Don’t Blame the Charlie Hebdo Mass Murder on ‘Extremism’

Don’t Blame the Charlie Hebdo Mass Murder on ‘Extremism’
Intolerance for free expression is rooted in classical Islam.

Image from video footage of the attackers.
Andrew C. McCarthy

There are now at least twelve confirmed dead in the terrorist attack carried out by at least three jihadist gunmen against the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo. While it practices equal-opportunity satire, lampooning Islam has proved lethal for the magazine, just as it has for so many others who dare to exercise the bedrock Western liberty of free expression.Charlie Hebdo’s offices were firebombed in 2011 over a caricature of Mohammed that depicted him saying, “100 lashes if you don’t die from laughter.”

The cartoon was obviously referring to sharia, Islam’s legal code and totalitarian framework. Don’t take my word for it. Just flip through Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, the authoritative sharia manual. You will find a number of offenses for which flagellation is the prescribed penalty.

To take just a couple of examples, “the penalty for drinking is to be scourged forty stripes,” although the caliph (the Islamic ruler) is authorized to increase this to 80 stripes — although he must pay an indemnity if death results. . . . Pretty moderate, right? (Reliance, p. 617, sec. o16.3.) For adultery “the penalty consists of being scourged one hundred stripes” — and that’s if the adulterer “is not considered to have the capacity to remain chaste” (e.g., if she “is prepubescent at the time of marital intercourse).” “If the offender is someone with the capacity to remain chaste, then he or she is stoned to death.” (Reliance, p. 610, sec. o12.2.)

What Charlie Hebdo has satirized is a savage reality. That reality was visited on the magazine again today. As night follows day, progressive governments in Europe and the United States are already straining to pretend that this latest atrocity is the wanton work of “violent extremists,” utterly unrelated to Islam. You are to believe, then, that François Hollande, Barack Obama, David Cameron, and their cohort of non-Muslim Islamophiles are better versed in sharia than the Muslim scholars who’ve dedicated their lives to its study and have endorsed such scholarly works asReliance.

Let me repeat what I have detailed here before: Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State did not make up sharia law. Islam did. We can keep our heads tucked snug in the sand, or we can recognize the source of the problem.

As I detailed in Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, the literalist construction of sharia that Islamic supremacists seek to enforce is “literal” precisely because it comes from Islamic scripture, not from some purportedly “extremist” fabrication of Islam. Moreover, this “classical sharia” is enthusiastically endorsedin principle by several of the most influential institutions in the Islamic Middle East, which explains why it is routinely put into practice when Islamists are given — or seize — the opportunity to rule over a territory.

Reliance is not some al-Qaeda or Islamic State pamphlet. It is a renowned explication of sharia’s provisions and their undeniable roots in Muslim scripture. In the English translation, before you get to chapter and verse, there are formal endorsements, including one from the International Institute of Islamic Thought — a U.S.-based Muslim Brotherhood think tank begun in the early Eighties (and to which American administrations of both parties have resorted as an exemplar of “moderation”). Perhaps more significantly, there is also an endorsement from the Islamic Research Academy at al Azhar University, the ancient seat of Sunni learning to which President Obama famously turned to co-sponsor his cloyingly deceptive 2009 speech on relations between Islam and the West.

In their endorsement, the al-Azhar scholars wrote:

We certify that the . . . translation corresponds to the Arabic original and conforms to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni Community. . . . There is no objection to printing it and circulating it. . . . May Allah give you success in serving Sacred Knowledge and the religion.

There could be no more coveted stamp of scholarly approval in Islam.

Charlie Hebdo, of course, is in the business of cartoon caricature for satirical purposes. That is a time-honored method of expression, political and otherwise, in the West. That is in stark contrast to how such expression is viewed by Islam. Here, as I summarized in my book Spring Fever – quoted verbatim and supported by citations — is what Reliance has to say about such visual art forms:

It is forbidden to make pictures of “animate life,” for doing so “imitates the creative act of Allah Most High”; “Whoever makes a picture, Allah shall torture him with it on the Day of Judgment until he can breathe life into it, and he will never be able to.” (Reliance w50.0 & ff.)

Nor is visual depiction alone in drawing sharia’s wrath. “Musical instruments of all types are unlawful.” As Reliance elaborates, singing is generally prohibited (for “song makes hypocrisy grow in the heart as water does herbage”), and “on the Day of Resurrection Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress.” There is an exception, though: If unaccompanied by musical instruments, song and poetry drawn from Islamic scripture and encouraging obedience to Allah are permissible. Ironically, although music is generally forbidden, dancing is permissible “unless it is languid, like the movements of the effeminate.” (Reliance r40.0 &ff.)

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