It comes as a surprise when public policy types starts opining on strictly religious issues, as the Muslim Public Affairs Council did in August 2003. Now, belatedly, I learn that James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, has done likewise. In one of islam-online.net's "Live Dialogue" exchanges in February 2002, he replied thus to "Muhammad" who fretted that the Qur'an might contain passages that are "too racist":
I think that not enough has been done to explain Islam in the West and to deal with those passages in the Quran that some in the West find troubling. One easy way to do this, is to invite those who ask the questions to read the entire Quran and read the entire Torah and then see which is the bloodier scripture.
Zogby is being disingenuous. The fire-and-brimstone passages in the Torah, indeed of the Bible as a whole, centuries ago were turned into allegories or otherwise reinterpreted. In contrast, for many Muslims those of the Qur'an remain literal commands and they act on them daily in places like Algeria, the West Bank, and Kashmir. There are no synagogues and churches where congregants are urged to kill infidels. That Zogby chooses to ignore this key difference provides yet more evidence that he is a water-carrier for Islamists.
I wrote a polite note to Zogby, offering him a chance to dispel my unhappiness concerning his remarks. His reply opened with the insults so typical these days of the left ("You are obsessed to the point of being silly. … Get real and get help"). Then he reiterated and extended his point about other holy books sharing a propensity to urge violence: "While some extremist Muslims might use the Qur'an to justify their violent behavior, so too are there extremist Jews who do the same thing. There are, of course, also extremist Christians, Hindus, etc., who do the same with their scriptures."
To Zogby I ask: if Jews and others do "the same thing" with their scriptures as Muslims, why don't they do the same thing with their bodies? Like strapping on suicide belts or flying airliners in skyscrapers? I await Zogby's reply.
Moral of this incident? That political hacks make poor theologians. (February 24, 2004)