You Say Koran ...

... but Islamic studies Professor Brian Lawrence says, Qur'an. He's written a new biography of the Muslim Holy Book, the second in a series of "Books That Changed The World." Got questions? He'll take 'em all; literary, theological, even about that spelling ...

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I understand that Muslims believe that the Quran contains the literal words of God, as channeled through the Prophet Muhammad. Is the inherent holiness of these words compromised through the act of translation? In other words, do readers of the Quran in translation fundamentally miss something because they're reading the text as interpreted by a human being rather than reading the direct words of God in the original Arabic?

Sent by AC | 3:01 PM | 3-7-2007

Yes, that's why you see Qur'ans in English called something like, "The Meaning of the Qur'an", not "The Qur'an". There can be no translation that can suffice.

Sent by Hana | 3:14 PM | 3-7-2007

Yes, the "leaflets" were compiled later on, but the Muslims who lived at the time of the Prophet memorized the Qur'an in its entirety from the very beginning and this tradition continues today.

Sent by JC | 3:17 PM | 3-7-2007

Can the guest discuss "Wahabism(sic)" and what influences is has today?
THX!

Sent by Fandray | 3:19 PM | 3-7-2007

This is all mythology. There is zero evidence that the Quran (or ANY other book) is the word of God. And there will never be any proof ever that these books are sent from the "creator" of the universe. Why do rational people tolerate such fairy tales? I'm tiring of this...

Sent by chris | 3:24 PM | 3-7-2007

There is no such thing as a text of "Sharia Law". "Sharia" literall means "a path to drinking water" and it is a generic term for any laws that are derived from the Qur'an AND other Islamic texts AND other considerations such as local culture and environment! In Sunni Islam, there are 4 primary schools of thought as to how to derive laws from these sources. There are other smaller schools and still more in Shia Islam. People who talk about "Sharia Law" as a single entity and further say it is "based on the Qur'an" are incorrect. Sharia law (note the lower case "l") is a dynamic SYSTEM and it is based only partly on the Qur'an.

Sent by JC | 3:26 PM | 3-7-2007

I heard a comment that Ben Ladin has "cherry picked" passages of the Koran that supported his Jihadist view. Although this is the conventional wisdom, it doesn't seem to be supported by history. Islam spread by the sword, and Muhammed was a warrior prophet. These are facts. His declaration of war is supported by a Fatwa supported by many Islamic leaders

Sent by SC | 3:32 PM | 3-7-2007

thank you for a positive show, and positive presentation of our religon and book ( something that is missed in the media today)
would you quest compare how the bible compiles vs the quran

Sent by jihad khattab | 3:35 PM | 3-7-2007

I've noticed with other spokepeople for Islamic groups, that they will use a preceeding phrase or prayer when saying the prophet Muhammad's name. It of course escapes me at the moment, but always been curious for the need to do this.

Sent by Tom H. | 3:36 PM | 3-7-2007

The problem with islam is clearly illustrated by the caller Sara, and your guest - the clear distinction between muslims, the people of the book and everyone else. There is no humanistic view or a view of common humanity. It's all about primitive tribalism borrowed from the hebrews and fashioned to suit the bedouins. This worldview is nothing but destructive.

Sent by Roger | 3:36 PM | 3-7-2007

Is it true that the source of Islam is originally from Ishmael the 1st son of Abraham?

Sent by Carey | 3:36 PM | 3-7-2007

I'm concerned about the univeral claims of Islam. To what extent are these claims from the Qur'an? Is there a place for non-believers to be true equals with Muslims under Qur'anic law?

Sent by Nate | 3:37 PM | 3-7-2007

All religions with a belief in a supernatural diety are a form of insanity. Presenting them in any other way is a diservice.

