Monday, June 02, 2008

Islam and The West-9

- One of the strangest examples of how religions, or traditions of various peoples, meet is to be found in references to a man’s robe or skirt. Ezekiel (16-8) says: Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.

The same reference to and meaning of skirt is to be found in Ruth (3-9). Deuteronomy (22-30) adds: A man shall not take his father’s wife. This is similar to the Koranic words: And marry not women whom your fathers married…(Surah 4, Al Nisa, verse 22).
(وَلَا تَنكِحُواْ مَا نَكَحَ ءَابَآؤُڪُم مِّنَ ٱلنِّسَآء...)ِ

Islamic history tells us the story of Kubaishah, a woman from Madinah whose rich Ansari husband died. A son by another woman spread his robe, or skirt, on Kubaishah, indicating that she was his. He did not live with her as wife but was rather after her money. She complained to the Prophet and on hearing her story other Muslim women complained saying: We are all Kubaishah. Subsequently, the Prophet received the revelation: O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may take away part of the dower ye have given them - except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good. …(Surah 4, Al Nisa, verse 19)

(يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمۡ أَن تَرِثُواْ ٱلنِّسَآءَ كَرۡهً۬ا‌ۖ وَلَا تَعۡضُلُوهُنَّ لِتَذۡهَبُواْ بِبَعۡضِ مَآ ءَاتَيۡتُمُوهُنَّ إِلَّآ أَن يَأۡتِينَ بِفَـٰحِشَةٍ۬ مُّبَيِّنَةٍ۬‌ۚ وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِٱلۡمَعۡرُوفِ‌ۚ فَإِن كَرِهۡتُمُوهُنَّ فَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تَكۡرَهُواْ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَيَجۡعَلَ ٱللَّهُ فِيهِ خَيۡرً۬ا ڪَثِيرً۬ا ...)
One thousand years apart, and spreading the skirt means the same thing to two different peoples.

-Under the headline: 'I don't hate Muslims. I hate Islam,' says Holland's rising political star, The Observer 17/02/08 wrote about Geert Wilders, the popular MP whose film on Islam has fuelled the debate on race in Holland. The article said in part:

A TV addict with bleached hair who adores Maggie Thatcher and prefers kebabs to hamburgers, Geert Wilders has got nothing against Muslims. He just hates Islam. Or so he says. 'Islam is not a religion, it's an ideology,' says Wilders, a lanky Roman Catholic right-winger, 'the ideology of a retarded culture.

The Dutch politician, who sees himself as heir to a recent string of assassinated or hounded mavericks who have turned Holland upside down, has been doing a crash course in Koranic study. Likening the Islamic sacred text to Hitler's Mein Kampf, he wants the 'fascist Koran' outlawed in Holland, the constitution rewritten to make that possible, all immigration from Muslim countries halted, Muslim immigrants paid to leave and all Muslim 'criminals' stripped of Dutch citizenship and deported 'back where they came from'. But he has nothing against Muslims. 'I have a problem with Islamic tradition, culture, ideology. Not with Muslim people.

Wilders has been immersing himself in the suras and verse of seventh-century Arabia. The outcome of his scholarship, a short film, has Holland in a panic. He is just putting the finishing touches to the 10-minute film, he says, and talking to four TV channels about screening it.

'It's like a walk through the Koran,' he explains in a sterile conference room in the Dutch parliament in The Hague, security chaps hovering outside. 'My intention is to show the real face of Islam. I see it as a threat. I'm trying to use images to show that what's written in the Koran is giving incentives to people all over the world. On a daily basis Moroccan youths are beating up homosexuals on the streets of Amsterdam.

Wilders is lucid and shrewd and the provactive soundbites trip easily off his tongue. He was recently voted Holland's most effective politician. If 18 months ago he sat alone in the second chamber or lower house in The Hague, his People's Party now has nine of 150 seats and is running at about 15 per cent in the polls. His Islam-bashing seems to be paying off. And not only in Holland. All across Europe, the new breed of right-wing populists are trying to revive their political fortunes by appealing to anti-Muslim prejudice.

