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Muslim scholars respond to the anti-Muhammad film and violent protests

We continue to see the spreading of the violent protests in response to the anti-Muhammad film.  

By now, this has become an occasion to give voice to anti-Western sentiments, rather than directly responding to the film itself.   Many people have been looking to religious leaders to provide leadership in this time of crisis, and we are starting to hear from many of them.   Here are some of what religious leaders have had to say about the anti-Muhammad film and the demonstrations following it:

The richest compilation of statements from scholars and organizations remains that by Sheila Musaji, at the American Muslim.

Imam Maghid of Islamic Society of North America:

''We should not fall into the trap of people who want to portray Muslims as violent people.”

The film was deeply offensive ''but we should not express our anger with violence and breaking things and taking innocent people's lives''.
'I'm going to tell them this does not represent America, or the Christians, or the government,'' he said. ''It's one person who is representing bigotry through a film.''

Shaykh Qaradawi, the "Imam of the Internet":

"Loyalty to Islam and our prophet, may peace be upon him, is better done through explaining to humanity how tolerant Islam is, and not through surrounding embassies," Qaradawi said.    He called on Muslim clerics to use all possible means to teach the world the story of Prophet Muhammad’s life, and how he taught humanity about noble-mindedness, and how just Islam is.

The prominent European Muslim intellectual, Tariq Ramadan, offered these words:  “The violence must be condemned unconditionally. To attack innocents, diplomats and to kill indiscriminately is anti-Islamic by its very nature. Muslims cannot respond to insults to their religion in this way.”

Here is the response from Libyan scholars (courtesy of Sohail Nakhooda):

Statement from Aref Nayed, the former Ambassador of Libya to the United Arab Emeriates: This is to express my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his fallen colleagues, and to the American people and government. I had the honor of personally knowing Ambassador Stevens, and witnessed, firsthand, in Benghazi and later in Tripoli, the care and hard work that he devoted to fulfilling his duties towards his country and towards Libya and the Libyan people. He was a man of dedication and honor, and I am shocked and deeply anguished for the loss of a dear friend and supporter of the Libyan people’s struggle against tyranny. Tyranny and darkness may wear a thousand guises, including pseudo-religiosity, but must never deceive us. Islam is a religion of peace and understanding, and Islam’s Prophet (peace be upon him) is the Prophet of Compassion. It is outrageous and totally unacceptable for criminals to kill and destroy in the name of defending Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him). The criminals who committed this cowardly act must be rigorously pursued and rapidly brought to justice. May this tragic loss make us even more dedicated and determined to building our respective countries, based on the values of dialogue, understanding, and peace.

Response from Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah - Prominent Mauritanian cleric, based in Saudi Arabia

“I call on you not to attack a soul, not to destroy property, not assault embassies, and don’t violate the values you are defending.  Attacking innocents and killing of diplomats and ambassadors is a violation of religion before it is a violation of protocol.”


The American Muslim leader Hamza Yusuf offered a passionate plea in defense of the Prophet as well as a reminder of the need for higher ethical response. 

My own Huffington post Friday sermon calls on Muslims to practice the Prophetic virtues of forbearance, mercy, and forgiveness. 

Shaykh Ali Jum'a (Gomaa), the Grand Mufti of Egypt, offered these wise words:

It goes without saying that violence of any sort, whether inspired by religious sentiment or secular interests, must be condemned unequivocally and in the strongest terms possible. This is in keeping with the best of Muslim tradition, which abhors sectarian rife, inter-ethnic conflict, and interreligious violence. This lesson is best contained in the example of the Prophet Mohammed himself, who was repeatedly subjected to the worst treatment by his enemies, only to consistently disregard these insults and instead take the path of forgiveness, mercy and compassion.

Not every response has called for measured calm. 

The Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, used the occasion to blame the film on the United States and Israel.  

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, made a rare public appearance to condemn the film: He said: “"O Prophet, we die for you, my soul and my blood are for you….America must understand ... the US must understand that releasing the entire film will have dangerous, very dangerous, repercussions around the world.”

There are some lovely examples from religious leaders of other traditions. Here is a profound response from a Christian theologian: “Again, as a Christian and as a Theologian, I condemn the film, Innocence of Muslims. However, I also condemn hatred, violence, intolerance, retaliation, and anything that harms any person.”

