On September 25, 2012, former President Obama spoke to the United Nations two weeks after the riotous Benghazi attacks on the US Consulate resulting in the deaths of four Americans. At that time, the President and his administration were still blaming the attacks on an uploaded YouTube video entitled “The Innocence of Muslims,” which lampooned the life of Muhammad, even though they knew beyond any doubt that the video played no role in the Benghazi uprising.
This false charge, however, gave the President warrant for one of his more dramatic declarations during that speech: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
I am in full agreement with Mr. Obama’s statement. Slander is never a good thing; in fact, the Bible labels it a sin. To slander anyone is an evil act; how much worse when the object of that slander is highly revered by one fifth of the world’s population!
However, though I oppose slander, I am all in favor of telling the truth about someone, even when it is unpalatable, if such revelations will prevent others from being misled to their own detriment.
Early this month, a billboard message went up beside Interstate 465 on the eastern side of Indianapolis. It purports to describe “the Perfect Man,” though it never refers to anyone by name. Nevertheless, Muslims immediately took it as an attack on their prophet. Rima Shahid, the executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana, expressed her outrage, claiming the billboard’s message is one of hate. Other Muslims are calling this an example of bigotry, racism, Islamophobia, and again, “hate speech.” Democratic Congressman from Indiana, Andre Carson, one of two Muslims in the US House of Representatives, described it as “unacceptable, disappointing and … un-American.”
Why are Muslims so sure that this billboard points to their prophet? Perhaps, first of all, because one of the most popular titles for Muhammad in Islam is “the Perfect Man.” He is seen as the human ideal which all others are meant to emulate. And, no doubt, many Muslims know some of the sordid details from their own sacred sources (Qur’an, Hadith and Sira) that are encapsulated under the six bullet points on the billboard:
- Married a 6 year old
- Slave owner and dealer
- Beheaded 600 Jews in one day
- 13 wives, 11 at one time
- Tortured and killed unbelievers
For these to be made public in such a stark way is understandably upsetting to those who revere Muhammad as the primary object of their religious affection, along with Allah. Media interviews with Muslims lambaste the billboard’s claims as “vicious lies,” “completely false,” “negative narrative and rhetoric.” Some folks are lobbying to have the billboard removed by legal (or not so legal) means.
Interestingly, the billboard owner has come forward to identify himself and to issue a counter-challenge to those opposed to the message: The billboard will be removed immediately if anyone can prove its statements to be false.
And that’s the problem for Muslims — according to their own ancient sources, which they hold to be historically reliable, each of these claims is basically accurate, if starkly stated. So how can Muslims state so confidently that this is a smear campaign against the prophet, and such lies cannot be tolerated? I think there are only three possibilities:
- They are ignorant of their own sources, and cannot believe such things could be true of their prophet. Thus the claims must be the work of hate-filled bigots who will say anything to discredit Islam.
- They know these things are true, but are practicing taqiyya — religiously sanctioned lying to protect their religion when it is under attack.
- They have been raised to love and revere Muhammad to such a degree that even though they know these things about him to be true, they see them as insignificant flaws compared to the otherwise overwhelming brilliance (in their minds) of his character and life.
I believe the majority of Muslims are in the first category, whereas most well-informed, moderate, pious Muslims fall into the third category. It pains them to be confronted with the truths contained in their own early sources, and so they lie or dissemble in order to avoid having their cherished convictions challenged and the object of their affections tarnished publicly.
Truth and beauty are meant to go together, but in a fallen world truth has a second duty — to expose the ugliness of evil. When depravity is revealed, we have a choice: side with the truth, as painful as it may be to our past convictions, or reject the light and cloak ourselves in the darkness to avoid the hard work of rebuilding our lives on a more solid foundation.
The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet. On this we can all agree. But what about those who reveal the truth — truth that is available for anyone to find with just a little bit of research into orthodox Islamic literature? The billboard in question is telling the truth. The choice of allegiance is offered with no sugar-coating. Is anybody listenting? Does anybody care?