March 31, 2006, FrontPage Magazine
Interview with Serge Trifkovic:
Glazov: Many Muslims I talk to often tell me that their Prophet was a man of "peace." As you demonstrate once again in your new book, he so clearly was not. Tell us briefly how he wasn't. And do the Muslims that I speak with not read the Koran? Or do they have a different concept of "peace"?via Jihad Watch
Trifkovic: Those Muslims you talk to seem to have adopted the dialectical forma mentis of Stalin's apologists who'd have told you that his winter war against Finland was "defensive" and the Gulag was justified, or exaggerated, or both. Yes, the problem is that Muhammad remains, to all true Muslims, the inviolable paragon of goodness, and imitatio Muhammadi is reflected in the prevalence of his name throughout the Muslim world. Understanding him is the key to the Muslim world outlook.
The truth is grim, and for that reason the entire debate about those Danish cartoons last winter was flawed. The real problem is this: a figure as disturbing as the founder of Islam should not be gently made fun of - the cartoons were quite innocuous - at least not until his remarkable career has been given a vigorous public treatment in the Western world. The trouble with those cartoons was not that they offended fervent Muslims - that sort are offended by our very existence - but that by their placid humor they humanized a man with a hugely problematic legacy, and thereby offended the memory of untold millions of victims of Jihad through the ages.
Ahmed Akkari, spokesman of the Muslim organizations in Denmark, said that Muslims all over the world want the "truth" about their prophet known to the rest of the world. OK, fine: let us look at Muhammad as "he really was in history," relying solely on orthodox Islamic sources, the Kuran and the hadith. Those sources provide an account of uncertain historical accuracy, but that account is regarded as true by all true Muslims and it provides the scriptural basis for the Muslim faith and the Islamic law. It tells us that he violated the sacred pagan month of Rajab, when no Arab was permitted to raise arms in battle by staging pirate raids on caravans from Mecca. In 624, at Badr, he killed forty Meccans in battle and executed prisoners, with Allah's approval: "instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, Smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger tips of them." (8:12) After Badr, to quote Ayatollah Khomeini, "Islam grew with blood."
Muhammad used the prospect of booty and ransom to recruit followers. This motive was so important that it merited a whole sura in the Kuran; but one fifth of everything was Muhammad's! Once the loot was divided it was time to relax: "Now enjoy what ye have won. as lawful and good." As for the fallen, a tangible, X-rated paradise filled with virgins "untouched by man" and "fresh" pre-pubescent boys awaited the "martyrs" immediately. The simple preacher eventually morphed into a vengeful warlord, who jubilantly exclaimed that the spectacle of severed enemy heads pleased him better than "the choicest camel in Arabia." Killing prisoners was divinely condoned by Allah. (8:68) Fresh revelations described the unbelievers as "the worst animals" (8:55) and "the vilest of creatures" (98:6) undeserving of mercy. The enemies' heads were to be cut off. (47:4) Killing, enslaving and robbing them was divinely sanctioned and mandated.
When Muhammad returned from Badr to Medina in triumph, he proceeded to settle scores with his detractors - and resorted to murder. He killed Abu Afak, an elderly Jew who dared question Muhammad's methods, and Asma bint Marwan, a poetess who had mocked him in verse, followed by another poet, Kab Ashraf. They were guilty of verbal insults, providing the Islamic view of the freedom of speech that is valid to this day.
Muhammad next told his followers to "kill any Jew you can lay your hands on." When six of his henchmen murdered an elderly Jew by the name of Abu Rafi in his sleep, they argued whose weapon had actually ended the victim's life. The prophet decided that the owner of the sword that still had traces of food on it was entitled to the credit: Abu Rafi had just eaten his dinner before falling asleep, and the fatal slash went through his stomach. The "Prophet's" attack against the Jewish tribe of Banu-'l-Mustaliq came next. His followers kidnapped 500 of their women, and the night after the battle they staged an orgy of rape. His pogroms culminated in the attack the last Jewish tribe in Medina, Banu Qurayzah. Up to 900 men were decapitated in a ditch, in front of their women and children. Allah praised Muhammad for the way "he struck terror into their hearts." (33:25) The women were subsequently raped. Muhammad chose as his concubine one Raihana Bint Amr, whose father and husband were both slaughtered before her eyes only hours earlier.
