Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hunting Licence

This article, by the hand of Dutch Arabist Hans Jansen, appeared in HP/de Tijd

In every Dutch library and in almost every bookshop for years there has been a book available that three times refers to Jews as monkeys three times and as swine one time. This book is the Quran. It is mentioned in Quran 2:65, 5:60 and 7:166. Infidels, who constitute more than half of the Dutch population, are the subject of very unpleasant remarks. Moreover in every library of a pious Muslim there are books which argue that the majority of those in Hell are women. That a nation led by a woman can not be a happy one. Such pearls can be found in large quantities in the canonical compendia of the words regarded as pronunciated by the prophet Muhammed. In handbooks of Islamic law, which are also widely available and have been translated in many languages there is far more what Dutchmen, judging by their voting patterns strongly object to: a woman committing adultery must be stoned, those who are found guilty of a homosexual act must be killed. Those who drink wime must receive beatings with the rod. Further the Quran insists that the faithful must wage war “even if their spirit is not into it” (Quran 2:216). This book, which according to Muslims is Gods own writ, we read: “kill the unbelievers, where-ever you find them” (2:191). It is not a misprint, it is repeated twice: in Quran 4:89 and 4:91.

If a modern country wishes to outlaw certain Islamic books for their inflammatory character, a special police must be created to enforce the law, burn the books, interrogate the owners and borders and customs will have to makes sure such books will not enter and be distributed. Most Arabic and Islamic states indeed possess such special police services.

Even if such police services are effective, such questions need be asked as: can universities and academics be exempted for the purpose of studying Islam? Who will decide which academics can purchase what books despite the ban? Such a ban causes so many troubles that it better should not exist at all.

It is not really the books that are dangerous in the way gunpowder and cyanide are dangerous. As a matter of exegesis there is no problem for a modern or traditional theological acrobat to interpret the texts in such a way that the threat emanating on the first reading of these books will evaporate somewhat, or if necessary entirely.

The most used instrument of exegesis has been that they are not “general” texts, dealing with e.g. all Jews, no matter where and when, but that they are “specific” pronouncements concerning the Jews in the city of Medina, contemporaries and enemies of Muhammad, the Prophet (570-632). It is even possible to maintain that the text deals with several Jews in that city, a few individuals having a running argument with the Prophet Muhammad.

It is questionable whether that is historically correct, but who will know, the good purpose (Peace in our time) is valuable. On the other hand, when God in the story of Moses and Pharao instructs Moses to: “Go to Pharao” (Quran 20:24), than that is not a general divine commandment which all have to keep either? There are indeed istructions in the Quran, directly given by God himself, which are no for you and me.

Many English language Islamic books about Islam are annoying to read for an outsider, as the authors are apologetic about texts which are obviously crooked. Which is not odd, because we are dealing with a text which is over a thousand years old and the Bible has some interesting passages too. In the Old Testament, e.g. Deuteronomium 7:2 and the following verses it is carefully explained that “Thou shalt not kill”, unless it is heathens who recognize neither God nor law. Then killing becomes most commendable.

Modern outsiders are annoyed by contemporary straightening of crooked instructions, for they do not understand that is is a somewhat diffident way to distance the faithful from the killing that the ur-text calls for. A modern text can not be expected to say: “the Quran calls for robbing and killing non-Muslims, but I am a decent man, and although a Muslim I refuse to follow those violent passages of the Quran.”

Those who do so will get into a argument with many, (but not all) Islamic lawmen, and the often fanatical followers of these bearded professional Muslims. It is much smarter to explain the calls for militancy one finds in the Quran, as “in fact” not violent. “In fact“ the Quran does not call to warfare and murder, but to , say, self-defense. “In fact” Jihad is not “war against the unbelievers” but a “war against unbelief”, even if found in one’s own heart. From this position it is still possible to get into a feud with the militant pulpit tigers, but at least you are telling a good story.

