Koran Curious - A Guide for Infidels and Believers

BOOK: Koran Curious - A Guide for Infidels and Believers
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Koran Curious

a guide for infidels and believers

CJ WERLEMAN

First Published in Great Britain 2011 by Dangerous Little Books
© Copyright CJ Werleman
This book is available in print at Amazon.com &
Amazon.co.uk
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

This book is dedicated to the memory of those innocents whose lives were murderously cut short, as a result of an Islamic extremist misinterpreting and twisting the words of the Koran. As Westerners, we are not at war with Islam. For Muslims, your prophet never imagined his later followers would wish to wage war against us.

Acknowledgments
 

Writing a book is one of the most self-centered tasks any person could hope to undertake. When you’re not reading and researching, you’re writing. When you’re not writing, you’re gathering your thoughts. You become completely myopic in what it is you hope to achieve, constantly worrying if you’ve done the narrative justice. With this in mind, I offer my deepest gratitude to those closest to me, who have had to deal with me while my mind was perpetually chasing the words and thoughts for this book. I love you all.

Foreword
 

So, what do Americans know of Islam? Well, most know very little or nothing at all. This shouldn’t come as any great surprise, especially when one considers Americans know so little about their own majority faith, Christianity. For instance, more than 75% of Americans identify themselves as being of the Christian faith, yet biblical literacy remains embarrassingly low. In
God Hates You. Hate Him Back
I cite a study published by Politics Daily titled,
‘Why a Year of the Bible Would Horrify its Sponsors’,
which demonstrated the following hilarious statistics:

•  More than 50% don’t know that Genesis is the first book of the Bible.
 
•  More than 50% can’t name even name one of the Gospels.
 
•  More than 60% can’t name at least 5 of the 10 commandments.
 
•  More than 20% think Moses was one of Jesus’ disciples.
 
•  More than 50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were a married a couple.
 

 

Simply, if a majority of a predominantly Christian America has misconceptions and a lack of understanding of its own faith, what chance are they of getting right it when it comes to the predominant religion of countries that many can’t locate on an atlas?

John L. Esposito, Director, Prince Alwaleed bin Talai Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and author
‘The Future of Islam’
, says, “Today’s historic changes, the death of Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring offer an opportunity to redress anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bias (Islamophobia) and to reaffirm that American Muslims, like other mainstream Americans, desire a secure and democratic America. Despite the fact that American Muslims have had years to explain that neither they -- nor their religion -- sanction terrorism.”

In the past decade, all major polls have consistently shown American public opinion of Islam plummeting. The furor over the proposed Islamic center (Park 51) in New York City resurfaced hostility toward Islam and Muslims. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, large minorities said they could not think of anything positive to say about Islam. In one study, 38 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Islam, compared to 30 percent who reported a positive view. Another study conducted by 
The Washington Post
 found Islam’s unfavorable image creeping up to 49 percent among Americans.

This fear and hostility has been reinforced by the American public’s basic ignorance and misunderstanding of Islam: The Pew Forum’s September 2010 survey of religion literacy found that only about half of Americans know that the Quran is the holy book of Islam. Esposito adds, “Mainstream American Muslims have too often been equated inaccurately with terrorists and people who reject democracy. Muslim Americans cherish the freedoms guaranteed by the American Constitution as much as others and, as the Gallup World Poll of 35 Muslim countries reported, like all Americans, majorities of Muslims globally desire democracy and freedom and fear and reject religious extremism and terrorism.”

Now, if you think Christians are biblically illiterate and willfully ignorant of scripture (most likely intentionally so, because that way they can pretend the Old Testament God really didn’t command all those inconveniently morally repulsive laws), then consider Muslims lag even further behind in Koranic literacy. No doubt a product of high-level illiteracy rates in the Arab-Muslim world. According to the 2007 World Factbook, for example, Mexico has a higher literacy rate than one of the most modern and developed nations in the Middle East, Bahrain.

Compare the literacy rates between those Arabic nations on the left versus those non-Arabic nations on the right:

 

Country Literacy Country Literacy

Bahrain 86.5% Chile 95.7%

Saudi Arabia 78.8% Mexico 91%

Iraq 74.1% Vietnam 90.2&

Yemen 52.3% China 90%

Syria 52.3% Guatemala 69.1%

Morocco 52% Laos 67.7%

 

Further problematic is the fact that written Arabic, as found in the Koran, is not a lingua franca. Similarly, Latin was, for many years for many languages, a working language for many, but a mother tongue to none. In this sense, Arabic is extremely colloquial, hence a Moroccan Arab speaking to someone from Niger, may use the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) but their insert of colloquial terms may make the conversation as productive as a Cockney Londoner speaking with a Long Island truck driver. Ok, so what does the equivalent use of “wouldyamind putting a fiver in ya sky-rocket?” have to do with a written static text such as the Koran? Well, unlike written English (with the exception of vowel differences between UK English and U.S English) these regional variances of the language creep into the writing.

