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Islam in a Secular World

Clash of Beliefs

The ISLAMIC WORLD and the West appear to be on a collision course. Two conflicting world views where religion (Atheism is a belief system and thus a religion) is being intertwined with political opportunism. What is needed for mutual understanding in how we view each other, with an insight that the other side is made up of fellow human beings and not demonic monsters. Unfortunately, the arrogance of minority groups on both sides prevents a mutual respect.

The majority of people of all cultures have the same basic dreams, to be able to provide for their family, and to raise their children to be successful adults with their own families. What career can give the satisfaction of seeing happy grandchildren at the end of one's life?

How many people in the West, Christian, secular and Muslim, know there are verses in the Koran supporting the Christian view of Jesus.

After the 9/11 events, President Bush, in declaring his ‘War on Terrorism,’ used the term ‘Crusade’, the implications of which should have been understood, if not by him, by his speechwriters. It was such a monstrous faux pas that it must have been intentional. It is a term guaranteed to set the Muslim soul aflame and hinder cross-cultural understanding.

This ‘War on Terror’ has been described as the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ and new words have been coined, such as ‘Islamofascism.’ It was interesting, yet tragic; to see the majority of the United States’ population totally convinced that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were behind the 9/11 events. The majority of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and none were Iranians or Iraqis. There never was any connection between Saddam Hussein, Iraq, Iran and Al Qaeda. They hated each other.

Because all sides interpret each other’s behaviour and rhetoric from their own paradigm, or worldview, the opposing side is interpreted out of context.

The confrontational Atheist (e.g. Danish cartoonist) is unable to comprehend Faith, be it Christian, Jewish, Islam or Hinduism, although they think they do. Faith adds a different dimension to reality. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14 wrote, ‘But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’

Many Muslim see Jews, both secular Zionist and religious Chasidic as the same. They are not, as the choice of the Hoopoe as Israel’s national bird proves.

Though beautiful, the Hoopoe is not a kosher bird, in fact from a kosher point of view it is on par with vultures. It was chosen to be Israel’s national bird, to coincide with Israel’s 60th Anniversary. A non-kosher bird is fitting since Israel is after all a secular state. There are Jewish farms raising pigs in Israel, as they did in Jesus’ day (Matthew 8:32).

Similarly many Muslims think the West is Christian. France and North Western Europe is secular and humanistic. Anti Islamic films produced in Holland, Danish cartoons of Muhammad and Muhammad dog statues in Sweden are all examples of an arrogant and intolerant fundamentalist form of Humanism.

Yes, even Humanists can be fundamentalists. These unnecessary, thoughtless, tasteless and tactless acts, together with Bush's rhetoric confirm to many in the Muslim World that the Christians are out to get them. France in the name of equality has banned the wearing of all religious symbols in schools, including the Christian cross, and Holland and Belgium have banned certain Muslim dress.

In Europe and in the United States, many are shocked at the violent reaction of Muslims seen on TV newscasts, confirming to them that Islam is a violent religion.

The mainstream Protestant and Evangelical Christian denominations in Northwest Europe and in America north of Mexico have been living with Humanists so long they have come to accept secular values. That is why many Western Christians do not comprehend the Muslims' response to the cartoonists’ Muhammad caricatures.

To be able to understand why, does not imply condoning or agreeing with the actions, but is a necessary first step in dealing with another culture.

The ‘violent Muslim’ notion forgets how Islam has protected Jew and Christian when the Catholic Church was torturing, and burning people with views differing from that of the Church, on the stake. Christian and Jew lived relatively peacefully in Palestine until the Crusaders attacked the Holy Land.

Spain was an enlightened multi-cultural centre under Muslim control while Europe languished in the Dark Ages. After the Muslims were driven out of Spain, both Christians and Jews found havens from the Catholic Church’s Inquisition persecution, in Muslim North Africa.

the Christian Church did not show a Christian understanding when Christians were burned at the stake for owning or reading the Bible, of all things. Even Protestantism has this dark shadow over it. John Calvin helped the Catholic Inquisition in France to find Michael Servetus guilty of heresy for not believing in the Trinity and infant baptism. When Servetus escaped and passed through Geneva, Calvin had him imprisoned and burned at the stake.

