Archive for October 8th, 2006

Muhammad’s Sword

Well, to be honest the title is borrowed(the original article by Uri Avnery is here). Uri Avnery in this article (named “Muhammad’s Sword”) bravely counters the Pope in his false claim about Islam (that Islam is not compatible with reason, that Muhammad asked his followers to ‘preach by the sword’ blah blah). He(the Pope) did not lay the claim himself. Instead he quoted some strange self claimed King Manuel of late 14th century:

“Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.

He (The Pope, ed) admitted that the Qur’an specifically forbade the spreading of the faith by force. Qur’an 2:256 Says:

“There Shall be no coercion in matters of Faith”

Anyway. Anvery then takes a journey through history to find out why the Pope chose, of all people Manuel. And Also whether the claim is correct or not. Some facts are not very frequently heard

Jesus said: “You will recognize them by their fruits.” The treatment of other religions by Islam must be judged by a simple test: How did the Muslim rulers behave for more than a thousand years, when they had the power to “spread the faith by the sword”?

Well, they just did not.

Then he speaks about the way Muslims treated others

For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian.

True, the Albanians did convert to Islam, and so did the Bosniaks. But nobody argues that they did this under duress. They adopted Islam in order to become favorites of the government and enjoy the fruits.

Vis-a-vis how Christians did

In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith – and they were the forefathers of most of today’s Palestinians.

When the Catholics re-conquered Spain from the Muslims, they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And where did the hundreds of thousand of Jews, who refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of them were received with open arms in the Muslim countries. The Sephardi (“Spanish”) Jews settled all over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south. Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions that took place in almost all Christian countries, up to the Holocaust.

In Another article, Tariq Ramadan first takes on the disproportionate reaction of the Muslims.

A few sentences spoken by Pope Benedict XVI were sufficient to touch off a fire-storm of impassioned reaction. Throughout the Muslim world, religious leaders, presidents, politicians and intellectuals joined their voices to protesting masses angered by a perceived “insult” to their faith. Most did not read the Pope’s speech; others had relied on a sketchy summary according to which the Pope had linked Islam and violence. But all railed against what they saw as an “intolerable offence.”

And then he argues

These are the messages that cry out for an answer, far more than talk of jihad. Pope Benedict XVI is a brilliant theologian who is attempting to set down the principles and the framework of a debate on the past, present and future identity of Europe. This profoundly European Pope is inviting the peoples of the continent to become aware of the central inescapable Christian character of their identity which they risk to loose. The message may be a legitimate one in these times of identity crisis, but it is deeply troubling and potentially dangerous in its double reductionism in the historical approach, and in the definition of European identity.

This is what Muslims must, above all, respond to; they must challenge a reading of the history of European thought from which the role of Muslim rationalism is erased, in which the Arabo-Muslim contribution would be reduced to mere translation of the great works of Greece and Rome. The selective memory that so easily “forgets” the decisive contributions of “rationalist” Muslim thinkers like al-Farabi (10th c.), Avicenna (11th c.), Averroes (12th c.), al-Ghazali (12th c.), Ash-Shatibi (13th c.) and Ibn Khaldun (14th c.) is reconstructing a Europe that is not only a deception, but practices self-deception about its own past. If they are to reappropriate their heritage, Muslims must demonstrate, in a manner that is both reasonable and free of emotional reactions, that they share the core values upon which Europe and the West are founded.

And he concludes

Neither Europe nor the West can survive, if we continue to attempt to define ourselves by excluding, and by distancing ourselves from, the Other-from Islam, from the Muslims-whom we fear. Perhaps what Europe needs most today is not a dialogue with other civilizations, but a true dialogue with itself, with those facets of itself that it has for too long refused to recognize, that even today prevent it from fully benefiting from the richness of its constituent religious and philosophical traditions. Europe must learn to reconcile itself with the diversity of its past in order to master the imperative pluralism of its future. The Pope’s reductionism has done nothing to help this process of reappropriation along : a critical approach should not expect him to apologize but it must simply and reasonably prove to him that historically, scientifically, and ultimately, spiritually, he is mistaken. It would also give today’s Muslims a way of reconciling themselves with the immense creativity of the European Muslim thinkers of the past, who ten centuries ago were confidently accepting their European identity (not obsessed by the on-going sterile debates on “integration” ) and who deeply contributed to, nourished and enriched with their critical reflection both Europe and the West as a whole.

Both are nice reads. I thank both the authors.


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