Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Georgetown's Common Word Conference

I recently attended John Esposito's Common Word conference at Georgetown University. Listening to charismatic and eloquent speakers took me back three decades to being mesmerized by the lectures of Dr. Ismail Al Farouki and Sayyid Hossein Nasr as a student of Islam at Temple University. And now as then, it was only afterwards that I realized I was left with many more doubts than assurances.

One of the speakers was Bob Roberts, who blogs here and is pastor of the Northwood Church in Dallas. He engages the Muslim community there, and is going turkey hunting with the Imam this Saturday. He informed us that when he meets Muslims who remind him that according to their religion he is going to hell, his response is that according to his religion they are hellbound as well. "Now that we've gotten that behind us," he urges them, "Let's be friends."

Does Pastor Roberts really believe that, or was he just being cute? If he does, it stands to reason that his desire is for Muslims to escape hell by accepting what he believes about Jesus. I wonder how successful he has been. How many of his 2000-plus congregation are ex-Muslims? What would happen to his vaunted relationship with the Muslim community were he to appoint an ex-Muslim from that community to a position of leadership within his church?  Would he have the courage to do so?

Another participant was Nigerian diplomat John Gana, a Christian whose ancestors converted from Islam as a result of  Christian missionaries. Emphasizing the fluidity of Muslim and Christian relationships in his country, he informed us that his younger brother had converted to Islam to marry a Muslim woman. He seemed not at all concerned that his brother was forced to change his religion to marry the woman he loved, nor that their children would be raised Muslim without the freedom to change their religion back to Christianity even if they wanted to.

Henry Izumizaki, a Japanese American who is CEO of the One Nation Foundation, told us about the millions of dollars his foundation spends to improve the image of Muslims in America. He said he is neither a Muslim nor a Christian, and that one of the early productions of his company was the movie Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet.

Am I the only one who found it ironic that the man who produced the Legacy of a Prophet does not believe that Muhammad was a Prophet? As not even part of the Ahl Al Kitab, the People of the Book, does Henry Izumizaki know what Muhammad said about him? Does he realize that none of his Muslim co-panelists would allow their daughters to marry his sons?

Shamil Idriss of Soliya described the Muslim-non-Muslim relationship as akin to people throwing sparks into a tinder dry forest. He was not the only person to bring up the TJ factor - no, that is not Terrorist Jihadi but Pastor Terry Jones. Shamil did not bring up the more appropriate analogy that a spark dropped in a tropical rain forest causes no reaction at all. Why is attention focused on the person dropping the spark rather than changing the nature of the forest?

"As I condemn Terry Jones for burning the Quran," continued Shamil, "I condemn President Karzai in Kabul for exacerbating the situation." It seems that even when Muslims criticize the response of other Muslims, they draw a moral equivalence between the initial act and the riposte. I draw a cartoon you don't like, you respond by killing my son, but in your mind the two acts are morally equal? Ya Shaikh!

Other panelists assured us that "studies all show" that poverty breeds extremism, and that "nobody in America" wants Sharia law. It is simply not true that the hundreds of Jihadi foreign fighters in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and a host of other locations are there because of poverty. And if the panelists truly do not want the path of Allah and his Apostle to be followed in the West, it is only because they have become "Westernized, Christianized Muslims" who have strayed a long way from their Prophet.

Three freedoms I grant my daughters are to be whoever they decide to be (including lesbian), believe whatever they want to believe (including atheism), and marry whomever they choose (regardless of religious creed or lack thereof). Islam grants women none of those choices. If the panelists truly granted their daughters those freedoms, I might believe they were free from the binding grip of Sharia. I might question, however, if they were still Muslim.

Professor Bart Ehrman at the University of North Carolina grew up as an evangelical Christian. He attended the best fundamental and evangelical Christian schools, the Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. Somewhere along the way he lost his faith. He no longer describes himself as a Christian, and does not believe the Bible is the Word of God nor that Jesus is the Son of God.

Would John Esposito have the courage to bring a "Muslim Bart Ehrman" unto the staff of his Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding? Someone who like Bart Ehrman had really believed and attended the best Muslim universities, but who like Ehrman "let the scholarship take them where it would" and reached the conclusion that Muhammad was not a Prophet of God, the Quran was not a book from God, and Islam was not true? I would like to believe the answer was Yes, but I have my doubts.

