2006 November 28 Tuesday
Pope Benedict Backs Turkey EU Bid
If this is true then Pope Benedict disgusts me.
Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told reporters after a brief meeting with Benedict at the airport here that he had asked the pope to support Turkey in its attempts to become a member of the European Union.
“He said, ‘You know we don’t have a political role, but we wish for Turkey’s entry into the E.U.,’ ” Mr. Erdogan said the pope told him. “His wish is a positive recommendation for us.”
This sounds like it is coming from Erdogan's camp.
"I really wanted to come to Turkey because Turkey has become a bridge ... between the religions," Benedict reportedly told the Prime Minister through an interpreter.
"It is a democratic, Islamic country and a bridge," the Pope said. "I wanted to come to Turkey since becoming pope because I love this culture."
"I want to reiterate the solidarity between the cultures," Benedict said. "This is our duty."
Although while still a Cardinal, Pope Benedict had argued that Turkey's Muslim majority religion meant that the nation did not belong in the European Union, Mr Erdogan said the Pope told him that he supported Turkey's push to join the European Union.
The Pope's spokesman delivers a slightly watered down version of what the Pope said.
A Vatican spokesman later issued a statement that offered a more nuanced interpretation of what the Pope may have told Mr Erdogan. The Holy See had no power to influence political decisions, the statement said, but the Pope supported “Turkey’s integration into Europe.”
Integration? What does that mean? Sounds like some form of EU membership to me.
By contrast, here's what Pope Benedict had to say about Islam in 1997 while he was still a cardinal.
"Islam has a total organization of life that is completely different from ours; it embraces simply everything," he said. "There is a very marked subordination of woman to man; there is a very tightly knit criminal law, indeed, a law regulating all areas of life, that is opposed to our modern ideas about society. One has to have a clear understanding that it is not simply a denomination that can be included in the free realm of a pluralistic society."
An important point, however, is ... that the interplay of society, politics and religion has a completely different structure in Islam as a whole. Today's discussion in the West about the possibility of Islamic theological faculties, or about the idea of Islam as a legal entity, resupposes that all religions have basically the same structure, that they all fit into a democratic system with its regulations and the possibilities provided by these regulations. In itself, however, this necessarily contradicts the essence of Islam, which simply does not have the separation of the political and religious sphere, which Christianity has had from the beginning. The Quran is a total religious law, which regulates the whole of political and social life and insists that the whole order of life be Islamic....
Popes sound like politicians. I trust them about as much (very little). Benedict clearly knows the score with Muslims. But now as Pope he's not willing to honestly tell Christians what they need to hear from their religious leaders about Islam. Still, you can read what he said when he held a lower level position and felt less constrained.
Update: The Pope swung in support of Turkey's admission to the EU, like a good dhimmi, because he didn't want the Muslims to be so angry with him.
But the 79-year-old pope’s concession on Tuesday, at the start of a four-day trip here, seemed to make good on his pledge to heal the wounds between East and West. It may also have the practical effect of tamping down anger here. Security for the pope’s visit was extensive, with helicopters hovering at the airport, commandos guarding the pope’s plane and sharpshooters on the roofs of buildings.
How pathetic. He didn't want the Turks angry at him and Catholics so he would prefer to sell out Europe.
As a cardinal the Pope was right in 2004 and in 1997 and he is wrong now.
Over the weekend, the Vatican began signaling that it was warming to the idea of Turkey’s membership in the European Union. The Vatican has never issued a formal position on Turkish membership. In 2004, when the pope was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he said it would be a “grave error,” both he and other church officials described the remarks as his personal opinion.
Islam is incompatible with the West. Ratzinger clearly stated why. But politicians make decisions based on considerations other than what is best for their people.
"An important point, however, is ... that the interplay of society, politics and religion has a completely different structure in Islam as a whole. Today's discussion in the West about the possibility of Islamic theological faculties, or about the idea of Islam as a legal entity, resupposes that all religions have basically the same structure, that they all fit into a democratic system with its regulations and the possibilities provided by these regulations. In itself, however, this necessarily contradicts the essence of Islam, which simply does not have the separation of the political and religious sphere, which Christianity has had from the beginning."
This is not really true. It really depends on the legal school in Sunni Islam and how one interprets the Hadith. The Quran actually has very little in the way of law. It is not like the Torah. The Hadith is like the Talmud and is the main body from which Islamic law is drawn. There are 4 major schools of thought in Sunni Islam. Shia is radically different in interpretations of the Quran and the Hadith.
I think you should actually read about the history of Islam, the various factions (Sunni, Shia, and Sufi) and the various schools of Islamic law (I believe it is called Fihq).
