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Strange Bedfellows: Extremists, Bigots, and the Quran

Loon Watch - 10 December, 2014 - 11:20

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Original guest article by Michael Elwood and Tarik Abdallah

Recently, there’s been a lot in the news as to whether extremists like ISIS are being true to the message of the Quran or not.

Some, like Rep. Keith Ellison and Prof. Rashid Khalidi claim that groups like ISIS take verses of the Quran out of context in order to justify their objectionable beliefs and practices (see: Islamic State group uses only half of a Quran verse to justify beheadings — see what’s in the other half). Others, like Sam Harris and Bill Maher, claim that so-called moderate Muslims either don’t know what their own scripture says (as incredible as that sounds!), or they’re simply lying about the “violent” and “hateful” contents of the Quran. We contend it’s extremists like ISIS, and critics of Islam like Harris and Maher, who are lying about the contents of the Quran. Below, we’ll give an overview of how they do this by taking verses out of context in order to make them appear to be advocating “violence” and “hate”.

First, we’d like to point out that taking verses out of context isn’t the only way that extremists try to justify violent and hateful interpretations of the Quran. There are two other ways that this is often accomplished. One way is to play on verses that are allegorical, or that can have more than one meaning, and try to tease a violent or hateful interpretation from them. The Quran itself mentions this:

“He sent down to you this scripture, containing straightforward verses – which constitute the essence of the scripture – as well as multiple-meaning or allegorical verses. Those who harbor doubts in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create confusion, and to extricate a certain meaning. None knows the true meaning thereof except GOD and those well founded in knowledge. They say, “We believe in this – all of it comes from our Lord.” Only those who possess intelligence will take heed” ~ Quran 3:7

In their footnote for 3:7, Prof. Edip Yuksel, Prof. Martha Schulte-Nafeh, et. al., point out that the verse about verses that can be interpreted in more than one way, can itself be interpreted in more than one way (See “Quran: A Reformist Translation”):

“The word [mutashabihat] can be confusing for a novice. Verse 39:23, for instance, uses mutashabihat for the entire Quran, referring to its overall similarity — in other words, its consistency. In a narrower sense, however, mutashabihat refers to all verses which can be understood in more than one way. The various meanings or implications require some special qualities from the person listening to or reading the Quran: an attentive mind, a positive attitude, contextual perspective, the patience necessary for research, and so forth.

“It is one of the intriguing features of the Quran that the verse about mutashabih verses of the Quran is itself mutashabih — that is, it has multiple meanings. The word in question, for instance, can mean ‘similar’, as we have seen; it can mean, ‘possessing multiple meanings'; it can also mean ‘allegorical’ (where one single, clearly identifiable element represents another single, clearly identifiable element).”

An example of a verse that can be interpreted in more than one way is 2:106. In this verse, some translate the word “ayah,” which means “miracle,” as “verse” in order to justify abrogating Quranic verses that are inconvenient for them (more on this later). An example of verses that are allegorical are the verses that describe heaven and hell, like 47:15. In this particular instance, the Quran actually tells us that the description is an allegory (mathalu):

“The allegory of Paradise [mathalu al-jannati] that is promised for the righteous is this: it has rivers of unpolluted water, and rivers of fresh milk, and rivers of wine – delicious for the drinkers – and rivers of strained honey. They have all kinds of fruits therein, and forgiveness from their Lord. (Are they better) or those who abide forever in the hellfire, and drink hellish water that tears up their intestines?”  ~ Quran 47:15

In his book, “The End of Faith,” and on his website, Sam Harris often cites these verses as evidence of what he calls “religious hatred” and “otherwordliness” in the Quran (see Honesty: The Muslim World’s Scarcest Resource). There are a few problems with this, however.

First, as his fellow atheist Joshua Oxley points out, these verses use imagery to portray the torments of hell:

“The verses cited aren’t quite as scary as he makes them out to be. Many of them use violent imagery–fire, mostly–to convey the judgment that us unbelievers will experience at the hands of God. Not at the hands of men and women on earth. But at the Last Day. Why should this constitute a particular kind of Islamic violence. . . . Does that scare you? It doesn’t scare me. These passages put the power into Divine hands to judge and cast out, not human. I couldn’t care less, unless individuals start citing that verse in hopes of having my head. At that point, it’s not the ‘unified message’ of the text that is to blame, but an inconsistent interpretation by the religious believer. And those are two very, very different things.

