Mick Hartley shares the Times’s reporting on Tom Holland’s talk at the Hay Festival on Tuesday:
Historian Tom Holland gave the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture at the Hay Festival yesterday. From the Times (£):
The taboo of not speaking about the prophet Muhammad has to be broken to deradicalise jihadists, an acclaimed author, historian and film-maker said yesterday.
Tom Holland, who produced Islam: the Untold Story for Channel 4, said that the “moral perfection” of Muhammad had to be questioned and that to do so required non-Muslims to break the “unspoken blasphemy taboo that has taken hold in the West”.
Holland, who was giving the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture at the Hay Festival, said that in the past 30 years the “one thing that people seem to have learnt is that to question the moral perfection of Muhammad is akin to poking a hornets’ nest with a stick”.
Muslims seem to take more offence at insults to Muhammad than at insults directed at God, he said.
Holland said that this silence from non-Muslims allowed Islamic State to draw inspiration from the Prophet’s example, despite Muhammad’s actions remaining largely unexamined.
It’s a very very dangerous idea – possibly the worst idea humans could collectively have. It short-circuits careful thinking about ethical issues, and that’s the very thing we must not do.
He added that the “sanction for what they do is within the various biographies and traditions associated with the Prophet . . . when beheading an infidel seems to have been enshrined within what every jihadi aspires to do, it is surely not irrelevant that Muhammad owned a sword that can be translated as the ‘cleaver of vertebrae’.
“Not examining these claims [about Muhammad] leaves free those who want to put the most hostile spin on it. Jihadists cannot possibly be deradicalised unless the prophet is deradicalised as well,” he said.
Holland said that it was dangerous of politicians to argue that atrocities committed by Muslims were nothing to do with Islam. He said the British government’s deradicalisation policy was based on this. “Jihadists see themselves as models of righteous behaviour doing God’s will. They see themselves as following the example of Muhammad,” he said. “The Koran is absolutely explicit about this, ‘In the messenger of God you have a beautiful example, an example to follow’.”
It’s almost as if “the messenger of God” wrote those words himself…