Islam has struggled since the beginning over the idea that there should be a seperate Secular and Religious leadership (Church and State Seperation) in fact the reason there are Shia today, seperate from Sunni is over this issue. The first Caliphate of Abu Bakr believed secular power should be seperate from religious. The Shia believed they should not. Eventually in Sunni Islam later Caliphs varied greatly in their belief in seperation of religion and state, some very liberal some not. The difference is there was no civil society, whoever lead enforced their rule of how things should be and persecuted everyone else, until the Caliphate broke apart into several different ones (no more united Islamic world).
Islam can be reformed, at least Sunnism (Shia, I don't believe can). It really depends on the interpretation of the Hadith and the Quran and the school involved. The trick is getting a critical mass of Muslims to follow the more liberal schools that are more centered on a "living book" which can adapt to today instead of the strict traditionist view (Wahabbi) which teaches everying in the Quran and the Hadith must be interpreted and applied for all time as it was in the time of Muhammad. This is now the great division in the Muslim world and the Wahabbi have gained great power, but they are not the only type of Muslim, not even the majority.
I would suggest reading:
"No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam", by Reza Aslan. (an Iranian America, who I believe is a Sufi although he does not say, he tries to seperate fact from myth and is an excellent writer...real page turner).
It is a great starting point for a real overview concerning Islamic theory and history. Before you can reform something, before you can critique something you have to be able to define it and understand it. What you written above shows that there is a lot about Islam that you are not aware of. Hell, neither and I but I think it is important we all learn.
I would to reiterate that I do not believe your interpretation of "Islam" is wrong. I believe you are dead on when you speak of radical Shiaism (The Party of Ali) and Wahabbi Islam, but these schools are not synonymous with most Muslim beliefs or Islam as a whole, both are minorities. The problem we are seeing is that they are gaining adherents and quickly. This is a type of reverse reformation.
I will give a brief example from the book I read above. Aslan talks quite a bit about women in Islam and the hijab. There is no commandment or law in the Quran that says women must cover their face or their entire body. It does say that women should be modest and pious (as should men). It also says that women should cover their hair as a symbol of purity but this is not a commandment.
At the time of Mohammad, Western and Muslim historians have shown that most women did not cover where a hijab, even in Medina (the City of the Prophet). Women did cover there hair that was a tradition in the region for centuries. In the Old Testaments there is a story of a man who had “relations” with a woman he thought was his wife, but was not. He did not know because she had on a hijab. Centuries later in the time of Paul, in the New Testaments Paul says that it is a shame for a man to have his head covered in church and a shame for a woman not to. This is why nuns and some other Christian sects have women cover their hair, especially in church. Most Christians today ignore these orders from Paul on how the Church should be structured.
Later, in the time of Mohammad it was fashionable for upper class Persians (pre-Islamic) to have their wives and daughters where a hijab to show their status and purity. This was adopted by Mohammads wives, because Mohammad’s house was the first Mosque. He constantly had strange men in and out of his house at all hours and to prevent his wives from being accused of being unpious they always wore a Hijab in the presence of strangers. Other Muslim women did not. It was not until centuries later did people interpret the Hadith and the Quran to say that all women should be like “the wives of Mohammad” who were without sin…therefore wear a hijab, but most schools of Islam do not mandate this, just Wahabbis and some Shia.
Women during Mohammad’s time were not always passive. Mohammad's wives often publicly scolded him. Kadeja (his first wife who was previously married and quite wealthy by her own right) was his main advisor. After his death, his wife Aisha raised and army and led it against Mohammad’s cousin and brother-in-law Ali. Women at this time could have power, it was not until later they were oppressed.
The problem with the Quran is that it is written is highly poetic verse, because this was the language most commonly used in Arabia by Kahim (Cohen in Hebrew) to express religiosity in Pre-Islamic times (when most people were illiterate)…very similar to how Homer sang the Iliad and the Odyssey. Text can be interpreted in vastly different ways between different sects of Sunnis and especially between Shia and Sunnis. As I show below in the following translation of a Quranic verse:
The first is from Princeton edition, translated by Ahmed Ali; the second is from Majid Fakhry’s translation, published by NYU:
1) “Men are the support of women [qawwanuna ‘ala an-nisa] as God gives some more means than others, and because they spend of their wealth (to provide for them)…As for women you feel are averse, talk to them suasively; then leave them alone in bed (without molesting them) and go to bed with them (when they are willing).
2) “Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made some of them excel the others, and because they spend some of their wealth…And for those [women] that you fear might rebel, admonish them and adadon them in their deds and beat them (adribuhunna).