A few months ago the Swiss People's Party of the pugnacious billionaire Christoph Blocher won a general election while simultaneously running a campaign to change the Swiss constitution to ban the building of minarets on mosques. Last month in Antwerp, far-right leaders from 15 European cities and from political parties in Belgium, Germany and Austria got together to launch a charter 'against the Islamisation of western European cities', reiterating the call for a mosque-building moratorium.

Such insolence against Islam and Muslims was unknown before the wave of terrorism in the name of Islam. But we must keep things in prespective. The West is witnessing a surge in atheism and books denying the existance of God are among the top best sellers. This month the BBC produced a four-part series doubting that Jesus died on the cross as believed by Christians for two thousand years. And the series was timed to coincide with Easter.

The film Fitna was a huge disappointment. Its quotes from the Koran were basic:
And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression… (Surah 8, Al Anfal, verse 39)

وَقَـٰتِلُوهُمۡ حَتَّىٰ لَا تَكُونَ فِتۡنَةٌ۬...))

And: Against them make ready your strength to utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies…(Surah 8, Al Anfal, verse 60)

(وَأَعِدُّواْ لَهُم مَّا ٱسۡتَطَعۡتُم مِّن قُوَّةٍ۬ وَمِن رِّبَاطِ ٱلۡخَيۡلِ تُرۡهِبُونَ بِهِۦ عَدُوَّ ٱللَّهِ وَعَدُوَّڪُمۡ...)

And: Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either Generosity or ransom: until the war lays down its burdens….(Surah 47, Muhammad, verse 4)

(فَإِذَا لَقِيتُمُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ فَضَرۡبَ ٱلرِّقَابِ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَآ أَثۡخَنتُمُوهُمۡ فَشُدُّواْ ٱلۡوَثَاقَ فَإِمَّا مَنَّۢا بَعۡدُ وَإِمَّا فِدَآءً حَتَّىٰ تَضَعَ ٱلۡحَرۡبُ أَوۡزَارَهَا...)

I have already quoted from the Old Testament verses that are far more strict.

- The February 4, 2008, issue of The New Yorker published a review by Joan Acocella of David Levering Lewis’s “God’s Crucible: Islam and the making of Europe, 570 to 1215” (Norton). I choose few lines: Lewis’s book is part of that revision:

The Muslims came to Europe, he writes, as “the forward wave of civilization that was, by comparison with that of its enemies, an organic marvel of coordinated kingdoms, cultures, and technologies in service of a politico-cultural agenda incomparably superior” to that of the primitive people they encountered there. They did Europe a favor by invading. This is not a new idea, but Lewis takes it further: he clearly regrets that the Arabs did not go on to conquer the rest of Europe. The halting of their advance was instrumental, he writes, in creating “an economically retarded, balkanized, and fratricidal Europe that . . . made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, persecutory religious intolerance, cultural particularism, and perpetual war.” It was “one of the most significant losses in world history and certainly the most consequential since the fall of the Roman Empire.” This is a bold hypothesis.

- There are serious efforts to heal the rift between Islam and the West. I have just attended a conference in London on “Islamic Communities in Europe.”

In early March at the Vatican plans were set for a Catholic-Muslim Forum in November.

Muslims and Anglicans plan a conference in Britain in October.

Yale University will host a global conference in July to include Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Georgetown University will host a similar conference in March 2009.

Jordan is planning to host a conference in April, 2009, at the traditional site where Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.
- Many Muslim countries hold annual competitions for learning the Koran by heart, mostly among pre-teen or teenage children. I would rather see competitions for understanding the Koran. Children can learn less but must understand more so that when they grow up they don’t fall victim to extremist.

Finally, King Abdullah Ben Abdul Aziz has announced plans for an interfaith dialogue of the three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He said he would be willing to address the U.N. on the subject. There would be many obstacles along the way. I expect Israel to try to gate-crash any meeting and to shout “foul” if denied.

(A note from the writer: any reader of this study is free to quote from it, in part or in full, and to send it to friends or print it and distribute it).

To be continued...