That many Muslims oppose free speech—often violently—is again made obvious by this week’s terrorist attacks in France. There, two groups of Muslim terrorists slaughtered sixteen people, twelve at or near the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical publication that ran “offensive” images of Muhammad.
This is hardly the first time that Muslims have responded to speech with violence; such violence is commonplace. Consider just a few other examples:
- In 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a “fatwa” calling on Muslims worldwide to seek to murder Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses.
- In 2004, a jihadist murdered Theo van Gogh for producing a film critical of Islam’s treatment of women.
- In 2005, when the Danish publication Jyllands-Posten published several cartoons of Muhammad, numerous Muslims worldwide openly advocated the murder of the cartoonists, some actively plotted to murder them, and thousands rioted around the world, causing the closure of embassies and slaughtering scores of people.
- In 2010, Muslims threatened to murder South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone for portraying Muhammed in a bear costume.
- Numerous Muslims have threatened to murder Ayaan Hirsi Ali and many other intellectuals who criticize Islam.
- Muslim nations characteristically impose censorship—the violent suppression of speech by government. Last year, large majorities of people in Middle Eastern Muslim countries said “they’re in favor of censoring entertainment programs,” the Huffington Post reports.
- In Saudi Arabia, government authorities recently flogged blogger Raif Badawi fifty times, sentencing him to a total of a thousand lashes and ten years in prison. His “crimes” include “insulting Islam,” the BBC reports.
Is such violence integral to Islam or coincidental to it? That is, do many Muslims murder, make threats, and advocate violence in response to speech because they accept the tenets of Islam, or is something else the cause?
It is not hard to find passages in the Koran advocating violence; for example, one passage has God saying, “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”
Nor is it hard to find modern Muslims who believe their faith exhorts them to violently throttle speech that “offends” their religion. For example, in an article for USA Today, London-based Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary states:
Muslims do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression, as their speech and actions are determined by divine revelation and not based on people's desires. . . . Muslims consider the honor of the Prophet Muhammad to be dearer to them than that of their parents or even themselves. To defend it is considered to be an obligation upon them. The strict punishment if found guilty of this crime under sharia (Islamic law) is capital punishment implementable by an Islamic State. This is because the Messenger Muhammad said, “Whoever insults a Prophet kill him.”
On Islam quotes a Muslim scholar who condemns the murders in France yet also explicitly allows for the death penalty for blasphemy, only carried out by government officials rather than by vigilantes: . . .