"What Westerners also don't know, is that many of the figures of the Enlightenment had a very favorable view of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), such as Goethe who considered the Quran to be a true revelation from God and Leibniz, but also the Founding Fathers of the United States, including Jefferson, Adams and Madison, whose non-Trinitarian view of God was closer to Islam than to any other religion," said Moufid Jaber in an interview with Fars News Agency.
Moufid Jaber is a researcher in Islamic and Middle-Eastern affairs, and head of geopolitical research at the Middle-East Center for Studies in Beirut.
Jaber took part in an interview with Fars News Agency to answer some questions regarding the release of the anti-Islam movie "Innocence of Muslims" which has blasphemed and insulted Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in a pejorative way, drawing international anger and condemnation by the Muslims across the globe.
What follows is the text of our interview with Mr. Jaber, expert on Islamic history and theology from Beirut.
Q: The anti-Islam movie "Innocence of Muslims" has attributed very disgraceful and outrageous traits to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), seemingly trying to misrepresent the image of Islam's holy prophet in the eyes of the American public. Similar attacks were launched against the Holy Prophet by other Western media in recent years. What's your idea about such attacks on the Muslims' holiest figure?
A: In the West, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) has been vilified since the Middle-Ages, as vilifying him and denigrating him is a way to drum up support for aggression against Muslim countries and to stem the tide of people converting to Islam or coming to favor Islam. Since 9/11 and the beginning of the "War on Terror," attacks against Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) have increased drastically, most probably, initially, at the instigation of neo-cons in the US government who set up a comprehensive plan to use the media as a tool to influence the public opinion and set up an atmosphere that would be favorable to any future war on Islamic countries.
Not all Westerners have a negative perception of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), they are rather divided on this issue. What many are unaware of, however, is that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) did not set out to create a different religion or to worship a different god, rather the revelation he received he considered as a continuation of other revelations in Abrahamic religions. Muslims consider the Quran to have been revealed to correct certain misguided concepts found in Christianity and Judaism such as the Trinity in the former, and the primacy of Talmudic Oral Law in the latter.
What Westerners also don't know, is that many of the figures of the Enlightenment had a very favorable view of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), such as Goethe who considered the Quran to be a true revelation from God and Leibniz, but also the Founding Fathers of the United States, including Jefferson, Adams and Madison, whose non-Trinitarian view of God was closer to Islam than to any other religion.
Q: Unquestionably, the aim of those who insult the sanctities of divine religions is to create a rift and gap between the Muslims, and Christians and Jews to pit them against each other. How is it possible to counter such plots and help with the empowerment of the interfaith dialogue?
A: The best way to counter these plots is for awareness about Islam to spread in the West, through cultural centers and multimedia that would make Islam and Islamic history more accessible to average non-Muslims, who would normally not learn about Islam through books and complex sources.
Muslim nations have the financial resources to bring about this change, but unfortunately the bulk of these resources, located primarily in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, are directed towards spreading extremism within Muslim countries.
Q: The Western public, in general, and the American citizens in particular, are really unaware of the realities of Islam and unfamiliar with Islam's peaceful nature and its teachings regarding the preservation of the dignity of human being. How is it possible to acquaint non-Muslims with the teachings and truths of Islam and inform them that Islam is a truly peaceful and pacifist religion?
A: First of all, it is necessary for Muslims to learn more about their own religion, and to spread that knowledge of the Quran and the Hadith amongst their acquaintances to set people straight about the peaceful and non-aggressive nature of Islam. Every Muslim therefore should strive to become an informed and thus moderate preacher of Islam.
Furthermore, Muslims should join their resources together, and set up multimedia, including cable channels and websites, to communicate the message of Islam and its basic teachings and tenets to the non-Muslim audience.
Q: Swiss Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan has recently posed the question: "has the US turned into a police state for its Muslim citizens?" What's your idea? Are the freedoms and civil liberties of the Muslims being restricted and violated in the United States? Does this have anything to do with the rising Islamophobia in the United States?
A: The civil liberties of Muslims are still being restricted in the United States, but less so than during the Bush era. Still, racism and discrimination against Muslims have not diminished, and only awareness about Islam amongst average Americans can change this.
Q: President Obama in his 2008 speech in Cairo titled "A New Beginning" had promised to start a new chapter in his country's relationship with the Muslim world. Has he succeeded in opening this new chapter? If he really cared about the sensitivities of the Muslims, why didn't he issue the needed orders for removing the anti-Islam movie from the internet?
A: Since the film was produced in the United States and was posted on a website based in the US (YouTube), the US government has the responsibility to take down this film and take measures against those who produced it as it offends the sensibilities of over a billion Muslims worldwide.
I believe it is the responsibility of the Coptic Church in Egypt to punish, by way of excommunication, all of those in the diaspora who are relentless in attacking and denigrating Islam and its Prophet for the purpose of provoking Muslims and sowing discord.
Q: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has 56 members, but only a handful of the leaders of these countries condemned the anti-Islam movie in their speeches to the UN General Assembly. Why isn't there a comprehensive consensus and solidarity among the leaders of Islamic countries in such cases?
A: We should not count on the leaders of these countries to issue any condemnation as many of these countries are ruled by corrupt ruling families and by despots directly subservient to Western countries and Western interests. Many are concerned primarily with conspiring and provoking against other Muslims rather than with calling for the prestige of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) to be respected.
Q: What do you think about the role of Israel in such anti-Muslim conspiracies? It goes without saying that they benefit from the denigration of Islam and Muslims in that they consider Islam a serious threat to their expansionist, racist and apartheid policies. What's your take on that?
A: As I said before, behind this strong campaign to denigrate Islam and Muslims are neo-cons and pseudo-intellectuals, either Jewish or Evangelical, directly affiliated with Israeli right-wing movements. So without a doubt, Israel has and is playing a major role in this campaign.
Interview by Kourosh Ziabari