However there is an essential difference between the Quran and the Bible, and that is the way both books are used by their adherents. The Quran is seen by clubs of Muslims as a God-given “hunting licence” granting them the right to murder non-Muslims. This caused a number of attacks, the most well-known and biggest of which is the attack on the USA of 11 September 2001. The smaller-scale attacks are ones such as the murder of Sadat, 1981, or those against the columnist Farag Foda in Cairo in June 1992. Of course there are Muslims without number who do not regard the Quran as a hunting licence, but the small or great number of Muslims that do, give the rest of the Planet a lot of trouble.

In the Churches there have been no serious reverends who regard the Bible as a hunting license which not only condones murdering dissidents, but even commands it. This is not so clear within Islam. At least there is a school within Islam, the Wahhabbis, which for lack of income, from the inception of the movement around 1750, until the discovery of oil, developed an amusing hobby from robbing and if necessary killing dissident Muslims, as non-Muslims had not around anymore in their area of operation on the Arabian peninsula for a long time.

The Ottoman Turks have managed to defeat these Wahhabites every now and then and in the nineteenth century quite a few Wahhabbi leaders ended on the excecutioner’s scaffold, to be killed in the name of the Sultan-Caliph in Constantinople/Istanbul. The Egyptian army has defeated the Wahhabbis once too. However the Wahhabbi movement has always managed to recover. And the Wahhabbis always act in concert with the Saudd dynasty.

As a result of the discovery of oil the Wahhabbis/Sauddis have become rich in the 50ies of the twentieth century and there is no more need to rob old women. They started to use their money to propagandize their teachings. Which is perfectly permittable of course. However, they market their creed as “the pure and original Islam”, not a provincial, eccentric and violent mode of Islam, invented around 1750, which preaches hatred against dissidents. In large areas, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere Wahhabbi schools is all there is, educationwise. A parent who does not send his son as a Taalib (“pupil”) to such a Wahhabbi madrasa (“school”) shortchanges him.

For Muslim youth in The Netherlands Wahhabbi education is often the only Islamic education that they will get. Compare this to a situation where giving Christian religious instruction is left to the Ku Klux Klan, as there is Freedom of Religion and the Klan has the money.

As “Wahhabbi” does not sound so pleasant after the wars on this movement by the Ottoman Turks, the name has been changed: “Salafism”. Salafism was originally a name of a modern school of Islamic thought from Egypt and has been recycled by the grateful Wahhabbis.

Islamic youth usually has no more than a vague cultural loyalty to Islam, without a concrete practice. They dream of a future in which Islam will be triumphant over its enemies. When such youth gets in touch with competent preachers and recruiters, it will not be long or such youngsters will view the Quran as a hunting licence and a licence to kill.

It sounds impressive to outlaw bloodthirsty interpretations on the Quran and Islam. However this approach may rather prove counterproductive. Making sure that militants do not crowd out their liberal modern fellow-believers is likely to be as effective and will prove sufficiently hard. Let’s not forget that the Reformed Church was never outlawed, and even so this Church does not exist anymore. After the more freethinking Protestants started to debate the question whether the snake in the Garden of Eden spoke in a way that could be understood using the senses it did not take a century before the Liberal Protestants had become virtually extinct, while the Orthodox Protestants were pushed to the margins.

It is questionable whether the Dutch State should concern itself deeply with Islam. Contrary to what is often thought the modern separation of State and Church does not mean that the State should not meddle in religious affairs. Rather the State has to see to it that the access to the religious market remains open to all vendors equally. In the Middle East an evil alliance between the State and religious leaders ensures that the market is closed to other vendors that Islamic ones.

A Dutch Islamic policy should seek to forestall, that supporters of religious movement intent on using violence to further their ideological goals, can abuse modern Western religious freedom, as it exists since about 1700. Religious freedom is only meant for those who are willing to desist from using violence for religious violence intend on furthering their own religion towards victory. Those who do not conform to that prescription and wishes to view their Holy Writ as a hunting licence or a licence to kill, is our enemy.

1 comment:

Steve Isham said...

Hugely helpful, especially the insights into origins and previous practice of Saudi Islam. And the attraction of Islam for crims.