Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Violence in/and Religion (2)

Post 3

First, a note. You may notice that these first posts have the same date. The reason is that they have been transferred from another newish blog whose name was giving troubles. So, I opened this new blog and transferred the posts to this one. Originally written on different dates, they are being transferred on one date. Hence, the same date for the first blogs.

I want to pursue the violence issue a bit further. First of all, it is hardly a new question. Already a century ago, a Dutch jurist Verkouteren, discussing the same issue, acknowledged that Christians have all too often been involved in violence of one kind or another. But he argued that such violence can be attributed to religion—in this case, Christianity—only if you can prove that the violence in question has its origin in the teaching of the religion. You would have to prove that this violence logically flows out of the religion, that it is a natural consequence of its principles and that it necessarily had to happen. It was Verkouteren’s strong opinion that “Christians” involved in violence in fact did not apply their religion but denied it. They did not adhere to the laws of Christianity but trampled upon them. None of it derived naturally from the religion itself. It happened in spite of the religion.

The question is once again at the top of the agenda, especially with respect to Islam. Westerners, both Christians and secularists, are all too ready to point an accusing finger at Islam anytime some Muslim (group) has perpetrated an act of violence. All of Islam is blamed for it. True, often lip service will be paid via a quickie acknowledgement that the perpetrator was Islamist or terrorist, but from there on the discussion tends to ignore that distinction and leaves us with the impression that the violence was the direct result of Islam.

That Islamist terrorists are Muslims and claim to be guided by the Qur’an is not the issue. That these are dangerous people and need to be stopped in their tracks is the need of the hour. But are they truly Muslim? They may call themselves “Islamist,” but are they Islamic? There are any number of Muslim scholars who deny them that status. In my book Christians and Muslims: Parameters for Living Together I discuss this issue and quote many Muslim scholars, both from the 2/3W and from the West, who convincingly demonstrate that the violence we are witnessing today is a false application of the Qur’an. Its perpetrators are ignorant of the Islamic rules for interpreting the Qur’an. Though they may be called Fundamentalists, they have wandered far from the Islamic fundamentals. It would be similar to Christians basing their violence on the Old Testament. Both religions have certain established rules by which they interpret their holy books. Ignoring these rules leads to misinterpretation and heresy—and often to violence.

So, here, too, we may have an occasion for applying Verkouteren’s test. Joseph Lumbard, an American Muslim, edited a collection of essays written mainly by Western Muslims under the title Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition. In his introduction, Lumbard writes that the fundamentalist militants “represent a complete break with traditional Islamic teachings—not a conscious development from them or of them. Of all the possible ‘Islams’ one could choose from, these are the least representative of its traditional teachings and classical heritage, for they have no scriptural, historical, or intellectual foundations.”

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