“Harris, quite frankly, presents Scripture here as a fundamentalist would. It is a dry, topical understanding, devoid of historical or textual context, that makes proof-texting possible. There is no room for interpretation, for conversation, for nuance. No different schools of thought. It’s decided, ‘The text as a whole says X’. Islam becomes a robotic, artificial existence, and humankind mere automatons. And I feel like Harris should know better. When you have a bigger audience to speak to, you take on the responsibility of presenting yourself and others with as much integrity and honesty as possible. And this article just doesn’t measure up. . . .

“Please, anyone and everyone, don’t take Harris’ analysis as your own understanding of Islam. I have to say something. This atheist, who is not a Qur’anic scholar, but who was lucky enough to spend four year in undergrad studying Islam, is interested in the Muslim and secular communities engaging in dialogue over real issues. Poorly-reasoned critiques, more diatribe than discourse, will never get people to the table. And in a society with a profound ignorance of the nature of Islam, it’s even more dangerous to promulgate some of the worst misconceptions.

“Everyone deserves to be as generously understood as possible, and it’s about time the Muslim community got similar treatment from our secular circles. If I read a Muslim thinker picking any secular text apart in this kind of manner, I’d be equally miffed.” ~Joshua Oxley, When You Just Shouldn’t Say Anything: Sam Harris and the Qur’an

Second, Harris isn’t categorically against torment. He’s just against the torment of non-Muslims (or infidels as he likes to call them) in an afterlife he doesn’t believe in, by a God he doesn’t believe in. But as he has said in his book “The End of Faith,” and in a Huffington Post article aptly titled “In Defense of Torture,” he’s all for the torment of Muslims in this life.

It’s hard to understand how the torment of some non-Muslims in the afterlife constitutes “religious hatred,” but the torment of some Muslims in this life doesn’t constitute “secular hatred”.

Third, despite Harris’ subjective impression that the Quran is full of “otherworldliness,” the objective reality is quite different. The number of times the Arabic words for this life (dunya) and the afterlife (akhira) both occur in the Quran exactly 115 times (see “Quran: A Reformist Translation”). It reminds me of the Christian apologist Dave Miller who tried to demonstrate that the Quran, unlike the Bible, emphasizes hell more than heaven. He wrote:

“While the Bible certainly emphasizes the certainty and inevitability of eternal punishment, it places the subject in proper perspective and provides a divinely balanced treatment.”   ~ David Miller, Hell and the Quran

But despite Miller’s subjective impression of the Quran placing an emphasis on hell, the objective reality is quite different. The Arabic words for heaven (jannah) and hell (jahannum) both occur in the Quran exactly 77 times (see “Interpreting the Qur’an: A Guide for the Uninitiated” by Clinton Bennett). If that’s not “balanced treatment,” what is? It should also be pointed out that Christian apologists claim that overall the Quran, unlike the Bible, is more violent (see Dark passages: Does the harsh language in the Koran explain Islamic violence? Don’t answer till you’ve taken a look inside the Bible, also see Danios’ article: What the Quran-bashers Don’t Want You To Know About The Bible).

Another way extremists and critics try to justify violent and hateful interpretations of the Quran is to just ignore or explain away “peaceful” and “loving” verses in the Quran. One of the ways they try to accomplish this is by claiming that all the “peaceful” and “loving” verses of the Quran have been conveniently abrogated. Verse 2:106, mentioned earlier, critics claim can be interpreted in more than one way through abrogation. Many also claim verse 9:5 abrogates all the other “peaceful” and “loving” verses. However, some scholars disagree:

“A popular argument against such a reading of the text is based on the claim that verses such as 22:39-40 and 2:190 have been abrogated by the so-called ‘verse of the sword,’ 9:5. Proponents of this argument generally cite the portion of the verse, which says, ‘then kill the polytheists wherever you find them,’ claiming that this abrogates any previous verses that seem to restrict fighting and killing non-Muslims. However, this argument is problematic for two very important reasons.

