Islam, Christianity and Extremism



A few nights ago I couldn't sleep and found myself watching the Tavis Smiley show on our local PBS TV station. I cannot remember who his first guest was.. kind of forgetable - not so with his second guest. Here is his introduction:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a former member of the Dutch parliament and the founder of the AHA Foundation. She is also the author of the international best seller "Infidel." Her latest is called "Nomad: From Islam to America, a Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations."
The interview that followed was as compelling of an interview about Islam that I have heard in a while. Here are a few things that this courageous woman said about Islam and jihad:
And when I say "Islam" I'm talking about Islam as a theology and as a political theory. Islam has different aspects. It has a spiritual aspect but it also has a political and a social aspect. The spiritual aspect of praying and fasting, I have no problems with that. The political and social aspects have to do with concepts such as jihad - waging a holy war to either persuade people to become Muslim or to kill them.

The social aspect has to do with the treatment of women, and given the fact that we are now living in a world that is fast globalizing - people are coming from all different parts of the world, living here; people are leaving here and going elsewhere - I think it's very, very important to note that not only are people moving but ideas are also moving.

So people with ideas who feel that they should introduce Sharia law, a theocracy based on Islam such as Iran, such as what the Taliban have attempted in Afghanistan, that these people with these ideas, resources, convictions, can sometimes be successful.

What I tried to do with the book as an individual who grew up with Islam and I was once myself - considered myself a member of the Muslim brotherhood, I want to say that these ideas are really not only dangerous but a lot of people are subscribing to them.
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I don't ever want to make the impression that all Muslims are potential terrorists or potential jihadists. But there is a movement that wants to have Islamic Sharia or Islamic war introduced, through persuasion sometimes, without using violence, and sometimes by using violence. The society that they're aspiring to is a society that is modeled around a place like Saudi Arabia or Iran.

The point I want to make in this book is the majority of Muslims don't even read the Qur'an. They've just been told what is in there is good, it's God's word, it's perfect. The majority of Muslims don't know what Muhammad exactly said.

So these people who are coming to them are building - the agents of radical Islam, the agents of jihad, the agents of Sharia are just building on the fact that most Muslims have only been told the Qur'an is great, Muhammad is infallible, and then radicalizing them. It's very important for us to realize that.
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Right now there's no competition. There isn't a competing propaganda. We talk about it only in terms of national security. We talk about military means, we talk about what the FBI can do, but we don't talk about what you and I can do. Why can't we just reach out to Muslim-Americans living here and say, "Hey, do you really believe in practicing what is in chapter 4, verse 34 of the Qur'an - "Beat the disobedient wife?" I'll tell you most Muslims don't want to beat their wives and don't want to compel them to do that.

But with that justification, with that narrative, with that propaganda, more and more men are finding a reason to justify to themselves something that is truly abominably wrong.
Here is what Ayaan Hirsi Ali said about Christianity:
I'm not a Christian. I would like to introduce to them critical thinking and the enlightenment and secular thought. But I've also met, through my last years here, a number of Christians, and I've realized that their concept of God differs very much from that of Islam. I've had people who've read "Infidel" and who write to me saying, "I just cannot be, I just can't fathom being an atheist. I can't. There is a force out there, it's a good force. I don't want to be with Allah or Muhammad, but I just need a different kind of -" and most of them convert to Christianity.
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Like all human individuals, I am a bundle of contradictions. I was very much, after I had written "Infidel," very much on the side of people who say all religions are the same and all religions are inherently evil. But again, what I learned from the enlightenment is when the fact change, change your mind, and the evidence I'm seeing - and this is what I admire about some Christians, not all of them. I'm not blind to extremist Christianity.

But what I admire about Christians today is - and I would like it for the Muslims too - is that many of them have come to grapple with their faith, have come to acknowledge that there are things in the bible and things that the institution, that different churches have done that are hostile to humanity, that are hostile to gay people, hostile to women, have justified slavery, for instance.

They have come not only to grapple with it and to understand it and to acknowledge that it's all in there, but they've also learned to distance themselves from that. That's what I admire about moderate Christians. I say in the book right now we cannot speak of moderate Muslims because they still cling to the absolute idea that everything in the Qur'an is the true word of God and cannot be changed by human beings, and that the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, left a moral guidance behind and all we can do is follow it, not question it.
Here is what Ayaan Hirsi Ali opined concerning extremists:
Well, I think you and I disagree, not so much on is there extremism in Christianity - I fully acknowledge that. There are people who want to take the bible and use passages from the bible as justification for violent behavior. I'm not denying that in the least. But mainstream Christians in the 21st century are more like you.

I'm an atheist, I'm not a Christian, but they are more like you - accepting of other religions and tolerant. The latest example, "South Park," where Jesus Christ was made fun of, watching pornography, people, Christians, maybe have been annoyed by it but the producers of "South Park" were not threatened by Christians.

They were not threatened by Buddhists. They showed Buddha snorting cocaine. Muhammad, whose picture wasn't shown, there was a line saying "censored" and he was imagined to be in a Teddy bear, some of the followers of Muhammad got very angry. A few of them posted threats about the producers, and this is very mild.

There are today - I don't want to say, and it's been established, not all Muslims are terrorists, we must emphasize that, but almost all terrorist activities that take place today in our time are done and justified in the name of Islam.

Now to acknowledge that, the point I'm trying to make is is it possible, is it imaginable, that we can compete with the radical jihadists for the hearts and minds of young men like Faisal Shahzad or like Nidal Malik Hasan, and I believe we can, before they get to that stage.
And here is her answer to the question of why she continues to speak out as her life is threatened every day and security guards accompany her everywhere she goes:
I ask myself that question every day, and I think it's worth fighting those who intimidate me. Those who threaten, those who try to kill people who disagree with them, I think it's worth it. I think it's worth continuing to fight.
I encourage you to view or read the entire interview here. I know that I was very impressed by this very intelligent woman and her quest to inform the West about the religion that she was raised in. She is someone we should all pay attention to.


7 comments:

  1. Read her book if you get the chance. Well worth it for her story and perspective.

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  2. @nephos - Did you read Infidel? Have you read "Nomad", her latest book?

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  3. I have not read "Nomad," but I did read "Infidel" a year or so ago. It not only gives a valid view and critique of Islam (from a former insider), it allows you to see Western culture and Christianity through the eyes of an outsider (something that is rare, yet essential, imho).

    Ali is one of the few people in a position to offer such a unique perspective.

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  4. Infidel has been on my to-read list, but I never got around to it. She is a courageous woman.

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  5. I LOVE HER! YOU HAVE TO READ INFIDEL!

    It is an amazing story and I recommend it to everyone on the planet.

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  6. Although it is from last year, I think you may find this book review useful. The author comes from a Muslim perspective and reviews her works. The link is here ... it is good to hear other opinions and ideas.

    http://loga-abdullah.blogspot.com/2008/11/defending-our-diin-ayaan-hirsi-ali.html

    Hope you find it interesting.

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  7. I'm amazed at Smiley's comments in reading the transcript link. The unthinking statements made vilifying Christians in this country as violent extremist acting out daily create more of a reaction from me than the author. That's what Columbine was all about? . . . Really? Who is this guy anyway.

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