Breaking: Muhammad Is Just like...George Washington?!

Achieving the seemingly impossible, "interfaith activist" and Trinity College (Dublin) Ph.D. candidate Craig Considine has reached new heights in modern Islamophile naïveté.  Considine has stiff competition in this regard, given Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's February 10, 2011 assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood as "largely secular" and as a movement that "has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam" and has "pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt."  Yet those who thought that uncritical glorification of the Religion of Peace could not get any worse should consider Considine's latest Huffington Post (HP) article, "An Unlikely Connection Between the Prophet Muhammad and George Washington."

Considine begins his analysis discussing a "Prophet Muhammad" in seventh-century Arabia who "had a vision to create a new religious and social order."  Citing various verses from the Quran and hadith, Considine seeks to show that Muhammad "told his band of followers to behave wisely and civilly."  Considine in turn sees "Muhammad's wisdom ... echoed again" in the behavioral rules encompassed in Rules of Civility, a book first written by the United States' Founding Father George Washington as a 13-year-old boy.  According to Considine, both the "Holy Quran, the Islamic Scripture which documents God's revelations to Muhammad," and Rules of Civility "offer guidance toward achieving a more peaceful and noble life."

Although Considine finds an "unlikely connection" between Muhammad and Washington, he determines that:

... in fact they share strikingly similar biographies. Muhammad and Washington were students of history, restorers of justice and fierce warriors who led their respective nations through successful revolutions. Both men united a large swath of political territory and served as the founding father for two unprecedented social movements-Islam and the United States of America-whose universal ideals would both spread throughout the world respectively.

Considine cites the famous eulogy of Washington's fellow Founding Father, Richard Henry Lee, who called Washington "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."  Considine also notes that even Britain's King George III attributed to his colonial rebel the "greatest character of the age."  Considine, meanwhile, notes without any further analysis that "Muslims worldwide see Muhammad as the perfect human being," an Islamic doctrine stipulated in verse 33:21 of the Quran (consistently called "Holy" by Considine).  Considine furthermore cites Mahatma Gandhi calling Muhammad "a treasure of wisdom not only for Muslims but for all mankind."

Citing respective passages of the Quran and Rules of Civility, Considine draws several parallels between Muhammad and Washington.  He concludes, for example, that both men opposed "foul language" and "taught their peers to improve relations with others by using kindness and positive words."  This would "avoid misunderstandings and create a more harmonious society."

Common to both Muhammad and Washington was also a concern for "modest and clean appearance" as an "indication of healthy inner feelings and humble attitudes."  Considine in this respect cites verse 24:31 of the Quran with its injunction that women "not display the charms of their bodies beyond what may be apparent thereof; hence, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms."  Considine neglects, however, to explain just how far-reaching such Islamic norms of modesty for women can be, encompassing even burqas and niqabs.

Considine additionally discerns "humility" in both Muhammad and Washington, a trait that "was crucial to the early success of their fledgling nations."  He speculates that the "direction of the Arab and American society could have had a much different history if Muhammad and Washington were egotistical and presumptuous leaders."  Considine thereby does not analyze whether Muhammad's prophetic claims, if invalid, would qualify him as "presumptuous," nor does he indicate any tangible improvement of Arab society through Muhammad's attributed humility.

"Respect, especially for one's parents," is yet another commonality between Muhammad and Washington apparent to Considine.  "Both men realized," he elaborates, "that the key to a strong society is for people, especially families, to treat each other how they wished to be treated."  Even "good hygiene" and a "clean, well-presented physical appearance" were a common concern for Muhammad and Washington.  For both men, "good hygiene was a projection of a positive body image, which, in turn, reflected a healthy mind."  Considine concludes that "Muhammad and Washington were gentlemen of the highest degree."  Thus, Considine suggests that "Muslims worldwide and American could forge better relations if each group adhered to the advice Muhammad and Washington provided."

