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Reader comment on item: Harvard Loves Jihad

Submitted by Prashant (United States), Jun 26, 2011 at 14:35

Dear Dr Pipes

: I ran into your 2002 article on Harvard's choice of Zayed Yasin as a commencement speaker. Zayed Yasin titled (and then changed) his speech 'American Jihad'. Given that this speech was delivered only months after the 9/11 attack, that was quite a bold title for a speech. I researched and found the text of Yasin's speech on the web. I also found his biography. Yasin is half-caucasian. He is also half-Bangladeshi. Nothing in his 2002 speech was such that will not be said by a young American student of any origin. In fact, most of his speech efforted to find American values in Quran. His speech hardly tried to do the other way round.

But what is the relevance of this speech almost nine years after the event? The relevance is many fold. First a lot of people, some well meaning and some masqueradoes, say that Quranic values are not in contradiction with the modern democratic and secular values. We cannot easily know whether the people who make such comparisons are well meaning or masqueraders because quran indeed mixes many good values with many very bad things and almost all values that we like can be found inside quran mingled with ideas that we want to stay away from.

This is what brings us to my main point. It is high time that rest of the world stops judging Islam by Islamic standards and stops being afraid of Islamic supremacist attitude. A half-caucasian Muslim-by-birth man is not necessarily a fundamentalist even if he on some occasion in his first 22 years of life ended up collecting money for Hamas. Similarly, another half-caucasian Muslim-by-birth but converted Christian is not necessarily still a Muslim even if he happens to be United State's first (almost) anti-Israel president. Every time Islam encounters a modern value, it gets diluted. Barak Obama has diluted fundamentaist Islam. And, probably, Zayed Yasin has also diluted fundamentalist Islam. Islam even with its inflexible doctrines (last prophet, God's last word, the only truth etc) is not impenetrable.

Those Muslims who try to find overlap between Quranic values and modern secular values (based on symmetry, golden-rule, and respect) will find contradictions that they cannot easily reconcile. They will also discover hyporicies that they cannot live with. So let us give benefit of doubt to such people. In doing so sometimes the benefit will go to mosqueraders also but we must take that risk.


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