Sent by Douglas Wiken | 3:37 PM | 3-7-2007

Yes, SC he HAS "Cherry picked". If you read the entire Qur'an exactly as Bruce mentioned, you would see this. But people who start out with preconceived ideas like the ones you have just expressed often only see what they want to see. Contrary to what you say, Islam was not spread "by the sword". Certainly wars were necessary for self-protection and expansion of territory throughout history, but these were conducted by those who came AFTER Muhammad. Honestly, can you tell me that your Christian history is completely free of warmaking which occurred after the death of Jesus? The Prophet was a Prophet but the people who came after him were simply human beings like the rest of us. Plus, you have to consider the numbers of Muslim countries to which an army NEVER went-- such as Indonesia which is the largest Muslim country in the world.

Sent by JC | 3:40 PM | 3-7-2007

The real Qura'n is only in arabic, all other are translations. It is almost impossible to translate any language with perfection, because certain words of one language do not exist in others languages.
The Quran was saved and secured not only on paper or leaflet but in memory of thoushands and trasmitted from one to next generation for last fourteen hundred centuries. That itself is a maricle!!

Sent by Mohammad Ilyas | 3:41 PM | 3-7-2007

I highly recommend the following translation of the Qur'an: The Qur'an: A New Translation by M.A.S Abdel Haleem

Sent by JC | 3:42 PM | 3-7-2007

Mr. Lawrence is mistaken when he says that people in hell will be there temporarily. The Qur'an mentions "khalideena feeha abadaa", which means "They shall dwell therein forever" in referrence to both the dwellers of hell and heaven. This is repeated so many times throughout the the Quran that there is no doubt about the eternality of heaven and hell in Islam

Sent by Shukri | 3:44 PM | 3-7-2007

To Carey-- Muslims believe that Islam is the natural, original religion given by God to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). But the Arabs trace their geneology to Ishmael, the son of Hagar and Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael's story figures prominently in the history of certain Islamic sites such as the well of Zamzam in Mecca. Perhaps someone else will correct me if I'm wrong? I'm not an Arab myself. : )

Sent by Hana | 3:45 PM | 3-7-2007

Nate: YES. Non-Muslims get all their rights including rights to freedom of worship and to have their own family courts. Some people like to claim that there is a "pay a head tax or die" scenario in which they consider the "jizyah" to be a form of tribute. This is wrong. All Muslims have to pay 2.5% of their annual net worth as "zakat" which goes to charity and, in the time when there was an "Islamic state", to support the state. They also had to do mandatory military service. The "jizyah" is simply the tax to support the state, just as we in the USA make all workers pay taxes, whether they are US citizens or not.

Sent by JC | 3:45 PM | 3-7-2007

Nate-- My understanding is that the orthodox Muslim position is that faithful Christians and Jews will certainly see salvation. Their Scriptures are of the same source as the Qur'an and their Prophets are in the same line as ours. Muslims consider Christians and Jews their kin, political events these days notwithstanding (though we do think they are in error on certain matters, but God knows best). So in terms of spiritual matters, yes. In political terms Christians, Jews, and Muslims have always co-existed. Perhaps you are referring to the infamous concepts of "dhimmi" (protected political minorities in Muslim lands) and "jeziya" (tax paid by these minorites)? My understanding is that the jeziya was a fee, if you will, that non-Muslims paid and corresponded to some extent-- though without religious significance-- to the zakat payments that only Muslims made. It's instructive to note that in Muslim Spain, for example, Jews were significant players in Muslim-dominated society and government and were only exiled from Spain after the Christian reconquest.

Sent by Hana | 3:54 PM | 3-7-2007

Tom-- we say "Sallahu aleyhi wa salaam", which is a phrase that asks God to bless him and give him peace. We also say "aleyhi salaam" when speaking about other prophets including Jesus (aleyhi salaam).

Sent by Hana | 3:57 PM | 3-7-2007

Shukri, salaam alaikum. I think this is an area in which there are differences of opinions among Muslims, and Allahu alim (Allah is the One who knows).

Sent by Hana | 3:59 PM | 3-7-2007

Hana, thanks for the reply. So is this done as a formality instructed by the Koran or more of a personal reflection?

Sent by Tom H. | 4:07 PM | 3-7-2007

So nice of NPR to prosteltize on behalf of Islam. I am glad my taxes are paying for it because no more of my donations will be heading to NPR.