In spite of the considerable amount of money spent to bring in speakers from all over the country the conference seemed sparsely attended with many empty seats. Was the lack of attendance due to a lack of interest, or did others sense as I did that conversations would only go in one direction and not very far at that?

If I were to summarize my take-away for the entire day, it would be that there is an increasing problem in America betweeen Muslims and non-Muslims, but always to be blamed is the ghayr Muslim - the non-believer. It's the fault of Pamela Geller, Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama for flipping on Afghanistan and Guantanamo, birthers and anti-mosquers, Tea Partyers and Terry Joneses. The list is endless. Am I the only one asking the question, "Who's this big guy sleeping in the hallway that everyone is gingerly stepping around but no one is talking about? I think his name is Muhammad."


Anonymous said...

If a man converts to islam to marry a muslim woman it is his choice. The muslim woman wants to keep her religion.

If a christian man converts to islam to marry a muslim woman, then it shows he didnt really believe in jesus.

Cyril Lucar said...

Friend Quotable,

I very much like your comment about dry forests and tropical rain forests. Exactly. What no one is pointing out is that during extremely dry seasons that there is nothing you can do to completely prevent fires. It is too dry - too susceptible to flashing. The problem is the condition of the forest, not the inevitable occurrence of sparks. What your illustration can't carry is the strange reality that the trees are not only dry, but are desperately hoping for fire. The forests of Lebanon and Fanghorn are very different, if that makes any sense.

And Anonymous 8:07,

I don't think that you get the point. The point is not the obvious choice that the man is making, it is the LACK of choice the woman had to convert to Christianity (death for apostates) and the lack of choice the children will have (see above). The point is that with Islam choice only runs one direction.

Anonymous said...

well muslims got to follow rules given to us by god.

If a muslim woman wants to marry a christian man, she has 2 choices

a) convert to christianity then marry.

b) the christian man converts to islam then marry.

Choosing either depends on whether the muslim woman is a practising devout muslim or not.

"If the panelists truly granted their daughters those freedoms, I might believe they were free from the binding grip of Sharia.I might question, however, if they were still Muslim. "

A muslim is free to eat pork or drink, but do they still believe in god/quran? Is the muslim merely sinning or actually going against the rules in the quran because they no longer believe in allah?

For a muslim the laws in the quran is important.

JihadBob said...

Hello Anonymous, do you know of any penalty under Islamic Law if Muslims consume pork as there is for consuming alcohol?

Anonymous said...

well there isnt any punishment for eating pork or drinking alcohol in the quran.

So its upto the (muslim/islamic) states to come up with a suitable penalty/punishment.

I personally think there should be a small fine for eating pork or even no punishment at all, instead of prison or caning/lashes.

A small fine would be like a reminder that pork is prohibited in the quran.

But then how do you find out if a muslim ate pork/bacon? Eating pork I would say is not a major sin. The issue is why would a muslim eat pork? because they are no longer muslim? or they are muslim but just want to try pork?

So its upto the people/goverment to decide (in a free democratic society-which no islamic country is).

As for consumption of alcohol, alcohol is like a drug, punishment/penalty is different from one muslim country to the other.

In malaysia i think you get caned 7 times. In nigeria 5 or 6 times lashes. Some others 3 months jail.

Again i believe a muslim who is publicly drunk should be jailed for few weeks or months. For someone who consumed small amounts and is not drunk a small fine.

So there is no One shariah for all or the same penalty for a crime in all muslim countries. Muslim countries are divided as you know.

So if i say under shariah law you are jailed for consuming alcohol in country X , someone else could say in malaysia/nigeria you get caned.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at April 14 2011 8:07 PM wrote:

"If a man converts to islam to marry a muslim woman it is his choice. The muslim woman wants to keep her religion."

In classical sharia, if a non-Muslim man marries a Muslim woman, he has committed a grave offense and must be put to death. He can also be killed by vigilantes. The non-Muslim man who converts to Islam to marry the Muslim woman would probably be doing so under extreme pressure from the woman's family (and possibly from the woman herself) and from the Muslim community and from the jurists and authorities. If he has very strong feelings for her, this would also add to the coercive effect of Islamic rules. Hence, it's not just a free choice. If it was a free choice, there would be no "need" to convert to marry a Muslim woman.

Yes, if she is the love of his life, he can turn his back on her and refuse to convert to Islam, thus negating any possibility of marrying the woman he loves. This is coercion in Islam. If there were no coercion or compulsion in Islam, then there would be no such rule compelling people to change their religious beliefs in order to marry Muslims.

