- Nov 22, 2003
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Reader rebuttal: The truth about Islam
A bit on the letter writer, links at site:
Reader rebuttal: The truth about Islam
A recent book review by Orange County Register senior editorial writer Steven Greenhut praised a book that argues that the minority of Muslim extremists who are involved in terrorism are not a deviation from, but rather a "natural result of following the actual teachings of Muhammad and the Quran" ["Islam, without blinders," Commentary, June 11].
Such a conclusion reflects either a distressing ignorance about Islam or, more worrisome, an unrepentant Islamophobia.
No religion should bear the responsibility of the actions of an extremist few who twist its teachings. No religion should be judged through a selective reading of its scripture. In every scripture, extremists can find justification for their acts. Verses from the Bible were manipulated by extremists to justify the Crusades, the killing of hundreds of thousands of Eastern Christians and Muslims, the Inquisition, the enslavement of Africans and African-Americans, the blessing of German Nazi soldiers, apartheid in South Africa, the Catholic-Protestant pogrom cycle in Europe, the displacement of Palestinians and the bombing of abortion clinics.
Muslims do not judge Christianity or Judaism by those acts, but rather by the message of peace and justice taught by Moses and Jesus. Similarly, Islam should be judged by its message of justice and equality as followed by most of its 1.3 billion followers.
Muslims' relationship with other people is based on peace, mutual respect, cooperation, justice and kindness as guided by Quranic verses such as, "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256); and "O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of God, is the best in conduct." (49:13); and "God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loves those who are just." (60:8)
Islam forbids wars of aggression and, like Christianity, sets strict conditions for just warfare. Those conditions are limited to self-defense or removing injustice against other people. The Prophet Muhammad said: "Do not kill women or children or noncombatants and do not kill old people or religious people (he also mentioned priests, nuns and rabbis). Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees and do not poison the wells of your enemies."
Islam's long history of tolerance speaks for itself. After more than 14 centuries of Muslim rule over the Middle East, tens of millions of Christians still share the same towns and villages with Muslims, in mutual brotherhood and respect. The rare exceptions have impacted all religious communities, equally. Prophet Muhammad said: "Whoever harms a Christian or a Jew, it is as if he has harmed me."
If Islam's goal is to kill or convert non-Muslims, then why is it that after over 700 years of Muslim rule, India is still 80 percent Hindu? Or why is it that Jews fled the European persecution of many centuries to live with Muslims in Andalusian Spain and North Africa in what they described as the "Golden Age of Judaism"?
If the teachings of Islam are so violent and evil, then why is it the fastest-growing religion in the West as well as the rest of the world? Why have hundreds of thousands of peaceful Westerners chosen Islam as their new religion, about two-thirds of them women?
There must be something other than its "viewing of non-Muslims as enemies that are to be treated without any rights," as Greenhut would like us to believe.
Maybe it is Islam's stress on the brotherhood of all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. Maybe it is Islam's struggle for justice and equality for all. Maybe it is Islam's balance, spirituality, simplicity, humility and tolerance.Hussam Ayloush
Executive Director of the Southern California office of the Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Anaheim
A bit on the letter writer, links at site:
Speaker overturns "misconceptions" of Islamic jihad
CAIR's Hussam Ayloush
Hussam Ayloush of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) spoke at UCLA Wednesday night about jihad. Last year I debated Ayloush on a similar topic. At UCLA he declared that his intention was to dispel misconceptions. (Thanks to Jean-Luc.)
The Muslim Student Association hosted an informational forum "Operation Jihad: Misconceptions of a Peaceful Intention" in honor of Islamic Awareness Week on Wednesday night. . . .
Speaker Husam Ayloush a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations discussed the meaning of Islamic Jihad and addressed common misconceptions of the term.
"The word 'jihad' makes most people think of Islamic extremists and events like Sept. 11," Ayloush said.
"But they do not remember that the image of long-bearded men carrying machine guns is media-produced," he added.
