Often two individuals or groups who detest each other have more in common than they'd like to admit. Islam's lunatic fringe and their comrade Islamophobes are such bedfellows. And their supporters, who intellectualize to legitimate their xenophobias are just as much mirror images of each other. In fact, the two camps feed off each other, using the other's odium to reinforce their positions in what is a perfectly symbiotic relationship.
Islam's lunatic fringe insists that Muslims must convert or kill non-Muslims -- incredibly frustrating to Muslims world over. Likewise, Islamophobes want non-Muslims to believe that Islam is genocidal and a threat to Western civilization, even if Muslims built much of that civilization and continue to refresh it.
Each camp is equally keen to justify its hatred of the other, even to the point of (mis)using the Qur'an to anchor their cases. Both cohorts repeatedly focus on select sentences in the Qur'an to defend their hatred of the other. Take for instance perhaps one of the most controversial, which is thrown about by both camps,
"Slay them wherever you may come upon them" 2:191
Islam's lunatic fringe insists this is evidence of God's Command to kill non-Muslims. The fringe's symbiotic Islamophobia partner enthusiastically argues that the Qur'an and the fringe both demonstrate Islam's barbarity. To arrive at this position, let's understand what they have to ignore...
1) More than six thousand sentences in the Qur'an and instead exclusively focus on about a dozen prima facie troublesome sentences. In other words, they have to ignore 99.81 per cent of the Qur'an.
2) The words which Muslims repeat seventeen times everyday across five prayers, stressing mercy and compassion ... and not conquest and violence:
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,(1:1-5)
Praise be to God, the Sustainer of the worlds,
Merciful to all, Compassionate to each,
Lord of the Day of Judgement,
You do we worship, and to You we call for help.
3) The Qur'an's stress of God's attributes, again suggesting a religion of peace. In fact, every of the Qur'an's 114 chapters except one (which doesn't mention an attribute) begins with the same attributes of God, "the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy"
4) God's defining good from the bad, which can be found all over the Qur'an, and which emphasizes not killing or subjugation but developing a civil society:
The truly good are those who believe in God and the Last Day, in the angels, the Scripture, and the prophets; who give away some of their wealth, however much they cherish it, to their relatives, to orphans, the needy, travellers and beggars, and to liberate those in bondage; those who keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms; who keep pledges whenever they make them; who are steadfast in misfortune, adversity and times of danger. These are the ones who are true.(2:177)
5) The Qur'an's commands to avoid aggression and embrace peace:
(Believers) do not allow your oaths in God's Name to hinder you from doing good, being mindful of God and making peace between people.(2:224)
6) Mohammed's example, specifically his pluralistic engagement of non-Muslims, which is endorsed in the Qur'an. Freedom of religion is essential to the Qur'an, as per Mohammed's message to some Christians in 628:
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
7) The immediate text before and after the controversial sentence, which the hate camps love to isolate and cuddle:
Fight in God's cause against those who fight you, but do not overstep the limits: God does not love those who overstep the limits. Kill them wherever you encounter them, and drive them out from where they drove you out, for persecution is more serious than killing. Do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque unless they fight you there. If they do fight you, kill them- this is what such disbelievers deserve- but if they stop, then God is most forgiving and merciful. Fight them until there is no more persecution, and worship is devoted to God. If they cease hostilities, there can be no [further] hostility, except towards aggressors.(2:190-194)
In other words, "fight those who fight you, and stop when they stop" -- hardly sensationalist tabloid jingoism.
8) The verse's context. The Qur'an did not arrive as one book at one moment. It was revealed over 22 years, intervening in different situations. So, what do we know about the sentence's context? It was revealed at the Battle of Badr, when Mohammed's polity defended itself against a Meccan Quraish attack. In other words, it was a message during a war of self-defense.
Islam's extreme xenophobes and the Islamophobes have to ignore a huge range of issues to harness Surah 2, Verse 191 (and other sentences from the Qur'an) as evidence in their hate campaigns. They actually end up intellectual bankrupt.
So the question for me is why do they do that? Why do they travel down the path of willful ignorance? Why do they choose to interpret to discriminate and hate? That's a set of questions I will discuss in my next piece.
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