On September 5, 2021, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a press release titled, “CAIR-OK Condemns Oklahoma GOP Chairman’s Attacks on Islam, Hate Rhetoric Targeting Islamic School Children.” The focus of this press release was on statements about Islam that had been made by John Bennett, the Chairman of the Oklahoma GOP. The press release started out:
The Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) today condemned the public attacks on Islam and hate rhetoric targeting Islamic School children by Oklahoma GOP Chairman John Bennett. In a [sic] almost 9 minute video, Bennett makes false and offensive comments such as, “All of them tell us they are commanded by their God, which is Allah, to fight the entire non-Muslim world until Allah’s divine law, which is Shariah law, is imposed on every human being on earth,” and “If you just simply read from the most widely used textbook in Islamic schools here in the United States today, you will see what the 10 year old Muslim children are taught about Islam is the same as what Al-Qaeda or the Taliban teaches.”
Did Bennett really make “false and offensive comments” about Islam in his video? Let’s look at the two examples mentioned in CAIR’s press release.
The Armies of Muhammad Tell Us Why They are Fighting
At the 2:44 mark on the above video we have this statement by Bennett:
100% of the enemies we face in this war launched against the West by the armies of Muhammad, they tell us exactly who they are and why they’re fighting. All of them tell us they are commanded by their god, which is Allah, to fight the entire Muslim, non-Muslim world, until Allah’s divine law, which is Sharia Law, is imposed on every human being on earth.
Is this claim “false”? No, because it is supported by commands of Allah found in the Koran and in the teachings and example of Muhammad.
Let’s look at some Koran verses. In the year 624 we find this command from Allah:
Chapter 8, Verse 39
And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism, i.e. worshipping others besides Allah), and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone (in the whole of the world)…
Over the centuries a number of authoritative Koran commentaries (tafsirs) have pointed out that this verse specifically ordered the Muslims to fight non-Muslims until Islam was the only religion.
The 14th Century Tafsir Ibn Kathir, in a section titled The Order to fight to eradicate Shirk[] and Kufr, pointed out:
…(and the religion will all be for Allah alone) “So that there is no more Kufr (disbelief)…The Messenger of Allah said, I was commanded to fight against the people until they proclaim, ‘There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.’
The 15th Century Tafsir Al-Jalalayn stated:
Fight them until there is no more fitna (shirk) and the din is Allah’s alone – meaning that only He is worshipped.
The 20th Century Tafsir Ahsanul-Bayan explained this verse:
Here fitnah (affliction) means disbelief or paganism, or the power of disbelievers and pagans…continue fighting until you put an end to the power of disbelievers. Until Allah alone is worshipped in the entire world.
Here is what another 20th Century tafsir, the Tafseer as-Sa’di, had to say about this verse:
…(and all worship is devoted to Allah alone). This is the goal of fighting and jihad against the enemies of the faith…to defend the religion of Allah…so that it will be supreme over all other religions.
In the year 629 we have this verse “revealed” that commanded Muslims to fight non-Muslims until they accepted Islam. Whether they were hostile toward the Muslims or not was irrelevant; the mere fact that they were non-Muslims was enough to allow the Muslims to initiate the fighting:
Chapter 2, Verse 193
And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and (all and every kind of ) worship is for Allah (Alone)…
The authoritative 13th Century Muslim scholar al-Qurtubi explained this verse:
It is an unqualified command to fight without any precondition of hostilities being initiated by the unbelievers. The evidence for that is in the words of Allah, “and the din [religion] belongs to Allah alone.” The Prophet said, “I was commanded to fight people until they say, ‘There is no god but Allah.’ The ayat and hadith both indicate that the reason for fighting is disbelief…If they cease, there should be no enmity towards any but wrongdoers. If they stop and become Muslim or submit by paying jizya in the case of the people of the Book. Otherwise they should be fought and they are wrongdoers….The wrongdoers are either those who initiate fighting or those who remain entrenched in disbelief and fitna.
Ibn Kathir explained this verse in a section titled The Order to fight until there is no more Fitnah:
Allah then commanded fighting the disbelievers when He said: “…until there is no more Fitnah” meaning, Shirk…Allah’s statement:“…and the religion (all and every kind of worship) is for Allah (Alone)” means, ‘So that the religion of Allah becomes dominant above all other religions.’
Any change in the understanding of this verse over the centuries? No. The modern Tafseer as-Sa’di explained this verse:
Then Allah tells us the purpose behind fighting for His Cause…the aim is so that (all worship becomes devoted to Allah alone), in order that the religion of Allah may prevail over all other religions.