Sent by Tom | 4:09 PM | 3-7-2007

I love the freedom of speech present here. You are free to speak any support of Islam you want. All opposing views need not be typed.

Sent by Tom | 4:11 PM | 3-7-2007

Dear Mr. Conan:

I listened to your program today about the book by Professor Bruce Lawrence, The Biography of the Qur'an.

There is one very important insight into understanding the Qur'an and its impact on its followers that was not even mentioned today--the Law of Abrogation explained in the Haddith. In essence, according to my understanding, it says that the later revelations of Muhammad take precedence over the earlier.

As it happens, the earlier revelations speak of peaceful relationships with "unbelievers," and with "People of the Book." After Muhammad suffered rejection by Judaism and Christianity (he had apparently hoped they would all unite), his revelations became much "angrier" as it were and those later parts of the Qur'an that represent revelations received in Mecca, speak of death to infidels and jihad.

People who try to defend Islam as a "peaceful religion" fail to take into account this understanding of the Qur'an. Muslims who truly understand what they believe clearly understand the Law of Abrogation but, naturally, choose not to talk about it.

I challenge you to discuss this matter in subsequent programs.

Sent by MJC | 4:14 PM | 3-7-2007

It was a fascinating discussion on The Quran and I am looking forward to reading Prof. Lawrence's book. I am a muslim and growing up I did not understand why I had to learn to read the Quran in Arabic and why just a translation was not enough. I think Prof. Lawrence explained well that to get the true essence of the Quran, it is important to have some knowledge of the Arabic language. Perhaps that is why there has been such an unease about Islam in the West! We don't like what we don't understand! I would like to know whose English translation comes close to capturing the true meaning of the Quran.

Sent by Farah M | 4:18 PM | 3-7-2007

Tom: The Qur'an says in 33:56 "God and His angels bless hte Prophet-- so you who believe, bless him too and give him greeings of peace." There are other verses which send similar greetings of peace upon the other Prophets. It is customary for Muslims to say these phrases Hana mentioned every time the name of any prophet (including Abraham, Jesus, etc.) is mentioned.

Sent by JC | 4:23 PM | 3-7-2007

I also want people to understand that Islam and Muslims is not monolithic. That there is a great range of perspective, practice and interpretation. Muslims were commanded to adhere to the "middle way" and to lead a balanced life and approach to all things secular AND spiritual.

Sent by Cherine | 4:32 PM | 3-7-2007

Tom, it's what I think you'd call a pious act. The concept of adab, which you might translate as "courtesy" in an almost medieval sense, like "noble behavior" is very important in Islam. The Messenger of God (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam) is certainly a person deserving of this mark of respect as are the other prophets. So it's an act of devotion that is also thought to be meritorious. It's certainly not an empty formality.

Sent by Hana | 4:34 PM | 3-7-2007

Hana -

Does "Sallahu aleyhi wa salaam" translate to "Peace be upon Him"? I noticed a lot of muslim writers will sometimes abbreviate it as PBUH as well.

There's a (somewhat) similar tradition in Judaism, but it's for paying respect for someone who died. I remember my grandfather made a recording of some of his childhood memories many years ago, and whenever he mentioned a loved one who had passed away, he went back and edited in some audio that must have been the Hebrew equivalent of "May he rest in peace." The actual Hebrew phrase escapes me at the moment. Granted, this was used for relatives rather than prophets, but I wonder if they are both derived from a common tradition centuries ago....

Sent by AC | 4:45 PM | 3-7-2007

Tom,
It is done out of respect for the integrity and elevated status of the Prophets (pbut - peace be upon them) among all mankind.

If you stop and think that among all of humanity, what character traits, strength, commitment etc. would God (Mighty and Exalted is He) require of those human being that He has chosen to deliver His messages to humanity ...would He choose someone who was ever known to lie, to have indulged in forbidden things, to covet wealth or power? No, these are extraordinary individuals - the very best of us. They had to be far above reproach in order for people to trust their integrity and veracity to be willing to listen to the Message they are entrusted to relay. Prophets and Messengers (there is a difference) were sent to mankind to call people back to righteousness and God consciousness NOT to establish new religions. It is the same Message from Adam (pbuh) to Mohammad (pbuh).

