Questions on the Quran Part II
Abridged form published on 9/25/02 at the Duke Chronicle
Last spring, I presented verses from the Quran used to justify terrorism and injustice in many mosques, media, and madrassahs and which I believe are employed in the motivational framework of Islamic fundamentalism. My inquiries were in hope for exchange and understanding, for Islam promotes ijtihad--freedom of thought and independent thinking. Sadly, some respondents to my column vilified me as “bigoted”, “anti-Muslim and anti-Arab”, “ignorant”, “blind”, and grouped me with Jeff Greene as a slanderer. Unlike Greene and the recent letter-writers, I will not descend to the gutter of ad hominem attacks, for using such attacks in lieu of logical argument reveals intellectual mediocrity unbefitting an university education.
Let me restate my goals. I sought to stimulate discussion on verses I found inflammatory and questionable but more importantly are used to promote violence today. I posed questions: Who are disbelievers—any non Muslim? Are Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Buddha, and Confucius consigned to hell? Is there divine sanction for women’s credibility and inheritances being half of men and for men to beat their wives? Is heaven a celestial brothel? Aside from Shaza Fadel calmly & cogently stating Islam does not condone domestic violence, no one has attempted to answer these questions, instead launching verbal assaults and calls for censorship. One pair of writers presented a translation of verse 2:191 using the word “slay” rather than “kill” disbelievers, hardly making it “turn the other cheek”. Others said I mistranslated or abbreviated the verses. For reasons of space, the original column did condense verses, but these were cross-checked with standard translations by Pickthall, Ali, Shakir, and others to assure fidelity of meaning. If there are alternate meanings, I welcome discussion, which is why I asked questions; however, numerous organizations and people use the verses I quoted to promote violence, which is the heart of the matter.
I also aimed to promote the recognition that religious verses can be wrong, so as to allow ethics separate from religion, and church from state. For example, one issue not included in my first column and alluded to by Fadel is slavery, the Quran in 23:5-6 & 70:29 states “Those who guard their private parts, save from wives or slave-girls their right hands possess, are not blameworthy”, and in 24:33 “Which slaves seek emancipation and can pay for emancipation, write it if they have some good” (also 4:92, 24:58, 30:50-51). Islamic empires practiced slavery for centuries after prophet Muhammed’s death and Sudan continues to do so today, underscoring why a theocracy cannot be a democracy, for the cloak of divine authority suffocates dissent & reason, requirements for human evolution.
Inge Osman hoped that in this “era of political correctness”, my column would not have been printed. Messrs. Eltom & Mustafa said I attacked the Quran after previously calling Islamic fundamentalism “pure evil.” I never attacked the Quran nor wrote Islamic fundamentalism was pure evil, although if they wished to so characterize any ideology that spawned 9/11 and the Taliban, I would not object. Let me be clear: I am anti-terrorist and anti-fundamentalist, very different from being anti-Muslim, a line Eltom & Mustafa seemingly would blur, for reasons beyond me. The Catholic Church is finally engaged in introspection of what structural issues may engender pedophilia; those who criticized the church for its delays are not branded anti-Catholic bigots. When Muslim clerics, leaders, and newspapers promote hate & terrorism in Islam’s name, it is not only rational but incumbent upon us to ask what engenders such behavior. I fully appreciate the beauty of wonderful verses like “to kill a life is akin to killing the whole world” and “Allah does not like aggressors”, but in counterpoint stand fatwas relying on other verses given by clerics and mullahs for murder and suicide bombing.
I still ask moderate Muslims telling Americans Islam teaches peace to please preach that to their community's fanatics, to acknowledge the depravity of the cult of death, heavenly brothels, forced shari’a, & conquest, to face down terrorists as the West purged the KKK & the like, and to cease conferring the mantle of freedom struggle to barbarians hijacking religion (which besmirches genuine & successful freedom leaders like Gandhi, Mandela, Havel, Walesa, and King who abhorred violence & eschewed suicide bombing whether in jail or not).
After 9/11, Americans at all levels made extraordinary efforts to prevent an anti-Muslim backlash, an admirable and eminently moral display of tolerance in the face of venom and hatred. Is it so much to ask that tolerance be a 2-way street, that Islamic fundamentalism be confronted with candid reflection, for which free speech and debate are essential? Let us not import shrill hysteria, censorship, political correctness, and stifling of debate from the