Because of the variability of the Arabic language, both of these translations are grammatically , syntactically, and definitionally correct. The phrase quawwamuna ‘ ala an-nisa can be understood as “watch over”, “support”, “attend to”, “look after”, or “be in charge of”. The word adribuhunna can mean “beat them”, “turn away from them”, “go along with them”, “have consensual intercourse with them”.
This is clearly a problem, but also an opportunity. The West can overly and clandestinely encourage and support more liberal version of Islam and also seek to oppress Wahhabi and radical Shiaism. If we want to be engaged in the Middle East…we must deal with the push/pull factors that lead those to radicalization and we must understand the nature of Islam.
As an update, the BBC is now reporting that the European Commission has recommended suspension of accession talks for Turkish EU membership until Turkey agrees to allow ships from Cyprus into its ports. Cyprus, of course, is already an EU member state, and so Turkey's refusal to allow its ships into Turkish ports has long been a sticking point in Turkey-EU negotiations. As I said yesterday, I don't expect Turkey ever to make it into the EU. This is perhaps just one more nail in that particular coffin.
I have trouble reading long, serious comments by a guy who signs them as "Borat".
I would reiterate that I believe my interpretation of Islam is correct.
Mohammed was a political ruler. He defined a religion that had a government as part of it. Therefore Islam is very different than the Christianity that had Jesus saying "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's".
Open your eyes. Look at Muslim nations. They are very unlike what I want my country to be. We should stop letting immigrate to Western countries, deport the illegals, and pay the citizen Muslims to leave.
I do not want to live in a theocracy either, but then again most Muslims also do not. I'm sure most people do not wants to live in a dictatorship or in an unconstitutional monarchy given the choice. If you think Muslims will leave once here...I think you are kidding yourself. I think you know better.
As far as Mohammad being a political leader, this was true, but those who followed him divided in that belief, because Mohammad never said after he was gone how things should be run...this is why the split between Sunni and Shia occured. Some Caliphates were very secular, some were not. Look it up...there was never concensus.
The problem I have with your analysis is that you say "Islam" as if there is no variation in belief or practice.
Do you believe that a Turkish Sufi, a Saudi Bedouin Wahabbist, a Semi-Secular Egytians from Cairo, a Iranian Shia from Tehran, a Muslim Nigerian, a Muslim Indonesian, and a African American Muslim from Chicago have the same beliefs and practice and would agree with Osama Bin Laden if put in a room together with a Koran and Hadith? I seriously doubt it, it is likely they would be at each others throats win brought into a religious discussion.
This being said I think you need to define which kind of Muslims fit your discription, instead of stereotyping over 1 billion people.
This is the same thing radical Muslims do when they talk about Christian Infadel Cruisaders threating Islam...they stereotype all Christians, all Westerners as one evil force...neither is productive to any kind of meaningful understanding of the other.
To answer your first question...I don't know. My suggestion though would be to call your local Mosque and ask a local Imam, in fact call two. Call one known to be conservative and call one known to be somewhat liberal. I'm almost certain they will meet with you to discuss. There are sections in the Torah/Old Testiment where Jews were instructed under the guidance of God to kill entire ethnicities of people, keep the women/child as slaves. If you rape the women you have to marry them, and to divide up the wealth. This is not a new concept. At the time, this was normal behavior in warfare. In Europe and the Middle East, at that time period...and well after.
As far as language...from what I have read, most conservative Muslims, radical or not, do not believe the Quran should be written in any other language but Arabic. However, many more moderate and liberal groups do not believe this. This kind of thing is similar to Mass in the Catholic church only being said in Latin for over 1500 years. Why? Was Latin the language of Jesus? I don't think so. Chalk it up to rigid tradition.
Also most all Muslims, from the Muslims I know and what I havae read believe the Quran is the word of God as directly as it was given to Mohammad. This is not really the issue though. The real issue is if you believe as the Wahabbi do that the Koran is meant to apply to all Muslims exactly as it is written for all times, or (as most Muslims believe) that the Quran was situational to what was going on at the time of Mohammad and lessons can be taken from that an applied to today. This is like the difference between Orthadox Jews nad Reform Jews. The difference between Evagelistic Christians and more liberal Christians (like Catholics).
Remember most Muslim law does not come from the Quran it comes from the Hadith...which is not considered devinely inspired.
In my estimation the Muslims who are the biggest threat are the radicals in Saudi and Egypt who have spread and financed this global radicalism. If Islam is in the middle of a Reformation...if we want to head off a "30 Year War" Islamic style and maintain stability in the region we have signficant strategic and economic interests in we need to focus our attention on these states. They are the core of this moverment. We need to take sides and make sure "our boys" the Westernized Muslim Modernist in the region win this thing...or I fear the situation will just get worse. This war is not going to be won by military power...but it will take power, covert and overt.
