The character of the Prophet Mohammad has come under attack again by Islamophobes with a 15 minute movie trailer posted on YouTube entitled “Innocence of Muslims.” The trailer has wounded the hearts of many Muslims worldwide.
Creating hatred and prejudice through deliberate falsification of historical facts has been a powerful tool used throughout history to legitimize the exploitation of groups of people and undermine their rights of freedom and self-determination.
Every era has had its share of scapegoats. Early European colonizers dehumanized Africans in order to justify the practice of slavery. Anti-Semitism was built upon a hate-filled interpretation of Jewish history to serve certain political ends. Women’s contributions to societies were largely ignored to deem them intellectually and morally inferior.
It does not come as a surprise that the current target is Islam. And why not? Any revolutionary ideology that advocates for the rights of people — like Islam — will not be well-liked by those in power.
Islam is a nation of 1.5 billion followers from every ethnicity, nation and walk of life. This fact speaks for itself. Islam is a religion of peace and justice and the messenger of Islam, the Prophet Mohammad, was the epitome of virtue and high morals. This is why Muslims say “peace be upon him” after speaking his name.
Attempts to attack and delegitimize Islam have a long history. The most violent enemies of Mohammad were the oppressive Arab chiefs of Mecca, who were threatened by Islam’s equality and justice. Though they failed in their mission, many other groups have since attempted to undermine Islam. Yet, even the enemies of Mohammad knew better than to attack his character, since he was famously known among the Arabs as “the truthful” and “the trustworthy.”
Mohammad and his followers faced exile from Mecca, social and economic boycott, conspiracy and murder of their loved ones. Yet, when Mohammad recaptured Mecca, he forgave his enemies and let them live in peace. It is not often in history that we have seen such clemency on the part of a general towards his captives. Mohammad practiced and preached the principle that “people are either your brothers in faith, or your equals in humanity.”
To this day, thousands of non-Muslims have attested to the Prophet’s piety, compassion and deep concern for humanity.
Mahatma Ghandi stated, “It was not the sword that won a place for Islam . . . . It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission.”
In 1936, George Bernard Shaw, co-founder of the London School of Economics, wrote, “If a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving all its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness.”
Writer Thomas Carlyle, after realizing the extent to which Europeans had distorted the Prophet’s character, wrote, “The lies, which well-meaning zeal has heaped around this man, are disgraceful to ourselves only.”
We degrade ourselves when we allow falsehoods to define our conceptions of entire groups of people.
Some claim that slandering a beloved prophet of 1.5 billion people is a matter of free speech. However, even those people would acknowledge that free speech has limits. Verbal abuse is not free speech. Making racist, sexist or anti-Semitic comments is not free speech. Publicly slandering Islam is not free speech.
A deliberately provoked attack on a major world religion is not free speech — it is hate speech. We should recognize and condemn Islamophobia and question the motives of those who promote it under the guise of free speech. Media publicizes Muslim violence but remains largely silent on the thousands who protest peacefully. The consequences are that falsehoods and division are created. Let us do our part to spread the truth and build a world free of hatred.