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Good Muslims vs. Bad Muslims: Reply To Pat on Reciprocity

Reader comment on item: Shoeless George Bush
in response to reader comment: Where is the reciprocity?

Submitted by Chris G. (United States), Jul 4, 2007 at 18:22

Thanks for responding Pat with a well written reply. You ask very good and important questions and I will attempt to answer them to the best of my abilities. I do not claim I am 100% correct but hopefully I can give some food for thought on a new direction that our foreign policy can take while at the same time insuring our national security.

At the beginning of your response you mention the two contrasting views from Afghani imams on suicide bombing. It is actually quite easy to tell the two apart because you basically give the perfect example: You simply listen to what they say. Its quite easy to pick out the radicals by simply listening to the sermons at their mosques and by what they teach at their madrassas (Islamic schools).

Within modern Islamic theology there is some debate as to whether or not suicide bombing is allowed against a military target. However, those who claim it is allowed against civilian targets have absolutely no basis in ANY Islamic theology. In my research, when I run across radicals on the internet who claim it is justified, I always challenge them with this: "Show me ANYWHERE in the Qu'ran or ANY Hadith that allows you to take the lives of women and children." There is not a single verse in the Qu'ran or Hadiths that directly says that women and children can be killed. The only exception is if those women or children take up arms.

What is even worse to Islam however is that most of those they kill are fellow Muslims. Some will say, "They are apostates and are no longer Muslims because they support the kafr (infidel) occupiers." This is known as declaring takfir on another Muslim and is something that is never to be done lightly. You simply ask these extremists, "Do you know the hearts of those Muslims you slaughter? Are not the children you murder innocent in heart and mind? Do you think they know politics? Do you think that you are all knowing like Allah? How dare you put yourself on the same level as Allah! Go and pray to Allah for mercy and redeem yourself through love and compassion if you do not wish hellfire as the worst of sinners- a munafiqūn (hypocrite)."

As for as the duty of Muslims to conduct Jihad. This again is not cut and dry as there are many disagreements on what Jihad is. There is no doubt whatsoever for any Muslim that defensive Jihad is absolutely mandatory. Even the Geneva convention allows for any sovereign nation to defend itself against an occupier. This however gets muddy when a war turns into an insurgency. However the belief in eternal offensive Jihad is one that is not universally accepted. The main spread of Islam was not done during the lifetime of Mohammed, but rather during the reigns of succeeding Caliphs. Mohammed's primary goal was the conquest of Arabia which consisted of Pagan, Christian, Sibian, and Jewish tribes. Nevertheless after his death, Islam was spread and in much of the case, it was by the sword. Even so, it is very clear in Islam that the religion can not be forced upon someone. Below is a huge list of Ayas from the Quran that support this (just skim over this as it is long):