I read most of the Surah Al-Anfal...I will not pretend that I understood it all, it is very vague in most sections but I know a good portion of it was about the Battle of Badr, which was not an Islamic slaughter...Mohammad was outnumbered I believe 3:1 and not heavily armed but the made the Meccan army retreat...this is a very significant battle in Islam and from what I have read (remember I do not claim to be an expert on Islam and I am no Muslim) that this was a significant sign that Mohammad was doing Allah's will.
In the entire Surah there is not much about dividing up wealth gained from battle. It is mostly about fighting the Polytheist (this is in specific reference to the Arab Tribe that ruled Mecca at the time). According to the Koran/Hadith when Mohammad finally came to Mecca to take over he did not do it by the sword and most of the tribes there converted over time but it was not forced. He even left the same tribe in charge of most affairs in Mecca as they always had, he just wanted to control the Ka'ba and the area around it.
So anyway what they are saying is if you fight the Meccans (Polytheist refered to) and you gain wealth...this is how you should use it:
"41. And know that whatever of war-booty that you may gain, verily one-fifth (1/5th) of it is assigned to Allâh, and to the Messenger, and to the near relatives [of the Messenger (Muhammad )], (and also) the orphans, Al-Masâkin (the poor) and the wayfarer, if you have believed in Allâh and in that which We sent down to Our slave (Muhammad ) on the Day of criterion (between right and wrong), the Day when the two forces met (the battle of Badr) - And Allâh is Able to do all things."
this is the only thing I see in the Surah that talks about wealth. It also says that they should fight the Meccans because they are wiked and nonbelievers, but mainly because they are plotting against Muslims and threatening them...which according to other sources was true as Mohammad fled Mecca because they were trying to kill him and they came to fight him near Medina...not the other way around. So I would not call that murder as much as self defense...or am I reading the history and the Quran incorrectly??
None of the Muslim countries extend equal rights to non-Muslims. I figure this represents the will of Muslims.
Secular people in Egypt do not want to be ruled by theocrats? Yes, of course. Ditto secular elites in Algeria. Ditto secularists in other Muslim countries. But they are the minority.
I know there is variation in belief. The miority Alawites who rule Syria tolerate non-Muslims a lot better than the majority would if the place was ruled by an elected majority. But Syria is about the best in terms of toleration of non-Sunnis and non-Shias.
Look at Turkey. It is supposed to be the most modern, Western, secular, and democratic. But if you aren't a Sunni Muslim you do not have religious freedom. You are free to be a Sunni Muslim. You are also free to stay in the closet with non-Sunni Muslim beliefs.
This is all very predictable. Supposed periods of toleration of non-Muslims occurred more often in newly conquered territories when leaders ruled majorities who were not Muslims. Then higher taxes on non-Muslims and better legal protections of Muslim property decreasd the populations of non-Muslims and increased the populations of Muslims. Eventually rulers didn't depend on non-Muslims much and could better afford to persecute them.
You can spin all you want. But I can look at Egypt's abysmal treatment of the Copts, the marginalized existence of Christians in Turkey, and other examples and I can see plainly what the score is. Muslims are a threat to my liberty. A Muslim majority means an end to my liberty and a decay in my liberty much sooner than the point where they achieve a majority.
I'm not attempting to spin, and I do not disagree with your assessment. I also do not want to live in a Muslim majority country. Then again I would not like to live in a majority Chinese country, a majority Indian Hindu country either. So these things we have in common. Well, if I had no choice, I would prefer a country like Malaysia. This seems to be the only Muslim country where it seems nonMuslims can be successful, although there is some strong affirmative action programs for Muslims, but then again they are not the wealthiest, the Chinese are. Indonesia has had serious conflicts with ethnic Chinese, but I don't believe that was religious in nature. I say that because bali is a Hindu island in the middle of Indonesia, and from what I know of Bali they have not have religious conflicts with the Muslim majority in centuries(until the bombing a couple of years ago by fanatics). There school of Sunni Islam is probably the most tolerant though outside of West Africa. I know many nonMuslims live in and work (making good money) in the UAE as well.
I guess my point is that if most Muslims want to live with some mix of religion and state that is not really a Caliph but also not a secular Western nation I could care less. I guess what I am concerned with and what ou are concerned with is radical Muslims who want to forcably convert us or kill us at home and abroad. Is that correct? If it is, what I'm saying is I do not believe that most Muslims want to do that. I do believe radicalism is increasing, and I believe you would agree. I think there are reasons for this radicalism increasing (push/pull factors) and it is far more complex than "they just started reading the Koran and decided to hate America, Britian, France, etc all the sudden to the point where they are willing to fly planes into buildings...blah blah". It all goes back to the rise in technology at the same time the Sauds got rich off of oil and had the power to export Wahhabism. They also teamed up with the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt (many of who were exiled to Saudi) and this is the Egyptian/Saudi Axis of Evil Islam.
