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A Rational Advocate
"The most formidable weapon against errors of any kind is reason"
 
 
A Dialog On Islamic Beliefs
 
This website has had posted a poll question relating to Islamic beliefs and recently also posted an essay by 'A Rational Advocate' whose content was related to that subject matter. The following is an email dialog that developed from the initial comments made by a visitor whom shall be called Ms X.  The commentary provides an interesting insight to the rationale of some non-Muslims relating to the subject matter.
 
From: Ms X (non-disclosed visitor to www.arationaladvocate.com)
To:
ratadv@pacbell.net
 
I have perused your site and was interested in the poll question:
 
Is it true that a Muslim who believes in the Koran must support converting or eliminating non-believers?
 
Most of your visitors are saying "yes," and this is wrong.  Christians and Jews have a special status as "People of the Book" in Islam.  Muslims revere both Jesus and Mary.  Jews were not treated equally in Muslim lands, but in general, far better than they were in Europe.  And the Christian world has done far more invading and killing in Muslim countries, even in the last 50 years, than have ever happened in reverse. 
 
The Quaran has some passages, according to you, that suggest otherwise, perhaps that the "infidels" should be killed?  Please provide examples.
 
Even if you can find a few (and I wonder where they are, as I have read the entire Quaran and I didn't see them), it takes some nerve for a Christian or a Jew to criticize the Quaran on this point.  The Bible is FULL of violence, xenophobia and intolerance, far more so by any objective standard.
 
If you don't make assumptions, but rather study the religious books as objectively as possible, I think you will be surprised at what you find.  By the way, I am a Christian who works side-by-side with Jews in a Jewish peace group.  My opinion should be biased in FAVOR of Judeo-Christian beliefs, but I don't like to see such widespread ignorance about Islam. 
 
Response from A Rational Advocate:
 
Thank you much for visiting www.arationaladvocate.com and your comments.
 
The first point I must make is that the essay and poll on which you have chosen to comment is not related to the Christian or Jewish religions.  In themselves, those religions certainly are open for much criticism for abhorrent practices over the years and centuries.  However, as I read your critique it is primarily relating to the aspects of the Islamic religion reflected on my website.  In that regard, I believe you make reference to comments I make in my essay Will Al Qaeda Terrorism Go Away By Itself? "  In that essay I provide the following paragraph:
 
"For those who again need reminding of the cause behind all these acts of terrorism let me explain what should be obvious.  The foundation for this terrorism goes all the way back to the seventh century with Muhammad, and the Koran he is attributed to have written.  The Islamic religion is based upon the evolution of interpretations of the Koran by various sects over the years, many of which were used to gain power but all taking as their basic tenet those religious laws contained in the Koran for use as civil laws.  This has not allowed for the separation of religious law from government law and, by its nature, freedom to follow or not follow the religion is impossible for people living under Islamic governments.  There are also tenets in the Koran that can be easily interpreted to convey to followers that those not willing to convert to the Islamic religion are Infidels and can be eliminated. Those doing such interpretations are called fundamentalists."
 
Please note that in the last two sentences I speak about interpretation of verses in the Koran (known also by the Quran and possibly other translated titles) by those that make those interpretations, who can be Clerics or Islamics who may have ulterior motives to do so.  I am sure you are aware of the many Fatwahs that have been made over the centuries including one made by Osama bin Laden just before 9/11, and he is not even a Cleric.  I also have read the entire Quran and have found much that could be interpreted to suit one's own fancy.   Why would there be the various sects such as the Sunni's, Shiites and Wahabies if different interpretations didn't exist?  You must also be aware that the Wahabies of Saudi Arabia have largely supported the actions of bin Laden and the bombings of 9/11 by Islamic terrorists, who also were Saudi's.  In essence that is support for the elimination of Infidels.  How can it be seen as anything but?
 
You ask for some samples of references in the Quran that could possibly be interpreted as advocating the conversion or elimination of Infidels.  They follow:
 
8.12 through 8.17 in "The Accessions" especially 8.17 "So you did not slay them, but it was Allah Who slew them, and you did not smite when you smote (the enemy), but it was Allah Who smote, and that He might confer upon the believers a good gift from Himself; surely Allah is Hearing, Knowing."
9.  "The Immunity" virtually the complete Chapter, especially 9.5 "So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful"
84.20 through 84.25  in "The Rending Assunder"
69.  "The Inevitable"  virtually the complete Chapter
 
If you still believe I am spreading ignorance there is obviously nothing I can do to convince you to change your opinion.
 