“First, as John Burton has clearly demonstrated, there is no agreement among Muslim scholars, past or present, on the nature of abrogation, or on the specifics of the abrogating and the abrogated.[16] More important to the present discussion, however, is the fact that a literal reading of 9:5, in the surrounding context demonstrates that its message is the same as that found throughout the Qur’an.” ~ Prof. Aisha Musa, Towards a Qur’anically-Based Articulation of the Concept of ‘Just War’

For a lengthier treatment of abrogation, see Dr. Israr Khan’s article Arguments for Abrogation in the Qur’an: A Critique. Also see the article Abrogation, the biggest lie against the Quran.

The Rising Tide in Germany of Islamophobia and Anti-Immigration Views

Loon Watch - 9 December, 2014 - 19:43

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As IBTimes reported The Bavaria’s ruling party, Christian Social Union (CSU),  has put forward a proposal saying that immigrants should speak German not only in public but in the home as well.

The draft law has sparked outrage with dozens taking to social media to voice their dissent. Twitter users are commenting on the issue using the hashtag #YallaCSU. Yalla is an Arabic word that can be translated as “let’s go” and “hurry up”.” writes Ludovica Iaccino.

In German City Rich With History and Tragedy, Tide Rises Against Immigration

By ALISON SMALEDEC. 7, 2014

More refugees are seeking asylum in Germany than in any other country, straining Germans’ tolerance for foreigners and taxing the government’s ability to find housing for them.

DRESDEN, Germany — As it does every Advent, this history-laden city has erected the gift stalls, the glühwein stands and the Ferris wheel of Germany’s oldest Christmas market, around the Frauenkirche, the 18th-century church that was magnificently rebuilt after the Allies’ catastrophic bombing in 1945. But this year, there is tension behind the seasonal jollity.

For the past seven Mondays, people have taken up the battle cry of East Germans protesting their Communist government 25 years ago — “Wir sind das Volk!” (“We are the people!”) — and fashioned it into a lament about being overlooked by political leaders of the present.

Dresden’s demonstrators, echoing the populist fears coursing around Europe, are a motley mix of far right-wingers in the National Democratic Party, or N.P.D., young hooligans and ordinary folk who feel ignored as foreigners pour into Germany — at least 200,000 this year alone — seeking jobs or asylum.

Ahmad Mahayni, a Syrian refugee, had to leave his exiled family in Jordan in August so that he could fly to Berlin to seek asylum.

First hundreds, now thousands have responded to the summons from a previously unknown activist, Lutz Bachmann, 41, and an organization called Pegida, a German acronym for a title that translates roughly as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.
Continue reading the main story

On Monday, a record 7,500 showed up despite teeth-chattering cold, for an hour long march through Dresden’s center, a mix of grim Socialist architecture and gems of the pre-1945 past. National flags were flown. One placard said, “We miss our country,” while another demanded, “Protection of the Heimat,” or homeland, “not Islamization.”

Carefully kept at shouting distance by the police, several hundred opponents yelled their disagreement. “Refugees are welcome here!” they chanted in English before blocking the Pegida crowd from reaching Dresden’s famed Theater Square, bordered by the beautiful Semperoper opera house and the Zwinger museum, home to one of the finest European art collections.

Despite its rich culture and its present-day prosperity, Dresden is no stranger to right-wingers or hatred of foreigners. But as dissatisfaction simmers throughout Europe over the arrival of migrants, events in this city of 530,000 people have come as a surprise.

“They are clearly Nazis,” said Kathi Wetzel, 50, when asked at her food stall about the demonstrators, though, she added, the marches also swept up “simple hangers-on who don’t really know why they are going along.”

Martin Landseck, 32, pouring beer at another stand, took a far less definite attitude. “Let’s wait and see,” he said, about which side has the better case.

Clearly, Pegida has touched a nerve. In Germany, where the economy is still growing and more people have jobs than ever before, no equivalent has emerged to France’s Marine LePen and her populist National Front, and no leaders have ridden discontent to power like Prime Minister Victor Orban in Hungary.

The Islamization evoked by Pegida is hardly imminent, with only about 2 percent of the population in the Saxony region foreign, and only a fraction of those Muslim.