I do not believe we will ever be uninvolved in the Muslims world, due to strategic and economic interests. This being the case we need to figure out how we can maximize our interests at the same time as improve our relations. I do not believe expelling Muslims from our countries, grouping them all as crazy fanatics, and not being actively involved in supporting the type of Islam that is in our interests is condusive to our long term interest in the region. It will only inflame the situation even further and give more power to the radicals.
That's my opinion and I know we will not agree on this, but I feel that although I'm not expert on the Middle East or Islam this is the opinion I've come to from reading about Islam in detail and reading what the "experts on the region" have said, both Muslim and Western academics.
Maybe I'm overly optomistic but I have hope. Thanks for your time.
You claim to have read about Islam in detail. Yet, I see no evidence that you have. It sounds to me like you gave an Islamic apologia a cursory read. It was full of happy thoughts and you want happy thoughts so that's as far as you want to look.
You project your own beliefs onto Muslims, and doing so is incredibly wrong. The doctrine that the Arabic Qur'an comprises God's own words in God's language of choice is a widely accepted doctrine believed with utmost faith by about a billion Muslims. It dates back to the second or third Caliph.
You dismiss it as a meaningless tradition like the tradition of latin mass. The Roman Catholic church gave mass in Latin because Latin was once the language of Rome. It was once understood even by peasants throughout the entire Catholic world, which was the Roman empire. It only took Catholics a thousand years after the fall of Rome to give up the habit of latin mass, but Muslims recite the Arabic Qur'an not because Arabic is the language of Mecca but because it is the chosen language of God himself. The difference is vitally important.
It took you until verse 41 of Al-Anfal to figure out that Al-Anfal is about distributing the wealth of the people Islam had just murdered. Yet, in verse 1, Mohammed claims all the loot for his to distribute as he sees fit. He goes on to describe the murders and to absolve the murderers by claiming demonic possession. What sort of moral instruction is that? What sort of God gives that sort of message? In his own words?!?
The absolute doctrine that the Qur'an comprises God's own words in God's language of choice makes content like Al-Anfal very problematic. Sure, some muslims contort themselves through all sorts of mental gymnastics to ignore the core message of the Qur'an, but what prevents their children or grandchildren from returning to that core message? The terrorists adhere very closely to the core literal message of the Qur'an.
How does one go about convincing folks they should never take God, himself, literally? It's a problem.
You mention the battle of Badr. To put that battle into perspective, Mohammed and his ilk were pirates. They were on one of their frequent piracy expeditions, when they found a caravan to attack. They were surprised by a nearby army. By taking the higher ground, they were able to defeat the larger army.
If we decide whose side God is on by outnumbered victors, then God must be an apostate: Certainly, judging by the victors of Agincourt, He converted to an Anglican long ago.
According to the base texts of Islam, pre-emptive attacks against people who have done absolutely nothing wrong are defensive. According to the base texts of Islam, genocide is the proper way to dispose of former allies.
Why should I talk to a lying imam when I have my own lying eyes? Why should I learn about Islam by reading an apologia when I can learn about it by reading the base texts of Islam themselves?
I think the biggest problem, as Randall alluded to, is not secularism in Islam. That I don’t think will ever occur or be accepted by most Muslims. Any form of democracy in the Middle East will be based on Islamic values as much as America is based on Judeo-Christian values even if we do not officially endorse a religion (although many states in Europe do to this day). This to me is not important, what is important is PLURALISM in a society. This is the real problem in Muslim countries…but Pluralism in Islamic countries is not just a religious problem but also political (in most not all).
Listen, I have said already I am not theologian or expert on Islam. I have read a few books on the subject, talked to a few Muslims that I know on the subject in the last 5 years. I have never read the entire Qu’an but I have read at least half of it. So in that way I believe I know far more about Islam than 80% of Americans.
It is obvious to me that you have read quite a bit about Islam yourself, but for you to read a translation of the Qu’an and claim clear understanding (when even native Arabic speakers argue over translation and meaning) and you are not a native speaker of Arabic, Persian, or a language of an Islamic country, do not know the cultural and historic background in which to evaluate the text I call into question your conclusions. This is not to be insulting, but I feel that is arrogance.