Sent by Cherine | 4:46 PM | 3-7-2007

Thanks, Hana and JC.

A follow-up, related, question:

Does the Qur'an contain sufficient passages to provide guidance for Muslims in non-Muslim societies? What is the nature of this guidance? Islam's claims to universality, combined with its apparently numerous and rigorous rules makes me a little nervous. Islam seems to place a strong emphasis on creating a surrounding environment condusive to Islamic practice, which can create frictions with non-Muslims. Does the Qur'an address this?

Sent by Nate | 4:47 PM | 3-7-2007

I am interested in knowing the exact title of Bruce Lawrence's book. I missed most of the discussion and didn't see the title anywhere on the NPR site. Thanks!

Sent by Andrea | 4:47 PM | 3-7-2007

Andrea:
The title is: The Qur'an: A Biography, and is part of the series called: Books That Changed the World.

Sent by Scott Cameron, Talk of the Nation | 4:57 PM | 3-7-2007

Just a reminder, folks, please try to keep it comment-length, rather then treatise-length.

Sent by Barrie Hardymon | 5:07 PM | 3-7-2007

Nate,
The authoritative source for all Muslims is the Qur'an. The second source for all further instruction is called the Sunnah - it is the life, teachings, tacit approvals, instruction etc of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)from the time of his prophethood at the age of 40 which i. In the Qur'an there may be passages that, for example, commands the believer to pray. Well, where do we go for the specific example of HOW to go about doing this...we find it in the Sunnah. The ritual wash, direction, intention, timing, order, verbage, etc is taught in it's completion along with clarification as to the benefit and reasoning of prayer.
With respect to Non-Muslims, I suggest that you Google "The agreement between Mohammed and the Syrian Christians of Nazarai" and this link: http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/treaty22.html . These are remarkable treatices between the Christian and Jewish community respectively and their rights and responsibilities within the Muslim state.
There are many, many ayat (verses) in the Qur'an that speak to the equitable treatment of non-Muslims and that God does not love the transgressors of equity and righteousness.

Sent by Cherine | 5:11 PM | 3-7-2007

AC-- Wow, that sounds beautiful. Thank you.

MJC-- Actually, the idea of abrogation refers to very specific examples of behaviors present before Islam that God guided us to change over time, knowing that it's hard for humans to change. The most famous example is that alcohol was first discouraged, then forbidden. God's commands to mutual kindness and mercy are eternal, as He is the Kind, the Merciful.

Sent by Hana | 5:26 PM | 3-7-2007

MJC,
SO that you understand the historical context in which one should view the Qur'an...it is NOT a series of narratives by different individuals as the Old and the New Testament. It was revealed over the span of 23 years and revelations are very specifically noted as Meccan or Medinan - qualifying the period in which they were revealed, the former being the period of the strengthening the concept of Tawheed, the Oneness of God as the foundation of all things and the latter being a great period of legislation. It was during this period that the majorit of the social and economic laws of the Shariah were revealed.
Every revelation has a historical and social set of events that caused it to be related - the study of this is called Tafseer - and helps Muslims to further deepen their understanding for that particular passage and its relevance at that point in history and how it can be applied in today's world.

As far as abrogation, God may prescribe a law suitable to people at the time of its enactiment or it may serve a particular limited purpose. However, it's suitability may later diappear or its unique purpose may have been achieved. In such circumstances the need for the law ceases to exist and its validity becomes cancelled.
Their is nothing "angry" about the later passages.
As far as the "angry" passages, please remember you are reading a translation, you are not knowledgeable of the historical and social circumstance of that revelation, thus are limited as to the approprate interpretation and understanding of that verse.
I often read the Qur'anic translations in English and say "Whaa?" because it is quite different from the full Arabic meaning - thus,the reason Muslims don't consider the translations THE QUR'AN.

