"Damn you! You're as stupid as a donkey! You bitch! You loser! You're like your mother the monkey - or is it your father the pig? You're the worst piece of crap on the face of the earth! Go to hell!"
Imagine a husband who used these words with his wife appearing as a guest on Dr. Phil's TV show and claiming that he respects her. The only problem in their marriage, according to this husband, is that she does not respect him!
Now imagine a self-proclaimed religious prophet using similar language in the book he left behind to describe the people who do not accept his message. Picture his followers 14 centuries later claiming that they respect the non-believers; the problem is these non-believers do not respect them!
Chances are your English translation of the Quran, with its toned-down language and notes written to impress Western readers, does not mention that Al-Fatihah, the first chapter of the Quran that is to be repeated by 1.5 billion Muslims 17 times a day, describes all the Christians of the world as wanderers who have lost their way and Jews as being under God's eternal anger. Any Arabic-speaking schoolboy from Morocco to Kuwait who has ever stepped inside a mosque knows exactly who his Prophet was talking about. The Hadith itself, as well as the leading Quranic commentators, leaves no question. One of several relevant Hadiths reads, "Ibn Masoud related that Anas reported that the associates of the Prophet said, Those who are under Allah's anger are the Jews, and those who have lost their way are the Christians."
Non-Muslims are not only whose who have lost their way and live under God's condemnation, they also are "the worst of all creatures". Surat al-Bayyinah, chapter 98 of the Quran, gives Allah's (read "Muhammad's" if you are not a Muslim) contrast between Muslims and everyone else. Those who disbelieve Muhammad and his message "will abide in the Fire of Hell and are the worst of creatures".
The worst of creatures...the scum of the earth...not worthy of respect or honor. And the Muslims? The following verse gives us Allah's answer: they are the best of creatures...and Allah will be well-pleased with them.
It's only a small step, of course, to move on to other perjorative language in describing "the worst of creatures". Al-Maidah, chapter 5 of the Quran, states in verse 60 that Allah changed some of the Jews into monkeys and pigs. Shaykhs argue to this day whether this transformation was physical or figurative, but what difference does it make? Simply using that language to describe a group of people clearly demonstrates your feelings toward them. Just to make sure the message is clear, the same metaphor is used to describe the Jews two additional times in the Quran.
If calling them pigs and monkeys is not enough to get the point across, how about dogs and donkeys? Quran 7, Al-Araf, describes the Jews in verse 176 as being like a dog lying around with its tongue hanging out. No matter what you do to the dog, it just continues to lay around. It is no wonder that a few verses earlier, in 167, Muhammad claimed that Allah would "send against the Jews those who will afflict them with a humiliating torment until Judgment Day". Al-Jumah (Quran 62) claims that the Jews are like a donkey carrying bags filled with books but understanding none of them (comment: this from the man whose own tribal society was largely illiterate).
It's little wonder that the Quran concludes in 9:28 that all these non-believers are "filthy" and thus not allowed to enter Muslim mosques. Can you imagine a sign outside every church and temple telling Muslims they are not allowed to enter because they are unclean?
Millions of Muslims every week are led by their Imams in the "Prayer of Piety" following the Friday sermon. Following is this prayer as given by Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, probably Sunni Islam's best-known scholar:
"Oh you defeater of sects, defeat your enemies, the enemies of Islam. May Allah give us victory over the enemies of Islam. May God give us victory over the Jews, those infidels who are without faith. May God give us victory over the Christians, those filled with envy who plot against us. May God give us victory over the heathen, and over all those who refuse your Shariah."
Muslims were greatly offended when the Swiss recently voted to not allow new minarets in Switzerland. Swiss citizen Tariq Ramadan said he was "shocked", and Shaykh Qaradawi protested the ruling against this "beautiful symbol of Islam".
But none of them protested the fact that the one church recently built in Qatar for the hundreds of thousands of Christians working there has no steeple, no cross, nothing at all to indicate it is a house of worship. To not allow minarets is seen by Muslims as a lack of respect; to not allow a cross is to them completely natural (comment: I suspect that Qaradawi was not at all happy this church was even built, as it was Muhammad who first said Islam was to be the only religion allowed throughout Arabia. Since Qaradawi, who is Egyptian, lives in Qatar as an expatriate guest, I imagine he would be slow to criticize the decision taken by the government to allow the building of a church. Even Shaykh Qaradawi knows one does not bite the hand that feeds him!).
I wonder how many Muslims secretly suspect that the problem is not that others do not respect them, it is that their own texts and traditions do not allow them to respect others. I'm sure there are some.
Acknowledgement: some of the material above was adopted from the Arabic TV program "Removing the Veil" with host Rashid.