The fact that Muslims choose to read the Qu’an in Arabic or prefer it written in Arabic because that is their belief I don’t find to be a shocking thing and I don’t understand your issue with this. This obviously does not mean that all Muslims in the world want to be Arab or want to speak Arabic as a first language. That is obviously not the case. Most Muslims are not Arabic ethnically or culturally and do not speak Arabic as a first language. Even during early Islamic times, Persians, still spoke Persian although they were Islamicized quite early. I don’t see a time in the near future where Arab cultural hegemony will encompass the Muslim world in such a way that all Muslims will speak Arabic and force it on everyone else.
Going back to Muhammad and being a pirate. This is true, but if you read about pre-Islamic Arab history his kind of thing was common and rarely lead to a major war between tribes unless blood was spilled, then the “blood law” (i.e. eye for an eye) went into effect. Muhammad was not doing anything unusual for Arab tribes at the time…not to my knowledge. Do you know different? He then goes on to say that whatever wealth is gained should not just go to personal enrichment but to help the community, even orphans. That does not sound like an evil blood thirsty opportunities to me. Well no more than Robin Hood.
As far as the Qu’an saying that the Meccans were demonically possessed and evil, yes I do agree that is drastic, but do you think the language was unusual at the time period in other religions? There are many things in the Old Testament that talk about rival tribes/kingdoms to the Jews as being evil in the eyes of God, sinful, etc and God gave the Jews the right to exterminate these people. Basically commit genocide…to the point of killing all the men, and selling the women and children into slavery. The Old Testament then talks about how Masters and slaves should behave to one another (sighting slaves should be loyal) that men have the right to “discipline their wives”, the “head of the woman is her husband”. In the New Testament Paul says women should cover their hair in church. These things were all used well into the Enlightenment, in fact even up until the 1800’s to justify slavery, forcing religious conversion, wife beating, killing nonbelievers (witches, pagan Indians, Muslims).
Now you can argue that Jesus was a man of peace and that he said “lover your neighbor as you love yourself” but Jesus also said he did not come to dissolve previous laws but to fulfill them…this was used by many Christians to justify the things I mentioned above in the Old Testament as still legitimate.
What has stopped Christians or what will stop them in the future for once again justifying these actions using the bible?
I think in the end it is not the religious text, as much as how it is interpreted and what is emphasized. If I took a literal reading of the Christian bible I could do all types of abhorrent things and find verses to back up my actions. How did Christians come to believe they should not take God literally or they should not emphasize certain things over others?
I agree with you that this problem definitely does exist in Islam, and I think you would not find a liberal Muslim who would not agree. This does not mean these things are insurmountable.
Genocide in the Qu’an..you are talking about the execution of the Jewish tribe that betrayed Mohammad to the Meccans. Do you know that he was betrayed twice. The first time he spared them. The second time he executed the men, and sold the woman and children into slavery, but this was also not against Arab tribal custom at the time. Hell the Romans and the more ancient Israelites and Greeks did the same thing. This was a common practice for centuries. As I said you have to look at it in historical context. IN the bible, in the Old Testament the same thing occurs. So I don’t see your point. As I said it matters less what is written as how you interpret it.
Read: 1 Samuel 27:8-9:, 2 Kings 2:23-24:, Joshua 7:20-25, Numbers 31:1-18
These all talk about the murder of children, genocide, etc Typically by Prophets who were supposed to be close to God…at least as close as Mohammad was to Allah.
You are missing the whole point Borat. Whether Muhammad was typical Arab of his time is irrelevant and attempting to contextualize his actions is a fool's errand. A billion people in this world think he is the perfect man for all time and his way of life should be emulated for all times. Criticizing Muhammad is punishable by death. There are many things that Muhammad did during his time that would be considered objectionable today, but here's the rub, Muslims don't care. They don't judge Muhammad by today's standards nor do they contextualize his actions the way you do, they follow him blindly because the Koran says so.
It is not our job to reform Islam in the first place and it certainly isn't our job to invite foreign born Muslims into the West hoping and praying that they will some how embrace democracy and Enlightenment values. Some will, but the majority won't, and it would be unbelievably cruel to inconvenience our lifestyles and spend millions of dollars monitoring potential terrorists because a few liberals and neocons find Muslims interesting. The reality is Muslim culture is disgusting and most Western peoples would be glad if the Muslims decided to pack up and leave. You can draw all the false analogies between Christianity and Islam all you want but you are wasting your time.
There is no need to consult an imam in order to learn about Islam because he will most likely lie to you since you are an infidel (taqiyya). You can get the real truth by reading the core texts yourself and by reading tafsir and other publications that are directed towards Muslim audiences. You don't even need to know Arabic or Farsi, you wouldn't believe how much of this material is available in English.
Arch is right. You missed every point.