Sent by Cherine | 5:47 PM | 3-7-2007

For all those that accuse Islam of being spread by the sword, just consider that for around 700 years the Islamic Ottoman Empire ruled much of Eastern Europe; the same E. Europe that was, and still is, almost all Christian. Also consider that until Arab lands were conquered most of that empire was Christian. There are still Jews and Christians in Arabia and N. Africa today who have been there for centuries. YOU CAN'T FORCE ISLAM ON PEOPLE. So don't think that Islam was spread the same way Christianity was spread in the New World.

Sent by Yusuf | 5:53 PM | 3-7-2007

MJC, BTW...please don't make the mistake of thinking that Jesus (pbuh) was soft - he was a revlutionary, as were all the Prophets who came. People were UPSET, they were turning the social order on its ear - they tried to kill Abraham (pbuh) as well as Jesus (pbuh) as well as Mohammad (pbuh).
Islam did not spread by the sword...that's a western myth that you have bought into. Because believe me, if it had been spread by the sword there would not be a single Christian church or Jewish synogogue left standing anywhere in the Muslim world, nor would it have stopped at Spain - this alone disproves your claim. Further - there were no military expeditions into Asia - so how did the largest concentration of Muslims on the globe get to be in Indonesia, and south central Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Phillipes, China, India, etc.?

I challenge YOU ;) to explain the violent colonization of every Carribean island, Central and South American country by the Conquistadors (and others) under the banner of Christianity - please look into your own house first.

Sent by Cherine | 6:11 PM | 3-7-2007

My comments about the Law of Abrogation were not referring to historical contexts. Yes, Muslims did murder many people in their conquests. But I also agree that Christians have done the same kinds of horrible things. The tremendous difference, however, is that Jesus did not instruct his followers to kill those who didn't agree with his teachings, unlike Muhammad, who did. You must remember that it is on the basis of Qur'anic teaching that MANY Muslims, not simply a fanatic few, are conducting jihad.

Sent by MJC | 6:35 PM | 3-7-2007

Nate, you raise complicated issues that I can't address in this limited space. I refer you to Karen Armstrong's books on Islam and Chittick and Murata's "Vision of Islam". (I think they're all non-Muslims, so you won't be getting the "party line"). Briefly, Muslims have always lived with non-Muslims, from the first day of Islam until the present. The Prophet himself (saws) lived with assorted non-Muslims in Mecca, with Jewish tribes in Medina, and asked the Christian Negus of Ethiopia to protect Muslims who had emigrated there to escape persecution in Mecca. The Qur'an is clear that some will accept Islam and some won't. Over and over the Qur'an says "You are just a messenger" (i.e. you can only give the message faithfully, not change people's hearts). Also it instructs him to say "To you your religion, and to me mine". The Prophet (saws) adjudicated at least one conflict among the Jews of Medina by asking what their Torah told them rather than by using the Qur'an, and it is an accepted principle that the legislative portions of the Qur'an apply only to people who have accepted the Qur'an, i.e. Muslims. So there's a general acknowledgement that there will always be many religions and that "there is no compulsion in religion" and that "God has made you into different tribes so that you may come to know one another". Muslims do have to live according to Shari'a, though generally the belief has been that what you keep between you and God is between you and God. I don't know what you mean by universality. Islam is a universal religion on the sense that all people are invited to it. There is absolutely no demand that all people become Muslims-- only God can know our hearts. It's easier to live a life according to Shari'a if your society has ways of banking that don't involve interest, if you get work off Friday to go to the mosque, if Islamic marriage contracts can be enforced in courts, and so on, so I can understand why traditionally Muslim societies and nations set up their bureaucratic structures to facilitate Shari'a, but I think it's the norm for countries to reflect the religion their citizens have traditionally practiced, from great Britain to Israel to Japan.

Sent by Hana | 6:38 PM | 3-7-2007

Cherine-- Only look at Stonehenge, for example. Muslims are specifically forbidden to deface and dishonor the holy buildings of other religions.

Sent by Hana | 6:41 PM | 3-7-2007

Thank you for broadcasting this program. I give kudos to NPR for allowing a more fair depiction of Islam and the Qur'an than most other stations. I remain a loyal listener of NPR's radio station and would like to hear more from Dr. Bruce Lawrence and many other unbiased speakers on Islam in the future. Thanks again.

