Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"There, where they burn books, they will in the end burn people."

When I returned to my house in Durham a few days ago, I found one minor but interesting change had been made to my room by our summer sub-letters. I have two small posters of Islamic calligraphy that I got when I took an Islamic Civilization class in undergrad. I had left them on the wall since they were attached with adhesive, and when I got back, they had been moved from the wall to the outside of the door to my room. I am in no way upset by this--I told the guys sub-letting to feel free to move things from the wall, I just left most of it up for simplicity's sake on my end. But since my large poster of Picasso's "The Old Guitarist," several framed photos from my travels, and a few other decorations stayed up, I know that the removal of the calligraphy was intentional and pointed.

Now that's fine. The funny thing is, neither of the texts represented in those calligraphy works is explicitly Muslim. They're in the Ottoman style (I believe at least one of them is in Turkish), and one translates, "O Lord, refine me!" while the other says simply, "Be!", a reference to God's act of speaking the world into being. No Shahada (which I think is depicted in this image, actually) or anything like that.

Already musing over that event, I came across this article in the News & Observer, written by Richard Hays, my adviser and the new dean of the Divinity School. The title is "WWJD? Not burn the Quran," and it is an editorial in response to the planned Quran burning sponsored by Dove World Outreach Center (a, um, "New Testament church" in Gainesville, Florida). You can learn more on their Facebook page, entitled "International Burn a Koran Day."

I posted the link on Facebook and watched in amusement as myself and my friends spawned a 44-comment (at last count) debate of sorts over Quran burning, the Islamic cultural center being built near Ground Zero, Islamic law, etc. The thing is, I could tell that people were just talking on different planes. People opposed to the building of the mosque (and even one or two who support burning Qurans) simply weren't talking about the same things as people on the other side.

The funny thing is, I'm not sure the people opposed to the building of the mosque even read Hays' article. He talks about a Holocaust memorial in Germany with a plaque that reads, "There, where they burn books, they will in the end burn people." Even if a person isn't directly supportive of International Burn a Koran Day, the ignorance and malice that is a part of that whole attitude is extremely dangerous.

And that's the thing--most non-Muslims don't know a thing about Islam. I only have what little I gleaned from an admittedly easy Islamic Civ class, but the way people talk about the Quran and Sharia law makes it clear they have no idea what they're talking about. The Quran and the Bible have a number of parallel passages (though I suppose the Dove World Outreach Center wouldn't care, since those are mainly from the Old Testament) and Sharia law breeds extremism only in the same way reading the Bible results in intolerant fundamentalism.

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote a book I really love called The Dignity of Difference. [Sidebar: Chief Rabbi = Archbishop of Canterbury for Jews. And, um, Archbishop of Canterbury = Pope for Anglicans. Roughly.] In it he says, "Covenant tells me that my faith is a form of relationship with God--and that one relationship does not exclude others." He cites Isaiah 19: "The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, 'Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.'" Those words are shocking even if they don't translate directly to modern sensibilities.

Now, I'm not saying that all paths lead to God. Although, to quote the popular Christian novel The Shack: (Jesus responding to the question of whether all roads lead to him) "Not at all...most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you." Faith is not about claiming to have a corner on truth over against everyone else. It is a gift to be shared, not a possession to be defended. Our witness should be a loving overflow of the joy we find in our faith, not an attack using it as a weapon.

I could say more about that and probably will later, but for now, I'm gonna say (to my readers and to myself): examine yourselves for bigotry, which isn't just about race, it's about a stubborn adherence to your own views and intolerance of all others (see Wikipedia). Now, being open to other views and beliefs does not mean accepting them in lieu of your own, so I'm not telling you to believe in Allah. But especially among the Abrahamic faiths, there is so much we can learn from each other that we just lose when we equate Muslims with terrorists and live in a self-imposed culture of fear and suspicion.

And now, I end this post with some humor. Here's a segment from The Daily Show on the mosque controversy.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Municipal Land-Use Hearing Update
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

2 comments:

Brent said...

The problem with your article is not the sentiment but the facticity of it. You admit that your knowledge of Islam is lacking, and then make an astounding assumption that all those who disagree with you on the subject must be more ignorant than you. How would you know if you don't know much about Islam? The facts are these: Islam has been violent and intorerant from it's beginning. Mohammed killed a whole tribe of Jews in Medina, and had the rest of the Jews there banished. Mohammed gained followers by raiding trade caravans, spreading that wealth, and telling his men that if they die, they will have many virgins in paradise. Mohammed put many more war verses in the Koran, saying Allah commands him to kill the nonbeliever, than he did peaceful verses. 109 war verses, which in addition are latter than the peaceful verses, and therefore abbrogate the peaceful verses. Here is a link: http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/023-violence.htm
There are many other things Islam has done historically, from Mohammed till today, that I could go into to show the intolerance and violence of it. But just for space I'll give a brief synopsis. An oppressive tax on dhimmis, a policy of lying called Taqiyya, treatment of women including polygamy, countless jihads, endless violence even between Muslims, Shia and Sunni.