As far as the Qu’an saying that the Meccans were demonically possessed and evil, yes I do agree that is drastic
You are not reading. You are projecting. In the above quote, you prove that you project your own prejudices instead of actually reading this stuff with an open mind. You need to read Al-Anfal 9 thru 17 again. The Qur'an says that Mohammed's men were demonically possessed and that this was a good thing.
The Old Testament then talks
I agree. The Old Testament is a problematic text for the modern world. I personally choose not to live in a society governed by the Old Testament, and I would strongly oppose any attempt to impose Old Testament oppression on my society. I note, however, that the New Testament is the founding text of Christianity. The most bloody and oppressive periods of Christian history were only possible by keeping the populace largely ignorant of what the New Testament actually says and ignorant of what Christ said.
Increasing literacy and greater availability of Bibles drove the Reformation and the Enlightenment forcing all Christian sects to more closely adhere to the core message of the New Testament. As an atheist, I find nothing problematic in the New Testament at all.
Just as Christianity had periods of relative violence and oppression that it could only sustain by keeping the populace largely ignorant of the core message of Christ, Islam has had periods of relative peace and tolerance that it could only sustain by keeping the populace largely ignorant of the core message of Mohammed. (Note that the 'relative peace and tolerance' is only tolerant relative to the most oppressive periods of other societies and was absolutely oppressive and intolerant by modern standards.)
With increasing literacy and greater availability of Qur'ans, I expect an increase in violence and intolerance from Islam, and that is exactly what we see today.
If I took a literal reading of the Christian bible I could do all types of abhorrent things
I defy you to find anything in the New Testament to justify any abhorrent act. At the same time, the Qur'an comprises verse after verse commanding oppression and murder.
What has stopped Christians or what will stop them in the future for once again justifying these actions using the bible?
The New Testament. Stuff like Matthew 5.
It is obvious to me that you have read quite a bit about Islam yourself, but for you to read a translation of the Qu’an and claim clear understanding (when even native Arabic speakers argue over translation and meaning) and you are not a native speaker of Arabic
I didn't read "a translation"; I read several. And the links I give to the Qur'an show three translations side-by-side so anyone can judge for themselves how much of any translation is consensus vs. controversy. The overall message of Al-Anfal is clear to me in all translations.
The fact that Muslims choose to read the Qu’an in Arabic or prefer it written in Arabic because that is their belief I don’t find to be a shocking thing and I don’t understand your issue with this.
I have few concerns for any individual's choice. The doctrine that the Arabic Qur'an comprises God's own words in God's language of choice is not the choice of Muslims. It is a doctrine imposed upon them by their religion in the name of God, himself.
I would not have a problem with that doctrine if the content of the Qur'an were not itself a problem. However, the literal message of the Qur'an is very much a problem as anyone can verify for himself.
You accuse me of arrogance. Who is more arrogant? The person who merely observes what the Qur'an reports as God's own words? Or the person who pipes up with "What the deity from Arabia meant to say was...."
what is important is PLURALISM in a society.
What is pluralistic about a religion, Islam, that explicitly rejects ecumenism?
What is pluralistic about piracy? After all, Islamic doctrine holds that Mohammed is the perfect paradigm of morality. Murder and theft are immoral. Murder and theft were considered immoral long before Mohammed and his ilk turned them into a profession. Child sexual assault is immoral. It has always been immoral, and it always will be immoral. And yet hundreds of millions of Muslims believe both that Mohammed is the perfect paradigm of morality and that Mohammed fucked a nine year old child. After all, in the earliest base texts of Islam, Aisha reports herself that she was nine years old when the women of Mohammed's household plucked her from her swing for Mohammed's pleasure.
Pluralism in Islamic countries is not just a religious problem but also political
Islam is and always has been a political movement as well as a religion. The base texts of Islam reject any distinction between legality and morality. While neither Sunni nor Shia form a majority of Islam, the overwhelming majority of Muslims fall into one or the other of these two sects. You will find that both sects support oppressive theocratic rule as evidenced by Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran.
Genocide in the Qu’an..you are talking about the execution of the Jewish tribe that betrayed Mohammad to the Meccans.
The Quraysh didn't betray anyone. Mohammed just up and attacked them. He claimed the attack was defensive not because the Quraysh did anything but because he claimed some unseen demon told him they were going to. And then he wiped them out by murdering the men and handing the women out to his men.
I find you gullible. As I said, you listen to happy thoughts because you find the happy thoughts comforting. Sadly, reality doesn't work that way.
You have it exactly right.
Borat (and all the other names you go by),
What is important about pluralism? How is it a value in and of itself? I do not see it personally. Monoethnic engineering and design and manufacturing teams in Japan do great feats of engineering. Ditto monoethnic teams in Germany, Sweden, and other places. How are they held back if they are not ethnically mixed? I do not see it.