And we can’t forget what Ibn Kathir referred to as the “Verse of the Sword”. This Koran verse was “revealed” in 631:
Chapter 9, Verse 5
Then when the Sacred Months have passed, then kill the Mushrikun wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in every ambush…
The modern Muslim scholar Yasir Qadhi made a sobering comment about this verse:
This was one of the last verses to be revealed, and perhaps the last verse that dealt with the treatment of the disbelievers. 
So how were the disbelievers to be treated? Ibn Kathir pointed out that with this verse, the non-Muslims would “have no choice, but to die or embrace Islam.” Ibn Kathir also noted that the command kill the Mushrikun wherever you find them was a “general statement” and meant Muslims could slay them “anywhere on earth you meet them.”
So in these Koran verses Allah has commanded Muslims to fight non-Muslims until Islam is the only religion.
There are numerous authoritative reports from various Muslim narrators pointing out that Muhammad talked about Islam dominating all other religions and stating that he had been commanded to fight people until they accepted Islam. Here are two examples:
Imam Ahmad recorded from Tamim Ad-Dari that he said, I heard the Messenger of Allah saying, “This matter (Islam) will keep spreading as far as the night and day reach, until Allah will not leave a house made of mud or hair, but will make this religion enter it, while bringing might to a mighty person (a Muslim) and humiliation to a disgraced person (who rejects Islam). Might with which Allah elevates Islam (and its people) and disgrace with which Allah humiliates disbelief (and its people).”
It has been narrated on the authority of ‘Abdullah b. Umar that the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, they establish the prayer, and pay the Zakat. If they do it, their blood and property are guaranteed protection on my behalf except when justified by law, and their affairs rest with Allah.
There are many reports by early Muslim scholars that Muhammad said he had been commanded to fight all people until they accepted Islam. And it was reported that Muhammad last repeated this statement in February 632, just a few months before he died.
During his lifetime Muhammad applied those words. From 623 until his death in 632, Muhammad and his Muslim armies spread across the Arabian Peninsula forcing the non-Muslim tribes to either convert to Islam or accept the (at best) second class status of being a dhimmi living under Muslim rule. For details about this see my book Islam’s Militant Prophet: Muhammad and Forced Conversions to Islam. Muhammad’s example was followed by subsequent Muslim leaders.
There is nothing false about Bennett’s statement, because the Koran and the teachings and example of Muhammad support it.
Score one point for Bennett.
What Islam Is All About
At the 5:51 mark Bennett talks about the textbook – What Islam Is All About:
I mean if you just simply read from the most widely used textbook in Islamic Schools here in the United States today, which is What Islam is All About, and you will see what the ten-year-old Muslim children are taught about Islam is the same as what Al-Qaeda or the Taliban teaches. Islam is not a religion, it’s a complete way of life. That’s what they teach…They also teach out of this book if anyone dies in jihad they automatically will go to paradise. They also teach the duty of Muslim citizens is to be loyal to the Islamic State. That’s what they teach children in Islamic schools here in America today.
With regard to Bennett’s claim that what Muslim children learn in this book is the same as what Al-Qaeda or the Taliban teaches, the author of What Islam Is All About repeatedly talks about the importance of Muslims following the Koran and the Sunnah (teachings and example of Muhammad). Since Al-Qaeda and the Taliban also emphasize the importance of following the Koran and the Sunnah, Bennett is generally correct.
Here are three other things that Bennett mentioned: Bennett stated they taught that:
- Islam is a complete way of life. This is repeated in the book on pages 61, 357 and 371, and is the focus of p. 120.
- Anyone who dies in jihad will automatically go to Paradise. The book has this to say about jihad:
…the word jihad is most often associated with the act of physically confronting evil and wrong-doing. Hence, it can be applied to the act of fighting…If anyone dies in jihad, they are promised Paradise.
- The duty of Muslim citizens is to be loyal to the Islamic State. In a section of the book titled “Islam and Politics” we find this:
What would a real Islamic system look like today? In an Islamic political system, the leader or khalifa, is the head of the whole Ummah, not just of one country or another. He should be elected by the community and is in charge of establishing Islam and justice on the Earth…the duty of Muslim citizens is to be loyal to the Islamic state…
One might argue that this statement about loyalty is in the context of a worldwide Islamic political system having been created. However, on p. 67 of the book, we find this comment:
At the same time, many of us have relatives who want us to make ethnic or national pride the basis of identity rather than Islam.
So it appears that What Islam Is All About is advocating that the loyalty of Muslims should be directed toward Islam and the idea of an Islamic State, instead of one’s own ethnicity or nation.
Three points for Bennett.
For additional information about what Muslim school children are being taught see my article: “I Love Islam – What Muslim-American Children are Being Taught.”