  • * 2:256 There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly from the wrong way. Whoever therefore rejects the forces of evil and believes in God, he has taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way, for God is All Hearing and Knowing.
  • * 16:82 But if they turn away from you, (O Prophet remember that) your only duty is a clear delivery of the Message (entrusted to you).
  • * 6:107 Yet if God had so willed, they would not have ascribed Divinity to aught besides him; hence, We have not made you their keeper, nor are you (of your own choice) a guardian over them.
  • * 4:79, 80 (Say to everyone of them,) 'Whatever good betides you is from God and whatever evil betides you is from your own self and that We have (O Prophet) sent you to mankind only as a messenger and all sufficing is God as witness. Whoso obeys the Messenger, he indeed obeys God. And for those who turn away, We have not sent you as a keeper."
  • * 11:28 (Noah to his people) He (Noah) said "O my people! think over it! If 1 act upon a clear direction from my Lord who has bestowed on me from Himself the Merciful talent of seeing the right way, a way which you cannot see for yourself, does it follow that we can force you to take the right path when you definitely decline to take it?°
  • * 17:53, 54 And tell my servants that they should speak in a most kindly manner (unto those who do not share their beliefs). Verily, Satan is always ready to stir up discord between men; for verily; Satan is mans foe .... Hence, We have not sent you (Unto men O Prophet) with power to determine their Faith.
  • * 21:107 to 109 (O Prophet?) 'We have not sent you except to be a mercy to all mankind:" Declare, "Verily, what is revealed to me is this, your God is the only One God, so is it not up to you to bow down to Him?' But if they turn away then say, "I have delivered the Truth in a manner clear to one and all, and I know not whether the promised hour (of Judgment) is near or far."
  • * 22:67 To every people have We appointed ceremonial rites (of prayer) which they observe; therefore, let them not wrangle over this matter with you, but bid them to turn to your Lord (since that is the main objective of religion). You indeed are rightly guided. But if they still dispute you in this matter, (then say,) `God best knows (the value of) what you do."
  • * 88:21, 22; also see 24:54 And so, (O Prophet!) exhort them your task is only to exhort; you cannot compel them to believe.
  • * 48:28 He it is Who has sent forth His Messenger with the (task of spreading) Guidance and the Religion of Truth, to the end that tie make it prevail over every (false) religion, and none can bear witness to the Truth as God does.
  • * 36:16, 17 (Three Messengers to their people)Said (the Messengers), "Our Sustainer knows that we have indeed been sent unto you, but we are not bound to more than clearly deliver the Message entrusted to us.'
  • * 39:41 Assuredly, We have sent down the Book to you in right form for the good of man. Whoso guided himself by it does so to his own advantage, and whoso turns away from it does so at his own loss. You certainly are not their keeper.
  • * 42:6, 48 And whoso takes for patrons others besides God, over them does God keep a watch. Mark, you are not a keeper over them. But if they turn aside from you (do not get disheartened), for We have not sent you to be a keeper over them; your task is but to preach ....
  • * 64:12 Obey God then and obey the Messenger, but if you turn away (no blame shall attach to our Messenger), for the duty of Our Messenger is just to deliver the message.
  • * 67:25, 26 And they ask, "When shall the promise be fulfilled if you speak the Truth?" Say, "The knowledge of it is verily with God alone, and verily I am but a plain warner."
  • * 60:8 Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.
  • * 60:9 Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.

Now however, a Wahhabi extremist scholar will dismiss many of the above verses through the concept of "abrogation" in which later "Verses of the Sword" overrule earlier verses that say good things about Jews and Christians. The idea of abrogation is not universally accepted by Muslim scholars and there is vast disagreement even amongst those who accept abrogation over which verses are replaced (and thus nullified) and which are not. There is only one Hadith, to my knowledge, that supports abrogation. The main argument against abrogation is why any of the earlier verses were even allowed into the Qu'ran if they are essentially meaningless. What you will find is that within some branches of Sunni Madhaabs (schools of thought) such as many Hanafi and Sufi scholars, you will find interpretations based upon historical context rather then on blindly following verses out of context to what was going on at that time. For example Surah 8 was revealed during the battle of Badr. Surah 47 was reveled during the period in which the Muslims were under threat of extinction by the then polytheist Meccans.

In addition often verses are quoted from the Qu'ran out of context such as quoting one verse that sounds very militant, but not quoting the verses around it that order Muslims to respect and not to break peace treaties with non-believers.
An example is quoting Surah 9:5, but leaving out 9:4 and 9:6 which provide important context that mandates the respect of peace treaties and those who seek asylum. Such verses are much more difficult to wipe away using the theory of abrogation because they are revealed at the same time as Surah 9:5 which is considered to be one of the "verses of the sword".

When it comes to the topic of Dhimmitude, again things get a bit complicated and not all that clear cut.
There exists copies of treaties made during Mohammed's life that show an enormous range of rights for non-believers such as the treaty that exists at St. Catherine's Cathedral on Mount Sinai.
A translation of the treaty reads:

This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them.
Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.
The Muslims are to fight for them.
If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).

To this day, Muslims respect St. Catherine's and have never touched it during all the wars in that region because of the protection it was granted by Mohammed. The Qu'ran supports the section of that treaty about Christian women when it says:

Qur'an 5:5
This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you.
The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them.
(Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers
but chaste women among the People of the Book revealed before your time
when ye give them their due dowers
and desire chastity not lewdness nor secret intrigues.
If anyone rejects faith fruitless is his work
and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good)..

