Saturday, February 19, 2011

Muslims or Mohammadeans?

[This post has been revised because of renewed interest in it. I have corrected a typo and inserted documentation for many of the statements I have made. With many of the statements, vast amounts of documentation could be provided, but I have only given one reference per citation. CL-April 16, 2011]

I've been working this one up for weeks at my son's basketball practices and writing it on my BlackBerry. It's hard to write with any polish on a mobile device and this thing has grown far beyond what I expected. So I'm posting it just to finish it. I hope it's helpful.

Christians have many misconceptions about Muslims. One of the most common is equating the Koran with the Bible and Mohammed with Jesus. Intellectuals "correct" this by pointing out that Muslims actually think of Mohammed in the same way that pious Jews think about Moses. The Koran is in a sense, the incarnation of God. It is perfect, fully divine and the word of God (Allah). To some extent, Muslims view the Koran the same as Christians view Jesus.

Without going much into how Muslims view the Koran, it is important to note that unlike the Christian view that the Bible is both fully human and fully divine, the Koran is only fully divine. All the words are God's words. Instead of the Spirit of God working through an apostle to bring his revelation (2 Peter 1:21), Muslims maintain that Mohammed was directly reciting God's words (2:129). Because the words are divine alone, Muslims do not write in the Koran as Christians do in the Bible, and the Koran can never be translated, only interpreted. Muslims have a much simpler, and less nuanced, understanding of the Koran than Christians have of the Bible.

But while this explanation of the Koran does seem to make sense of the way Muslims interact with the Koran, the abovementioned explanation of Mohammed doesn't seem to account for the relationship Muslims have with Mohammed. There is almost nothing in common between Jews and Muslims and the way they relate to Moses and Mohammed. You never hear Jews argue about the way that Moses urinated (Fiqh-Us-Sunna 1:19a). They don't riot in the thousands when a child names a Teddy Bear "Moses” (Somalia, 28 November 2007). There just isn't any resemblance between the Muslim view of Mohammed and the way that Jews or Christians consider ANY prophet. There are a lot of good reasons why Christians referred to Muslims for centuries as Mohammadeans. Whether we should call them that today I'll address at the end of this article.

One difference between Mohammed and Moses is that Mohammed is the perfect man, the standard of conduct for every Muslim (especially men) (33:21) much in the same way that Jesus is for Christians (1 Peter 2:21). However, while Christians hold up Jesus as the standard for morality, ethics, love, etc, Muslims hold Mohammed as the standard for dress, eating, bathing, and eliminating as well. While Muslims don't pray to Mohammed, they arguably pay a great deal more attention to his person.

We're not comparing apples to apples with the two men, however. Jesus had a three year public life which is recorded in one book, The New Testament. There are few outside sources for the life of Christ. The reliable contemporary sources (such as Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, the Talmud) are so sparse that they add nothing to our understanding of Jesus. There are extensive non-contemporary sources (Gnostic Gospels), but orthodox Christianity does not accept them (Eusebius, Church History, VII). The New Testament, then, is the sole window we have into the life of Jesus.

The picture that appears of Jesus is in some ways strikingly non-personal. We don't know what Jesus looked like, how he dressed or what kind of food he liked. Jesus taught about faith in God, faithfulness to God and his identity as the Messiah and Son of God. His entire ministry was directed at loving God and loving people. There is not one instance of Jesus pursuing a personal desire or preference or even defending himself from a personal attack.
All of this is different with Mohammed. The Koran is considered Allah's speech but often Allah seems very concerned with Mohammed's agenda, preferences, desires and honor. When Mohammed is mocked, Allah gets even (Ibn Ishaq, Hisham, 819). When Mohammed desires his daughter in law, Allah annuls all adoptions (33:37).

In the other written material concerning Muhammed we find out even more about Mohammed's preferences. He doesn't like music (Bukhari 7:494); he hates dogs (Muslim 3815) and salamanders (Bukhari 4.54.525). And he really likes women, young beautiful women (Bukhari 1.5.270). Mohammed marries Aisha at six and sleeps with her at nine (Bukhari 5.58.234). He lies to his wife to sleep with a slave (Bukhari 3:43.651). He feels free to attack and plunder from large extended groups of people based on the actions of a few (History of al-Tabari, McDonald, VII, 28-29). All of this becomes conduct to imitate for Muslims.
It isn't a coincidence that Islamic law doesn't recognize adoption or that Islamic countries permit child marriage. There's a reason that an action by the US military turns all Americans into "legitimate targets." It isn't random that Islamic law allows Muslim men to lie to unbelievers or their wives. If Mohammed did it then it is not only permissible, but commendable.

Another huge difference between Mohammed and Moses is his relationship to the Koran. Moses didn't write the Hebrew Scriptures, only a part of them. The entire Koran from first to last was recited by Mohammed - he stands alone. It is impossible to overemphasize this. The Bible has many, many authors but one Spirit. Part of the argument for the divine origins of the Bible is the continuity of the message over dozens of authors over 1500 years. It de-emphasizes human authors and makes them simply part of a vast and grand salvation epic. The Koran is all about Mohammed.