Sent by Seema Ahmad | 6:42 PM | 3-7-2007

I highly recommend that people who are seeking accurate answers to their questions about Islam seek out a person of good, sound knowledge. There are answers given here which are clearly incorrect, and these are serious issues. There is a reliable scholar of mainstream Sunni Islam who teaches a live, free, online class daily. For those seeking serious answers to serious questions I would encourage you to direct your answers to him. His name is Dr. Saleh as-Saleh, his website is: www.understand-islam.net and his class is taught live on Paltalk. He will answer your questions with honesty, due consideration, and accurate knowledge. Thank you.

Sent by Matthew B. | 6:43 PM | 3-7-2007

Hearing Bruce Lawrence's interesting discussion makes me very happy he is coming to City Honors School in Buffalo New York to speak to our students as part of our Distinguished Speaker Series. He will be a facinating speaker for our students to learn from.

Sent by Judy Balzer | 2:36 PM | 3-8-2007

Hana...what are you referring to in your last statement? I don't understand your point

Sent by Cherine | 3:03 PM | 3-8-2007

Mathew, I have reviewed many of the responses to questions or comments and do not see anything overtly incorrect. To what are you referring?

Sent by Cherine | 3:07 PM | 3-8-2007

NPR: Thank you for a very fair and insightful program, as a Muslim American and associate of Imam W.D. Mohammed, I look forward to reading Dr. Lawrence's book.

Chris says that "this is all mythology...and that there is no evidence Qur'an (or ANY book) is the word of G-d...." Well more than 1400 years ago, the Author of the Qur'an issued a challenge to peoiple just like: "... if you doubt this is the Word of Allah... then create something like it..." Then, as now, no one has step forward to "duplicate" this effort.

Sent by KAS | 5:50 PM | 3-8-2007

Thank you for an excellent program. I look forward to reading the book.

Sent by Mohamed Z. Rahaman | 8:44 PM | 3-8-2007

It is nice to see questions posted. That is the beginning of learning. However, when answers are posted, shouldn't we know the qualifications of the person providing the answer? The internet is chock full of misinformation and ignorance that acts as an impetus for cruel language and even violence. Why not be a forum for intellectual and spiritual growth as well as mutual brotherhood?

Sent by Terri Lynn | 9:08 PM | 3-8-2007

The Quran has scientific knowledge and talks about phenomena's that man found out about in the 20th century. How could an illiterate man know what forms first in the unborn child in the womb, the bone or the flesh? How could Muhammad know 1400 years ago how a star forms and that man will find the body of Pharos intact? How Arabs in desert Arabia knew that salt water and fresh water never mix? This is the miracle of the Quran that proves time and again that it can not be man made. This is why it is the fastest growing religion in the world. Thanks for a great program. Hope it will help people understand that faith is one thing, and behavior of people of the faith is another.

Sent by S. Jarr | 8:29 AM | 3-9-2007

My point remains, however--that I want to hear an opposing view to the ideas expressed by Mr. Lawrence. While I do not believe we should be uncivilized nor derogatory about the "sacred writings" of religious groups, it would be a service to the public to hear an open and honest discussion of the Haddithic "Law of Abrogation" concerning the Surahs of the Qur'an. The Haddith, or commentary on the Qur'an, is a work of great importance in Islam. As I stated in my blog entries, this Haddithic "law" states that the later verses bear more weight than the earlier, and, in fact, actually "abrogate" the earlier ones. It is the later verses in which Muhammad's writings clearly state that faithful Muslims may, and indeed should, kill infidels (i.e. anyone who does not accept the teachings of Muhammad as from God). In many Islamic countries a person who converts from Islam to any other religion is subject to death. Muslims also see the immorality, especially in the media in the US (The Great Satan), as justification for attacks leading to the death of civilians.

