There are no words too harsh to condemn the horrific attack in the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice, and the stabbing at the French consulate in Jeddah. Yes, mockery of the Prophet Muhammad, indeed of any religious symbol, is unacceptable. But so is violence against innocent people — and it certainly must not be carried out in our name as Muslims.
There is blood on the hands of those who claim to be defending Islam, but who in reality seek only political gain. Thanks to the malevolent tentacles of Turkey and Qatar, the latest campaign against France has gone beyond politics, and is now costing lives.
The misuse of religion to score points has always been a favored tactic of malign regimes. Iran is a master player; its so-called Quds Force should be renamed the “Anywhere BUT Al-Quds” force, since Iran seems more keen on occupying Arab capitals — Sanaa, Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus — than liberating Jerusalem. When Saddam Hussein was cornered, the Iraqi dictator also pretended to turn to religion and added the words “Allahu Akbar” to the national flag (which was ironic, since the Ba’ath regime was known for its secularism).
Thus, spearheading the campaign to boycott France fits Recep Tayyip Erdogan like a glove. The Turkish president is on the rack as a result of his aggressive meddling in Libya, Armenia, Greece and Cyprus, leading to issues with Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the EU and the US. The grassroots campaign in several countries to boycott Turkish goods is therefore understandable, while the campaign to boycott French products is not. Neither President Emmanuel Macron nor anyone in his government is responsible for the ill-conceived caricatures that have caused so much offense, but Erdogan and his government are directly responsible for bloodshed in the countries where Turkey has interfered.
Turkey under Erdogan has gone from a policy of having zero problems with its neighbors to having nearly zero friends
Faisal J. Abbas
As an analysis in Arab News this week made clear, Turkey under Erdogan has gone from a policy of having zero problems with its neighbors to having nearly zero friends. Zero, that is, apart from Qatar — which financially supports Turkey, funds terrorism, and offers prime-time air space on Al Jazeera Arabic for the Doha-based extremist cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to spew his murderous venom against Christians and Jews. “Oh God, take the treacherous Jewish aggressors … Oh God, count their numbers, slay them one by one and spare none,” he has said.
What is particularly idiotic about the current anti-French rhetoric propagated by Turkey and Qatar is that not only does it make every French citizen a target, it also puts French Muslims — and their businesses — at risk of personal and financial harm.
Those who use religion for political gain, who whip up hatred and incite revenge, would do well to learn a little about the faith they claim to profess. The Muslim Hadith on Mercy recounts that when the Prophet Muhammad tried to bring Islam to the people of Taif, they responded by hurling stones at him until he bled. The angel Gabriel and the “angel of the mountains” offered to make the mountains fall and crush those who had hurt him, but the prophet declined and chose instead to forgive.
Such forbearance is at the heart of Christianity, too. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explicitly rejected the notion of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” He told his followers: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
We live in grave and perilous times. If ever these lessons in tolerance were needed, it is now.
• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News