Behind Muslim “Hurt Feelings” Is Islamic Law

Behind Muslim “Hurt Feelings” Is Islamic Law   By David Reaboi

Center for Security Policy

If you’ve been paying any attention to the media (not just this week, but for at least the last several years), you might get the idea that Muslims in the Middle East are pretty excitable people, given to quick offense and “hurt feelings” at any slight against their prophet, holy book or legal code. The very same “hurt feelings” emerge when the pretext is a cartoon, a book, or even US counter-terror policy, like outlawing material support for terrorist organizations. Over years, Islamist pressure groups in the US have taught the Obama administration how to apologize for every slight to Islam’s honor; the US government has learned it so well, they’ve internalized the process of continuous apology and have endeavored to preempt the “hurt feelings” of Islamists at home and abroad.

But Muslims are really no more sensitive and fragile than the rest of us. “Hurt feelings,” is what the western media needs to label something they don’t understand, and are afraid to learn.

Last week’s violence in the Middle East– and, indeed, so much of it for the last several years– is only because this movie (or whatever pretext, cartoons, etc.) runs afoul of mainstream Islamic shariah law of slander and blasphemy. “Hurt feelings” or “feeling offended” is the way the west processes this phenomenon, but it’s far from what we, in our world of conflict resolution, psychotherapy, and Montessori education have come to understand as such.

Regardless of the actual history and provenance of the film (and we should not discount the possibility of it being concocted by Salafists as a kind of blasphemous false flag), “Innocence of Muslims” appears to violate a principle absolutely clear to any practicing Muslim who knows the law.

How Islamic law on blasphemy gets to be what it is is interesting in itself. Briefly, the consensus of scholars in Islam (i.e., what is required to establish a final, unalterable ruling on a subject) have agreed that, one who blasphemes against Islam, in effect, engages in slander against the religion (“Slander [ghiba] means to mention anything concerning a person [a Muslim] that he would dislike,” according to a canonical Shaf’i jurist al Misri) and places a Muslim in the category of apostate, for which the punishment is death. An example (not from the misty past, but from 2007) illustrates this concisely:

If a Muslim commits blasphemy against the Prophet, this is an act of disbelief which takes him out of the fold of Islam. Allaah Says (what means): {Make no excuse; you have disbelieved [i.e. rejected faith] after your belief. If We pardon one faction of you—We will punish another faction because they were criminals.}[Quran 9:66] If joking is considered as an act of apostasy, then it is more confirmed for one who is saying it intentionally. If the blasphemer does not repent, he should be killed for his apostasy. However, if he sincerely repents to Allaah, Allaah will accept his repentance. Repentance expiates all sins, even Shirk (associating partners to Allaah). Allaah Knows best.” [Blasphemy against the Prophet is an act of apostasy. Islam Web Fatwa Center, Fatwa No. 17316, December 11, 2007]

Again, the legal rulings on this point are consistent. A very helpful digest on the Islamic legal rulings is here:

By this definition, “Innocence of Muslims” is cut-and-dry blasphemy. And that the real source of those “hurt feelings,” however articulated.

Of course, not everyone in Egypt is ready to commit violence to further shariah, but nearly everyone is aware of what the appropriate punishment under Islamic law is, and has very little legal basis on which to argue against it. Perhaps the most they can say is that the penalty must be carried out by the Islamic state rather than vigilantes. But, essentially, they are either in agreement with the legal principle (like a scholar at al Azhar, a Salafist or a Muslim Brother) or have a general but acute awareness of the law’s existence. For example, an illiterate Egyptian or Libyan, unschooled in the details of Islamic jurisprudence would understand this the way an American citizen would be familiar with the First Amendment but not necessarily with the historical and philosophical puzzle-pieces required to justify it. But it does not make that citizen’s devotion to its contents any less real.

This is why you see so much Islamic outrage over “offenses” like this. Don’t let the media or the Obama administration tell you it’s simply “hurt feelings.”

David Reaboi is Vice President of Strategic Communications at the Center for Security Policy– | Sep 17, 2012