Thanks again for your comments and your visit to my website.
 
Response from Ms X:
 
Thank you for your thoughtful reply.  As for your examples, first 'idolators' do not include Jews and Christians, who Muslims refer to as "People of the Book." They believe Judaism and Christianity are true religions, early revelations of Islam.  They simply believe Islam is the continuation and purification of the scriptures.  So, no, I don't think Islam encourages people to kill Christians and Jews.  I do agree that some fanatics in all religions call for wars against all others---this is not unique to Islam.
 
As for "Islamic terrorists," I wonder why Christians and Jews who commit terrorist acts are NEVER, EVER referred to as "Christian terrorists" or "Jewish terrorists." In fact, three are rarely seen as "terrorists" at all, even if their behavior fits any rational and objective definition of terrorism.
 
Are you aware that the CIA report on Global Terrorism stated that there were 191 terrorist attacks directed at the US from mostly 'Christian" Latin America, which there were only 8 from the Middle East?  That's our very own CIA reporting--look it up for yourself by searching "Patterns of Global Terrorism."  So why is all the focus (even prior to 9-11) on only "Islamic" terror?
 
Also, no one can compete with the so-called "Christian" West for death and destruction over the last century.  Just because we choose not to define this as terrorism doesn't mean it could not be defined that way for someone whose agenda was not as skewed as our own.  Who was it who perpetrated the Holocaust anyway?  And Vietnam?  The examples are endless and the death and destruction left in the wake of such behavior would leave the likes of Bin Laden envious.
 
So I am not denying that Islam has an ugly side, not that there are many extremist followers who are fomenting hatred.  But what about the very hateful Hindutva?  What about the "Hindu" Tamil Tighers, who actually hold the world's record for suicide bombing?  Where are the public condemnations of them?  Where are the people searching through the Hindu scriptures, searching for a justification?  What about the extremist Zionists shouting "Death to the Arabs"?  What about the so-called "Christians" who are starving millions of helpless victims to death in Iraq, to punish them for a dictator we put in place and supported?  These positions and their manifestations are ignored by too many people in this country today.
 
If I want to go back to the Bible and find reasons why our own culture is decadent, materialistic, and violent, I'm sure I will find some.  And I would wager I could site a far larger number of such "examples" of racism, xenophobia, intolerance, and violence from the Bible than you will ever going to find in the Koran.  I have not documented these (unfortunately), but I have seen far more of such references in the Bible myself.
 
Still, I am a Christian, love my religion, and always will.  I know people will do hideous things in the name of Christ and it makes me sick.  But at least the people won't shine a constant light on the ugliest elements of my religion and try to paint a picture that creates animosity and hatred toward us Christians, as I think sites like yours do against Muslims.
 
Finally, I recognize those were poll results and not directly created by your site.  My point was that I think you and others like you contribute to such results and intentionally try to create animosity toward Islam.  In that sense, I see counterparts in the extremists from the Muslim world.  They share the goal of mutual hatred.
 
Response from A Rational Advocate:
 
I appreciate your thoughtful attempt to justify your views.  As I said in my email to you, "the essay and poll on which you have chosen to comment is not related to the Christian or Jewish religions.  In themselves, those religions certainly are open for much criticism for abhorrent practices over the years and centuries."   You appear to want to justify the attacks of Muslim terrorists by equating them to attacks by Jews and Christians that could be considered as defensive as, I am sure, you consider similarly in regard to the attacks by the Muslims.  If you do consider these attacks by Jews and Christians wrong, is your apparent view regarding the Muslim attacks making two wrongs a right?  This also applies to the other activist groups and events you use as examples of committing wrongful acts.  Further, it seems to me you have disregarded the position of a very large number of fundamentalist Muslims such as the Wahabies in supporting the attacks on the U.S. in 9/11 (of the 8 terrorist acts you mention it certainly must be considered major - four acts within one).   Wahabies are fundamentalists, ardent followers of the Quran.  These are not a few fanatics.
 