"If a christian man converts to islam to marry a muslim woman, then it shows he didnt really believe in jesus."

Well, by Islamic standards he would be moving from declaring a belief that Jesus was the Son of God to assuming the belief that Jesus was merely a prophet and not the Son of God.

Islamic law doesn't seem to be concerned with whether the man truly believes in a Christian Jesus or a Muslim Jesus, as it is in ensuring that the man stays in line with Islamic law by maintaining a outward declaration of belief in, and obedience to, Islam. By using the threat of severe punishment for any attempt he may make to return to his former belief (annulment of the marriage, canceling of the man's legal status, death penalty for apostasy, etc.), the Islamic authorities and the woman's Muslim family can ensure the transmission of the Islamic ideology to the children.

In contrast, for Muslim males who are allowed to marry women who are Of the Book, since Muslim men have rights, power, and authority over their wives (who must be obedient), the Muslim male can simply force the transmission of Islamic ideology to the children. By the age of puberty they must accept Islam or be put to death (for the males, and in some schools females) or put in prison (for the females, according to other schools).

So once again this demonstrates compulsion/coercion in Islam.

Anonymous said...

SATV wrote:
"In spite of the considerable amount of money spent to bring in speakers from all over the country the conference seemed sparsely attended with many empty seats. Was the lack of attendance due to a lack of interest, or did others sense as I did that conversations would only go in one direction and not very far at that?"

Whichever it is, I am slightly relieved that this appears to be a case of the supply exceeding the demand.

Cathy said...

Quoting anonymous at 4:25 pm:

"(in a free democratic society-which no islamic country is)"


If Islam is so perfect and enlightened, why do you suppose that after 1,400 years it has never created a free or democratic society?

Anonymous said...

"If Islam is so perfect and enlightened, why do you suppose that after 1,400 years it has never created a free or democratic society?"

Muslims had the 1000 years golden age, they also had islamic spain andalus where jews muslims and christians lived together each under their own laws.

After the collapse of the ottoman empire, most muslim countries were colonized , and still are under the control of the west.

I would say the 'closest' muslim country to being democracy/free would be turkey, malaysia (and hopefully tunisia/egypt after their revolution)

So Islam/Quran is perfect, it is the muslims, the followers of Islam who are not perfect.

Muslims are like any other human beings they can do good or bad, sin and go to wars.

So there were free societies, free in terms of non-muslims being able to follow their own religious laws,drink their wine etc..

"Any attempt to understand the history and culture of the Iberian peninsula must take account of that 'incredible Islamic legacy'" ..
Richard Fletcher

Cathy said...

Islam did not create the so called 'Golden Age' they merely colonized the existing Christian and Jewish cultures that lived in Spain and benefited from their knowledge and heavy taxation. All the civilizations that Islam has overtaken by the sword were older and greater than Islam - like the Zoroastrianism of the Persians, as well as the Jews and Christians - and these societies declined once the original inhabitants were assimilated into the Ummah over several generations. Apologists make excuses as to why the so called Golden Age ended - but it's clear that Islam killed the cultures that created these societies. The idea that the Christians and Jews lived there in harmony is white washing the fact that they were second or third class citizens subject to extra taxes and humiliation by Muslims.

Your examples of Turkey and Malaysia as moderate democracies is rather lame. Ask any Armenian Christian how enlightened the Turks are. And in Malaysia they burn bibles and persecute Christians.

Islam is not perfect - there is plenty of evidence in the backwards 56 countries dominated by it but you refuse to look at that and prefer to hold onto fairy tales of its greatness.

Cathy said...

Dear SATV,

Thank you for your uniquely insightful blog. I particularly love what you said about the freedoms you grant your daughters in this post. As loving parents it is sometimes hard to accept the independence of our children as they grow up but ultimately we know that they are the ones to make their own decisions.

Anonymous said...

"Your examples of Turkey and Malaysia as moderate democracies is rather lame."

Like i said earlier, turkey/malaysia is 'CLOSE' to a democracy i didnt give them as real moderate democracies.

"Islam is not perfect - there is plenty of evidence in the backwards 56 countries dominated by it but you refuse to look at that and prefer to hold onto fairy tales of its greatness"

Again Islam is perfect, its the muslims and the islamic countries that are not perfect. I said that many times in my discussion with greenforest and in my earlier comments.

