Muslim clerics must reject notions of non-Muslim inferiority (COMMENTARY)

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Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca on September 21, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-RUMI-COLUMN, origianlly transmitted on Dec. 16, 2015.

Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca on September 21, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ahmad Masood *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-RUMI-COLUMN, origianlly transmitted on Dec. 16, 2015.

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(RNS) Islamophobia cannot be an excuse for allowing the swell of seminaries and clerics that cherry-pick the Quran and preach hatred of Christians, Jews and other "unbelievers."

  • Billysees

    Very revealing article about the troubles in the Muslim world.

    I once worked with an Iranian who was a cheerful person and studying in the field of engineering. He told several of us fellow employees that he was ‘taught to hate Jews’ when he lived in Iran. I thought how sad that was. He didn’t say how he was taught that attitude, but he never acted according to that teaching. That he would admit such an experience would indicate that he knew how bad it was.

    Conservatism seems so heartless, especially in a religious context. What a terrible shame that is.

    I think it’s necessary to say that ‘Christianity, most especially the liberal-minded, is the brightest light of good works and loving attitudes the world has ever known’.

    Eventually, everybody will catch on that just about any ‘liberal-mindedness’ is the best and most happiest attitude to have.

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  • A trenchant essay, well argued and sourced. I especially appreciate the framing of Javed Ghamidi’s criticism as the scalpel behind the dissection. I challenge through whether Salafi or Wahabi understanding of sharia are “literal.” They are instead historically fixed and fossilized. In taking the humanly-composed law of the past as divine, are they not (in terms of Islamic theology), committing idolatry? Why grant them the status of “literalism” at all? Christian fundamentalists don’t read the Biblical text “literally” either–they read it through a very particular set of assumptions. Why say this for Sunni fundamentalists, when there is an equally long Sunnah tradition of pluralistic modalities of interpretation and practice (Ghamidi, Fundamentals of Hadith Interpretation, pg 24)

  • Ibrahim K

    It would be the wiser path to avoid publicly advocating Aqeedah issues unless having received the appropriate level of training & learning from knowledgeable scholars

  • Khadijah

    Agree with Rumi–as a Muslim, I see this as real problem, and so do trustworthy scholars. The way Saudi translations bastardize the beautiful opening chapter of the Koran is a shame. (They insert a polemic against Jews and Christians that is not there in the Arabic original.) And, unfortunately, some Muslim preachers have taken other passages out of context and are feeding laypeople prejudice and disrespect toward Jews and Christians. It worries me greatly that Muslims who can’t speak Arabic or lack good scholarly advice are being fed this line. There are many reputable scholars with knowledge of the Koran and Hadith who teach a very different understanding of how Muslims should relate to other People of the Book. Imam Magid Muhammad, Khaled Abou El Fadil,

  • Khadijah

    Whoops, dropped a line. Imam Magid and Khaled Abou El Fadil are good examples.

  • We should note that Islam is not exceptional in claiming to be exceptional. If the rest of the world wants to tell Muslims that they should reject the inferiority of others, religions like Christianity, ideologues like Capitalists, and those whose national identities belong to Western nations must do the same.

  • Larry

    Even the Islamic Fundamentalism we see today has much more modern roots than its adherents and many outside of the religion are willing to admit to.

    The extremism of Saudi Arabia was largely a reaction to encroachments of Revolutionary Iran into political spheres of influence and the siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. Essentially the Saudis trying to out fundamentalist its Iranian rivals.

    Most of the Middle East aspired towards secular nationalism from the end of WWII to the late 1970’s of the variety seen in the Shah, Nasser, and Baathists. Even the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt was primarily nationalist in nature during that period. Their existence in an autocratic state being a function of their relative harmlessness to the military control.

    Islamicism exists today because it is used by dictators as the panacea for colonial/post-colonial issues, to address political anger. Dictators use it to divert dissent outwards, to save their skins.

  • Debbo

    Excellent article and comments. Thank you all.

  • Dear All: Many thanks for the comments and feedback. Much appreciated.

  • Veer Singh

    Your views are akin to those of Islamic extremists and hate is the comon motif.

  • Veer Singh

    The above comment @Be Brave

  • Elvis

    They already did. Where have you been? Enough with the “tu quoque” BS.

  • Concerning the phrase: “The experiences of the Prophet Muhammad in defending his movement”: calling genocide “defending his movement” is unacceptable.

  • A survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center released 12/15/15 found that a large majority of white evangelical Protestants, as well as smaller majorities of older Americans and those with less education, said Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers.

    Overall, Americans split evenly on the question of whether Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions, with 46% saying it is more likely to do so and 45% saying it was not, the Pew poll found.

    Islam is not more violent than medieval Christianity or Biblical Judaism. But the wide spread separation of Church and State that is normal in Europe and North America; which has kept religion out of political and military conflicts between different nations, has not yet become the rule in Muslim lands.

    Until Islam is fully depoliticized, and somewhat privatized, as Christianity and Judaism are in the U.S.A., political movements will use religion to motivate violent acts…

  • Billysees

    Rabbi Maller,
    ” …the…separation of Church and State…has not yet become the rule in Muslim lands. ”

    It desperately needs to, but how is that ever going to happen?

    There doesn’t appear to be any great men or mystics in the Muslim world today capable of ‘shaking things up’ to make that happen. Muslims should pray for such things.

    Only Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi made the comment that ‘Islam needs a revolution’. Could he be such a shaker-upper?

  • Kristin

    Very stimulating discussion. Actually, there is a lot of debate among Muslims about what the relationship between Islam and the state should be. If you want to start a lively discussion, just voice your personal opinion on the issue and sit back and watch the fun. Worth looking at polling data from Gallup, Pew, etc. A lot of people say they want politics to reflect religious values, which doesn’t sound so different from the US. Views on the proper role of Islamic law also differ. (Interesting factoid: the world’s largest Islamic organization–Nahldatul Ulama in Indonesia w/30-40 million members–has repeatedly opposed efforts to make Islamic law part of the constitutional framework. )
    There are a lot of reformist Islamic voices out there, but in many Middle Eastern countries they face legal pressure and/or death threats for speaking up. Fatteh Al-Sissi is no religious reformer, however–he’s a military dictator.

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  • Billysees

    ” There are a lot of reformist Islamic voices out there… ”

    And I bet those reformist voices are getting tired of all the ‘death stuff’ that goes on in the Islamic world. Why is anyone interested in so much death anyhow?

    Just read that the guillotine was last used in France around 1977. Islam will one day cease all of this beheading stuff but it’ll take a long time probably.

    The Bibles’ Paul wrote that we should follow after the things that make for peace and the things where we can help one another. Sounds great and it will be important one day.