This is a strange statement. It seems doubtful that Ayloush means that such men don't exist. Perhaps he means that they don't exist in the numbers suggested by the media coverage they receive. In any case, bearded or no (Atta, after all, was clean-shaven), Islamic radicals are unfortunately not a small group. Just this past week I have posted news stories about jihadist activities not only in the U.S., Israel, and Iraq, but also in Australia, Mali, Pakistan, France, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Thailand, Iran, Chechnya, Germany, and elsewhere. And that's just in the last week! I suppose all this is media-created?
In Arabic, "jihad" means the exertion of effort for the sake of God, and has no implications of war or violence, Ayloush said. . . .
Ayloush mentioned that many individuals incorrectly associate jihad with the idea of a holy war.
This term "holy war" does not exist in Islamic terminology and was only written to describe the Crusades in the 1400s, he said.
Jihad ultimately promotes peace and justice in everyday activities, such as loving Allah above everything else and resisting worldly temptations, he added.
It's true: jihad doesn't mean "holy war" in Arabic. But there are centuries of Islamic tradition, as well as an elaborate Islamic theological and legal structure, behind the concept of jihad as warfare. I explore this in depth in Onward Muslim Soldiers.
In that book I recount instances where other Islamic spokesmen have denied that jihad means "holy war" and then proceeded on the assumption that that in itself meant that Islam and jihad were inherently peaceful. But in fact, while the term "holy war" may not exist as such in Islamic tradition, the concept certainly does. One classic manual of Islamic sacred law is quite specific and detailed about the meaning of jihad. It defines the "greater jihad" as "spiritual warfare against the lower self" and then devotes eleven pages to various aspects of the "lesser jihad" and its aftermath. It defines this jihad as "war against non-Muslims," noting that the word itself "is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion."
This manual stipulates that "the caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians . . . until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax." ('Umdat as-Salik, o9.8). The caliph was the successor of Muhammad as the leader of the Muslim community; the caliphate was abolished by the secular Turkish government in 1924. But the manual also states that in the absence of a caliph, Muslims must still wage jihad.
The requirement that non-Muslims first be invited to enter Islam and then warred against until they either convert or pay the jizya, the special tax on non-Muslims, is founded upon the Quran: "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued" (Sura 9:29).
This verse has been used in Islamic history and jurisprudence to establish three choices for non-Muslims that Muslims are facing in jihad: conversion to Islam, submission under Islamic rule (which involves a carefully delineated second-class citizen status centered around but by no means limited to the jizya, the tax on non-Muslims), or death.
Muhammad himself expands upon the three choices of Sura 9:29 in a tradition found in one of the collections considered most reliable by Muslims: Sahih Muslim. It depicts the Prophet of Islam appointing generals and exhorting his troops:
Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war . . . When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. . . . If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allahs help and fight them. (Sahih Muslim, book 19, no. 4294.)
Out of all this material Muslim jurists have constructed an elaborate legal edifice that is without parallel in any other major religion: a codified, detailed mass of laws for the conduct of warfare in the name of God. Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), the pioneering historian and philosopher, puts it this way: "In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force." Islam is "under obligation to gain power over other nations."
This is the traditional understanding of jihad that radical Muslims worldwide are operating upon. Ayloush would have done a much better service if he had acknowledged the existence of these traditions and mapped out a proposal for how they could be reformed in order to neutralize the threat from radical Islam and to bring Islamic theology and law in line with the principles of freedom and tolerance enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and elsewhere.
Ayloush did say some intriguing things, however, if this report is accurate.
Jihad can also implicate defending one's community from oppression, but it does not automatically call for war, Ayloush said.
"Islam is not about fighting until you teach someone a lesson. It is about fighting until persecution is no more," he said.
So it seems that Islamic jihad does involve fighting under certain circumstances: evidently, when there is "persecution." Of course, this is just the justification Osama bin Laden adduced for September 11: "Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple: Because you attacked us and continue to attack us." This is not to say that Ayloush endorses bin Laden's statement, but it does show that Ayloush's explanation of jihad, at least as it has been reported here, is not adequate to rule out Islamic radical interpretations.
One student protester showed his disagreement with Ayloush.
