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Certain bad verses in Quran are not the problem

Reader comment on item: Conversions in Israel
in response to reader comment: Converting or becoming ex-Muslims!

Submitted by Abhi (United States), May 15, 2009 at 00:31

Dear Dr Pipes:

I have read Quran and Hadiths and have encountered many verses and dictums that I also consider objectionable. Many critics of Islam quote these verses to criticize Islam. But I do not think that these verses, by themselves, are the problem. I invite your readers to search for the term "destroy idols" inside Bible. They will find hundreds of instances where Bible recommends destroying statues belonging to other people

. Any call to destroy other people's property (religious or otherwise) goes against the principles espoused by modern progressive living. At least, in some verses the call to destroy the idols also becomes a wish of death for the people who revere those idols (Leviticus 26:30). Two major religious books of Hinduism (the Ramayana and Mahabharata) discuss pretty graphic killings of one set of human beings by another (not much less gruesome than Leviticus 26). To describe what is good, religions must describe what they think is bad and make it look much worse than what it truly is.

So what is the problem with the Islam? The problem is the insistence that the Quran is the final unchangeable/unquestionable word that is not subject to reasonable interpretation. If Prophet Muhammad could live forever and be alive today, he would have certainly advocated a gentler interpretation of his rules. During his life period he created exceptions to his own rules (you must wash your hands with water but if water is not available ...; you must fast for thirty days but you are excused if...; the list can go on and on.).

Little things have major unintended consequences. When Muhammad declared that he was the last prophet, he probably did not want to his religion to degenerate and diversify in the same way as --in his eyes-- Christanity and Judaism had. The unintended consequence of his charter was that Muslims started to pay their entire attention to the literal meaning of book and not to its intended meaning. (The difference between Islam on the one hand and Christianity and Judaism on the other, could be as small as the belief that the Messiah will not come back till the very end and he will come back someday. And between these dichotomies exists the Hindu thought that the Messiah is always present to help you follow the good path and the Buddhist thought that Messiah does not necessarily matter as long as you follow the good path.)

Similarly the instruction to treat the Quran as the God's final word had a major negative consequence. 99% or the total effort by the common Muslims is spent in defending 1% of the Quran that is not defensible. Very little effort is spent in following the 99% that is followable. When you must defend something at all costs, ironically, violence becomes the cheapest method. That is why we are seeing so much of it in the Islamic world. If the money and resources that Islamic societies have spent in fighting for the Palestinian cause had been spent in the welfare of the Palestinian people, every Palestinian alive today would have been sharing country clubs with the Gates and Buffets. These and such simple facts have to be understood by the Muslim leaders. I hope in small pockets of Islamic societies the number of people who think in these milder terms is growing. That is the hope.


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