There are many schools of thought within Islam; from secularised Moslems, through the devout to the extreme Taliban. The Koran forbids innocents to be killed in a war. Much of the suicide bomber philosophy, is not anchored in the Koran, but is politically motivated and many of those ‘suiciders’ are manipulated by ‘handlers’. The Muslims who believe in proselytising by the sword are reading the Koran selectively.

The Koran, in Sura 2 Al-Baqarah verse 256-257 states:

‘There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in false deities and false leaders and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower. Allah is the Protector or Guardian of those who believe. He brings them out from darkness into light.’

Allah does it. Not a rabble of Taliban.

Then there are violent Suras advocating war against unbelievers. Sura 8:12-16 in connection with war states:

‘Verily, I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes. This is because they defied and disobeyed Allah and His Messenger. And whoever defies and disobeys Allah and His Messenger, then verily, Allah is Severe in punishment. O you who believe! When you meet those who disbelieve, in a battle-field, never turn your backs to them. And whoever turns his back to them on such a day - unless it be a stratagem of war, or to retreat to a troop (of his own), he indeed has drawn upon himself wrath from Allah. And his abode is Hell, and worst indeed is that destination.’

The next verse is used by Jihadists to still their consciences, verse 17:

‘You killed them not, but Allah killed them.’

But this is in context of war. And the Koran says innocents must not be harmed. Suicide bombers and car bombers kill innocents. That is not Islamic.

A basic rule in Bible interpretation as well as a Koranic rule is that, ‘A text out of context is a pretext.’ The jihadist recruiters take verses out of context to prime the jihadist to commit suicide.

Much of what the West sees as extreme in Islam relates to women; the complete covering of women, the relegation of women to lower standing than men, women not being equal to men in law, the value of a woman in court varies between two or four women equal one man's testimony, are results of selective interpretations of the Koran to fit pre-existing cultural norms.

There are verses in the Koran supporting the Gospels in the Bible. Maybe if the West started using these parts of the Koran, the Muslim World would need to start arguing a losing case. The majority of Muslims understand the Koran as little as the majority of professing Christians do their Bible.

For example, in the 5th Sura Al-Ma'idah, Allah says in the 46th and 47th verses: (‘We’ is Allah)

‘We sent Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), confirming the Torah that had come before him, and We gave him the Injeel (Gospel), in which was guidance and light and confirmation of the Torah that had come before it, a guidance and an admonition for the pious.

Let the people of the Injeel (Gospel) judge by what Allah has revealed therein.

Sura 3 Al-Imran verse 50: (Jesus speaking)

‘And I (Jesus) have come confirming that which was before me of the Torah, and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you, and I have come to you with a proof from your Lord. So fear Allah and obey me.’

Sharia laws varies from authority to authority, and are not based on absolutes, but on interpretation through cultural filters.

If Allah is really all powerful, should he not be able to help the believer rein in unbridled lust? Then men and women could walk around modestly dressed. Surely if women need to be covered by a Burqa or wear a niqab so the men do not look at them with lust, then there is something fundamentally wrong that needs to be addressed, not covered over.

Muslim scholars have over the centuries studied the Hadiths and Sunnahs in order ascertain what is reliable and what is not and in doing so have read into these writings their cultural attitudes. There are clear cultural bias in these studies.

An example of paradigm blindness is the idea many Muslims have of Islam being united in one ummah, as opposed to Christianity where there is a division between Catholics and Protestants. This, in spite of different Muslim groups massacring each other in Iraq in the news every day. There is one Koran, but there are many was of interpreting it, and there are Sunni and Shia.

The Western argument cannot influence the Muslim if there is no knowledge of the Koran, Hadiths and Sunnahs. Changes need to come from within the Muslim community. Attacking Islam in ‘Crusader’ talk does not help.

Islamic nations have been violent in defending themselves, and the Islamic faith has been used for politically expedient goals. Christian nations and leaders have similar histories.

Unlike what Atheists often say, religions have not caused wars. Wars are not fought over religion, but over such crass issues as economics and leaders’ power and prestige. The leaders use religion to manipulate their people and to justify their own agendas. There has always been a majority accepting appeasement and follow leaders blindly, and a minority who stand firm in their Faith. The Lutheran Church in Germany in the 1930s followed Hitler, yet there were conscientious priests opposing this, and many of these German priests were sent to concentration camps.

If the atheist believes him/herself to be superior than the person of Faith, then to convince the Muslim, the atheist must speak in the Muslim’s terms.

by Charles Wilson

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