Muhammad is like Jesus


Author and Islam critic Hamad Abdel-Samad has unpacked the stereotypes about the prophet of the Muslim faith and compiled them in a new book. But this is not religious criticism’s finest hour.

They say that Muhammad was a human butcher, one who married a child and put whole populations to the sword. These allegations are nothing new: people have been bringing them against the Prophet of the Muslim faith for hundreds of years. Now Hamed Abdel-Samad, a self-described “critic of Islam”, has compiled these historical resentments anew, and it’s assumed that this work will find a large following. A civilized and above all else scientific criticism of religion arose very differently in the West, where the criticism was at its core a critique of the revelation: can it be that a god speaks in this world? Why does he do that? Who does he choose as his addressee? Out of this revelatory criticism grew the institutional critique of the church and its claim to power ¬– which had indeed deviated from the original revelation.

As a consequence of the past centuries, most people from the West are metaphysically unsuspicious of the old revelation criticism: religion (from the heritage of the Enlightenment) contributes to the teaching of values and is the pillar of morality… good honest piety. From theological dogma, the cause of the religious schism and the Thirty Year’s war, morals and ethics have come to the foreground, promoting people to live good and successful lives. In such a spiritual environment, to speak of a Christian or Atheist Europe only gets us off track. Western Europe no longer has religious roots in the sense that a certain revelatory belief could lead its population to take up arms. In his unsurpassed work, “Crowds and Power”, Elias Canetti puts things into perspective: people in Europe don’t believe in the afterlife anymore. That makes the military mobilization through the guise of Christianity impossible.

Religions provide the grand narratives

Up to the crusades church officials steadfastly stood by promises to warlords that eternal life is granted to soldiers that killed as many infidels as possible on the field battle. This is argued extensively by historian Thomas Asbridge in his work about the crusades. Young European men, masquerading as knights, roving around in large numbers, became increasingly a danger to the local populations of Europe, which led to this papal defense position to send them abroad. And history books are full of the carnage and massacres the young, power-hungry Christians perpetrated in the Holy Land. More surprising seems the fact that the great First Crusade army, according to Asbridge, bought their provisions on the way to Constantinople rather than pillaged for it. But that’s just a marginal side note.

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