My new book, “Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry Into Islam’s Obscure Origins,” is out this week, and it has already aroused anger among Muslims: A Muslim writer named Hussein Rashid, who is an instructor at the Center for Spiritual Inquiry at Park Avenue Christian Church, fulminated in Religion Dispatches that my book on Muhammad will win praise only from the “Islamophobia industry” — as if the book itself were a manifestation of hatred and bigotry.
I”m reminded of the words of the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh as the Islamic jihadist Mohammed Bouyeri began sawing his head off in retaliation for his film “Submission” about the plight of Muslim women: “Can’t we talk about this?” No, we can’t. In America, speaking unpopular truths about Islam won’t get you murdered, but it will get you consigned to the outer darkness, where hatemongers and bigots weep and gnash their teeth. Many people wouldn’t dare write (or read) a book entitled “Did Muhammad Exist?” for fear of getting Muslims angry and getting called names.
I, on the other hand, am determined to respect Muslims and treat them as adults. In fact, that’s why I wrote “Did Muhammad Exist?” — for I believe that even in the politically correct United States of 2012, we should be able to discuss in an adult manner the historical evidence for and against the existence of Muhammad. The Scriptures and religious figures of Judaism and Christianity have been subjected to searching historical scrutiny since the 18th century. No one riots, no one threatens, no one gets killed as a result of these investigations — no one rails against the “Judeophobia industry” or “Christianophobia industry.” To be sure, some historical critics have been motivated by an animus toward the religion they”re studying, but no one in the West is interfering with their right to undertake such study. Only around Islam does the scholarly community walk on eggshells.
It’s time to stop. Not only should the quest for the historical Muhammad be carried on in our nation’s universities, but we should dare to treat Muslims as adults in other ways as well. Instead of politically correct obfuscation about the political and supremacist aspects of Islam, there should be a vigorous public debate about the ways in which Islamic law, Shariah, is incompatible with pluralistic democracy, and the ways in which Islam is incompatible with Western ideas of human rights.
Moreover, as adults we ought not to have to make patronizing references to the “Noble People of Afghanistan,” as Gen. John Allen did in his embarrassingly obsequious apology to the Afghans for the inadvertent burning of Qurans on a NATO base. As adults we ought not to have to pretend that the “Arab Spring” is a glorious flowering of freedom when in fact it is a series of pro-Shariah Islamic-supremacist takeovers….