In the second Islamic apologetics article that the New York Times published in as many days last week (here’s my takedown of the other one), Turkish professional moderate Mustafa Akyol (pictured above) claimed: “True Islam Does Not Kill Blasphemers.” It’s unlikely that anyone laughed, because people who know the truth and care about it are unlikely to be subscribers to the New York Times.
Here is a quick test of whether what Mustafa Akyol says is true or not: let him go to Pakistan, or Iran, or Afghanistan, or Saudi Arabia, or Somalia, or Sudan, or any other country that implements Islamic law, and tell the Islamic authorities there that true Islam does not kill blasphemers. Akyol apparently expects us to believe that all the Islamic authorities in all those countries, and all the Islamic scholars who formulated Islamic law from the Qur’an and Sunnah, got Islam all wrong, wrong, wrong, and finally here comes Mustafa at last, with the genuine article.
In reality, if Akyol denied the death penalty for blasphemy in any Sharia state, he could end up being executed for blasphemy himself.
Akyol begins by discussing the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman in Pakistan who spent eight years on death row for supposed “blasphemy” against Muhammad, and who has now been acquitted and freed but is now being hunted in that country by Muslims desperate to spill her blood. According to Akyol, these Muslims are misunderstanding their own religion:
Muslims who support such violent or oppressive responses to blasphemy are missing two important points. One is that it is them, not the blasphemers, who are defaming Islam, by presenting it as an immature tradition that has little room for civilized discourse. The second point is that their zealotry is not as religiously grounded as they think.
To see this, one must look at the Quran — the most fundamental and only undisputed source of Islam. Most notably, throughout all of its 6,236 verses, it never tells Muslims to silence blasphemy with force. It tells them only to respond with dignity.
Akyol then quotes a few of the Qur’an verses that he claims support his point: “You are sure to hear much that is hurtful from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with God. If you are steadfast and mindful of God, that is the best course.” (3:186) And one that praises “those who walk humbly on the earth, and who, when the foolish address them, reply, ‘Peace.’” (25:63) Akyol adds: “Yet another verse addresses the issue of mockery, telling Muslims that when they hear people who ridicule ‘God’s revelations,’ they should just ‘not sit with them.’ [4:140]”
Akyol claims that the whole death penalty for blasphemy is just a big misunderstanding: “As Islamic jurisprudence developed over the centuries, much was added to the spirit of the Quran, based often on dubious reports about the words and deeds of the prophet. Blasphemy, in particular sabb al-rasul, or ‘insulting the prophet,’ gradually became a capital crime — but only with objections from prominent jurists like Abu Hanifa, the eighth-century founder of one of the four main Sunni schools. A bigger sin than insulting the prophet is disbelief in God, he reasoned, but Islam decrees no punishment for that.”
In reality, there is much support in the Qur’an for the death penalty for blasphemy. It can arguably be found in this verse: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.” (5:33)
Also: “Those who annoy Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this World and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating Punishment” (33:57)
And: “If they violate their oaths after pledging to keep their covenants, and attack your religion, you may fight the leaders of paganism – you are no longer bound by your covenant with them – that they may refrain” (9:12).
There is more in the hadith, which Akyol dismisses above as “dubious reports about the words and deeds of the prophet.” From a historical standpoint, they are dubious indeed, but they are also, as he notes, normative for Islamic law. Akyol needs to answer the question of exactly how and why these “dubious reports” became the basis for Islamic law if they really contradicted the Qur’an. No one noticed that until Akyol came along?
In one of these hadiths, Muhammad asked: “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” One of the Muslims, Muhammad bin Maslama, answered, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” When Muhammad said that he would, Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab).” Muhammad responded: “You may say it.” Muhammad bin Maslama duly lied to Ka’b, luring him into his trap, and murdered him. (Bukhari 5.59.369)
And: “A Jewess used to abuse the Prophet and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah declared that no recompense was payable for her blood.” (Sunan Abu-Dawud 38.4349)
Also, The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS records, from Islamic sources, numerous occasions when Muslims in the great caliphates and Islamic empires of the past put Christians and others to death because of perceived blasphemy. Not only is the death penalty for blasphemy found in every Sharia state today, but it has been throughout history. Akyolian Islam, alas, has yet to make an appearance on the world stage, except in New York Times articles designed to lull infidels into complacency regarding the jihad threat.
Akyol almost certainly knows about these Islamic texts that contradict his claims. He just hopes you don’t. When did the Times sign up to be the media arm of the Muslim World League?
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.