The other problem with your article is that it's not an accurate representation of Christ. Jesus said and did things that by your standard would be called intolerant and maybe even bigoted. Jesus drove traders out of the temple with a whip. Jesus called Pharisees 'sons of the Devil' and 'brood of vipers'. Furthermore, Jesus made it clear that he is the only way to heaven. There were no maybes in his language but abosute truth claims. Additionally, you call, or atleast imply that all the people opposing the mosque are intolerant, insensitive, ignorant, and bigots, but what are you doing when you say that? That is a very large group of people you're talking about, including myself. Aren't you being intolerant by your own standard? And didn't you even admit to being ignorant about Islam? So how can you judge others and call them ignorant? You are applying a double standard, calling them judgemental, all the while being judgemental by your own standard.

Sarah said...

It was not my intention to be judgmental...when I talked about people being ignorant, I was referring to specific people who have said things about Islam that are wrong. And saying someone's ignorant isn't an insult anyway.

The Bible has plenty of violent, disturbing passages too...and Christianity has anything but a clean record when it comes to intolerance and violence. Iconoclasm, the Crusades, burning of heretics and witches, bloody fighting between Catholics and Protestants that rage on today...etc.

It was actually John the Baptist that called the Pharisees "brood of vipers."

I don't feel like Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the temple is a fair metaphor. The temple was the Jewish house of worship, and people were secularizing that. It's not like Muslims are trying to take over churches to turn them into mosques. Besides, Jesus' only "go and do likewise" statement comes in the story of the Good Samaritan, in the context of showing mercy.

And I never said there are multiple paths to heaven. But I do believe that Jesus is the one that gets to decide the criteria for how he is the only way to heaven, not us. We must speak the truth we know, of course.

And I feel like it would be far more self-righteous of me to accuse others of ignorance without admitting to it myself. Neither you or I are Muslim, so there are limits to our knowledge. I'm trying to say that to some extent, we're all in this together, as frustrating as it may be.

You should check out Sufism (Islamic mysticism). It's a pretty incredible spirituality, and the imam of the proposed mosque in New York actually practices Sufism.

By the way, I watched the video you posted as a comment on Facebook. I didn't really get how it justified burning the Quran--if one of the main criticisms against the Quran is that it tramples freedom of speech, how does it make sense to do the same and burn the Quran?

I'm not trying to accuse or insult anyone here. I just feel like the conversations that need to be happening aren't. It makes me sad that I feel like I'm on a completely different page from a lot of Christians (though not all).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"There, where they burn books, they will in the end burn people."

When I returned to my house in Durham a few days ago, I found one minor but interesting change had been made to my room by our summer sub-letters. I have two small posters of Islamic calligraphy that I got when I took an Islamic Civilization class in undergrad. I had left them on the wall since they were attached with adhesive, and when I got back, they had been moved from the wall to the outside of the door to my room. I am in no way upset by this--I told the guys sub-letting to feel free to move things from the wall, I just left most of it up for simplicity's sake on my end. But since my large poster of Picasso's "The Old Guitarist," several framed photos from my travels, and a few other decorations stayed up, I know that the removal of the calligraphy was intentional and pointed.

Now that's fine. The funny thing is, neither of the texts represented in those calligraphy works is explicitly Muslim. They're in the Ottoman style (I believe at least one of them is in Turkish), and one translates, "O Lord, refine me!" while the other says simply, "Be!", a reference to God's act of speaking the world into being. No Shahada (which I think is depicted in this image, actually) or anything like that.

Already musing over that event, I came across this article in the News & Observer, written by Richard Hays, my adviser and the new dean of the Divinity School. The title is "WWJD? Not burn the Quran," and it is an editorial in response to the planned Quran burning sponsored by Dove World Outreach Center (a, um, "New Testament church" in Gainesville, Florida). You can learn more on their Facebook page, entitled "International Burn a Koran Day."

I posted the link on Facebook and watched in amusement as myself and my friends spawned a 44-comment (at last count) debate of sorts over Quran burning, the Islamic cultural center being built near Ground Zero, Islamic law, etc. The thing is, I could tell that people were just talking on different planes. People opposed to the building of the mosque (and even one or two who support burning Qurans) simply weren't talking about the same things as people on the other side.

The funny thing is, I'm not sure the people opposed to the building of the mosque even read Hays' article. He talks about a Holocaust memorial in Germany with a plaque that reads, "There, where they burn books, they will in the end burn people." Even if a person isn't directly supportive of International Burn a Koran Day, the ignorance and malice that is a part of that whole attitude is extremely dangerous.

And that's the thing--most non-Muslims don't know a thing about Islam. I only have what little I gleaned from an admittedly easy Islamic Civ class, but the way people talk about the Quran and Sharia law makes it clear they have no idea what they're talking about. The Quran and the Bible have a number of parallel passages (though I suppose the Dove World Outreach Center wouldn't care, since those are mainly from the Old Testament) and Sharia law breeds extremism only in the same way reading the Bible results in intolerant fundamentalism.

