GUEST BLOG—By Peter Bergen, New America International Security Program Director--In the modern era killing those who purportedly have defamed Islam began with the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini’s infamous fatwa—religious ruling—that condemned the British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie to death in 1989 because of his book, The Satanic Verses, which was deemed to have insulted the Prophet Mohammed.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Bergen’s essay is reprinted here with permission of the New America Foundation, an independent think tank based in Washington DC. To view this and other works by New America Foundation please link to www.Newamerica.net
As a result of that fatwa Rushdie lived for many years in hiding and required extensive police protection but, so far, he has survived without bodily harm.
A protest condemning the publication of Rushdie’s book outside the American Center in the Pakistani capital Islamabad turned deadly in 1989 and five people died.
Since 9/11 we have seen many more of these kinds of incidents.
Since 9/11 we have seen many more of these kinds of incidents. On November 2, 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was bicycling in Amsterdam when Mohammed Bouyeri shot him. Bouyeri killed van Gogh because of a film he had directed that showed verses of the Quran projected onto the bodies of several naked young women.
A year later, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, that set off a series of protests and attacks.
In 2008 al Qaeda bombed the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, killing six. The group said the powerful suicide car bomb was to avenge the offensive cartoons.
As a result of the cartoons that he drew for Jyllands-Posten, Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, was attacked at his home in 2010 by an enraged Somali man wielding an ax who had suspected links to the Al Shabaab terrorist group. Westergaard survived the assault only because he had had taken the precaution of building a fortified safe room in his house to which he retreated.
The threat to Jyllands-Posten and its journalists will likely last for years. As a result entering the newspaper in Copenhagen today is like visiting a prison with a heavily barred set of metal gates that secure entrance to the building.
In 2011 a short film entitled “Innocence of Muslims,” created by Sam Bacile in the U.S., portrayed the Prophet Mohammed as a child molester. News about the film sparked mobs that attacked US embassies and consulates in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
The U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff members were killed in a well-planned attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Some of the attackers may have used the opportunity presented by the film protests to mount the assault.
The most effective approach is widespread condemnation of such attacks by Muslim leaders and organizations. Hitherto, there hasn’t been enough of such condemnation.
What can be done to stop this scourge of Muslims killing to defend perceived slights to Islam? The most effective approach is widespread condemnation of such attacks by Muslim leaders and organizations. Hitherto, there hasn’t been enough of such condemnation.
The terrorist attack in Paris on Wednesday may prove to be something of a watershed. Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which is Sunni Islam’s leading academic center, condemned the “criminal attack,” according to Egypt’s state news agency MENA.
Similarly Saudi Arabia called it a “cowardly terrorist attack that was rejected by the true Islamic religion”. Other key Muslim countries such as Iran, Turkey and Qatar all issued statements condemning the attacks
And in the United States key Muslim organizations such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Council on American-Islamic Relations also condemned the attacks.
These condemnations are a small glimmer of hope emerging from Wednesday’s attack at the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
Peter Bergen is New America's International Security Program director, CNN's national security analyst, and a fellow at Fordham University's Center on National Security. He is a print, television and web journalist, documentary producer and the author or editor of five books, three of which were New York Times bestsellers.
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