A Message to Muslims: Justice Requires Proportionality

As regular readers of my blog know, I am a Christian. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often referred to as the Mormon church. I am no expert on Islam. However, I also have been fortunate enough to have a number of acquaintances and friends who are Muslims. They have all been good, decent people.

As a Mormon, I understand what it is like to have my beliefs mocked and that which I consider sacred blasphemed and scorned. The number one Broadway musical in the United States is a profanity and blasphemy saturated mockery of my religion, its founding prophet, and of God. And that is just a recent example. So I empathize with the hurt and outrage Muslims feel when Islam and its prophet and God are mocked.

As I wrote in my previous post, I recognize that there are many different branches and schools of Islam and that it is wrong to attribute the actions and views of one faction to all.

But even understanding that, I am repelled and shocked by violence perpetrated in the name of Islam and an apparently large number of Muslims who believe that violence is a moral and just response when their religion or prophet is ridiculed or mocked.

My message to those Muslims who justify or participate in these kinds of violent responses is this:

Your support for violence in response to blasphemy is not only immoral and unjust, but it is also contrary to the teachings of the Qurʾān and violates the teachings of the prophet Muhammad.

“And We ordained for them therein a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds is legal retribution. But whoever gives [up his right as] charity, it is an expiation for him. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” (Qurʾān 5:45)

An “eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth” is a statement of reciprocal justice and proportionality. Islam teaches that a just retaliation must be proportional to the the act to which it is responding.

In other words, for a follower of the Qurʾān, the proper response to a cartoon is a cartoon;  the proper response to a movie is a movie;  the proper response to an article is an article;  the proper response to insult is insult; the proper response to burning a Qurʾān is perhaps burning a Bible.

When certain Muslims respond to a blasphemous movie with violence, they are responding disproportionately and therefore unjustly, immorally, and contrary to Islam.

And notice that the Qurʾān adds that a response is not required. In fact it declares that if you forebear from a response as an act of charity, even if it would be justified, it will be an expiation for you. In other words it will serve as an atonement for any wrongs you might have committed.

As a friend, I urge my Muslim friends, and all believing Muslims everywhere to uphold freedom of speech, to openly and adamantly condemn disproportionate, unjust, and immoral violence perpetuated by those claiming to be Muslims as contrary to Islam, and to repudiate those groups who encourage it.

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