02 October 2006

Hitchens on Muslim (in)tolerance

Hitchens is good on this:

Listen to this: "Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate."

Or then again, this: "Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends."
Then there is the instruction to fight against those who are not of the true faith "until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued".

All are direct quotations from the Koran, which Muslims believe to be the absolute word of Allah, and which cannot be altered.

If you seek even more ferocious attacks on Christianity and Judaism, you will find them in the Hadith, Islam's other great book of scripture.

Week after week in those lands where Muslims rule and Christians are a minority, the message pours out from the mosques: "God did not have a son."

All the central doctrines of the Christian faith are emphatically denied. Things are said about Jews and Christians, sometimes comparing them to pigs and monkeys, which would attract the attention of the Thought Police if they were uttered here [i.e., in Great Britain]

Only recently an Afghan was threatened with death - the prescribed punishment under Sharia law - for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Christians in Pakistan live in constant fear of attacks on their churches and their homes, usually following false allegations that someone has burned a Koran.

Coptic Christians in Egypt suffer a similar misery. Christian Arabs who can afford to have been emigrating by the thousands to avoid increasing persecution by their Muslim neighbours.

I know that we have those who will say that this represents the ‘hijacking’ of a religion. (Some one will even try to make some hay of the fact that ‘Islam’ supposedly means ‘peace.’ But even if it does, peace is on the victor’s terms.) But no one who knows the history of this religion will deny that the actual truth is that it is ‘moderate’ Muslims who have hijacked (or who are hijacking) Islam. To take the Koran as written is to engage in what the ignorant will call ‘extremism’ or ‘fundamentalism.’

Muslim ‘moderates’ can say what they will; it’s their religion. But the fact that they believe that what the Koran teaches about ‘jihad’, the ‘jizya’, and so forth is to me a prima facie case that the Koran does teach exactly what the so-called extremists say that it teaches. If not, then why the redefinition?

The other thing, then, that the ignorant will say is that the same could be said of Christianity. That is, if Christianity also did not teach the sort of violence and sword-slinging conversions that were practiced, then there would have been no need for the Christian reformation. That would be a powerful argument if not for the fact that the Christian reformation was not about ‘updating’ Christian beliefs, or making Christianity more ‘tolerant.’ The issue at bar during the Reformation was the doctrine of ‘justification.’ It was not about redefining, reconceiving or revisioning the doctrine of ‘crusade.’ One of the claims of the reformation was that the Catholic church had turned away from the essence of the gospel as the good news of reconciliation, by faith alone, by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The call of the Reformation was not a call to redefine, reconceive or revision; the call was a call back to, not away from, a closer reading of the Scriptures. There were other ancillary issues, such as the authority of the Pope, the church councils, and the relevant weight of tradition and the Scriptures. The Reformers asserted that tradition was to be judged according to the Scriptures, not equal to. This is not the move of people who want to move away from the ‘literal’ teachings of the Bible, as ‘moderate’ Muslims wish to do with their Koran.

You see, it is quite possible that even on a Reformed view the crusades could still have been called. First, the Crusades were not called to spread the faith, but to defend the Byzantine (i.e., Christian) Eastern Roman Empire from the defensive war fought by Islam (a ‘defensive’ war that took the ‘defending’ Muslims from Afghanistan in the east to Spain in the west by 750, over 300 years before the 1st Crusade was called!); and defensive wars are entirely consistent with Reformation thought. Second, the Crusades, on a Reformed view would (a) have to be called by civilian authority, not a religious authority, since on a Reformation view protecting and defending citizens falls, on the basis of the teachings of the Bible, to the civil authority, not the religious (i.e., we don't have to 'reinterpret' the Bible in order to find this) and (b) have to be called something other than ‘taking the cross’since the prosecution of war, again, falls to the civil, not the religious, authority.

Don’t get me wrong.‘Moderate’ Muslims can have a ‘reformation’ if they want to. But let’s not have any talk about its being a reformation like the one that Christians had. The Koran teaches what it teaches about unbelievers and jihad; and the Bible doesn’t teach what the Koran teaches about unbelievers and jihad. The Christian reformers sought to bring their doctrines more, not less, into conformity with the Bible. Muslim reformers will have to back away from, not get closer to, the Koran.


About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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