Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center
At a time when Western people are constantly warned to speak respectfully of Muhammad, or else offended Muslims might respond with violence—to the shame and blame of those who exercise their freedom of expression—consider what Muslims regularly say about the things non-Muslims hold dear.
Recently during his televised Arabic-language program, Dr. Salem Abdul Galil—previously deputy minister of Egypt’s religious endowments for preaching—gleefully declared that, among other biblical women (Moses’ sister and Pharaoh’s wife), “our prophet Muhammad—prayers and peace be upon him—will be married to Mary the Virgin in paradise.” (Note: the Arabic word for “marriage” denotes “legal sexual relations” and is devoid of Western, “romantic,” or Platonic connotations.)
Where did Galil—this governmental official who also holds that Muslims can wear the hated crucifix to deceive Christians—get this idea? As usual, from Muhammad himself. In a hadith that was deemed reliable enough to be included in the renowned Ibn Kathir’s corpus, Muhammad declared that “Allah will wed me in paradise to Mary, Daughter of Imran” (whom Muslims identify with Jesus’ mother).
If few modern Christians are aware of this Islamic claim, medieval Christians living in Muslim-occupied nations were not. There, Muslims regularly threw this fantasy in the face of Catholic and Orthodox Christians who venerated Mary as the “Eternal Virgin.”
Thus, Eulogius of Cordoba, an indigenous Christian of Muslim-occupied Spain, once wrote, “I will not repeat the sacrilege which that impure dog [Muhammad] dared proffer about the Blessed Virgin, Queen of the World, holy mother of our venerable Lord and Savior. He claimed that in the next world he would deflower her.”
As usual, it was Eulogius’ offensive words about Muhammad—and not the latter’s offensive words about Mary—that had dire consequences: he, as well as many other Spanish Christians vociferously critical of Muhammad, were found guilty of “blasphemy,” and publicly tortured and executed in “Golden Age” Cordoba in 859.
Not only do many Western academics suppress or whitewash such historical anecdotes of Muslim persecution of Christians, but some—whether intentionally or out of ignorance—warp them in an effort to portray Christian victims of Islam as Christian persecutors of Islam. Thus, after quoting Eulogius’ aforementioned lament against Muhammad, John V. Tolan, a historian and member of Academia Europaea, writes:
This outrageous claim [that Muhammad will marry Mary], it seems, is Eulogius’s invention; I know of no other Christian polemicist who makes this accusation against Muhammad. Eulogius fabricates lies designed to shock his Christian reader. This way, even those elements of Islam that resemble Christianity (such as reverence of Jesus and his virgin mother) are deformed and blackened, so as to prevent the Christian from admiring anything about the Muslim other. The goal is to inspire hatred for the “oppressors” …. Eulogius sets out to show that the Muslim is not a friend but a potential rapist of Christ’s virgins (Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination, p.93).
As already seen, however, it was Muhammad himself—not any “Christian polemicist”—who claimed that Mary would be his eternal concubine. But facts don’t matter to academics like Tolan, who are more eager to demonize Eulogius in an effort to exonerate the “offended” Muslims who slaughtered him.
Putting real or feigned history aside, let’s return to modern day Egypt and consider why Dr. Galil—a governmental official described as a “moderate,” a bridge-builder between Muslims and Christians—would openly say what he knows millions of Orthodox Christians in Egypt will find repugnant: that Christ’s mother would be given to—and have sex with—what Christians deem a false prophet?
To be sure, many Egyptian Christians did express outrage, including on social media, though none responded with violence. Had a leading Christian cleric, or even a little Coptic boy, claimed that Aisha—Muhammad’s favorite wife, who holds a venerated place in Sunni tradition—will be married to and have sex with a false prophet, he would’ve been beaten and, if not killed in the process, imprisoned under Egypt’s “anti -defamation of religions” law, which supposedly protects both Islam and Christianity.
But as every Muslim and Christian knows, Egypt’s “anti-defamation of religions” law—which has been responsible for the arrest and punishment of many Copts accused of mocking Islam on social media—is in reality an anti-defamation of Islam law. Things held sacred by Christians are free game—including for governmental officials.
After all, Islam—beginning with its prophet and all throughout its scriptures—is built on defaming non-Muslims and their religions, Judaism and Christianity in particular. So how can repeating what Islam holds to be true ever be deemed blasphemous by Muslims—sensitivities of infidels be damned?