Monday, October 1, 2007

Fear literalists of all faiths

Lately one can clearly notice a general increase in islamophobia driven by personal prejudices or political ideologies, previously monopolised by the Somali Mrs. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but now inherited by some weak Dutch politicians such as Welders whose party counts barely nine seats in the Dutch parliament, or the unknown Ihsan Jamy who created what he called the association of ex-Muslims. Both Welders and Ihsan Jamy are merely searching for a role to play in order to draw attention to themselves, and the best way for them to do so, is to launch a scathing criticism of Islam and promote a rejection of Muslim holy signs such as the Qur'an.

The silly idea Welders has proposed is to prohibit the Qur'an's use for non-academic people arguing that it is a book that drives people to hate each other. This is a spectacularly stupid idea, because he clearly ignores the texts in the Torah and the Bible that literally encourage people to judge others.

The Bible states regularly and repetitively that God has chosen Jews to be his "chosen people" without considering non-Jews. Moreover, God is often referred to as the "soldiers' God", a God who gives the Jewish soldiers orders to win over other people and tribes:
When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you- and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. [a] Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession" Deuteronomy (Chap7)

In another part in the Torah, we find a text about the attitude towards inhabitants whose lands get seized by the people of Israel where their God tells them:
You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young. The LORD will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you" (Deuteronomy-7)

And we find that prophet Moses orders the killing of the prisoners “…Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. Moses was angry with the officers of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle.
"Have you allowed all the women to live?" he asked them. "They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man." (Deuteronomy 31)

As for the Bible, we can find in Saint Paul’s book And if we want to take a position against puritans/literalists, let us read what Saint Paul wrote: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders. (1 Corinthians 6).
In other words, none of these will enter paradise.

Mr. Jamy argues that Islam punishes people who leave Islam; he should definitely listen to what Sheikh Jam’a, the mufti of Egypt, did: he acknowledged the right for Christians who converted to Islam to return to their original religion. Or he should also read Saint Paul’s opinion on those leave Christianity; in the chapter about abandoning faith he says:
“… it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because,to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. (Hebrews 6)

Jesus also showed a certain attitude towards non Jewish people. In Mathieu’s book we find the story of a Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to cure her child from the devil “…Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession."
Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."
He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.
He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."
Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour. ( Matthew 15).
And finally Jesus cured her daughter although he considered the Canaanites to be less valuable in comparison to the Jews.

And have we forgotten the official position the Vatican took until recently: the church used to blame today’s Jews because it considered them to be descendants of Jesus’ killers, using for this the same sentence Jews used to ask the roman’s authority to crucify him:
he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"
All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children" (Matthew 15)

We do not want a debate on religions here, we simply want to point out that “if you live in a glass house, then don't throw stones”. We should look at the holy books from a historical point of view, where and when they were written, and as “enlightened Muslim analysts” suggests, the reasons they were written.

All holy Jewish, Christian and Muslim books present some common attitudes regarding women, abortion and adultery: Jewish religion invented stoning persons who committed adultery , and the Christian church burned women who were using magic and established courts to judge people relying on only religious texts.

Western Christian countries impose civil law on their citizens even though texts related to religious judgment are still present in the holy Bible or intolerant ideas are still present in the old Testament, but we could not find any politician or even a Muslim who wants to prohibit the reading of the Bible or the Torah. This is because the Qur'an respects Jesus and Mary and considers Jesus to be God’s word and spirit!

We Arab Christians refuse any aggression to Muslims and Islam the same way we severely condemn any aggression from a Muslim to non Muslims. For me and many Arab Christians like me, we consider the Qur'an as a fundamental part of our civilization and culture and we respect it and read it. Did we forget that the book, the Elders of Zion was written by western Christians in which they wrote that Jewish priests kidnapped Christian children and killed them and used their blood for sacrifice?

The majority of Muslims in Muslim countries have never thought of forbidding the reading of the Bible, so please do not try to draw people’s attention to yourself by shedding darkness on others.

Translated from the Arabic by Evy

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