Wed, 03/02/2011

This morning, Shahbaz Bhatti, minister of minorities and the sole Christian in the Pakistani government, was shot to death. Mr. Bhatti had recently campaigned to reform a blasphemy law in Pakistan which calls for the death of those who speak against the Prophet Muhammad.

Undoubtedly, some will say this is Islam. It's not. It's murder. Plain and simple.

The Prophet Muhammad made it a clear priority that people of other faiths and traditions would feel safe around him and his companions.

In 628 CE, the Prophet granted the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai a charter of privilege, which among other rights, ensured their right to practice Christianity, self-govern, and be protected in times of war.

In another story, the Prophet allowed a group of Christians to pray in his own mosque.

Through history, Muslims have followed this tradition of protecting those from other faiths and backgrounds.

Ali, the 4th Caliph of Islam and the first Shia Imam, famously wrote a letter to his governor in Egypt reminding him that the population there was made up of those who were his brothers in faith or his equals in creation, and they should all be treated accordingly.

In Albania during WWII, Muslims took their Jewish neighbors into their homes and protected them, putting their own families and lives on the line. And in this Muslim majority country, almost every single Jew was saved. When interviewed, a Muslim Albanian Hamdi Mece explained, "We are true Muslims, and God granted us the privilege of saving Jews. All life is precious and given by God. To save a life is God's gift."

The Prophet made it clear that people of other faiths and traditions ought to feel safe around Muslims, and that it was a Muslim duty to protect others as they would one another.

It is staggering to see extremists who call themselves Muslims brazenly defy this very clear tradition of the Prophet they claim to follow.

This post originally ran on in the Washington Post's Blog On Faith.