For a Muslim, everything is about the person of Mohammed. He is it. And the fact that he stands alone amplifies his importance to Muslims. The fact that the Koran focuses so much on the person and personality of Mohammed (and the Hadith even more so) amplifies his importance. This is why even though Muslims claim to follow Allah, what they really have is a Mohammed-cult.

Now I know that Muslims will protest this, but everything about their piety supports my thesis. Today in Pakistan the penalty for blaspheming Allah is imprisonment but the penalty for blaspheming Mohammed is death (Penal Code 295c). You can question the existence of God, but if you dishonor Mohammed, you will die. And actually, if you are accused of dishonoring Mohammed, of his book, you must die. It is better to kill an innocent than possibly let someone who dishonors the Prophet live.

They ARE Mohammedeans. Islam is the cult of the 7th century warlord whose honor is protected as if he was still alive and whose example and words are followed as if there has been no change in context in 1400 years. We don't call them Mohammedeans, however, simply because, in the words of Wafa Sultan, "It is wrong to call people by names that they do not choose." Or, in the words of the Son of God, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," (Matthew 7:12) a commandment absent from Islam.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

We all Hope We are Wrong About Egypt

"Roland Shirk," a commentator at JihadWatch has an excellent column on the danger Egypt is now facing with Mubarek out of power. I have to admit, listening to the reports of the revolution, my heart resonates for the desire for freedom in Egypt. I want them to be free. I hope that they succeed. I'm just almost convinced that this is going to become a nightmare within a year - unless the military junta takes over.

Here's the conclusion of Roland's article:

"I fear that the failure of Mubarak to arrange for an orderly, undemocratic succession that would keep the Muslim Brotherhood where it belongs--firmly beneath the iron heel of a secular state--will cost far more Arab lives in the long run than it would have cost to repress the riots. I hope that I am proved wrong. I desperately hope that one or two years from now a free election produces a tolerant state, where 10 percent of the members of Egypt's parliament are Christian, half are women, and the country is still at peace with Israel. I hope that "Roland Shirk" becomes a byword in the blogosphere for pointless alarmism and needless, Machiavellian pessimism, that my columns concerning Egypt sound as silly as Reagan-era fears that a post-apartheid South Africa would turn into a Soviet satellite. I don't need to be vindicated by history. I would much, much rather be wrong."

Read it all here at JihadWatch.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Democracy vs Human Rights

As the Mubarek regime seems poised to topple in Egypt, reporters, pundits, and human rights workers are describing this as the moment human rights and democracy defeat dictatorship and oppression. Experienced analysts and historians know that the situation in Egypt is also likely to go horribly, horribly wrong.

To be sure, by many standards Mubarek is a serial violator of human rights. After he took power 35 years ago, he assumed "emergency powers" which he has never relinquished and which have allowed him to reign as virtual sovereign. Elections in Egypt are mostly a joke and political dissent is crushed using secret police and the courts, which function as an extension of Mubarek's power. Political speech, which is one of the only two types of speech that matter, is tightly controlled and the main opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, is outlawed.

On the other hand, free democracy is not as clear a path to human rights as one might assume. The problem is that democracy is a vehicle to protecting human rights when there is a consensus regarding the rights that must be protected. Egypt is over 80% Muslim. The Muslim consensus will govern Egypt in a democracy. The important question right now is this, "What is the Muslim consensus regarding human rights?"

Here are just a few of the items that will be part of the consensus, should a democracy take hold:

1) Muslims believe that people have less right to "blaspheme" Mahomet than to commit first degree murder. Blasphemy always includes any criticism of Mahomet or criticism of (or mistreatment of) the Koran. Muslims believe, as a group, that anyone who insults Mahomet deserves to die. The only variable is how urgently a particular Muslim feels about the death sentence. Ten thousand screaming Somalis took to the streets demanding the head of an English schoolteacher because her children named the class teddy bear "Mohammed."

2) Muslims believe that women are more sinful than men and their primary value is to gratify sexual desires, produce male offspring and carry the honor of the family. This is why women's testimony is worth half of a man's and why about 70% of "secular" Turks condone honor killing. Muslims will vote these things into existence because they are a majority and it's in their DNA to do so. Think about it. Incest is repugnant to a Judeo-Christian worldview. It has been forbidden long before any genetic arguments were made against it. We don't allow people to practice it because it's outside of our worldview. It doesn't matter if someone else protests that their morals permit it. Ours don't allow them to. That's how deeply held the Muslim view of women is.

3)Muslims believe, also at the DNA level, that anything belonging to Islam belongs to Islam forever. This applies to women, people (distinguishing the two) and land. This is why Muslim men can marry non-Christian women but Muslim women cannot marry a Muslim man. Apostasy carries the death penalty. Freedom of religion means freedom to convert to Islam. Israel creates a problem in the Middle East because it was once a Muslim land. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood are already calling for war with Israel.

Mubarek was able to suppress or curb many of these things, but only because he was an autocrat. But when the majority of people in Egypt hold the reigns of power, they will certainly begin to act on them. Does it sound like human rights are advancing?
Offending the religious and enraging the heathen