There has long been debate about the nature of Islam and its use as justification in violent and inhumane brutality — including the recent beheadings of journalists and aid workers — from the Middle East to Africa and beyond. The most recent such debate came in an interview segment on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” but a piece of reporting we did recently might add some context to the larger conversation.
Rashid Khalidi, a professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, disputes that the Quran offers any justification for beheading. He cites the lines coming immediately after one of the two verses used to justify the act: “Therefore, when you meet the unbelievers, smite at their necks.” But the very next line, contained in Chapter 47, Verse 4: “At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind the captives firmly. Therefore is the time for either generosity or ransom.”
So basically, Khalidi said, there’s nothing about this passage that justifies the cutting off of heads.
“It just shows that they don’t know anything about Islam and they probably don’t know how to read this properly,” he said.