Q. I have been concerned of late with a growing sense of anger and frustration on the part of some of my friends over the apparent intolerance and violence of Islam. I know little of Islam, yet it seems that it can be a tolerant religion. Also, we must learn to live together. Most Americans (US) are having their view of Islam colored primarily by the statements and actions of the radical Islamists. This is making it very difficult for Americans to support Islamic countries and organizations, or believe that democracy is compatible with Islam. Unfortunately, the case of Abdul Rahman is putting another blight on the world's view of Islam. The freedom to believe as a person chooses is fundamental to a democratic society. To be punished for converting is anathema, to be killed is so bad as to defy description.
Also, I just received an e-mail which I am forwarding to you. Does the Qur'an REALLY teach that someone must be punished, or even killed, for converting from Islam to another religion? Please tell me some of the relevant passages in the Qur'an. I have access to the Qur'an and would like to read this for myself. Are there any other websites that discuss the Qur'an, Shari'a law, and civil society?
you, we too have a growing sense of frustration with some Muslims at the way
they choose to react to certain events, and the way they present Islam. We
deplore their activities. But we are also not unaware that right now, there is
a lot of incitement going on, and that many Muslims feel threatened -- they perceive
an all out war on Islam where it is fair to malign and prevaricate against
Islam. Let us take for instance the plethora of books written by non-Muslims
purporting to explain Islamic warmongering, etc. Those very writers seek to
forget that even the present war in
Every time someone speaks of Muslim hate, s/he is in fact promoting hate against Muslims. We hear of the Imams in the mosques preaching hate -- and I have also talked about this -- but how many people have actually visited mosques and heard Imams indulging in this kind of preaching? On the other hand, I can tell you that the frequent rants of people like Hinn, Falwell, Graham, etc. reach far more Christians and non-Christians than the inane remarks of some Imams. We are deluged with terms from Islamophobes parading as scholars (notably they are never cited by bona fide scholars in Islam), spewing terms like "dhimmitude", etc., which for medieval Christians and Jews, for the most part, had more of a positive connotation than the pseudo-historical hate that is now being purveyed (consider the rights, or rather lack thereof, of non-Christians and Jews under Byzantine rule, to which Islamic Law was responding in many cases).
of war, or perceived war, people act differently. After 9/11, Americans,
because of the reality of the situation, and also because of the propagandistic
actions by certain groups, saw this totally as a war by Islam against them. We
cannot blame them for this. Now let us put this into perspective. Over the last
century, have Muslims been bombing American cities? Have Muslims been sending
missionaries who have, through economic methods, etc., threatened families and
cultures? Look at Asia and
If I may use a concept from the
This is not to say that Muslims are
blameless. The email/photos you sent (assuming that they have not been tampered
with, which is possible in our digital world) portray a horrible people; the
same mindset as those Americans who (after 9/11) talked about nuking Mecca, the
same mindset that had an American General talk about his God being true and the
Muslim God (which is the same and referred to as Allah in Arabic) being false,
the same mindset that had evangelical preachers like Franklin Graham and Pat
Robertson demonizing Islam and all Muslims, and the list goes on and on. The
issue of Islam punishing apostasy by death, this is not in the Qur'an. And in
classical Islam, the concept of apostasy had nothing to do purely with religion,
but rather with subversion since the state was theocratic. It is the same as
the capital punishment in Western legal systems for the crime of subversion/sedition.
Purely on the basis of religion, the Qur'an acknowledges all religions and says:
"there is no compulsion in religion." You may note that in NO Islamic
State was there ever the concept that the citizenry had to be forced into Islam.
In Christianity there was Constantine and others who slaughtered other
Christians who did not subscribe to their ideology, and while that time is long
past, it still functionally continues. Even here in the
of Abdul Rahman is truly problematic. But as Akbar
Ahmed pointed out in his book "Islam Under Siege",
that is a code in
I cannot provide
you with the verses of the Qur'an that you asked for because there are no such
verses. Since various
translations of the Qur'an are available, we suggest the following: that those
who claim the Qur'an says a certain thing should
produce the verses. If they cannot, then their claim is empty. We cannot
recommend any website because we feel that Islam is, like all other religions,
not monolithic. But we can recommend some reading, and we suggest the writings
of Muhammad Asad, Fazlur Rahman, Khalid Abou El Fadl, Abdullah Ahmad An-Naim, Sayyed Husain Nasr, and Mahmoud Mamdani. And at the risk
of sounding like I am promoting myself, I would suggest my own writings that
are in academic journals that can be referenced through my site at
The Qur’an states that the Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sabeans and any who believe in God and do good works will have their reward with their Lord. The Center for Islamic Pluralism which I co-founded teaches that we have no right to pronounce penalties for apostasy on anyone, and that Islam recognizes all other faiths. For the Qur'an says: "for each among you there is a way and a method" and also "to every nation we have sent a Prophet." I am fully aware that Muslims do acts of terrorism and horrible deeds. So too do Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. Let us not blame each other, but correct ourselves first. Remember Jesus’ saying about taking the log out of our own eye before seeking to take the mote out of our brother's (Cornel West's aforementioned paradigm sounds the same). I say this not as a polemic against you, for your question is honest and straightforward. I say this also to Muslims: how dare we talk about Christian hate or problems with theology: rather look at the ethics of Christianity and marvel at their goodness, than look at a few Christians who do un-Jesus like acts. No non-Muslim country is under occupation by Muslim countries right now. And democracy is not necessarily Christian, it just happens to be compatible with modern interpretations of Christianity. In the same manner, democracy is not incompatible with Islam, rather the theoretical aspect of democracy has more of a fertile ground in Islam than it does in Christianity as the Qur'an tells Muhammad to consult the people.
Muslims are not willing to have market democracy, one that only serves American/Western
interests. As many Muslims ask, and I do too, in the case of Hamas (and let’s be clear that I do not support terrorism
in any way): since they were democratically elected (and the US/West claims to
promote democracy in the
Muslims throughout the world are trying to come to grips with change while under terrible pressure. After the genocide of World War II, the mantra was "never again," yet we are repeating all of the old evils, with restructured canards, seeking to make enemies of 1.4 billion Muslims whose only sin is to be associated with some extremists. I wonder why, when a President (Ahmadinejad) supposedly calls for the extermination of Israel, his view is associated with Islam, but when the US president speaks of the next crusade, or an evangelist calls for the assassination of the Venezuelan president, our “fair and balanced” media are not as eager to connect their statements with their faith. Should we not apply the same standards to Islam?
Webmaster's note: While the Iranian President might be viewed as a crackpot, some journalists have reported that President Ahmadinejad's comments were mistranslated / misquoted, quite possibly as part of a deliberate smear campaign to pave the way for aggression against Iran, as was the case with Iraq and Saddam Hussein's phantom Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). These journalists claim that what Ahmadinejad stated was that the Zionist regime will disappear, not that he wants to wipe Israel off the map.
May 13, 2006
Incidentally, there are tens of thousands of Jews living in Iran (supposedly the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel). One would think that if Ahmadinejad wanted to rid the world of Jews, he would start at home. To the best of our knowledge, the Jews living in Iran are not being persecuted or wiped out, or the Western media would certainly have reported it.
Posted May 13, 2006