Saturday, September 15, 2007

the Koran according to Jasser

Then, when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way; God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.

Koran 9:5, trans A.J. Arberry [emphasis added]

In 2007, it would be equally moral for a Muslim to say that we should “slay al Qaeda wherever we find them.” Thus, a Muslim learns these passages as exhortations from God regarding war as last resort, and with the underpinning of principles of just war. These same principles have been used in other faiths to this very day, to justify war in the protection of our nation-states.

M. Zuhdi Jasser: Which Islam? Whose Islam?

This morning, in my email box, I found the much anticipated 3rd installment of M. Zuhdi Jasser's commentary on the Koran. In the 1st and 2nd installments, Jasser merely broadcasts and rebroadcasts his intentions but fails even once to actually quote from the Koran. At last, in this 3rd installment, we get a brief and wishy-washy commentary on a seven-word excerpt (emphasized above) from a single verse.

In the 1st installment, Jasser laid down some of his ground rules and explained his philosopy and approach [my emphasis]:

There is no “communication” or “excommunication” for that matter involved in my being a Muslim. It is a complete free-for-all, with no institution providing or guaranteeing membership other than God.

Thus, one of the foundational principles of our American Islamic Forum for Democracy was that we affirm the “inalienable right of every Muslim to be equally entitled to their opinion concerning their own interpretation of the religion of Islam and its scriptures. We refuse to accept subservience of the interpretation of our personal faith and personal relationship with God to imams (teachers and prayer leaders) and other ulemaa.”

This man, though clearly well-intentioned and able in other ways, is writing like a vacuous fool. Freedom is a fine thing but it must always be wedded to responsibility, to an adherence to some principle of moral or scholarly conduct. Otherwise, what results is precisely the chaos and anarchy that Jasser accuses al Qaeda of attempting to foment.

However, it is not just the door to anarchy that is opened here, but the door to bigotry, as demonstrated in the following perfectly logical development:

I would never call myself "a Muslim", not even for a moment or for the sake of making an argument through hypothesis, because the laws of apostasy would make it impossible for me to change my mind. I could quite literally put my life at risk. However, let us allow that I am "a woman of God" and thereby permitted the freedom of interpretation that Jasser allows to Muslims.

Though I belong to the small nation-state of Australia, I identify also with other similar nation-states threatened by Islam (or Islamists), states such as Israel, the USA, Canada, the European nations, and India. I see this conglomeration of nation-states and their advanced culture (which includes a healthy respect for the truth as unveiled by the scientific enterprise, as well as modern principles of governement) threatened by the violent acts of people calling themselves Muslims, acting under the banner of their religion Islam, and in the name of their deity Allah.

Just as Mohammad identified "idolaters" as his enemies against whom a defensive and therefore just war was called for, so can I identify "Muslims" as the enemies of my nation-states and culture against whom a defensive and therefore just war is called for. From there, it is simple to conclude that we must “slay Muslims wherever we find them.”

This replacement of "idolaters" with "Muslims" is more justified by the modern context than is Jasser's replacement by the narrow term "al Qaeda". A general term covering a particular approach to deity - via statues and images - is replaced by another general term covering a different approach to deity - via the Koran and life of Mohammad (an idolatry of book and person, rather than statue or image). The latter are quite clearly as dangerous to us today as those "idolaters" were to the Muslims of yesteryear.

By contrast, the term "al Qaeda" is restrictive and narrow while at the same time having dangerous fuzzy edges. Who belongs to "al Qaeda"? Is it only "card-carrying" members? Does it include anyone who has ever trained with them? Anyone who has attended one of their lectures (knowingly or not)? Anyone who sympathizes with their cause (such as seems true for the majority of the Pakistani population)? What about Hamas and Hizballah? What about the dozens, nay hundreds or even thousands, of other Islamist groups calling themselves different names and with no or very loose ties to al Qaeda itself? What about the so-called non-violent groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir who prepare the ground politically for the Islamic takeover of the West? Where does it end? If "al Qaeda" is to have any meaning as a denotation of our current enemy, it must be extended so far as to include a large plurality of Muslims and certainly a majority in certain parts of the world. What the heck! It's easier to just say "the Muslims"!

Thus does Islam, through one of its gentler apologists, shoot itself in the foot.


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