This was in part due to the Quran ayas (verses) and verses in hadiths that show that Mohammed respected Jews and Christians who were pious and righteous people which is why it is forbidden to kill the clergy of other faiths during war unless they openly take up arms. In addition, the Torah and Bible can not be burned by Muslims as they respect the books as having "some" truths in them while they believe other parts were corrupted over time.
However.... all is not roses.... All through Islamic history indeed many atrocities were committed in the name of Islam. There are also some Hadiths which i can not refute because I am not trained enough in Islamic theology and thus do not consider myself an Islamic scholar. However from a historical perspective if you look at how Dhimmis were treated by various Islamic empires and nations, you will find a huge range of treatment ranging from highly oppressive all the way to extremely tolerant. Even within the Ottoman Empire for example, you will find different eras in which at times non-Muslims were oppressed while at other times their was enormous tolerance for those of other faiths. The same goes for India (the historical India not modern India), Indonesia, Iran, the nations of North Africa, etc...
For example Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world (and where I once lived), has generally had a very tolerant mix of religions in which you find many Muslims who still practice ancient Hindu traditions that they believe are compatible with Islam due to the good morality stories that they transmit. You have some of the largest Buddhist temples in the world such as the beautiful temples of Borobadur and Prambanan. These have never been attacked by Indonesian Muslims.
You mention that ancient site in Yemen that was attacked. But first ask yourself why it was not destroyed in the past by Muslims?
This extremist strain of Islam that we see today, while indeed based in Islam, is primarily a product of radical Islamic movements that began during colonialist and post-colonialist eras of Middle Eastern and South West Asian history. This movement really gained momentum with the radical Salafi movement led by Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab in the mid 1700's. It was his movement that was protected and embraced by the Arabian House of Saud that rules Saudi Arabia today. While the Wahhabist movement (who refer to themselves as Salafis) does have some theological roots in such scholars as Ibn Tammiyah, its weakness is that they do not follow any one particular school of Islamic thought (madhhabs). While they are primarily influenced by the Hanabali madhhab, they tend to pick and choose studies from radical scholars at various points of history without studying an unbroken line of teachings in order to learn what the majority rulings were during various points in Islamic history. Because of this they tend to custom tailor their Islamic theology to their modern political beliefs, their militant goal of an united Islam under a Salafi Caliphate and their conspiracy theories about Jews.

It is this strain of Islam that you see plastered all over the news and whose teachings are translated into English and widely used on almost every neoconservative site and by almost every neoconservative "self-proclaimed" expert on Islam. Robert Spencer's site, "Jihad Watch" is a prime example. What is ironic is that they tend to completely ignore moderate traditional scholars who disagree with these extremists. They also refuse to publish the counter-arguments sent to them by anti-extremist Islamic scholars.
At least on this site, I have not been censored so far and I applaud the site's editors for that.

You ask where the voices are of these moderate Muslim leaders speaking out against terrorists and extremism. Their voice are everywhere, but as I mentioned in my post, the media is almost completely ignoring them. Peaceful Muslims are boring. They do not fall in line with the perception that most Americans have of Muslims and they do not draw viewers. Fear is what draws viewers regardless of what the subject is. Next time you watch CNN or FOX news, I recommend keeping a score sheet on the number of stories that make you feel worried or fearful whether they be about getting fat, getting cancer, crime, terrorism, global warming, etc... You will quickly see what I'm talking about.
As for who these Muslim leaders are around the world speaking out against terrorism…. I got so many references that I don't know where to start and I'm sure I'll leave out many, but here are a few (not including the local Imams and scholars I work with):

1. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (Zaytuna Foundation and one of America's most respected Islamic scholars)
2. Imam Zaid Shakir (Zaytuna Foundation)
3. Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani (Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order of America)
4. Shaykh Abdul Haqq (Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order of America)
5. Shaykh Nuh Keller (One of America's top Islamic scholars trained at al-Azhar, Cairo (one of the oldest and most respected islamic schools in the world).
6. Shaykh Fetullah Gulen (Turkey's most popular Islamic leader and student of Said Nursi. All of his followers and Imams are heavily against extremism).
7. All of the Islamic scholars on the The Fiqh Council of North America .
8. Yusuf Islam (Formerly known as Cat Stevens. He's not really a scholar but is looked up to by many young Muslims.)
9. Shaykh Taha Jabir al-Alwani (North American High Council and publisher of various essays on progressive Islam)
10. Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq (Indian Islamic historians who have authored several books on Islam)
11. Joseph E. B. Lumbard (American Islamic scholar and author on Islam)
12. Shaykh Dr. Zaki Badawi (Principle of the Muslim College in London, UK)
13. Shaykh Daoud Rosser-Owen (Studied fiq'h and tariqah in Malaysia and Turkey)
14. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Iranian Islamic scholar now teaching at George Washington University)
15. Shaykh Muhammed Sayyid al-Tantawi (Perhaps the world's most respected Sunni leader- Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar school in Cairo, one of the oldest and most prestigious Islamic schools in the world. He has consistently spoken out strongly against terrorism and opposed views of the popular Islamist Yusuf al-Qaradawi).
16. Abdel-Mo'tei Bayyoumi (Scholar at the Al-Azhar Research Academy, Egypt).
17. Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric (Grand Mufti of Bosnia)

etc... etc....
If you want a much longer list, below are a ton of fatwas issued by prominent Islamic scholars against terrorism and extremism here:

FATWAS AGAINST TERRORISM

Now is everything cut and dry? No. Many Muslims contradict themselves by being against bombings in Europe and America and yet supporting suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Not all do, but its not uncommon. Some scholars also make a distinction between a terrorist and a Muslim on Jihad who is fighting according to Islamic rules of Jihad and only attacks enemy soldiers in a war of defense. So for example they would not call an Iraqi group who only attacks American soldiers as terrorists as long as they do not purposefully or carelessly endanger the lives of civilians.

Furthermore I do not advocate being naive about the goal of a great number of Muslims to bring Shariat law into non-Muslim nations by using democracy as their tool. This wouldn't happen in America due to immigration patterns and projected growth of Islam in America. However in Europe, this is a reality for some countries and their politicians need to stop being so naive about that. They need to seriously look at creative ways of nipping that problem in the bud such as by curbing immigration, passing laws making it easier to deport militant immigrants, and establish Islamic counter-extremist schools that show how most secular laws are in accordance with moderate interpretations of the Shariat or that they are at least "in the spirit of Shariat law." European Muslim extremists need to be educated in how the very laws they seek to destroy are what give them the freedom to voice their religious beliefs.

I am not ignorant of the Islamic practice of Taqiyah however with moderate traditional Muslims, it is ONLY applied to save one's life or the lives of fellow Muslims. Unfortunately Qutb'ist scholars of the Islamic Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, and Shi'a extremists have expanded this concept to mean deception in all forms including in the role of committing a terrorist attack by eating pork, drinking alcohol, and basically pretending to be a sinful non-believer. It is an easy concept to refute theologically in Islam. However aside from Islamic conferences here and there and in Islamic theological web sites that bore the average Muslim, such beliefs are not challenged. This is where the US and European governments could do an enormous amount of counter-propaganda against such illegitimate ideologies with the support of respected traditional scholars.

If we do not do more to fight against this type of extremist theology using traditional Islamic theology to counter it, we will see MANY more terrorists like those doctors who launched those attacks in England. You do not have to be uneducated to be brain washed. Do you remember the Heaven's Gate Cult that killed themselves in California? Most of their members were highly educated and included former doctors and lawyers who went as far as castrating themselves for the sake of purifying their soul. They then were brainwashed into believing that the Hale-Bop comet was their ticket to heaven if they killed themselves as it passed close to the earth. Anyone can become susceptible to having their religious beliefs (the core of many people's belief systems) manipulated and used to get them to do horrible things. If you talk to Islamic extremists you will find that they are deeply pious people who truly believe that they are warriors of Allah and protectors of their faith against the giant satanic forces of Israel and the United States. They truly believe that we are trying to destroy their religion. That is an extremely dangerous belief that we know is utterly wrong. Yet our State Department and media does very little to refute that belief. We could do MUCH more in that effort if we so desired. Sadly the political willpower is not there. Such policies do not get votes.
While attacking terrorist ideologies at their root core makes logical sense, it is political suicide. Any politician who advocated that would be called "a terrorist appeaser" by his/her political rivals.

