A wise and compassionate French leader—a Napoleon?!—would reach out to the Muslim community and convey his greetings, not in a religious but cultural sense. It would act as balm and may just calm some of the ongoing tensions and build bridges where few exist at this time. As I write these lines it appears that Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, has declared war on Islam after the tragic and unacceptable beheading of Samuel Paty, the French teacher. As a teacher myself I understand the compulsions of the profession and the need to fully and fearlessly communicate knowledge; as a Muslim I feel it is my duty, while condemning what happened as an un-Islamic act, to discuss the other side of the debate. While leaders have taken sides, some condemning the French president, some riding the wave of Islamophobia that the incident unleashed, the crisis remains unresolved. More such grisly incidents have unfortunately followed. I believe the French president should attempt to understand the faith he has so blindly dismissed. In my recent book Journey into Europe I commented on the hope of a new France that Macron had brought with him when he gained power. I was interested to learn that Macron admired Napoleon Bonaparte. If he genuinely respected Napoleon, Macron should know how much Napoleon admired Islam, expressing his admiration for Islam and even taking an Islamic name and wearing Arab robes on his Egyptian expedition. But if he is not prepared to read my book, I hope Macron will read this extract from one of his own countrymen’s great scholars of Islam: Alphonse de Lamartine. A nineteenth century French poet, politician, and writer he wrote in glowing terms of the Prophet of Islam: “Never has a man proposed for himself, voluntarily or involuntarily, a goal more sublime, since this goal was beyond measure: undermine the superstitions placed between the creature and the Creator, give back God to man and man to God, reinstate the rational and saintly idea of divinity in the midst of this prevailing chaos of material and disfigured gods of idolatry. Never has a man accomplished in such a short time such an immense and long lasting revolution in the world, since less than two centuries after his predication, Islam, preaching and armed, ruled over three Arabias, and conquered to God’s unity Persia, the Khorasan, Transoxania, Western India, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and all the known continent of Southern Africa, many islands of the Mediterranean, Spain and part of Gaul. If the grandeur of the aim, the smallness of the means, the immensity of the results are the three measures of a man’s genius, who would dare humanly compare a great man of modern history with Muhammad? The most famous have only moved weapons, laws, empires; they founded, when they founded anything, only material powers, often crumbling before them. This man not only moved armies, legislation, empires, peoples, dynasties, millions of men over a third of the inhabited globe; but he also moved ideas, beliefs, souls. He founded upon a book, of which each letter has become a law, a spiritual nationality embracing people of all languages and races; and made an indelible imprint upon this Muslim nation, for the hatred of false gods and the passion for the God, One and Immaterial. Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of a rational dogma for a cult without imagery, founder of twenty earthly empires and of one spiritual empire, this is Muhammad. Of all the scales by which one measures human grandeur, which man has been greater…” ( Histoire de la Turquie Paris, 1854, vol. II, pp. 276-277). As for violence and Islam, I often hear this equation and indeed accusation against Islam. Yes, there is too much murder and mayhem in the Muslim world, but this is not the place to lay blame on who is responsible. Let me just point to the example of the Prophet of Islam who is the role model for Muslims everywhere and we may then ask where is the violence coming from. The notion of revenge is ingrained in human beings. Those with a tribal background see it as part of the normative way they look at life. The prophet came from a tribal background and constantly reiterated the Quranic exhortation that mercy must surmount anger and desire for revenge. The Prophet is singled out in the Quran and addressed as “a Mercy unto Mankind.” Perhaps his greatest test came when he was victorious in returning to Mecca at the head of a large army and came face-to-face with the two people who had earlier sought out his favorite and beloved uncle Hamza in order to kill and humiliate him. Wahshi bin Harb, the Abyssinian slave warrior, was promised freedom if he killed Hamza. The formidable warrior Wahshi tracked down and killed his quarry. Hind, who thirsted for revenge since she lost relatives earlier in battles against Muslims, cut out Hamza’s liver and chewed on it. It was a direct and personal insult meant to torment the Prophet. People wondered how the Prophet would respond. He was after all only human. It was known how deeply wounded he had been both at the loss of his uncle and the manner in which his body had been mutilated. Yet the Prophet met both Wahshi and Hind and forgave them. It is said that he found the recounting of the killing of Hamza by Wahshi deeply painful. His eyes filled with tears and he told Wahshi to stop the narration. The Prophet then asked Wahshi to avoid crossing his path as seeing him would remind the Prophet of his beloved uncle and the painful manner in which he died. That may invite the wrath of God on Wahshi and the Prophet did not wish him harm. Wahshi converted to Islam and went on to become a champion of the Prophet’s cause. He sought out and killed Musaylima who also claimed to be a prophet and was threatening Islam at its early and vulnerable stage. With this sword, he is said to have said, I killed the best of men and with the same sword I have killed the worst of men. Muslims everywhere are preparing to celebrate Milad un Nabi, the birth of the blessed and noble Prophet of Islam, with prayers and blessings in his memory. A wise and compassionate French leader—a Napoleon?!—would reach out to the Muslim community and convey his greetings, not in a religious but cultural sense. It would act as balm and may just calm some of the ongoing tensions and build bridges where few exist at this time. The crises facing our global community—the pandemic, climate change, the violence between races and religions—will benefit from wise and compassionate leaders. Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC and was the former Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland. He is the author of Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity, Brookings Institution Press (2018).