It is imperative humanity remains united against all forms of extremism with education, compassion, and justice.
Prophet Muhammad's example demonstrates how we can peacefully overcome terrorism. Unfortunately, with the world still reeling from the horrific attacks in France that left twelve innocent people dead, anti-theists have jumped on the opportunity to continue their anti-Islam onslaught. One such personality is HuffPost blogger Fathima Imra Nazeer.
Nazeer alleges that extremists find their justification for violence in Prophet Muhammad's example. She provides three reasons to substantiate her allegations. Unfortunately, each reason is devoid of logic, reason, or fact.
Allegation 1: "First, Sharia law which has been derived from the Quran and Hadith (examples from the life of Muhammed) prescribes death as the punishment for blasphemy."
Nazeer can consider this an open challenge to her to show where the Qur'an prescribes death for blasphemy.
As I detailed in my USA Today op-ed, Islam backs free speech. The Qur'an prescribes no worldly punishment for blasphemy -- and certainly not death. Muslims are advised to simply ignore insults or mockery of any sort.
Nazeer conveniently censors from her readership that the hadith are always subordinate to the Qur'an, and thus can never be implemented in preference to the Qur'an. However, Nazeer can feel free to show where the hadith support the alleged Qur'anic teaching of death for blasphemy, but she should take note. Scholars have written entire books and lengthy articles (for example here, here, and here) debunking this barbaric myth. Nazeer should spend time reading such excellent scholarship, instead of trying to justify terrorist ideology.
Fun Fact: the word blasphemy appears nowhere in the Qur'an.
Allegation 2: "Second, even though the Quran doesn't explicitly call for the murder of blasphemers, the Quran encourages the killing of "those who spread mischief" against Allah and Muhammed. ... the minority who take these verses seriously do plenty of harm."
For the record, every Muslim I know takes this verse seriously -- as we do every verse of the Qur'an -- and I find it an effective means to avoid harm, not create it. Thankfully Nazeer now admits that the Qur'an does not call for the murder of blasphemers. Later she claims the hadith teach murder for blasphemy. I'll demonstrate soon how even the hadith do not validate Nazeer's claim.For now, Nazeer cites the Qur'an 5:33:
"The reward of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive to create disorder in the land is only this that they be slain or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on alternate sides, or they be expelled from the land. That shall be a disgrace for them in this world, and in the Hereafter they shall have a great punishment;"
Nazeer claims, without any evidence or justification, that this verse permits defining offensive cartoons as "spreading mischief." Aside from this baseless definition of mischief, Nazeer commits three significant errors.
First, Nazeer ignores that the impetus behind this teaching. The punishment is not as a response to insults or blasphemy, but as a response to murder. In the verses immediately preceding 5:32, the Qur'an relates the story of "the two sons of Adam," Cain and Abel.In the Qur'an 5:28, Abel says to his rebellious mischief maker brother Cain,
The Qur'an 5:30 then adds regarding Cain,
"'If thou stretch out thy hand against me to kill me, I am not going to stretch out my hand against thee to kill thee. I do fear Allah, the Lord of the universe."
"But his [Cain's] mind induced him to kill his brother, so he killed him and became one of the losers."
Despite Abel's refusal to fight, Cain kills him, thus causing mischief. This is a far cry from extremists proactively killing cartoonists who did them no harm.
Second, Nazeer omits the verse following 5:32. The Qur'an 5:33 states, "Except those who repent before you have them in your power. So know that Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful." So even if someone commits mischief, i.e. murder and wages war, if they surrender and repent of their actions then the Qur'an encourages forgiveness and mercy.
And therefore, third, Nazeer omits a fact implicit in 5:33. Only a sovereign state -- not individuals -- can punish someone who wages war or commits murder. Prophet Muhammad exemplified what this sovereign state should look like with the secular Charter of Medina. This secular constitution allied the Jews and Muslims into one unified state of Medina and guaranteed universal religious freedom for all people regardless of faith.
The extremists who committed the terror attack in Paris were neither being killed (as was Abel), were not being pursued by anyone who tried to kill them (as were the Muslims when they peacefully fled Mecca), and certainly were not a sovereign state in a position of authority (as were the Jews and Muslims in Medina).
Literally nothing in Qur'an 5:32 permits their barbaric act.
Nazeer, like terrorists, refuses to read the Qur'an as whole and cherry picks to fulfill preconceived notions. Such a tactic is abhorrent to how the Qur'an -- or any law -- must be read, and it is abhorrent to common sense. Nothing in 5:32 validates Nazeer's claim that drawing cartoons somehow equals mischief. The clear example God provides in the Qur'an is of Cain killing Abel. That is, the Qur'an defines mischief clearly as premeditated murder -- not blasphemy.
Fun Fact: Like the Torah, the Qur'an equates killing one person with killing all humanity, and saving one person with saving all humanity. Thus, the Muslim employee Lassana Bathily, who saved Jews from terrorists in the Kosher deli, fulfilled both the Talmudic and Qur'anic glad tiding of saving all humanity.