But right-wingers and soccer hooligans banded together in Cologne this fall and overran police officers in violent protests they said were aimed at Islamic extremism. Dresden is almost the anti-Cologne — determinedly antiviolent and careful in its fliers and patriotic placards to stay on the right side of laws banning hate speech — yet focused on many of the same targets.

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Nutcase Nicolai Sennels Still Posting on Rev. Deacon Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch

Loon Watch - 9 December, 2014 - 19:08

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Spencerwatch

For some years now Nicolai Sennels has been posting on Rev. Deacon Robert Spencer’s blog, JihadWatch. Sennels is very popular in the “counterjihad” movement that has spawned the likes of Anders Breivik and the EDL.

Sennels, in much the same way as earlier racist pseudo-scientists, focuses his Islamophobic output in his supposed field of expertise: psychology. These bona fides are supposed to be enough to lend credence to what is in effect Sennels’ new-age racist Scientism. Sennels theories claim in effect that Muslims are a racial group of inbreds who are genetically inferior to non-Muslims. For more on Sennels see Sheila Musaji’s excellent article at The American Muslim aptly titled, Nicolai Sennels’ Nazi Style Propaganda.

Of course we relay this as part of being the studious fact compilers we are, there is in reality no difference in the views Sennels and Spencer. That’s why he continues to write there.

Israel indicts Texas Christian for plot to attack Muslim sites in Jerusalem

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 December, 2014 - 16:23

Israeli officials say they have indicted a 30-year-old American Christian from Texas for plotting to blow up Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem

A 30-year-old American Christian from Texas has been indicted in Israel for plotting to blow up Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

Israel’s Ministry of Justice said on Tuesday that a court had indicted Adam Everett Livix in connection with the plot.

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Non-Conferenced

Muslimah Media Watch - 9 December, 2014 - 10:00
Normally, I jump at the chance to speak at women’s conferences and participate in any way that will allow me to speak about my advocacy and organization around Women in sport. As a Muslimah living in the Toronto area, I have been very fortunate to be in a region that is bursting with female scholarship [Read More...]

21 Lessons in Leadership from the Prophet | Part 5

Muslim Matters - 9 December, 2014 - 05:00

Part 1 | Part 2  | Part 3 | Part 4 

Law of Respect: People Naturally Follow Leaders Stronger Than Themselves

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The Law of Respect states that people will only follow those who are stronger than themselves. To understand this law within the context of the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) life, you simply need to look at the caliber of people who chose to follow him. Umar ibn al Khattab, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Khalid bin Waleed, Ali bin Abu Talib, Uthman bin Affan, Asma bint Yazid, Muad ibn Jabal, Musab ibn Umayr, Asma bint Abu Bakr, Az-Zubayr ibn al Awam, Talha bin Zaid, Sumayyah bint Khubbat, Abdullah ibn Masud, Abu Ubaydah ibn al Jarrah, Rumaysa bint Milhan, Salman al-Farisi, Suhayb ar-Rumi, Abu Dhar al-Ghifari and Hamza just to name a few.

Leaders, warriors, poets, business moguls, chieftains and scholars from various places of various ages and talents all chose to follow the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The greatest united collection of human beings to ever walk the face of the earth was assembled under his leadership and followed him to the extent that their level of loyalty to him was something that the world had never witnessed before.

They followed him because they respected him and knew that he was stronger than them, because people don't follow leaders who have a lower capacity then themselves. Another example of the strength of the Prophet's leadership is that, after his death, the Muslims were never completely unified again.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • What do you do intentionally to become a stronger leader every day?

The post 21 Lessons in Leadership from the Prophet | Part 5 appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Hindu Nationalist Girl’s Camp: We’ll Build Bombs, We’ll Shoot Dead Muslims, We’ll Reclaim India

Loon Watch - 8 December, 2014 - 22:22

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By Emperor

Hindutva, or Hindu Nationalism, which combines a fundamentalist understanding of Hinduism with Indian nationalism has been on the ascendancy for decades, culminating in the presidential victory of the fascist Narendra Modi.

Hindutva organizations are highly organized, they are also opponents of Hindus converting to either Christianity or Islam. They have spearheaded anti-conversion legislation in numerous states that prevent or make near impossible the conversion of a Hindu to another religion; often justifying it as a necessary measure to counteract the use of material incentives by missionaries.  However, they have no compunction themselves in aggressively offering monetary incentives to Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism in highly publicized ‘reconversion ceremonies.’