Allah's messages concerning "the infidel" subsequently grew ever harsher: "Take him and fetter him and expose him to hell fire." (69:30-37) They "will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off." (5:33-34) In this world, for the captured infidel "We have prepared chains, yokes and a blazing fire." (76:4) In the hereafter things get even worse: "garments of fire will be cut out for them, boiling fluid will be poured down their heads. Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted. And for them are hooked rods of iron." (22:19-22) One single Kuranic verse, "the Verse of the Sword," (9:5) Islamic scholars agree, abrogates 124 earlier verses - the ones that are quoted most regularly by Islam's apologists to prove its tolerance and benevolence.
Muhammad's progression from a marginalized outsider to a master of life and death produced a transformation of his personality in the decade preceding his death in 633 AD. Allah was invoked as the authority supporting the prophet's daily political objectives and his personal needs. Nowhere was this more obvious than when it came to his exaggerated sensuality. He came up with a Kuranic verse approving his nightly trysts with an Egyptian slave girl and admonishing his jealous wives for their objections to the practice. (66:1-3) Allah's revelation also enabled Muhammad to take his daughter-in-law Zainab as a wife when he lusted after her. (36:37)
Glazov: You discuss how Muhammad married Aisha when she was seven and still playing with dolls and that he had sex with her when she was nine. Can you kindly explain to me what Muslims think about this in their thinking of their Prophet? Every time I try to raise this issue with devout Muslims there is a lot of double-talk and a lot of anger directed at me. I never get anywhere on this issue. Can you give us your wisdom on this?
Trifkovic: There is no "wisdom," there is common decency and natural morality. Yes, Muslims need to be pressed on the rape of Aisha, and on the murders, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. On the whole, many commands of the Kuran and Muhammad's actions and words recorded in the Traditions are morally abhorrent and criminal not only by the standards of our time, but even in the context of 7th century Arabia! They were often considered repugnant by Muhammad's contemporaries. He had to resort to "revelations" as a means of justifying his actions and suppressing the prevalent moral code of his own society. Attacking caravans in the holy month, taking up arms against one's kinsmen, slaughtering prisoners, reserving a lion's share of the booty, murdering people without provocation, violating treaties, and indulging one's sensual passions, was also at odds with the moral standards of his Arab contemporaries. Only the ultimate authority could sanction it, and Allah duly obliged him.
On the whole, Muhammad's practice and constant encouragement of bloodshed are unique in the history of religions. Allah's order to "kill the unbelievers wherever you find them" is an injunction both unambiguous and powerful. The word "genocide" was not even coined when Muhammad conveyed Allah's alleged dictum, "When we decide to destroy a population. then we destroy them utterly." (17:16-17) Disobedient people "we utterly destroyed." (21:11) That Islam sees the world as an open-ended conflict between the Land of Peace (Dar al-Islam) and the Land of War (Dar al-Harb), which must be conquered by jihad, is the most important bequest of Muhammad to history. The end of Jihad is possible only when "there prevail justice and faith in Allah" everywhere. (2:193) Muhammad thus postulated the fundamental illegitimacy of the existence of a non-Muslim world. Muslims could contemplate tactical ceasefires, but never jihad's complete abandonment short of the unbelievers' abject submission.
On its own admission Islam stands or falls with the person of Muhammad, a deeply flawed man by the standards of his own society, as well as those of the Old and New Testaments, both of which he acknowledged as divine revelation; and even by the new law, of which he claimed to be the divinely appointed medium and custodian. The problem of Islam, and the problem of the rest of the world with Islam, is not the remarkable career of Muhammad per se, undoubtedly a "great man" in terms of his impact on human history. It is the religion's claim that the words and acts of its prophet provide the universally valid standard of morality as such, for all time and all men. Our judgment on Muhammad rests on evidence of his followers and faithful admirers. Even on such evidence, the verdict of the civilized world goes against the "prophet." That verdict, once it is passed - and it will be passed - will make the gentle mockery of Muhammad in those cartoons appear as inappropriate as it would be inappropriate today to lampoon Hitler for his out-of-wedlock liaison with Ewa Braun, or for his inability to control flatulence.
FP: Mr. Trifkovic, thank you for joining us today.
Trifkovic: Thank you Jamie.