Dispatches From the Moderate Left

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Pope and Islam

I'm in essay writing mode at the moment, so in lieu of a proper post, I'll exceprt parts of an interesting interview (via Sullivan) with a dude with a fancy title - "president of the Institute for the Study of Religions and Cultures at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome" - on the Pope's recent and somewhat controversial comments regarding Islam. I found it interesting because it closely echoes my thoughts on the subject:
Q. Juan Cole of the University of Michigan has said that Surah 2:256 (“There is no compulsion in religion”)—to which the pope made reference in his speech—is not from the Prophet’s early days, as the pope asserted, but from when the Prophet was ruler of Medinah. Samir Khalil Samir, SJ, disagrees and says the pope’s dates are right. Who is correct? More important, can one make sweeping statements about Islam’s views on violence and religious tolerance relying solely on the Qur’an while ignoring the Hadith (commentary), the Sharia (law), and the entire history of the religion?

A.The consensus of scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, is that Surah 2 is from the Medinah period, when Muhammad had increasing political power.
The second part of your question is more important. It seems to me essential not to lock Muslims into one particular reading of their texts and traditions. It is nonsensical to say to someone who claims that Islam is a peaceful religion that he may not believe such a thing because the Qur’an says such-and-such. She should be encouraged to believe that Islam is peaceful and held to observe that.

There is much more violence in the Bible than in the Qur’an. Here is a line from the Psalms, the backbone of Christian and Jewish daily worship: “A blessing on him who takes your babies and dashes them against the rocks!” (Ps. 137:9). We cannot deny the presence of such verses in our Scripture and worship, yet we do not think of them as defining our attitude to enemies. As for the New Testament, it is not without verses open to a violent interpretation: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt. 10:34).

The point of quoting these texts is not to claim that Christianity and Judaism are inherently violent religions, but to offer proof that scripture passages which apparently justify and even glorify violence do not necessarily make for a violent religion. Christians and Jews have ways of reading their scriptures that allow them to maintain their sacredness without considering large parts of them normative for behaviour or attitudes. Muslims have traditionally used similar methods of interpretation.

This is why trawling the Qur'an for violent verses and extrapolating from the findings to the actions and beliefs of modern day Muslims is an intellectually bankrupt exercise. Yes there do exist Muslims who justify their cause by using these verses but to declare all other Muslims guilty by association is as offensive/ridiculous to them as it is to accuse Christians of sharing the beliefs of the Crusaders or the Dominionists. Actually, it's worse because far too many people buy into the "Islam is a religion of the sword" argument.


  • New Pope Shows Spine
    Islamonazi CAIR Is Not Impressed

    http://www.terrorfreeoil.org/videos/MS091506.php - video

    Please Call The Vatican Embassy In Washington, DC at (202) 333-7121 to Express Your Support!

    By Blogger Terror-Free, at 2:12 AM  

  • Hehehe, "terror free oil" - what a great way to con the rubes who don't understand the implication of a global oil market...

    By Blogger Jeremy, at 6:59 AM  

  • The trouble for Muslims is that the Koran contains many open-ended calls/commands for violence against non-Muslims. They can't all be aborgated or interpreted away. See the post at Tao to which I linked in my post. Or links here.

    These OPEN ENDED AND ENDURING calls to violence are why it is much easier to radicalize Muslims then Christians who have NO SUCH enduring or open ended to violence against non-believers. If I stood up and called for Christians to kill infidels or whoever, I'd be castigated in no uncertain terms by billions of Christians. Get some imam to have a fit over a cartoon or a quote and a thousands and thousands of Muslims go into an instant rampage, call for apologies, attack churches, kill a nun...whatever...because ol' dead Mo has apparently been offended.

    You think Islam is capable of reform?

    Only the intellectually bankrupt fail to do their research properly.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:27 PM  

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