When I work with people from India that by itself does not make my development teams work better. There's nothing about their being from India that makes our teams better. If one of them happens to be brilliant that helps. But the ones that are average could just as well be replaced by someone white or Japanese who is average. The sheer level of talent matters most of all when trying to do engineering or science.
Pluralism is just one of the latest talismans of the Left. What next, lucky rabbit's feet? Voodoo dolls? Feng Shui? Or blood sacrifices of sheep on an altar?
When I said pluralism...I was not talking about ethnic/racial...it is not surprising that you made that assumption right away...but that was not what I was getting at.
Japan is probably the most ethnically homogenous major nation on earth, but they are still fairly pluralistic. They have right wing political parties that advocate militarism; they also have the Japanese Communist party. They have Buddhist and Shintoist who have lived side by side (and even share some rituals) with no conflict in centuries.
India is the definition of pluralism...one can argue there is no standard Hinduism. There are also Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhist, and Christians all present in the government. The current president is a Sikh, although about 70% of Indians are Hindu. They also have a very pluralistic political environment as well.
The idea of pluralism is present in Malaysia, Indonesia, but in most of North Africa and the Middle East it is absent. It does not matter if it is political/religious. Some may argue that is intrinsic to Islam…but it was once also intrinsic to how Christianity was practiced as well. In fact the Catholic Church would not even allow varying types of Christianity let along other religions to exist without some form of oppression, or outright slaughter. Even in the history of Islam the concept that there could be Christians and Jews (Demmies) has always existed, but this was expanded by various Muslim rulers to Zoroastrians and Hindus at various times.
In my opinion this is the greatest problem in the Middle East a lack of a civil society that allows religious/political pluralism. I do not believe this is a permanent condition (not in most states, some, yes). It took Europe centuries to develop this ideal, even after the advent of democracy.
We can go round and round with this. From where I sit the consensus in the academic community (Muslim and Western) and with government analysts is that Islam is in the throws of religious upheaval (a reformation). I have rarely read any interpretation such as yours, not in scholarly journals, at foreign policy conferences, or government analysis. This does not mean you are wrong, you could be one of the few voices of dissension that are absolutely right and history will come to see that, but from what I have seen of the Muslim world (having been to only one predominately Muslim country) and from what I have read (from Western and Islamic thinkers) I do not believe that your observations and analysis apply to the majority of Muslims, although I have always admitted quite freely they do apply to some radical elements who are increasingly gaining ground.
Time will tell which of us is right.
Until then I will hope that reformers such as Tariq Ramadan and Reza Aslan will continue to be heard and we continue to throw our support behind him and his school of Muslim scholarship. In the end the results of this will affect us all. This reformation will be global the repercussions will effect the world for centuries to come.
Religion in East Asia has generally been very syncretic. Buddhism didn't clash with Shintoism or Confucianism in Japan much because Buddhism accepted many of the Shinto gods and it seemed to work fairly well within the Confucian institutions that came before Buddhism. Japan is a democratic society but a one party state (LDP). The communists and far rightists have no chance of taking over the government because the Japanese are quite happy with the status quo and are generally suspicious of change.
If India is so pluralistic then why was it necessary to create not one, but two (and possibly three if we include Kashmir) Muslim states where in both countries the non-Muslim population continues to dwindle? Even if we look at India today, "pluralism" comes at a great cost whether you are talking about the different castes, religions, or ethnicites. Despite all of the Congress propgaganda you may hear, it is not a society where everybody gets along. India is the Brazil of Asia.
Borat, do you know why Islam allowed dhimmies such as the Jews and Christians (and later Zoroastrians and Hindus) to exist? The extort money from them, aka the jizyah. They were never equal citizens in any Muslim country at any point in time. For the Hindus, whom the Muslims considered polytheists (the same people that the Koran commands them to slay), they just couldn't kill them all because they were so numerous. Oh but they tried: Tamerlane, a pious Muslim, killed one hundred thousand captive Hindus in 1398. If that's you idea of Muslim pluralism, you can have it for yourself!
The Muslim academic community in the Western universities and some of the more liberal Muslim universities are useless. They only ones who have influence are the real scholars in al-Ahzar and Qom and I highly doubt that they would give someone like Reza Aslan, who himself can't fully admit to the part of Islam that doesn't fit into his liberal paradigms, the time of day.
Tariq Ramadan makes taqiyya into an artform. He is no reformer and if you read Carol Fourest's "Frčre Tariq" you will see that when Ramadan speaks to Muslims, in Arabic of course, you don't see all of the shiny tolerance and ecumenicism. No, he wants Europe to become Islamic, period. Afterall, he said so himself that Islam is here to stay in Europe. I think some native Europeans would take issue with that.