Following this post in which I discussed Kristiane Backer's recent interview on al-Jazeera, she asked me to post her response. I am glad to do so, and will add a few comments. Kristiane said:
"Interesting observations although sadly biased and disrespectful towards Islam. I would never utter disrespectful words about any religion because they all come from God, and as Muslims we are asked to believe in all angels, scriptures and Prophets and make no distinctions between them. (Second to last verse in Surat Bakara)
Regarding your comment about repelling evil with good, this is actually a verse of the Qur'an. And of course every Prophet would have taught this principle. God sent different messengers with the same truth because people have always been weak and were deviating..
You left out my main point which is that we need to revive the spirit and the qualities of Prophet Muhammad. That we need to follow his inner teachings, i.e. his moral and ethical teachings rather than focus so much on the outer forms (length of a beard or size of a hijab). So you misunderstood and therefore misrepresented what I said as I have never emphasised the rituals but always the inner dimension. Godwilling you'll be able to read it in my book one day where I have elaborated this point in several chapters.
By the way I didn't say Islam is the best religion, maybe it was wrongly translated. I believe all authentic religions lead to God.
And in fact have a lot more in common than what differentiates them. The differences are on the level of form, (rituals) the commonalities in the ethical teachings+ the Divine root..
And yes it is important that we as human beings come together, focus on our commonalities, respect each other in our differences and work together for the common good.
Best wishes and God's guidance to His light
And my comments:
1. As someone who takes seriously accuracy in language and translation (and avoiding the bias and misrepresentation to which Kristiane feels I am victim), I checked to see if I had mistranslated her saying "Islam is the best religion". Kristiane spoke in an inaudible English that was translated into Arabic. I translated the Arabic back into English - a risky venture at best - and summarized her 50-minute interview in a few pages. I have now posted at the original post a full translation of her response to Ahmad's question. The relevant sentence was, "You will only be able to achieve happiness and spiritual enrichment through Islam. Islam is the best religion for that because it gives you a deep connection with Allah."
2. There is a difference between looking at a religion devotionally (as most people do) and examining it critically. Speaking devotionally, Kristiane says she would not speak disrespectfully of any religion. A religion is a system of thought just like capitalism, narcissism, atheism, or any other. It can be examined critically and does not need to be respected. Yes, you treat people with respect, including those who think the world is flat or was created 6 thousand years ago, or those who believe a person who did the things Muhammad did (or Joseph Smith for that matter) could be a Prophet of God, but you do not need to respect what they believe.
3. In response to my suggestion that "Respond to evil with good" was more like Jesus than Muhammad, Kristiane correctly said it was in the Quran. It's repeated several times, including 13:22, 23:96, 28:54, and 41:34. What I find informative is that these were all Meccan suras. My study of the life of Muhammad is leading me to conclude that Muhammad's relative, Nestorian priest Waraqa bin Naufal, taught Muhammad all he knew about the Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospel of Matthew to the Hebrews (the text followed by the Nestorians) with the hope Muhammad would replace him as the leader of Mecca's Nestorian Christians. Muhammad's union to Khadija was essentially a Christian marriage, and his message for 13 years in Mecca was a continuation of Biblical principles. For that reason, he said some things that sound like they came from the Bible. Only after Muhammad found a tribe to adopt him as leader and moved to Medina was he able to put his political and economic goals into practice. There was no "return evil with good" in the next 10 years of Muslim expansion until Muhammad's death.
4. Kristiane suggested I minimized her emphasis on the spirit of Muhammad, and exaggerated her references to the externals of Islam. The all-important question is, "What was the spirit of Muhammad?" Canon Andrew White, a man whose courage I greatly admire, writes that he encourages Sunnis and Shia in Iraq to seek reconciliation "in the spirit of the Prophet". The phrase breaks my heart and I do not believe he will ever succeed, because I see the spirit of the Prophet as the problem and not the solution. Again, looking at the trajectory of Muhammad's life during his 10 years in Medina and how he treated non-Muslims and women there (not isolated stories from the Hadith) gives a clue to the spirit of Muhammad.
Externals are extremely important in Islam. "Did you pray al-'Asr?" or "Is he fasting?" or "Is she wearing the hijab?" are questions you will hear much more often than, "How are you forgiving your enemies?" and "How are you doing in honoring your wife?" To me it is significant that al-Muhajabah, the veiled Kristiane who appeared on al-Jazeera (a photo can be seen here), and the woman you see on her website can hardly be recognized as the same person. I'd bet money it was a Muslim man who advised Kristiane to wear the hijab on TV, and as a submissive Muslimah she did so.
5. A billion Muslims around the world recognize that the farewell in Kristiane's email, "Best wishes and God's guidance to His light", is her invitation for me to join Islam. It is an invitation I respectfully decline.