enjoy an untouchable status protected against any insult and/or iconoclastic inquiry into the faith’s possible falsity, a protection not enjoyed by other faiths.  Intellectual freedom and equality before the law, cornerstones of any system of liberty under law, will correspondingly suffer.

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