For years now Hindutva groups, such as the Sangh Parivar have been holding training camps for youth where they are indoctrinated in an ideology that has as its central doctrine the subjugation and elimination of non-Hindu religions.

The following video highlights the dehumanizing and violent indoctrination that Hindtuva groups are leaving on the impressionable minds of India’s young girls (h/t: Abu ‘Alimah).

Girls in the video can be seen speaking of their supremacist beliefs, their love and desire for fighting and killing non-Hindus. This sort of mentality has already caused significant damage in the past to relations between India’s various religious and ethnic groups and it promises to perpetuate hate and violence.:

Also read:

-Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer: Wipe Pakistan Off The Map

1,000 Years of Scientific Texts From The Islamic World Are Now Online

Loon Watch - 8 December, 2014 - 21:03

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A massive undertaking by the Qatar Digital Library that preserves a millennium of scientific work. (h/t: S. I.)

By Mark Strauss, io9 

Between the 9th and 19th centuries, Arabic-speaking scholars translated Greek, Latin and even Sanskrit texts on topics such as medicine, mathematics and astronomy, fostering a vibrant scientific culture within the Islamic world. Some of the most influential texts are now available at the Qatar Digital Library.

The library, a joint project of the British Library and the Qatar Foundation, offers free access to 25,000 pages of medieval Islamic manuscripts. Among some of the most significant texts:

The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (1206 A.D.), which was inspired by an earlier, 9th-century translation of Archimedes’ writings on water clocks. Devices such as the “Elephant Clock” (pictured below) were the most accurate time-keeping pieces before the first pendulum clocks were built in the 17th century by the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens.

1,000 Years of Scientific Texts From The Islamic World Are Now OnlineExpand

Another water clock design features balls dropping onto a cymbal from a bird’s head.

1,000 Years of Scientific Texts From The Islamic World Are Now OnlineExpand

This is one of the only three recorded copies of an influential treatise on the construction and use of astrolabes by Abū al-Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-Bīrūnī (973-1048), containing 122 diagrams.

1,000 Years of Scientific Texts From The Islamic World Are Now OnlineExpand

A translation (615 AD) of Ptolemy’s mathematical and astronomical treatise, The Almagest.

1,000 Years of Scientific Texts From The Islamic World Are Now OnlineExpand

An Arabic version of De Materia Medica, an encyclopedia of herbs and medicine written in the first century AD by Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek-born, Roman physician. This translation was completed in Baghdad in 1334 A.D.

Continue reading…

Glenn Beck faces a lawsuit over his conspiracy theories on Boston Marathon bombing

Loon Watch - 8 December, 2014 - 20:53

American Broadcaster Glenn Beck Hosts Rally At Jerusalem's Western Wall

Glenn Beck must face a  lawsuit for his slander of a Saudi victim of the Boston Marathon bombing.

by Kyle Mantyla on Tuesday, 12/2/2014 2:54 pm

Following the Boston Marathon bombing last year, Glenn Beck set out on a mission to prove that the government was engaged in a massive conspiracy to cover up the truth, during which he repeatedly asserted that one of the victims who was injured in the attack was really an al Qaeda operative responsible for the bombing.

In the weeks following the bombing, Beck repeatedly insisted that Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, a spectator who was briefly considered to be a “person of interest” by investigators though quickly exonerated, was really an al Qaeda “control agent” and the “money man” who had financed the entire operation and had recruited the Tsarnaev brothers to carry it out.

In response to these unfounded claims, Alharbi eventually sued Beck for defamation and slander, and Beck’s lawyers responded by trying to get the lawsuit thrown out on the grounds that Alharbi was “involuntary public figure” which would require Alharbi to prove not simply that Beck made false accusations against him, but that he did so with “actual malice.”

Of course, it was Beck himself who continued to focus attention on Alharbi, meaning that Beck’s legal team was essentially arguing that Alharbi became a public figure as a result of Beck’s attacks … which they said means that Alharbi cannot now sue Beck for those very same attacks because he was a public figure.

Needless to say, this novel legal argument did not get very far with the federal judge hearing the case

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