My only hope is that this attitude will change and that more Americans both conservative and liberal will begin to use this strategy to counter and de-legitimise Islamic extremists all over the world through the use of wide spread multi-media counter-propaganda that is grounded in Islam and promoted by Islamic scholars.
The more difficult part however will be that we must change our foreign policy for this to be most effective.
This means taking a much more diplomatic approach with Iran (less threats and more carrot sticks to get them to end their nuclear weapons program). It also means getting serious about developing a better peace plan between the Israelis and Palestinians using more flexible experimental approaches and by getting input from not just Fatah, but also from Hamas who, like it or not, are major players in that conflict.
Finally, pulling out of Iraq is a must. There is no fixing that mess militarily short of a draft of millions of Americans in order to fill every street corner with American troops. Either that or using a nuke to murder millions of Iraqis. While tempting, it is not necessary to resort to extreme genocide if peaceful methods of combating terrorism bear fruits. Plus using nukes would scare the hell out of the rest of the world and likely result in a new nuclear arms race with our former European and Asian allies.

About Saudi Arabia and tolerance. I lived there in the early 80's and went to Christian church services held in a movie theater at the old USMTM compound in Riyadh. You can have a bible there, you just can't distribute them to non-Christians. As for going to Mecca and Medina, for a non-Muslim that's not a big deal. Aside from curiosity, there really isn't any need to go there unless you are a Muslim. You can travel in the rest of Saudi Arabia, however some parts are a little dangerous these days. I was lucky that I was able to travel all over Saudi Arabia and I experienced the most amazing hospitality by Saudis all over especially by Bedhoin tribesmen. I don't support how they treat women, but neither do many fellow Muslims in other countries. With that said, things are gradually changing as female Islamic scholars begin to assert their rights given to them according to Shariat Law. In Morocco for example they have appointed female Islamic scholars to combat the influence of wahhabism in Islamic interpretations about the rights of women. Malaysia and Indonesia have similar prominent places and important roles for female Islamic scholars.
Wahhabis forget that some of the most important Hadiths were narrated originally by Mohammed's youngest wife Aisha. They also forget that Mohammed's first and favorite wife, Khadija, was a powerful business woman who owned a huge merchant company. HE worked for her and after marriage always respected her advice. He did not marry any other women until after she died (she was a widow who was 15 years older then he was).
These Wahhabis don't like bringing up all of that, but they can not refute that their prophet had great respect for at least certain women. He also put out laws that banned female infanticide. Believe it or not, but at the time much of what he did could be called feminist for that period (but not today).

As for the 4th of July and Freedom, it is important to not compare our forefathers and Muslims. They both have profoundly different historical and cultural experiences. However there are some similarities. Muslims do want to fight for their freedom. But it is the freedom from the West in our interfering with how they want to run their governments and practice their religion. I will be the first to say, that I do not support blindly forcing democracy into that region. Nations rarely become democracies overnight. If we, for example, forced Egypt and Pakistan to have democracies today, we would see Islamic radicals immediately come into power as the majority. When the time is right, I think that they will move towards democracies. But it must be at their own pace and their own time when their people are willing to fully fight for it. At the same time, we must improve relations with the Islamic world so that, WHEN they do develop democracies, we will not have to worry about them being a threat to us. We will be their partner in democracy. There will be disagreements in human rights issues. We have those problems now with our new buddies in communist China and Vietnam. But those human rights issues are slowly being addressed as they have been slowly in the Islamic world. Those issues will never be solved by using military force. That will only get a radical reaction that only feeds extremism which is what we are seeing happen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All of this is delicate ground and I hope and pray that on this 4th of July our nation will do the right thing and move towards peaceful means of counter-terrorism so that the sacrifices of our brave men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan will not be in vain. Otherwise, I expect sadly that we will be mourning the deaths of our men and women uniform for many years to come.

Chris G.

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