Allegation 3: "Third, the Hadith or examples from the life of Muhammed, describe incidents where Muhammed encouraged the killing of those who insulted him."
Nazeer's claim is false, as I'll demonstrate in a moment.
But for now, let's assume for the sake of argument that Nazeer is right. I've already explained that basic Islamic jurisprudence holds the Qur'an as superior to hadith that contradict the Qur'an. But this isn't my opinion.Prophet Muhammad himself warned,
"Whenever a Hadith is presented to you in my name, verify it with the Qur'an. If it agrees with the Qur'an, accept it, and if it is in conflict, discard it." 
Likewise, Salama relates,
"There is no doubt that, there will be Ahadith coming after me, claiming that I have said things. So you must test those Ahadith from the Qur'an. If it is really according to the Qur'an only then accept it, otherwise reject it." 
""I heard the Prophet saying, "Whoever (intentionally) ascribes to me what I have not said then (surely) let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire."" 
Thus, any hadith that contradicts the Qur'an must be discarded. And since the Qur'an is already clear that no punishment at all exists for blasphemy, any hadith that claims as such must be discarded.
Fun Fact: The overwhelming majority of hadith were recorded 100-300 years after Prophet Muhammad.
That established, the fact is no hadith exists to demonstrate Muhammad killed anyone, or had anyone killed by others, for the crime of blasphemy. Remarkably, Nazeer cites the fabricated story of Asma bint Marwan as an example where Muhammad allegedly killed someone for blasphemy -- and she does so while acknowledging, "...modern scholars question the veracity of this story."
Not only modern scholars, but ancient and classical scholars also discard this story as unreliable. I present an excerpt of my book EXTREMIST in which I analyze this baseless allegation in detail.
Ibn-e-Ishaq reports this event roughly a century after Prophet Muhammad's demise. Prior to Ibn-e-Ishaq, both Ibn Sa'ad and Sunan Abu Dawud reported this incident. Neither mentions nor even implies that any companion (Umair bin Adi in this case) killed the poetess upon Prophet Muhammad's directive. Neither mentions that Prophet Muhammad gave such an order at all--yet somehow Ibn-e-Ishaq comes to this fantastic conclusion a century later.
Among those so-called historians whom Ibn-e-Ishaq cites to relate this incident, two names stand out as being of particular concern: Ikrama Maula Ibn-e-Abaad and Muhammad bin Al Hujaaj. Throughout history, Ikrama has been known for his falsehood in relating hadith. For example, advising his servant, a famous scholar, Sa'eed Bin Al Musayyab said, "Do not attribute untrue sayings to me, the way Ikrama attributes untrue sayings to Ibn-e-Abbas." 
Likewise, Muhammad Ibn Al-Hajjaj is also not considered truthful in relating incidents of Islamic history. On the contrary, Imam Jozi cites Ibn-e-Adi to state, regarding the incident about Asma bint Marwan, that it is unclear if Muhammad ibn Al-Hujjaj fabricated this tradition. 
Any fair-minded researcher will discard the story with numerous historical inaccuracies and fabrications, and accept the two with sound chains of narration.
I agree with Nazeer on one significant point -- blasphemy laws must go. I've personally written hundreds of articles, delivered countless lectures, and two books condemning blasphemy laws. Such laws have no place in the civilized world -- not to mention Islam condemns such laws.
But just as neither Islam nor Prophet Muhammad is above criticism, neither is Nazeer, and thus it was necessary to counter her inaccurate article. Nazeer's inaccuracies aside, a deeper shame exists. Rather than actively partnering with Muslims who condemn terrorists without exception, Nazeer tries to give a platform to terrorist groups like ISIS, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda. I implore her to use logic, compassion, and facts instead of her anti-theistic viewpoint. A logical, fact-based approach will foster better understanding and work most effectively to counter extremist ideology.
Prophet Muhammad's example of compassion, universal religious freedom, and education represents the best method to prevent another attack like Charlie Hebdo. Such attacks occur due in large part to ignorance of Muhammad's unmatched example of justice and compassion. And Muhammad loudly declared, "The cure for ignorance is to question." Extremists exist because they don't study and don't question, but believe corrupt clerics blindly. The path to knowledge and peace comes instead from studying Prophet Muhammad's life with education and sincerity.
We have a long journey ahead of us, but together we can partner for education, universal religious freedom, and a peaceful, more tolerant future.References:
- Al-Tibiyan wat Tabayyen, vol. 2, 28.
- Sanan Dar Qatni, vol. 2, 513, Book - Imrani Abee Musa, Matba Farooqi.
- Sahih Jami' Bukhari, vol. 1, Book 3, #109.
- Al Marefat Wal Tareekh LeAbi Yousuf Yaqoob Baab Ikrama Mola Ibn Abbas.
- Al Halal Wal Mutanahiyya, vol. 1, 175.