The bottom line is, in my understanding of Islam, that the teachings of Muhammad are construed to mean that Islam is the ONLY religion to be tolerated and that Islam is the great "protector" of the world from anything "sinful" (i.e. against the teachings of Muhammad). Muhammad may have said in earlier writings that there should be freedom and that those who disagreed with him should be allowed to pursue their own path but he changed in his thinking in his later writings (or, as Muslims would say, God changed and gave a new revelation). You won't find those kinds of teachings ("death to infidels") in the Christian scriptures nor in the Talmud nor in the sacred writings of other major religions. Those who wish to say that Islam is a "peaceful" religion simply don't understand this whole matter of the abrogation of the earlier writings in favor of those that reverse the earlier teachings.

In response to those who recite the dreadful crimes perpetrated by Christians I have no defense. They are right. I point out that Muslims have done the same thing (conquest of West Africa and recent events as only two examples). The huge difference is that Jesus did not condone actions such as those and Muhammad, apparently, not only condoned but encouraged.

MJC

Sent by MJC | 1:11 PM | 3-9-2007

MJC & SC - As a Jew I feel compelled to point out the following selection:

". . . thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword; but the women, and the little ones, . . ., shalt thou take for a prey unto thyself; . . . ." Deuteronomy 20:13 - 14.

If you look hard enough, if you can find words in every holy text that can be used to justify the most appalling crimes. Remember the bit about not bringing peace, but the sword?

The point is not to condemn Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, nor to exalt them over other faiths, or each other, but to recognize a simple truth. Whatever, the origin of our religions (divine, deception, delusion), they are ultimately applied and administered by humans, with all the potential for both good and evil we possess.

So, the ultimate test is not what's written in any holy book, but what's been done with it. Even assuming the assertion that "Muhammad, apparently, not only condoned but encouraged" violence is correct - so what. The Jews who fled Christian Spain, and Christian Europe were quite happy to move to Moslem/Arabic lands, because at that time they were treated better there than by the Christians. Whether their persecutors were acting in keeping with the teachings of Christ, or in contravention of it, was a nice academic point these refugees couldn't care less about!

Today, of course, the situation is reversed, and Jews tend to do better in Christian lands than Muslim ones. But that has not been eternally true, and was false not so long ago.

The fact is, the history of religious persecution proves only one thing: giving religion the power of the state (to make war, to impose death) is the surest way to corruption of any faith. As Jefferson observed, all such persecution accomplishes is to make half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. Thus, whatever your faith, the first principle you should adopt is that of our First Amendment: make no law respecting an establisment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Leave religion to "the private sector", and to the conscience of each citizen.

Sent by Gordon | 7:49 PM | 3-9-2007

Cherine:
You have a misconception that Islam was not spread by the sword, it was. Africa is the best example, look at Darfur and some parts of Nigeria nowdays.
As far as the Islamic invasion of Spain the reason it was limited to souther/central Spain and Portugal was because of the constant battles that the northern kingdoms of Aragon and Castille had with the moors (as they were called) when finally the two kingdoms united in the marriage of Fernando and Isabel that's when, finally the moors were pushed back to northern Africa. Later on there were efforts from the ottoman empire to reclaim part of land lost to the Christians, e.g. the battle of Lepanto,after that defeat, they just desisted from their efforts.

As far as churches and synagogues in the middle east most are actually converted to mosques, like the Hagia Sophia in Turkey (which incidentally Christians and other religions cannot practice their religion in public)now is a world heritage museum.Finally open to all. Also the destruction of Buddhist temples or monuments in Afganistan and the destruction of some monuments left by the pagan persians in Iran come to mind.
Coincidentally I am South American and I can tell you that the Spanish colonization as ruthless as it was, was not as religiously intolerant as some people paint it, yes it is true the Spaniards and Portuguese evangelized but they did leave a lot leeway for the native people and the imported Africans to practice their own customs, hence you have today the practice of Santeria and Voodoo in the Caribbean and Candomble in Brasil (all are a sort of syncretism between Catholiscism and African religions)plus the Pachamama belief in most of the Andean countries.

BTW Im very much looking forward in reading this faboulous book.

Regards.

CVG

Sent by CVG | 11:22 AM | 3-11-2007

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