Further, it has been my anecdotal experience, having lived Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, for the past decade, that an overwhelming majority of believers, who I come in contact with, possess only a superficial understanding of the Islamic scriptures. In other words, while most are familiar with the central tenets and key passages of the Koran, most remain ignorant of the historical context. In fact, shortly after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of religion and Islamic studies at Duke University, highlighted Islamic religious illiteracy when he commented on the deceased leader of Islamic terrorism: “We know that (Bin Laden) was never exposed to orthodox Islamic teachings. The writings of ideologues in the Muslim Brotherhood influenced Bin Laden heavily. He takes scriptural imperatives at their face value and believes this is the only instruction and command God has given him - unmediated by history, unmediated by understanding, unmediated by human experience. Now that’s a difference between Muslim orthodoxy and what I would call uber- or hyperscripturalists,”

We also need to be cognizant of the fact that there are various political and special interests groups within the United States whose interests are served by keeping Americans in the dark and confused when it comes to understanding the Koran and Islam. Now here comes a big can of worms. First of all, it’s a badly maintained secret that politico operatives on the far right, and their ideologue cronies, are seasoned pros at whipping up fear of an external enemy. Knowing it drives white Christian voters to the polling booths on Election Day. Glenn Greenwald of the Huffington Post observed in an editorial published shortly after the Juan Williams firing from NPR:


Beyond the general need to ensure that Americans always fear an external Enemy, there are multiple functions which this specific Muslim-based fear-mongering fulfills. The national security state -- both its public and private arms -- needs the “Muslims as Threat” mythology to sustain its massive budget and policies of Endless War. The surveillance state -- both its public and private arms -- needs that myth to justify its limitless growth. Christians who crave religious conflict; evangelicals who await the Rapture; and Jews who were taught from birth to view the political world with Israel at the center, that the U.S. must therefore stay invested in the Middle East, and that “the Arabs” are the Enemy, all benefit from this ongoing demonization.
 
Beyond that, nationalists and militarists of various stripes who need American war for their identity, purpose and vicarious feelings of strength and courage cling to this mythology as desperately as anyone. Republicans gain substantial political advantage from scaring white and Christian voters to shake with fear and rage over the imminent imposition of sharia law in America. And political officials in the executive branch are empowered by this anti-Muslim fear campaign to operate in total secrecy and without any checks or accountability as they bomb, drone, occupy, imprison, abduct and assassinate at will.”
 

One such group is the all too powerful Israel lobby group, AIPAC. (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) Now it’s evident that a cornerstone of their strategy has been to keep the American public inflamed with debates over ‘mosques at Ground Zero’ and the like, subliminally leading us to believe we share a common enemy with Israel. Moreover, it’s a tactic that has worked with breathtaking success. Take the aftermath of 9/11 as one such example. Israel’s public relations machine via AIPAC worked tirelessly to include its colonial war with Yasser Arafat’s Palestinians into the same narrative as the United States’ battle against global terrorism.

Award winning UK Independent journalist Robert Fisk wrote on 30 March 2002:


How much longer can Ariel Sharon pretend that he’s fighting in the ‘war against terror’? How much longer are we supposed to believe this nonsense? How much longer can the Americans remain so gutlessly silent in the face of a vicious conflict which is coming to obscuring the crimes against humanity of 11 September? Terror, terror, terror. Like a punctuation mark, the words infect every Israeli speech, every American speech, almost every American article.”
 

To further underscore the manipulation of American discourse that AIPAC partakes, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, co-authors of
‘The Israel Lobby and U.S Foreign Policy’
, observe:


In essence, American policy makers had to be shown that it made good strategic sense for the United States to try to rid the Middle East of Israel’s foes, which were also said to be America’s foes. As one would expect, Israel and key groups in the lobby began working together to turn this opportunity into a reality. Their efforts succeeded. The Bush administration eventually embraced the lobby’s views about the new threat environment and rejected the alternative paradigm. Not only did the United States gradually adopt Israel’s policy preferences toward the Palestinians, Iran, and the rest of the region, it also adopted many of Israel’s justifications for these policies. American and Israeli leaders began to sound as if they were speaking from the same page.”
 

While the above few paragraphs may read as ‘hit and run’ – an entire book would be required to delve into the role AIPAC, and the like, play in shaping the court of public opinion, but I felt it important to briefly mention the varying forces at play whenever the topic of Islam is raised in the West. Again this by no means excuses what are some of the more troubling aspects of the Islamic faith, and we will come to those later, but fallacies and misconceptions regarding Islam within the United States are to be expected. I hope this book dispels some of those myths and provides better understanding on all sides.

So what do Muslims really think? As absurd as such a question appears on the surface, one such exhaustive study spent six years and more than 50,000 interviews in uncovering some kind of consensus on collective attitudes towards the West. Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton commissioned his company to undertake this enormous study.

BOOK: Koran Curious - A Guide for Infidels and Believers
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