First-year biology student David Lazar stood outside the forum to protest.
"Alyoush says Islam is oppression and promotes peace, but he ignores the presence of numerous Islamic suicide bombers in Palestine," he said.
"If Islam is not a violent religion, then why did Islamic extremists attack and kill hundreds of women and noncombatants on Sept. 11?" he added.
Ayloush responded by encouraging his audience to remember no religion is immune to extremist sects.
"No one judges Christianity by the acts of Hitler; no one judges Judaism by the acts of Sharon; So if you want to judge Islam, do not judge it by the acts of Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein," he said.
"Remember that the mainstream believers, not the extreme few, represent Islam," he added.
This is a familiar and particularly nasty dodge. Hitler was a baptized Christian but was never observant. Nazi ideology was explicitly pagan and anti-Christian; Hitler persecuted the Church whenever it wasn't supine in the face of his tyranny. This is a far cry from the self-conscious, explicit, and sustained justification from Islamic sources that radical Muslims use to further the aims of worldwide terrorism. Hitlerism was never part of Christianity and so never needed to be reformed out of it; but Islamic radicalism must be reformed out of Islam, or it will continue to spread. Blithely dismissing it as "extremism" will do nothing to stop it.
Posted by Robert at January 30, 2004 09:35 AM | Print this entry
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Either this CAIR person is deluded himself, or is just trying to pull a fast one on non-muslims.
Everyone knows what happens when muslims become strong enough to take over an area or country, and it ain't peaceful.
The only time Islam is a religion of peace is when it is weak, once it becomes strong it changes, exactly as Muhammed did.
As it stands,Islam isn't a religion, it's a strategy.
Geez, what kinda prophet, when he isnt accepted, decides to make war, rape, and plunder?
Aren't all prophets persecuted? YES
But what makes them righteous is that they do not stoop to violence to spread their message.They keep to their message, because they believe in it.
Martin Luther King Jr. didn't send off a group of murderers to silence his opponenets and kill white people...and ya know what, if he would have, his legacy would have never became what it is today.He would have just been in the civil rights movement for his own glory, not for equality and eventual peace between the races.
Because Muhammed changed his message and turned to violence, it shows he did not believe in his message, and it shows he turned to glory for himself, not for God.
Maybe Muhammed preached a good message at first, but he fell from grace, he became full of lust for women, spoils of war, and egotistical glory.
When muslims start asking theirselves why "there is no compulsion in religion" changed to "slay the infidel where you find them" maybe they will understand where they have went wrong theirselves, why their countries are in bad shape, why the suicide bombings and honor killings and oppression of women, and the hatred or fear of non-muslims is so prevalent in their midst.
Maybe Muhammed was never able to regain the grace he may have received at first, but maybe muslims nowadays can be the redemption for him.
If they can redeem theirselves, then in effect maybe they will also redeem Muhammed.
If not, there is only one future for Islam, and it is a bloody fall into oblivion only to be known in the future as a cult of death, oppression and war.
Posted by: TS at January 30, 2004 12:18 PM
"Operation Jihad: Misconceptions of a Peaceful Intention" - really - jihad is peaceful and it is misunderstood?! Muslims are upset that there are some in the West who actually understand the basis for their out right murder in the name of religion.....pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze - what is not to understand about forced conversions, killing of infidels, humiliation of non Muslims and all women throughout the world under Islam.....how have I misunderstood the peaceful intentions of Islam whose expressed purpose is global domination? peaceful only when in the minority, but as the numbers grow, peaceful intentions are taken over by more nefarious plots of forcing non-Muslims into conversion, leaving the geographical area or living life as a less than 2nd class citizen - oh, the utter joy of dhimmitude - and you even get to pay for the pleasure of being a dhimmi - talk about adding insult to injury!
What do I not understand here about life under Islam? Can anyone explain to me what misconception I have about "Operation Jihad".
CAIR is a terrorist organizaton fronting as a civil rights organization - wake up, people - see through CAIR's veil of lies!
Posted by: jihan at January 30, 2004 04:01 PM