I said there are no proper free democratic islamic countries, they are all corrupt and backward. So I dont see how 'I refuse to look at that and believe in fairy tales' as you claim.

As for Islam benefitting from christianity, judaism and other religious societies, well the same happened with the christians of europe how do you suppose they came out of the dark ages?


Arabic numerals

Alhazen was a pioneer in optics, engineering and astronomy. According to Giambattista della Porta, Alhazen was the first to explain the apparent increase in the size of the Moon and Sun when near the horizon, although Roger Bacon gives the credit of this discovery to Ptolemy. Alhazen also taught that vision does not result from the emission of rays from the eye, and wrote on the refraction of light, especially on atmospheric refraction, for example, the cause of morning and evening twilight. He solved the problem of finding the point on a convex mirror at which a ray coming from one point is reflected to another point.
Ibn Haitham

Alhazen's extensive writings influenced many Western intellectuals such as Roger Bacon, John Pecham, Witelo, and Johannes Kepler.


Alhazen's main work is his seven volume treatise on optics Book of Optics (Kitab al-Manazir), written from 1015 to 1021. The ancient Greeks believed that truth was determined by the logic and beauty of reasoning; experiment was used as a demonstration. Alhazen used the results of experiments to test theories. The "emission" theory of light had been supported by Euclid and Ptolemy. This theory postulated that sight worked by the eye emitting light. The second or "intromission" theory, supported by Aristotle had light entering the eye. Alhazen performed experiments to determine that the "intromission" theory was scientifically correct.

Anonymous said...

Coptic Pope invokes Quran and asks for shariah law to be implemented.

The most interesting position, however, was that of the Church itself. In addition to religious freedom it invoked sharî’ah in its defense! Time and again, Church officials publicly invoked such sharî’ah maxims as, “When confronted with People of the Book (Jews and Christians), adjudicate among them on the basis of their own religion.” The Coptic patriarch, Pope Shanoudah III, even went so far as to quote the Qur’ân directly in his weekly sermon: “Let the People of the Bible adjudicate according to what God revealed therein. And whoever does not adjudicate in accordance to what God reveals, they are among the corrupt” (5: 47). As if these statements were not explicit enough, in an interview published on 10 June in the official Ahramnewspaper, Pope Shanoudah stated plainly and without equivocation, “We simply ask the judges, if they want to reconcile with the Church, to apply the Islamic sharî’ah.”

JihadBob said...

Anonymous, could you care to explain the comments of Coptic church officials who have spoken against Egypt being an Islamic state?

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous and his incessant rant about the glory of Islam:

I think that citing a few discoveries by Muslims, Christians or Jews is not good enough representation for defining an entire community or group as "discoverer's" of anything or everything. It is an illogical conclusion.

Islam has been responsible for as much bloodshed and annhilation as discoveries and monuments (which are always structural submission to the faith). Just like Islam/Muslims discovered, they chicanerously concealed several mathematical and scientific advancements from India into Europe, and falsely taking claims to it! Look up how long it took Europe to find out that the Muslim Arabs did not, in fact, find "0"!!

In Asia, particularly in India, Islam was responsible for the killing of millions of Hindus. Internationally acclaimed historians, like K. S. Lal have written books to inform of Islamic atrocities...

While, the Koran/Quran boasts of racial indiscrimination and Bilal (the black slave from Abyssinia), was given the honor of chanting the call to prayer, or Adhan, Islam also allowed Muslim rulers to trade slaves from Ethiopia into India! The mullahs remained silent when they knew they had to. You are merely cunning in picking and choosing: perfection of Islam (when Muslims are great discoverer's) and absolving Islam from responsibility (Muslims went bad)! Any religion and its follower's are tied. The greatness and perversion of any religion is in its adherents. If Buddhists monks in Burma wield the sword(however good the cause), they do so at the cost of hurting Buddhism. Muslim imperfections cannot be hidden behind the skirt of Islam. Islam lives in a Muslim. Every time a Muslim fails, so does Islam. That is a price all religions pay...Islam is not absolved merely because its adherents choose to discern differently.

aemish said...

lol.. well.. you may not be the ONLY guy gingerly stepping around the "guy in the hallway" but allow me to assure you that no, as anomalous or not as it may be, I personally don't happen to share the sentiment. *shrug*

You crack me up :p

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Allen Smith said...

This is coercion in Islam. If there were no coercion or compulsion in Islam.
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