Bennett is “Islamophobic, hateful and bigoted”
In its September 5th press release, CAIR referred to an April 9, 2021, article about Bennett in The Oklahoman newspaper. In that article we find this:
In 2017, Bennett asked Oklahoma Muslims to complete an 18-questionnaire [sic] before agreeing to meet with them at his legislative office during the annual “Muslim Day” at the state Capitol. Among the questions was, “Do you beat your wife?”
Additional questions asked whether the Muslims would denounce terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and whether they believed former Muslims should be punished for leaving the faith. They were also asked if they agreed that Islamic law, known as Sharia law, should apply to non-Muslims.
Oklahoma’s CAIR chapter called the questionnaire Islamophobic, hateful and bigoted.
So according to CAIR, the fact that Bennett wanted to ask Muslims about such things as wife beating and the punishment for leaving Islam showed he was “Islamophobic, hateful and bigoted.” Really? Let’s start out by looking at what Islam teaches about wife beating.
The husband is allowed to beat his wife or wives. This is stated in Koran 4:34:
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other…As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful)…
Ibn Kathir explained that such a beating was to be neither “violent” nor “severe.” He also pointed out that:
Scholars said…The husband should beat his wife lightly, in a way that does not result in breaking one of her limbs or affecting her badly.
The Tafsir Al-Jalalayn explained that the husband could beat his wife, “but not hard if the other courses of action do not work.”
The 20th Century Tafsir Ahsanul-Bayan explained the verse this way:
In case a woman is disobedient, she should be counseled first to reform and mend her ways. If she does not reform, beds should be separated. This is the second step, enough for a woman of sound understanding. In case this fails to have any effect on her, then the man may thrash her providing this thrashing is not cruel or wild, which is the wont of the ignorant and the rustic.
And Muhammad himself said “to beat them [wives] but not with severity.” And why not “with severity”? Perhaps because on another occasion while giving a sermon, Muhammad said this about the treatment of women:
It is not wise for anyone of you to lash his wife like a slave, for he might sleep with her the same evening.
The authority to beat wives appeared to have been widely exercised in the early Muslim community. In the following hadith we find that Muhammad ordered some Muslim women to be beaten because they were acting “bold” toward their husbands:
“The Prophet said: ‘Do not beat the female slaves of Allah.’ Then ‘Umar came to the Prophet and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, the woman [sic] have become bold towards their husbands. So order the beating of them,’ and they were beaten. Then many women went around to the family of Muhammad. The next day he said: “Last night seventy women came to the family of Muhammad, each woman complaining about her husband. You will not find that those are the best of you.’”
Muhammad’s young wife ‘Aisha even commented to Muhammad about the extent to which Muslim women were being beaten:
‘Aishah said that the lady (came), wearing a green veil (and complained to her (‘Aishah) of her husband and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by beating)…so when Allah’s Messenger came, ‘Aishah said, “I have not seen the women suffering as the believing [Muslim] women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!”
And ‘Aisha herself was also a recipient. One time, when it was her turn among the wives to have Muhammad spend the night with her, she secretly followed Muhammad when he left her bed. ‘Aisha said that when she later confessed to Muhammad that she had followed him, “He struck me on the chest which caused me pain…”
The 2001 Minhaj Al-Muslim, “one of the most popular books in the Arab world,” explained the idea of “beating” this way:
If she still does not obey him, he should take disciplinary action by spanking her in a place other than her face and in a way which does not cause injury.
There was no mention about not causing pain.
The 2002 Fatawa Islamiyah: Islamic Verdicts mentioned beating as an acceptable way for the husband to deal with a rebellious spouse (Nushuz):
If the situation of the wife is as you describe, in spite of the warnings, advice, estrangement and beating, then she is considered guilty of Nushuz…
So according to CAIR, asking about something commanded by Allah, allowed by the teachings and example of Muhammad, and condoned in modern authoritative Muslim works, is “Islamophobic”? I wonder how CAIR would respond to this comment by Muhammad: “A man should not be asked why he beats his wife…”?
Score another point for Bennett.
The penalty for a Muslim who leaves Islam is death. This is found both in the Koran and in the teachings of Muhammad.
Koran 4:89 states that apostates from Islam should be killed:
…But if they turn back (from Islam), take (hold of) them and kill them wherever you find them…
In explaining this Koran verse, the 11th Century Muslim scholar al-Wahidi wrote:
Mujahid said apropos this verse: “This was revealed about some people who left Mecca to Medina [claiming to be Muslims]…they then renounced Islam…Allah, exalted is He, then revealed their hypocrisy by means of this verse and commanded that they be executed…”
Muhammad also said it was legal to kill a Muslim who left Islam:
…Allah’s Messenger said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that La ilaha illallah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah) and that I am the Messenger of Allah, cannot be shed except in three cases:…(3) the one who turns renegade from Islam (apostate) and leaves the group of Muslims (by innovating heresy, new ideas and new things, etc. in the Islamic religion).”