Many commentators in the numerous comments upon Considine's article and elsewhere have had a field day with his rose-colored, hagiographic analysis of Muhammad and the Quran.  Citing numerous Quran verses and hadith attributed to Muhammad, they have pointed to less savory aspects of Islam.  Longstanding Islam critic Pamela Geller interlineated Considine's article with numerous such canonical Islamic sources at her website, Atlas Shrugs.   Geller concluded:  "It's to vomit.  Muhammad and George Washington are polar opposites.  A man of honor who respected human life and refused the title of king and a bloody warlord who preached conquest, subjugation and slavery." 

Geller's longtime comrade, Robert Spencer, linked to Geller's analysis on his website, Jihadwatch, and confessed that he "had to laugh."  "You remember," Spencer mocked, with allusions to key controversies in canonical accounts of Muhammad's life, "when George Washington made the British line up beside a trench and beheaded 900 of them, don't you?  And when he consummated his marriage with John Adams' nine-year-old daughter?"

These commentators also call into question Muhammad's global legacy, not being enamored with one of history's greatest campaigns of conquest.  Such an empirical record is far less appealing than Considine's benign descriptions of Muhammad as being one of the "restorers of justice" who "united a large swath of political territory" (which, in Muhammad's case, actually later broke apart during numerous internal conflicts) in one of two "unprecedented social movements."  The Muslim societies existing throughout history and present today in places like the Islamic Republics of Iran, Pakistan, and Sudan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with Muslim movements like the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood (including Hamas), the Taliban, and Hezb'allah, also seem to manifest to objective observers not Considine's claimed "universal ideals," but rather specifically sectarian, often brutal policies of sharia.  A "more harmonious society" as well as "kindness and positive words" seem to be sadly lacking in the Muslim world today.

Some of the comments at HP have already indicated bewilderment that a Ph.D. candidate like Considine could have such a superficial understanding of Muhammad and Islam.  Considine's analysis provokes the question of whether he would express similar admiration for the rules of etiquette of Japanese emperor Hirohito's royal court or the humble devotion unto death of Imperial Japan's military during World War II, irrespective of numerous Japanese atrocities during this era such as the Bataan Death March.

Considine recalls for this author a baffling personal encounter with a Georgetown University undergraduate theology student.  In response to the author's references to the Muslim expulsion and extermination of Jews in the Arabian Peninsula during Islam's founding era under Muhammad, she replied that she did not know of such controversies, as she concerned herself not with history, but merely with a supposedly benign Islamic theology. 

Considine's HP biography notes that "[h]e served as film director and research assistant to Ambassador Akbar Ahmed's unprecedented study" Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.  Additionally, Considine's "film-work and photography has [sic] been vetted by CNN and his numerous articles ... have been published around the world."  If Considine's HP article is any reflection upon these associations and their understanding of Islam, such associations speak poorly of these individuals and groups.  Considine describes American University professor Ahmed in an article at the Journey into America website, for example, as a friend "for about six years" who "has been my academic mentor and the second most influential male figure in my life aside from my father."  Individuals encountering in the future the internationally known Ahmed would do well to keep Considine's views in mind.

Disturbingly, themes involving Islam so poorly treated by Considine are, as the saying goes, not merely academic.  Ahmed's native Pakistan, carved out of India as a Muslim state during partition in 1947 (the country name, another HP blogger, Harris Zafar, notes, means "land of the pure"), for example, is now a self-proclaimed Islamic Republic with its capital in Islamabad and incorporating various traditional sharia penalties such as those against blasphemy.  Since the 1980s, the Pakistani military has embraced the Arabic motto "Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabilillah (Faith, Piety and Fight in the path of God)."  Many Americans have become increasingly frustrated with the duplicitous, deadly behavior of the "frenemy" Pakistan, most blatantly on display when one group of Washington followers, SEAL Team Six, killed a follower of Muhammad, Osama bin Laden, suspiciously hiding among other Pakistani followers of Muhammad within a mile of Pakistan's military academy in Attabad.

Such is Islam's unavoidable reality, Considine notwithstanding.