This week I saw an article wrongly attributed to Bill Cosby. The piece entitled “I AM 83 and I AM TIRED” sees the ‘author’ rant about wealth distribution, taxation and a lengthy piece about Islam. It is the piece about Islam that really got me thinking about how dualistic the conversation often is.
The mainstream media’s obsession with Islamists, a term which once referred to a scholar concerned with Islamic studies but is now a blanket term for Muslim extremism, is a clear demonstration of the bias or dualistic approach to followers of Islam. Especially here in Western Europe and also in North America. Conversely countries or communities which are dominantly Muslim decry much of the West and other religious systems that are in opposition to Islam. All black and white. No grey.
For those who have pursuing my own spiritual journey on my blog know that I am agnostic. In that vein while I have no problem in questioning the concepts of Islam around gender equality, sexuality, it’s exclusivity, pictorial representations of the prophet Mohammed I think at the same time it is important to not become a generalist when addressing some other concepts of the faith.
I would like to take time to address some of these. Without fear.
Is Islam a Religion of Peace?
Opponents of religion or any collective social group can easily attack the religion by looking at its core holy book or instructional manual and extracting pieces without context. For all intents and purposes there are hundreds of texts in the Quran that would appear to encourage Muslims take non-Muslims or infidels out.
Like any holy books they have been used by hundreds of adherents, educated or otherwise, to use it as a platform to attack, maim and harm others. Whether you are someone who is a cartoonist depicting Mohammed or simply part of an embassy who
has been perceived to be the opponent of a country where the majority of its inhabitants are Moslem. Or even the author of a book called the Satanic Verses.
Like any other collective group the problem lies not so much in the text itself but in the interpretation of it and an appreciation of its context. A comparative issue that many shell fish eating Christians have to tackle in their objection to homosexuality.
Let’s take fatwas for example. Now by and large the instruction for the validity of a fatwa is that a scholar can issue one and it will be confirmed by a majority who adhere to that authority. In countries or places where Islam is the majority such a fatwa can include capital punishment, death of the person, but by interpretation it is invalid outside of the Islamic nation. Salman Rushdie on the other hand is not going to take heart from this, but the point is this, interpretation is everything.
But is it a religion as it says of peace?
Peace is not just about avoiding war
If Islam is a religion of peace whoever is in charge of PR has not read the script.
Whilst a minority can tarnish the image of a group as a whole (young blacks boys truly understand this) this behaviour does not exist in a vacuum. For all intents and purposes there has to some kind of cultural understanding or misunderstanding.
Let’s seriously think about the fear that disempowers people who no longer wish to be part of the faith. Apostasy if you want the term.
What about the misogyny entrenched through the faith as a whole and governments or communities which are shaped by Muslim thought? The Muslim women who cannot shake a man’s hand, have to lower their gaze when meeting another man, not to mention the issues around tampons and scriptural permission for a man to strike his wife.
However moderate you are as a Muslim these are questions that challenge the concept of peaceful followers of God. Like it’s co triune Abrahamic religions of Judaism and Christianity at its core there is a lot of violence, whether verbal or physical and this tends to fly in the face of the concept of it being peaceful
Was Muhammad a man of peace?
By all intents and purposes the appointed messenger of Islam is Muhammad. For some hardline people to even talk about him in a negative light would incur violent responses. My point would be rather than adopting ad hominem attacks it makes sense to look at the evidence provided
When I was flirting with the idea of becoming a Muslim in my early twenties a former scholar pointed me to some works which highlighted Mohammed’s tendency to violence to those who opposed his teachings and beliefs. From the Battle of Badr to the assassination of poets such as Asma hint Marwan and Kab bin al-Ashraf.
Of course apologists would argue that the prophet would have been in his right to defend his beliefs and territories from those who would undermine him. Often using a false logic and in all honesty a blinkered denial or absence of knowledge of this behaviour reported in the various hadith and for what was the Quranic equivalent of reading the book of Joshua, Sura 9.
Given this background by default, and even in the context of 5th century Arabia, the message was simple. The holy words that define Islam contained in the Quran and Hadith advocate violence against those who would stand against beliefs. From behadings to amputations to fatwahs to all out holy war, sometimes referred to as jihadh.
As one who no longer subscribes to organised religion or the concept of a God defined by nomadic cultures be they Jewish, Arabic, Indian or Aboriginal or in fact within any culturally specific context, I am cognisant that religion or lack of belief should not be a barrier to dialogue.
Given the information and research before me I cannot see how at is core Islam is a religion of peace. Where it has become the dominant force in governed nations or in communities that adhere to its principles, if the letter of the law is adhered to there is not much flexibility and stepping outside of the confines of those rules can, shall we see be less than peaceful.
However as with all these conversations I am forever learning and exploring and am willing to be proven wrong or at least challenged on this understanding. How do we ever move forward unless we talk.