By Mourad Anour
By Mourad Anour
Morocco World News
Oklahoma City, April 7, 2012
The images that are conjured up today when the word Islam is mentioned overseas are terror, women oppression, poverty, sectarian war, forced veiling, stoning, and more. Whenever you step into a bookstore, either in America or Europe, you will be initially drawn to a stack of breathless titles that are truly frightening. Mostly journalistic in nature, some of these exposés reveal worlds of schemes that are concocted around the clock against the West.
There are also other books; with more sober tones and masterful condescension, that deliver the verdict of failure upon Islamic civilization, and the promise of apocalyptic clash between Islam and the West. And for the record, you might come across few apologetics written by Muslims in attempt to defend Islam against the accusations mentioned above. Finally, and the most impenetrable of all, there remain at the bottom of the shelf two or three translations of the Koran done mostly by Pakistanis, or Egyptians.
After all, the Koran remains a foreign text to most westerns, who have always found it enigmatic and an unreadable cipher. This enigmatic nature of some Koranic verses is, in fact, experienced not only by non-Muslims, but even in Middle East, some Koranic texts could baffle somebody in the caliber of an Egyptian philosopher named Hasan Hanafi, who once said that the Koran is like a ‘supermarket”, in which you could find and choose whatever suits you. What Dr. Hanafi referred to as “supermarket Koran” is the contradictions, according to him, that exist in some of the Islamic sacred book. In a workshop on Freedom organized by the library of Alexandria, Egypt, in 2007, Dr.Hanafi said that some Koranic verses contradict each other, particularly with regard to tolerance.
Dr. Hanafi’s statement caused rage at the time; some called on Egyptian authorities to put him on trial for blasphemy, while others easily stripped him of his choice status as being Muslim. Those who “excommunicated” Dr. Hanafi would most likely lynch him in public if they were in power. But, no one of them cared to answer his questions.
Instead, they wanted him dead. The Egyptian philosopher might have asked the same question as Graham Fuller did when he published an article on Foreign Policy in 2008 entitled “A Word without Islam”. Dr. Hanafi believed there are contradictions in the Koran in terms of peace vs. violence verses, while Graham ventured to foretell how the word would like without Islam. Both, Dr. Hanafi and Graham, dared ask questions that are usually faced with ready-made accusations that range from blasphemy, skepticism, and treason to name a few.
There are more legitimate questions that we ourselves could ask as well: If Islam had never existed, could we have had people like Mohamed Atta, Ben laden and the like? Did we need a text such as “Do not say that those slain in the cause of God are dead. They are alive, but you are not aware of them” (2:154) to topple the Twins Center in 2001, or to behead hundreds of innocent people?
Being selective when dealing with any religious text to serve your agendas is the same thing what Fr. Hanafi termed as” Koran supermarket mentality’. The latter exist when you know that these bloodthirsty people would overlook the peace-loaded verses like this” Whoever kills another one without justifiable cause, surely he is killing all of humanity. And whoever saves the life of another one; surely he saves the lives of all of humanity” (Surah Maidah 31)
This type of selective method is not reserved to Muslims only in terms of finding proof texts to legitimatize violence. In the same way, it is easy to pinpoint a bunch of sanguine passages through the bible that require Jews and Christians to emulate verses like the following:“If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.
I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy” (Deut. 32:41-42). And if your argument that this text is mentioned in the Old Testament and, therefore, as a Christian, you would rule its validity out, here is another alarming verse from the New Testament:” “I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword“(Matt. 10:34). These disturbing passages were used to justify terror against innocent people throughout history starting from Crusaders in Jerusalem, Gunpowder in Britain, Iron Guard in Romania, Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, Anders Behring Breivik in Norway to KKK in America.
All the questions above throughout the article are not meant to label you as a fanatic Muslim, or a “nominally Muslim’. The two labels are exchanged by the two categories; both of them believe they adhere to the true tenets of Islam. That makes us tempted to ask the question which was why all this was originally written: Is the problem lies in the Koran, or in our interpretations of it? And if the answer is in the twisted way some texts are interpreted, then we are questioning the clarity of a divine text that is supposed to be easy to be grasped by its readers.
The first possibility, the trouble with the Koran, or with Islam as Irshad Manji termed it, would lead us, if we dare say it, to join the club of apostates, which is not my aim here. What is left is our ability to decipher god’s revelation. This possibility would again bring us back to another big question: If we, humans, are unable to interpret the Koran, or any other sacred text, one would, or should, ask: What is the point of having a text that is going to be misunderstood all the time. Is not an insult to our human intelligence?
As this discussion is not directed toward Christian fundamentalists, I would love to ask more questions to the Muslims counterparts: What legacy have you left for us, taking into account we have to go through full-body scanners at each airport? Did you leave us any room for forgiving you after the tremendous harm you have done to us and Islam? Can we forgive you on the grounds that you have served Islam according to “your own understanding” of it? And if we forgive you, are not we also condoning all the atrocities done in the name of a religion we strongly believe it is peaceful?
While some religious hardliners insist on the unlimited applicability of every all verses, Hadith or even Sonah, others, on the other hand, would assert that some sayings only reflect particular historical situations, and are therefore limited to those contexts. With such two different views in hand, one would have to choose, but .first of all, to get engaged in a certain amount of patient questioning and sincere scrutiny of each sacred text he believes in.
Speaking of belief, I believe the problem is not with Islam, but with Muslims, who think calling prayer while parliament in session is a form of showing piety as an Egyptian parliamentary did. Instead of falling into the trap of using isolated quotations of scripture as “proof text” to justify hate and violence, or anything contrary to reason, one has no excuse not to use the same selective tactic to find verses throughout the Koran to preach peace and tolerance.
We, Muslims, are the problems when we think burning down an embassy in response to the Danish offensive cartoons of the prophet would make us look more devout Muslims. We looked, on the contrary, even uglier. What the Danish cartoonist, in fact, drew was not our prophet, but he, unbeknownst, drew us, thinking we identically represent what our messenger preached for. One should know it is not about how many layers of clothes a woman needs to put on to cover up all her beauty, but the question is: Am I, the man, going to covet her, even if she wears a bikini? Does it matter if I grow a beard that looks like Umar Ibn al-Khattab’s if I am not going to emulate the Caliph in his exemplary justice.
When we understand that Islam is neither Ibn khattab’s beard, nor reckless and violent demonstrations to show our allegiance to it, nor wearing an Afghani Dishdasha to emulate the Salafs, then we will be all willing to celebrate two largely emphasized themes in our religion: Justice and peace. When we are just to ourselves by renouncing all the thoughts that espouse violence and terror as well as many others vices, we will be more willing to be just to others, we will surely sleep under a tree then, just like Ibn al-Khattab once did, without being fearful somebody would come along and stab us.
Oklahoma-based and of Moroccan origin, Anouar Mourad is a writer and a poet. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a minor in German from the University of Central Oklahoma. He has published a number of articles, poems and short stories. He proudly served as the president of UCO’s Moroccan Student Association and helped organize many cultural and interfaith dialogues at the same university. His main areas of interests are languages, religions, interfaith dialogue, world politics, human rights and more. Currently, he is working on writing his first novel that he hopes to get it published soon.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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