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote a book I really love called The Dignity of Difference. [Sidebar: Chief Rabbi = Archbishop of Canterbury for Jews. And, um, Archbishop of Canterbury = Pope for Anglicans. Roughly.] In it he says, "Covenant tells me that my faith is a form of relationship with God--and that one relationship does not exclude others." He cites Isaiah 19: "The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, 'Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.'" Those words are shocking even if they don't translate directly to modern sensibilities.

Now, I'm not saying that all paths lead to God. Although, to quote the popular Christian novel The Shack: (Jesus responding to the question of whether all roads lead to him) "Not at all...most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you." Faith is not about claiming to have a corner on truth over against everyone else. It is a gift to be shared, not a possession to be defended. Our witness should be a loving overflow of the joy we find in our faith, not an attack using it as a weapon.

I could say more about that and probably will later, but for now, I'm gonna say (to my readers and to myself): examine yourselves for bigotry, which isn't just about race, it's about a stubborn adherence to your own views and intolerance of all others (see Wikipedia). Now, being open to other views and beliefs does not mean accepting them in lieu of your own, so I'm not telling you to believe in Allah. But especially among the Abrahamic faiths, there is so much we can learn from each other that we just lose when we equate Muslims with terrorists and live in a self-imposed culture of fear and suspicion.

And now, I end this post with some humor. Here's a segment from The Daily Show on the mosque controversy.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Municipal Land-Use Hearing Update
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

2 comments:

Brent said...

The problem with your article is not the sentiment but the facticity of it. You admit that your knowledge of Islam is lacking, and then make an astounding assumption that all those who disagree with you on the subject must be more ignorant than you. How would you know if you don't know much about Islam? The facts are these: Islam has been violent and intorerant from it's beginning. Mohammed killed a whole tribe of Jews in Medina, and had the rest of the Jews there banished. Mohammed gained followers by raiding trade caravans, spreading that wealth, and telling his men that if they die, they will have many virgins in paradise. Mohammed put many more war verses in the Koran, saying Allah commands him to kill the nonbeliever, than he did peaceful verses. 109 war verses, which in addition are latter than the peaceful verses, and therefore abbrogate the peaceful verses. Here is a link: http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/023-violence.htm
There are many other things Islam has done historically, from Mohammed till today, that I could go into to show the intolerance and violence of it. But just for space I'll give a brief synopsis. An oppressive tax on dhimmis, a policy of lying called Taqiyya, treatment of women including polygamy, countless jihads, endless violence even between Muslims, Shia and Sunni.

The other problem with your article is that it's not an accurate representation of Christ. Jesus said and did things that by your standard would be called intolerant and maybe even bigoted. Jesus drove traders out of the temple with a whip. Jesus called Pharisees 'sons of the Devil' and 'brood of vipers'. Furthermore, Jesus made it clear that he is the only way to heaven. There were no maybes in his language but abosute truth claims. Additionally, you call, or atleast imply that all the people opposing the mosque are intolerant, insensitive, ignorant, and bigots, but what are you doing when you say that? That is a very large group of people you're talking about, including myself. Aren't you being intolerant by your own standard? And didn't you even admit to being ignorant about Islam? So how can you judge others and call them ignorant? You are applying a double standard, calling them judgemental, all the while being judgemental by your own standard.

Sarah said...

It was not my intention to be judgmental...when I talked about people being ignorant, I was referring to specific people who have said things about Islam that are wrong. And saying someone's ignorant isn't an insult anyway.

The Bible has plenty of violent, disturbing passages too...and Christianity has anything but a clean record when it comes to intolerance and violence. Iconoclasm, the Crusades, burning of heretics and witches, bloody fighting between Catholics and Protestants that rage on today...etc.

It was actually John the Baptist that called the Pharisees "brood of vipers."

I don't feel like Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the temple is a fair metaphor. The temple was the Jewish house of worship, and people were secularizing that. It's not like Muslims are trying to take over churches to turn them into mosques. Besides, Jesus' only "go and do likewise" statement comes in the story of the Good Samaritan, in the context of showing mercy.

And I never said there are multiple paths to heaven. But I do believe that Jesus is the one that gets to decide the criteria for how he is the only way to heaven, not us. We must speak the truth we know, of course.

And I feel like it would be far more self-righteous of me to accuse others of ignorance without admitting to it myself. Neither you or I are Muslim, so there are limits to our knowledge. I'm trying to say that to some extent, we're all in this together, as frustrating as it may be.

You should check out Sufism (Islamic mysticism). It's a pretty incredible spirituality, and the imam of the proposed mosque in New York actually practices Sufism.

By the way, I watched the video you posted as a comment on Facebook. I didn't really get how it justified burning the Quran--if one of the main criticisms against the Quran is that it tramples freedom of speech, how does it make sense to do the same and burn the Quran?

I'm not trying to accuse or insult anyone here. I just feel like the conversations that need to be happening aren't. It makes me sad that I feel like I'm on a completely different page from a lot of Christians (though not all).

 

Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates, Modified by Sarah Howell