Tag Archives: islam

What’s Wrong with Islam?

Flashback: Wednesday, August 23, 2006

by Viz

The simple answer is that nothing is wrong with the way in which most people today practise Islam, one of the three best known of the “monotheistic” faiths.

Islam at once appears to be both the youngest and oldest child of the Abrahamic tradition. Ishmael was the elder son of Abraham, Isaac being the younger, but Islam (as defined by Mohammed) developed after the movement that many would describe as the first significant descendant of Judaism, Christianity.

Before I proceed, let me undermine that basic premise by pointing out that the Brahmin tradition of Hinduism and the Taoist tradition of Buddhism can both trace their roots to the influx of Jews into Asia after the Babylonian exile period. In that sense, both Christianity and Islam would be relative late-comers to the Ibrahimin fold. Likewise, the primary faith of the Persians, Zoroastrianism, would also take a sharp turn in a more monotheistic direction with the arrival of the enslaved Israelite tribes following the assumption of Darius’ Median empire by the Persians. Darius had taken up the reins from the Babylonians who had conquered Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar a little earlier in that same 6th century BCE and carted off all those slaves.

There are more examples, but here we can see that the vast majority of the world’s population (Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims) have had their cultures shaped by their interaction with the family of Abraham, with about 50% of the world still openly tracing its heritage to that lineage: Christianity (2.2B), Islam (1.4B) and Jews (12-18M).

The problem seems not to be that we don’t have enough in common, but in the interpretation of that common heritage.

When the hadiths talk of the end times and speak of the trees and rocks saying: “Muslim, behind me is a Jew. Come and kill him.”…that is not to say that Muslims are bound to such terrible actions as a matter of faith. Quite the opposite. The hadith is saying that in the time of judgment there will be a persecution of Jews, such that they will have nowhere to hide. We saw this in the last century with the persecution and attempted anihilation of the Jews by the Nazis, as they could find no place to hide. And yet we hear some imams calling for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews every Friday, citing these hadiths as if they were a licence to kill. Ironically, the Qur’an makes it quite clear that a prerequisite for the fulfillment of its scripture is that the Jews will be returned to the land noted in the Qur’an itself.

Islam is, in many ways, the religion most closely resembling Judaism. The Qur’an features a line-up of prophets that are exclusively Jewish, including Mohammed, who traced his own lineage from Ishmael, son of Abraham, who was circumcised in the skin at Moriah; hence, a Jew.

Like Judaism, Islam is intensely monotheistic, rejecting Jesus as a deity, though, unlike Judaism, it welcomes him as a prophet…and anticipates his return at the end of days, or Qiyaama. All three religions agree that Jesus was a Jew, and Islam and Christianity both agree that he’ll still be a Jew when he returns. Even the Mahdi, it is said, will be a Jew.

So, how is it that radical Islamic preachers can advocate the killing of Jews? What’s wrong with this picture?

Religion has been used for millennia as an actuator for social change. We are seeing the negative side of this in radical Islam today. We saw it, albeit in a more positive light, in Poland when the Roman Church was instrumental in the downfall of the Communist movement in Eastern Europe. We saw it in the spread of Christian “Liberation Theology” in Central America, the correctness of which is still debated within the church. We saw it in the time of Mohammed, and in the time of Jesus. We saw it in every revolt against the Greek and Roman empires in the Middle East.

That religion can be a motivating force in people’s lives should not be an indictment against religion lest we are prepared to also throw away the ancient knowledge that is encoded in those traditions.

It is the interpretation of these ideas, these concepts, these traditions, that needs to be discussed. For it is only in their mutual examination that we can bring about peace without the need for the precursor of looming total destruction.

The trick is not to convert people between faiths, but to help them become better role models within their individual faiths. Just as the rainforests are a seminal trust of biodiversity for this planet, so are the various faiths of man a reservoir for all the aspects of his divine nature.



Filed under Conflict, Life, Peace, Reason

About Iran and the Iranians

Someone just wrote to ask me what I’ve got against Iran.

I wrote to ask what he meant by that and he replied, saying, that I seem to have a lot of material on the blog that could be considered anti-Iranian or anti-Muslim. 

So, this is probably a good time to address the issue.

I am emphatically pro-Iranian and pro-Iran. Not the government bigwigs, but the guy running the fruit stand; the bakery; the neighbourhood taxi; or the woman getting her kids off to school in the morning; the young girl dreaming of her wedding; the young poet, whether she is writing about music… or dancing about architecture. 

Iran is a big country, with over 65 million people spread over an area about one-fifth the size of the United States. It has a brilliant culture that has woven itself together (with strands from many faraway places) over thousands of years. It has, at various times, made great strides in science, design, mathematics, human rights and political thought. I just don’t happen to consider the past 30 years of its history to be its crowning renaissance. And I think that most Iranians would—even if reluctantly—have to agree with me on that. 

As for being anti-Muslim: Anyone who can remember to give thanks to G-d five times a day is all right by me. The Lord Eternal is my Rock and Redeemer, too.

