Saturday, April 02, 2011

Geert Wilders: Not a Fan of Muhammed?

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid), had made a name for himself in European politics by calling the Qur'an to be banned as hate speech, which is not quite what the framers of hate-speech legislation had in mind, and has recently had an op-ed piece published in the Dutch magazine HP de Tijd titled "Time to unmask Muhammad" (March 30, 2011). The article is also available at the Freedom Party's website.

This article isn't likely to appeal to Muslims, for Mr. Wilders has nothing positive to say about the founder of Islam, whom he considers as either clinically insane or outright evil -- or both, since Mr. Wilders probably won't allow Mohammad to claim innocence by reason of insanity.

I'm not too keen on medical diagnoses of people long dead -- Paul of Tarsus, for instance, has been labeled an epileptic -- but Mr. Wilders does point to problematic passages in traditions about Mohammad that are considered authentic reports in the Muslim world. For instance, Mr. Wilders notes problematic passages on violence:
The sources describe orgies of savagery where hundreds of people's throats were cut, hands and feet chopped off, eyes cut out, entire tribes massacred. An example is the extinction of the jewish Kurayza tribe in Medina in 627. One of those who chopped off their heads was Muhammad. The women and children were sold as slaves.
And there's sex, too, with a rather young wife:
Numerous hadiths contain testimonies by Muhammad's favourite wife, the child wife Aisha. Aisha literally says: "The prophet married me when I was six years old, and had intercourse with me when I was nine."
Mr. Wilders offers no specific citations to back up these statements, but I've seen the sources myself, so I know that he could support these points with citations that Muslims themselves consider authentic. This presents a problem, as Mr. Wilders points out:
[An] insuperable problem with Islam is the figure of Muhammad. He is not just anyone. He is al-insan al-kamil, the perfect man . . . . The Koran, and hence Allah, lays down that Muhammad's life must be imitated.
The Muslim sources present a complex image of Mohammad, but the portrait offered there includes actions that most people would not consider proper, so modeling one's own behavior after Mohammad's actions in every respect would be highly problematic, to say the least.

If Islam is going to reform itself, as many think that it needs to do, then it will have to deal with these disturbing traditions about Mohammad. But that might be easier than expected, for the rules for determining the "authenticity" of a tradition are somewhat arbitrary from a modern perspective. I recall, for instance, reading that a man who has urinated in an improper fashion cannot be a reputable link in a chain of oral transmission about Mohammad. I suspect that an enlightened examination of many reports considered authentic would lead to their dismissal as inauthentic.

But Muslims themselves will need to do this analytical work . . .

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