Regarding your first paragraph, you make a statement 'idolators' do not include Jews and Christians, who Muslims refer to as "People of the Book." They believe Judaism and Christianity are true religions, early revelations of Islam.  They simply believe Islam is the continuation and purification of the scriptures'.  This is the opinion you and others may hold - but - there are many other Muslims that think otherwise; just as, there are those Muslims who have different interpretations of the Quran such as the Sunni's, Shiites and Wahabies.  You must agree that your view of the Islamic religion is one that does not follow that of the fundamentalists.  You appear to want to make Muslims a homogeneous single group which they are not, just as the Christians and the Jews who live in all parts of the world are not.
 
Perhaps one should look at the Quran in light of what I believe freedom-loving people find intolerable.  As one who has read it you must recognize that it does not allow for religious or civil freedom. Its content clearly states the laws that a society must follow both in religious and civil matters.  Therefore, those desiring to follow the tenets of the Quran in a democratic society must temper those relating to civil matters and accede to the freedom of religious expression.  I wonder to what degree you could freely express your religion in Saudi Arabia?  There is no doubt in my mind that the mid-east must begin to modernize, as other religions have done over the years and centuries to allow for a freer democratic form of government.  In the mid-east, it is only Turkey that has such a government.
 
Finally, on my website I simply try to state the truth that is in my mind obvious.
 
Response from Ms X:
 
I don't want to "justify" anyone's terror attacks.  Killing of innocents is killing of innocents, whatever the justification or the name.  It is appalling and there is no excuse.  What I think is wrong is that others justify certain terror, as long as it's NOT in the name of Islam.  There is no reason to single out one or the other as "preferred" terror.  Murdering innocent Israelis on a bus is vile and evil, and so is bombing women and children huddled in a shelter in Iraq.  This is terror, but only the first is rightly condemned.
 
I have become somewhat resentful of people saying anyone who doesn't agree with them is justifying terror or siding with terrorists.  We can have different opinions and still BOTH condemn terror, as any decent, sane human being should.
 
In any case, perhaps you are right that Islam needs a major reformation.  Judaism and Christianity have adapted to the modern world.  But I don't hear much about "reformation."  Just mostly animosity toward Muslims today and an unwillingness to acknowledge anything good about that religion. 
 
If the whole world focuses on the dark side of Islam and stimulates sufficient hatred toward the Muslims, what will be the accomplishment?  I think that's where we are headed and I don't see that as a way to encourage reform.
 
In any case, your first sentence of the last letter seemed a bit insincere...maybe a little sarcastic.  But email is also misleading, so I don't know.  But I was not just saying I appreciated your thoughtful reply as a formality.  I meant it.  So rarely do I get a reply, especially one that seems sincere.  I like to have a dialogue with someone, who is civil and intelligent, even if we disagree.
 
Response from A Rational Advocate:
 
I am sorry that you feel the first sentence of my least email was insincere or sarcastic.  It was not.  I would not be responding to you with what I consider my thoughtful views if I did not consider yours thoughtful.  It would otherwise be a waste of time.
 
There is not much to disagree with in your response except for your feeling that the feeling of hatred towards Islam is widespread among the American people. There is no doubt that there are those elements who may feel hatred towards Islam as there are those who may feel hatred towards Jews and/or Christians.   My observations are that those unthinking biased elements who may express hatred are existent in all societies and balance out on one side or the other.  Hatred is evil regardless of the source it is derived from and its target.  I hope you are not confusing thoughtful reasoned commentary with hatred.  Your first email gave me that feeling despite the fact that your subsequent comments provided more measured rationale.
 
In regards to modernization and reformation of the Islamic religion it sometimes takes forceful action to initiate the process and movement towards that end.  I sincerely believe that the action by the U.S. to change the regime in Iraq will establish the foundation for such modernization and that was its intention regardless of the rhetoric that was expressed in the U.N.
 
The Islamic religion is widespread and is the fastest growing in the world.  It is foolish for anyone to believe that it can be eliminated any more than can be done with any other religion.  Religion lies in the beliefs of people.  The best way to modernize and reform the Islamic religion is to have it exist side by side equally with other religions, including secularism, in a democratic society.
 
Thank you for your interest and comments.  I appreciated having the opportunity to respond to the challenge of opposing views.  In the end they were not that opposing.
 
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