The crew presently running the show in Iran are not evil because they are Muslim. They are misguided because they would risk the whole world to advance their theological interpretation of the Mohammedan scriptures. They see “their way” as the best exemplar of the will of G-d (Allah), which is intrinsically arrogant. 

The reigning political cabal in Tehran bears strikingly resemblance to a sophisticated doomsday cult that would harness the national pride of its people and the broader surety of Islam in service of its own self-declared objective of hastening the appearance of the Messiah (al-Mahdi) by bringing the world to the brink of absolute chaos.

And that’s just not fair to the guy at the fruit stand. Not to mention the rest of us.

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Filed under Conflict, Life, Reason

Still Not Funny

“We’ll laugh about this when we’re older,” people are fond of saying after going through a rough patch together. But is it true?

Apparently not when it comes to cartoon images of the Islamic prophet Mohammed. 

Denmark cartoonist Kurt Westergaard’s unflattering portrait of the prophet capped by a bulbously bomb-laden, fuse-lit turban appeared alongside eleven other similarly-topical, debatably-comical entries in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in September of 2005.

He is apparently now trying to sell numbered prints of his work over the internet. 

Here’s a Flashback from early 2006, courtesy of VizReport:

Apparently, Not a Laughing Matter 

February 10, 2006 (Photo: wikipedia) 

muhammadpg (VizReport) How can pictures printed in a Danish newspaper last September be causing such massive upheaval today? 

It seems that a lot of people are confounded by the protests (some of them violent) that are currently raging worldwide against cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed. 

The whole thing appears to have started when Danish author Kåre Bluitgen had a tough time trying to find someone to illustrate his children’s book on the life of the prophet. When the matter came to the attention of the cultural editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Flemming Rose, he contracted twelve different artists to provide their own visual interpretations of Mohammed for a commentary on the basic problem faced by Bluitgen. 

Well, things quickly spiralled out of control; ambassadors were recalled; envoys were expelled; the Libyan embassy in Denmark was closed; apologies were issued; boycotts against Danish goods were initiated; dramatic demonstrations were held; more newspapers printed the offending images; apologies were issued; and several political cartoonists went into hiding. 

Did I mention that apologies were issued? In fact, the management of Jyllands-Posten apologised before widespread protests even broke out. Most of the other newspapers that re-printed the pictures have also since apologised. However, few apologies will be forthcoming from Western governments (as demanded by many protesters) because the press in the West is generally free from direct government control. Things are very different in a number of Muslim majority countries where freedom of the press is usually subject to the wishes of the ruling party. 

On a religious basis, there are two very different reasons for the cartoons to have caused a fuss: 

1) Idolatry – Any depiction that is flattering runs the risk of becoming an icon for worship. This is directly descended from the Book of Exodus, the second of the five books of Moses. 

Actually, the verse (Exodus XX; the basis of the Ten Commandments) doesn’t say that one shouldn’t draw pictures of prophets — it says that one shouldn’t draw pictures. Period. 

This is a difficult concept for us to imagine in our image-saturated world. 

Geometry is okay. Words are okay. But no pics. 

2) Blasphemy – Following right along into the next commandment: Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. 

This, I imagine, would also include defaming the Lord, or the word of the Lord as faithfully presented by his prophets, or his faithful prophets…in that this would reflect on the perception of the Lord’s word. 

The extension to the basic precept opens the door to potential offense if everyone is not in complete agreement on an “official” list of prophets. 

On a sociological level, it’s easy to understand why people fervently devoted to Islam could be upset with some of the images. There’s no doubt about it; some of the pictures and commentary could be considered anti-Islamic. Most of them are in poor taste, to one degree or another. That has definitely provided the emotional impetus to get people out the door to protest. 

But this is about more than just a few ill-conceived cartoons. It’s an expression of the pressure and desperation that is building in the world. 

It’s also about the objectives of several groups that seem reticent to allow this unfortunate episode to progress to its most logical and productive resolution. I can’t tell you why some people see it as their job to fan flames wherever they find them. Some even carry matches. Others, gasoline! 

Well, that would certainly explain the burned-out embassies and consulates. 

islm_cartoon_3aThe best cartoon of the lot (by Arne Sørenson) goes directly to the heart of Bluitgen’s dilemma. It depicts an artist sweating nervously as he surreptitiously works by low light, windowshade drawn, on a picture of what we are told is Mohammed. 

This is an image with humanity. It doesn’t disrespect anyone’s religion, but comments effectively on a bizarre situation faced by professionals who normally create graven images without a second thought. 

It may be impermissible for reverent Muslims to respectfully portray Mohammed in pictures, but the same does not necessarily hold true for non-believers. And even if it did, it is also a fundamental tenet of Islam that the punishment should fit the crime…but not in the way that Iran has attempted to turn the controversy in their own favour, by organising a cartoon competition. Topic: The Holocaust.

Perhaps someone can point out for me exactly where in the Qur’an it says that two wrongs make a right.


Filed under Arts, Conflict, Images, Life