Obama said: “The Qur’an says whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind.”
This is what the Qur’an really says:
Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption in the land — it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one — it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, after that, throughout the land, were transgressors. (5:32)
First, note that this is not a general moral principle applying to everyone, as Obama implied, but one only for the Children of Israel. Nor is it is not a general prohibition of killing: there are big exceptions for those who kill “for a soul or for corruption in the land.” And it concludes that even after this command was given, “many of them, after that … were transgressors” — so all it is really saying is that Allah gave a command to the Children of Israel and they transgressed against it. It isn’t anything more than yet another Qur’anic castigation of the Jews.
Also, it is followed in the Qur’an by 5:33, which specifies the punishment for the corruption and transgressions of the Children of Israel: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.”
Thus this passage is explaining what must be done with Jews who reject Muhammad, not dictating lofty moral principles. Ibn Warraq sums it up: “The supposedly noble sentiments are in fact a warning to Jews. ‘Behave, or else’ is the message. Far from abjuring violence, these verses aggressively point out that anyone opposing the Prophet will be killed, crucified, mutilated, and banished!”
But across the Islamic world, influential voices should consistently speak out with an affirmative vision of their faith. And it’s happening. These are the voices of Muslim clerics who teach that Islam prohibits terrorism, for the Qur’an says whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) These are the voices of Muslim scholars, some of whom join us today, who know Islam has a tradition of respect for other faiths; and Muslim teachers who point out that the first word revealed in the Koran — igra — means “read” — to seek knowledge, to question assumptions. (Applause.)