In a comment to my post about Bill Maher, M. Simon quoted the mother of one of the Paris terrorists:
Coulibaly’s mother and sisters have condemned the Paris attacks,saying they offer their ‘sincere condolences’ to the families of those killed.
‘We condemn these acts,’ they said in a statement.
‘We absolutely do not share these extreme ideas. We hope there will not be any confusion between these odious acts and the Muslim religion.’
This is a familiar refrain, and one that I — and most civilized people — want to believe.
The fact is, the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people who want to get along with other people (including infidels like Christians, Jews, Pagans, or even atheists).
But concerns have been voiced about Islam having too much what Glenn Reynolds mentions as a possible “branding problem.” There are moderate Muslims who have plenty of good will, but is that enough?
What troubles me is that to a certain extent, the branding problem may emanate from the very source of Islam itself: the Koran and the words and actions of the Prophet.
If we look at the Paris attacks as an example, the murderers (whom I am sure believe themselves to be executioners rather than murderers) believed that the cartoonists had committed the crime of blasphemy, by insulting the Prophet. The idea that anyone who insults the Prophet deserves death is hardly a radical idea in Islam.
It is mainstream.
And you don’t even have to draw a cartoon to be guilty. In at least 13 countries, merely being an atheist merits the death penalty. Atheism, of course, denies the existence of Allah, the truth of the Koran, and any legitimacy of leadership by the Prophet, so it is definitely insulting and or annoying.
Punishing such insults and annoyances with death is grounded in the words of the Koran and the personal example of the Prophet.
I think that this passage from the Koran is a problem for Islam’s branding image:
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. Truly, if the Hypocrites, and those in whose hearts is a disease, and those who stir up sedition in the City, desist not, We shall certainly stir thee up against them: Then will they not be able to stay in it as thy neighbours for any length of time: They shall have a curse on them: whenever they are found, they shall be seized and slain (without mercy).
At the risk of sounding blasphemous, the above might cause many people to wonder whether the Prophet himself would have approved of what the Kouachi brothers did in Paris.
So yes, there is a branding problem. Not only do moderate Muslims need to speak up more loudly, but there needs to be massive reform.
Especially in those many countries where the French journalists would have been sentenced to death.