Muhammad even specified the means of death for those leaving Islam:
If someone changes his religion – then strike off his head!
It is interesting to note that the 10th Century Muslim scholar Ibn Surayj suggested an additional way of killing an apostate. He proposed that the apostate be beaten with a wooden club until the apostate died. Ibn Surayj noted that in contrast to using the sword, this was a slower means of death and would allow the apostate time to recant and return to Islam.
Is the death penalty for apostasy from Islam still considered valid in the 21st Century? Yes.
The 2001 Minhaj Al-Muslim had this to say about apostates:
The apostate is someone who leaves the religion of Islam for another religion…The ruling of the apostate is that he is invited for three days to return to Islam and he is encouraged intensely to do so. If he returns to Islam, he will be left alone, and if not, he is killed with a sword as a Hadd punishment…And indeed the Muslims have unanimously agreed to what we have mentioned about the laws concerning the apostate.
The 2002 Fatawa Islamiyah: Islamic Verdicts said this about apostates:
Such person must be called to repent for three days and relations with him must be severed: If he does so, (all well and good), but if not, he should be killed.
And how was he to be killed? The verdict in Fatawa Islamiyah was that “his head should be chopped off.”
In 2010, while explaining that the penalty for apostasy from Islam was death, Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid wrote this:
In conclusion, the answer is that Allaah is the One Who revealed this religion and enjoined it. He is the One Who ruled that the one who enters it and then leaves it is to be executed. This ruling does not come from the Muslims’ ideas or suggestions. As this is the case, then we must follow the ruling of Allaah so long as we are content to accept Him as our Lord and God.
A 2018 posting by the editor of Questions on Islam explained the penalty for apostasy:
To change one’s religion, means “to join the opposite front and to declare war against Muslims”…Or, it means a snake, a scorpion that poisons people…Therefore, a person is not killed because he changed his religion but because he waged war against Muslims and tries to poison them spiritually…The orders of Allah and His Messenger are the reason for the decree…a person who exits from the religion of Islam…will not have any virtues related to humanity. From this viewpoint, when a person exits the religion of Islam, he is regarded to have exited humanity too.
So we can see that the death penalty for Muslims who leave Islam is still a valid punishment today.
And there is a reason for why the death penalty was, and still is a valid punishment. In 2013, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a preeminent Egyptian scholar, and then-head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, stated plainly that if the punishment for apostasy had not been death, Islam would not have long survived after the death of Muhammad:
If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment Islam wouldn’t exist today. Islam would have ended since the death of the prophet, peace be upon him. So opposing apostasy is what kept Islam to this day. Surah Al-Ma’idah [Koran 5:33] says: The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle is that they should be murdered or crucified. According to Abi Kulaba’s narration, this verse means the apostates. And many hadiths, not only one or two, but many, narrated by a number of Muhammad’s companions state that any apostate should be killed.
So again according to CAIR, asking about something commanded by Allah, allowed by the teachings and example of Muhammad, and condoned in modern authoritative Muslim works is “Islamophobic”?
Score another point for Bennett.
It is interesting that CAIR’s response to John Bennett raising issues about certain aspects of established Islamic Doctrine was to simply call him “Islamophobic” and “hateful” and accuse him of making false remarks. But CAIR did not make any effort to show where Bennett’s remarks were hateful or false, instead just relying on the stock allegation that he was being “Islamophobic.”
It is also interesting that CAIR called Bennett’s comments “offensive,” yet never explained why the comments were “offensive.” As we saw in this article, Bennett’s comments were actually supported by the commands of Allah in the Koran, the teachings and example of Muhammad, and condoned in modern authoritative Muslim works. It appears that CAIR, a Muslim organization, is now saying that certain commands of Allah and certain teachings of Muhammad are “offensive.” Does CAIR disagree with those commands and teachings? Does the word “blasphemy” come to mind?
In this contest between Bennett and CAIR, Bennett provided substance, earning six points; CAIR, on the other hand, relied on ad hominem attacks, which don’t earn any points. However, in this Age of Wokeness, I awarded CAIR one point for simply showing up.
It is not appropriate to label all, or even the majority of those, who question Islam and Muslims as Islamophobes.
CAIR Report 2013, Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States, p. ix
Dr. Stephen M. Kirby is the author of six books about Islam. His latest book is Islamic Doctrine versus the U.S. Constitution: The Dilemma for Muslim Public Officials.