Today, from Arab News, a classic in Islamic apologia, from Rasheed Abou-Alsamh. I quote it in full as there's a password for entry.
I make comments in this colour, indented.
With the recent bloody attacks in Paris and San Bernardino by terrorists claiming to be doing these in the name of Islam, discrimination against Muslims has grown worldwide.
They are targeted by these new critics, many of them American, well-educated and from the middle of the political spectrum — who reacting with horror to the violence — will say the most absurd things. “Islam is a violent religion” and “Islam needs reform to become more liberal,” are two of the most frequent accusations thrown at our religion.
And we also have the demagogue Donald Trump, the American billionaire entrepreneur and Republican presidential candidate in next year’s elections. He has a long history of saying absurd and xenophobic things from calling all the illegal immigrants from Mexico criminals and rapists, to saying in a recent speech that President Barack Obama should bar the entry of Muslims into the United States until the government finds a way deal with the threat of terrorism.
This preposterous statement brought back memories of the detention camps during the World War II into which Americans of Japanese origin were forcibly sent, even if they were born in the United States.
That Trump had the courage to say what he did, and most disturbing, that he was not forced to retract his words and apologize, shows that the American public is so afraid of more terrorist attacks happening that they are willing to sacrifice some of their constitutional rights. Not that the American president would have to get permission from Congress to begin such discrimination. The US executive branch has broad jurisdiction over immigration issues, which in theory would leave Obama with the power to stop the entry of foreign Muslims simply by invoking national security. But that would be bad for the freedom of religion and expression enshrined in the US Constitution, and certainly would lead to legal challenges in US courts.
One of the exponents of the concept that Islam is a violent religion is the American writer Sam Harris, who is the darling of late-night talk shows on US television where he spreads his poison. An avowed atheist, Harris is the perfect example of a supposed public intellectual that many liberal and well-educated Americans love to cite as if he were phenomenally wise. He does not speak the truth, so I refuse to listen to anyone who is so hateful of Islam.
Sam Harris doesn't spread "poison". He is a very knowledgeable critic of Islam. Abouu-Alsamh "refuses to listen" to Sam? So how does he know of Harris' views, and his wide knowledge?Unfortunately, a Brazilian friend of mine who I’ve known since we were both 11-years-old, asked me this week what I thought of Harris. He confessed to me that was enjoying more and more of Harris’ online speeches about the alleged “Islamic evil.” I said that Harris was wrong and tarnishing the reputation of Islam.
“But I thought all Islamists were terrorists,” he told me. I was shocked and saddened that this word has been associated only with terrorism by people in the West.
“Of course not! There are moderate Islamists and even democratic ones as those in Tunisia and Egypt,” I replied. But he did not seem convinced.
Another misunderstanding of Islam is that the religion needs a reformation such as the one Christianity underwent in Europe. Islam is an ancient religion, which is over 1,400 years old. In Islam, there are several strands of thought within the two largest branches of Sunni and Shiite followers. Just within the Sunni branch there are five schools of interpretation. Not to mention the Sufis, mystics who use poetry, music and dance to get closer to God.
Islam is far less "ancient" than Christianity or Judaism, both of which were plagiarised by Muhammad, for his warlordist ends. Apologist Muslims love to cite mystical and poetical Sufis, but Sufis are a tiny fraction of Muslims, considered by many Muslims to be apostates.
As the British journalist Mehdi Hassan wrote in The Guardian in May this year, Islam has no clergy, nor a pope, as in Catholicism, for the supposed reformists to rebel against. And he says that Islam does not need to go through the bloody wars that Europe went through for 30 years in the 16th century, in which thousands of people died, only to reach a supposed “reform.” For him, Muslim extremists have to rediscover their heritage of pluralism, tolerance and mutual respect that have always been in Islam, embodied in the letter that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) sent to the monks of the Saint Catherine monastery, and the peaceful coexistence of Catholics, Jews and Muslims in medieval Spain.
"Supposed reform"? European Christianity really did go through reform, the benefits of which we see to this day. The most critical was Matthew's report that god had said "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar and unto God that which is Gods". Of course Islam needs to go through a reformation to separate Mosque and state. Abou-Alsamh's denial of this speaks to his determination to maintain Islam as a complete ideology controlling all aspects of life, as is the case in Islamic majority countries (think Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan).
As for the "peaceful coexistence" of all faiths under Ottoman rule, there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. Islam was "tolerant' of other religions in the sense that they "tolerated" them. But only if they paid a special non-Muslim "tax", recognised Islamic suzerainty, and did not build any church higher than a mosque. Basically this story of Andelusian tolerance is a crock. Otherwise, there would have been no fight to retake the land.
The Turkish writer, Mustafa Akyol, recently reminded us of the concept of “Irja” or “postponement” in Islam, which means that we do not have to judge whether people are good Muslims or not, but that we have to leave it up to God to decide in the next life, as He alone can judge us. This is a too liberal concept for the fanatics of Daesh, who want to judge and execute all “unqualified” Muslims here and now.
“The scholars who put forward this concept became known as the “murjia,” or defenders of the trial postponement,” Akyol wrote in his column in the New York Times. He noted that in spite of this school of thought having been dismissed as a heretical sect, hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world still practice the concept. Even in the Gulf and other Arab countries the concept is used and applied regularly.
Islam is a dense, rich and complex religion. It is also full of love, peace, compassion and forgiveness. It is the beautiful side of this religion that is missing in the West’s imagination.
The "love, peace, compassion and forgiveness" in the Koran are reserved for Muslims. Non-musims are looked down on, and marked out as inferior. The stars that Hitler made jews wear were first demanded by Muslims of jews in areas they controlled.
—The writer is a Saudi-based journalist