Clearly, religious leaders have a crucial role in this saga. We are in urgent need of religious leaders from all traditions to simultaneously point to the moral bankrupcy of spreading hatred as well as calling for demonstrations to be done in a way that is in accordance with our highest ethical values. This is no time to remain silent.

Tags: anti-muhammad film, demonstrations, innocence of muslims, prophet muhammad, religious leaders, response, ulama, violence


  1. All depends, what to do… If it can be proven that little benji-boy had the whole thing bought and paid for, as he has so often done in the past, we need to dump that insecure little boy in the nearest toilet and flush him away with all the other such effluence…

  2. Omid,

    I appreciate this post and your message of tolerance.  I love the writings of the Sufis and I loved your post on hearts on fire.  I want to see the good in Islam. 

    But, sadly, when any objective observer weighs this today, we find on the one hand a relatively few restrained voices of tolerance and on the other hand, thousands and thousands of people filled with violent rage.  Unfortunately, the many extreme acts are speaking much more loudly than a relative handful of softer words.

    When the verbal condemnation of the rage and murder is deafening, then Islam will have earned the respect of the world as a tolerant faith.  Until then, I’m afraid you have a great deal more work to do and I wish you God’s blessing in that Herculean task.  You may share tales of the Prophet’s tolerance and forbearance, but the actions of the mobs tell a different tale.

    As Voltaire said, “every person is guilty of all the good he didn’t do”. 

    At a time such as this, I believe it is the responsibility of every Muslim to stand up and clearly condem the violence.  All need to be clear that as bad as the film may be, that the violence, destruction, and murder that have occurred in protest against it are worse.

  3. @ Marmot, as you have stated, indeed it is thousands and thousands who have been filled with violent rage and have caused causalities and property damage, but if an objective observer was to weigh this today, objectively, they would note the millions from the billion plus Muslim community have indeed behaved in a most excellent manner…

  4. Everyone of the so called ‘scholars’ mentioned in this post - and not to exclude the author himself - have been around all the while the Muslim Ummah was going down the drains. Many of the scholars and their brethren are on record supporting extremism disguised in their own concept of Jihad and promoting a convoluted concept of Jihad in the name of Islam. May of the same are on record referring to extremists - the likes of Bin Laden - as Sheikhul Islam /Masha-e-khul Islam (scholar(s) of Islam) and referring to many political unrests of the Middleeast as ‘Islamic’ causes.

    These Islamic scholars have been selling to the Muslims of the world phony causes, one after the other. in the name of Islam.  It is they who pitted the Muslims of one sect against the other, or Muslims collectively against the west all over the world.

    And, now, the fires of their own doings have spread throughout the world, they again come around in form of “The richest compilation of statements from scholars and organizations..”.

    Today they are still championing their cause of ‘victim-hood’ except that it is from a slightly different angle.

  5. @Imran Jattala,

    What are you trying to say? You have painted all the people mentioned in the article with one broad brush. Please be specific and cite evidence.

  6. Bodrul Hussain, you are right in one point and wrong in another, in my view.  You are correct to state that while thousands and thousands of muslims committed acts of rage and violence, many other millions did not.  But you are wrong to characterize sitting quietly to the side while not condemning the violence as having “behaved in a most excellent manner”.  If I did nothing while others committed murder and destruction in the name of my religion, I would consider that shameful, possibly complicituous. 

    Yes, Omid and 6 others he cites condemned the bad behavior.  No doubt, many others have as well.  And I understand that thousands marched in protest against the violence in Lybia.  But an objective weighing of the public evidence leads to the conclusion that many reacted with violence and intolerance, a few condemned that violence, and most did nothing about it.  That is not a record to be proud of.

    Any religion that insists on respect must be willing to offer that respect to others in turn - to believers of other faiths and non-believers alike. 

  7. Islam is not a religion but Theen Allah, constitution of truth absolute and foundation of American constitution, defined as GOD, please visit limitisthetruth,com and click on word Choice on website to open file.

  8. I can not thank you adequately for the posts on your web site. I know you’d put a lot of time and effort into them and hope you know how much I appreciate it. I hope I’ll do exactly the same for someone else at some point.

  9. dear Andrea, I am deeply touched and very grateful for your kind words.  These are days that call for compassion, sanity, wisdom, and a commitment to the welfare of all of us.  I am comforted to know that there are many of us who share these values.  God’s blessings.  Omid Safi

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