Moderate Islam and the Things People Miss

 

The taxi’s coming to take me to the airport in about three hours. I just woke up with a start, thinking that I’d overslept, and now I’m afraid to go back to sleep for fear that I will. I’m all packed, and it’s the middle of the night, so Ricochet buddies, would you please help keep me awake for the next few hours?

I’ll give you something to start with. This reminded me of our earlier conversation about the critical things we just don’t notice when we’re focussing on something else.

I posted a link to our conversation about whether Islam itself is the enemy to my Facebook page. Some of my friends here in Istanbul (who are Moslems, and, as the word “friend” suggests, not my enemy) weighed in with responses that I think confirm my assertion that the Islamic world is not monolithic. In particular, my friend Babür left a long, thoughtful response, which I’ll reproduce in full. (I’ve told my Facebook friends that anything they say on my page is on-the-record, and I’ve told Babür this in particular, so I’m sure he won’t mind):

As a practicing muslim, and as somebody who’s undertaken some Islamic studies, I might have a say for the closing remarks of this article:

-To decide whether Islam INSTITUTIONALLY embraces terrorism or not, the exact description and scope of “GENUINE” Islamic beliefs should be concretized first of all,

-I agree with the fact that, implementations of Islam are, unfortunately, as many as the number of muslims,

-Such differentiation upon “personal perceptions” is the misfortune of any mainstream & globalised religion,

-However, this differentiation occurs only in the practical level: the limits of Islamic beliefs – the theory, is all well defined,

-There is only one genuine, unique and clear-cut definition of Islamic beliefs, which is established back in 632 A.D., preserved with a sound application of METHODOLOGY (centuries before the European version of methodology was developed), and has survived so far,

-This set of beliefs is called “Sunnah”, and its followers “Sunnis”,

-In terms of daily religious activities, the Sunnah have several sub-categories, the practical sects / “MEZHEB”s; which provide Sunnis with a somehow wide range of options to choose from,

-The practical mezhebs are not at conflict with one another at all; one can pray according to “hanafi” mezheb, fast according to “shafi” mezheb, and yet, make his/her donations according to “maliki” mezheb, etc.: the Prophet (sav) has fulfilled his daily actions compatibly with all mezhebs,

-BUT THEN.. where do we locate the “Shia” concept?

-Clearly speaking, the modern Islamic world is divided into some 75 THEORETICAL mezhebs, most of which fall under the “Shia” category,

-The word “Shia” has its roots in the expression “Gulat-i Shia li Ali b. Ebi Talib”, meaning “helpers of Ali b. Ebi Talib”,

-Ali, the beloved cousin of Prophet and one of the capital masters of muslims – either Shia or Sunnis, has experienced a major political chaos near the end of his life, and naturally, a circle of helpers / political suppliers formed around him,

-The historical development, and thus, main BELIEF categories of these helpers, the Shia, has 4 main phases:

(1) those who favor Ali over Osman as a caliph (ONLY a political distinction),

(2) those who favor Ali over Abu Bakr and Omar as well (a FAR-FETCHED, but still political distinction),

(3) those who favor Ali over Prophet (sav) (the beginning point of BLASPHEMY),

(4) those who favor Ali over God (an EXTREME point of blasphemy).

-The last two phases emerged nearly a century after the death of the Prophet (sav); SO, DURING THE FIRST CENTURY OF ISLAM, THERE WAS NO DISTINCTION OF BELIEFS, BUT ONLY POLITICAL VIEWS,

-Apart from the Shia, some extremist sects also arose throughout the history, like Batinis, Ismailis, Durzis, etc., who are definitely non-muslims,

-So, in terms of beliefs, the modern Islamic world can be divided into three parts: (1) Sunnis, the unique believers, (2) non-Sunnis, but believers, (3) non-Sunnis and non-believers,

-Haven said all this..

How does genuine Islam, the Sunnah, approach terrorism?

Islam ABSOLUTELY forbids even the slightest offense against individuals (either women or men, the young or the old, etc.) who has not attacked Islam and/or muslims in a military fashion; even, military personnel figthing against Islam and/or muslims who ask for mercy during a full scale battle, should not be touched.

-This rule is very, very clear:

The first two warfare of Islamic history, The Battle of Badr and The Battle of Uhud, were of vital importance for the survival of the early Islamic society and thus, the entire religion.

EVEN DURING THOSE WARFARE, the Prophet (sav) applied the above principle with utmost certainty..

-A similar example is The Conquer of Mecca, where, the Prophet (sav) showed TOTAL mercy (involving the entire enemy army), after being oppressed, humiliated, and even subject to genocide for two decades..

-This is the REAL Islamic approach. Any sincere muslim IS OBLIGED TO oppose terrorism, suicide bombing, 9/11 attacks, El Qaeda, etc.

-The knowledge requirement standards enough to make a decree, or “ICTIHAD” were stated by the Prophet (sav) himself. Those fulfilling the standards, the “MUCTEHID”s can alone authorize the Islamic approach to any situation.

-Real muslims do not care about Imam Whatsoever, etc. has said, unless those so-called, often self-declared Imams measure up to be a muctehid..

I later left this comment:

I’ve just walked down a street filled literally with thousands of Moslems of exactly the kind many people are seriously arguing do not exist. I saw them with my own eyes, as I have every day for the past five years. With so many other questions in the world, why waste time debating this? Book a ticket to Istanbul, spend an afternoon here, have a lovely time, drink some tea, meet friendly, tolerant, warm, welcoming Moslems (mostly), and see for yourself. They exist! They’re my neighbors and my friends! Babür, is there anyone at our gym, for example, who would not describe himself as a Moslem? Would any member of our gym endorse terrorism, honor killing, forcing me to wear the hijab, or subjecting me to a dhimmi tax? The idea is so absurd it’s beyond discussion — and yet we’re discussing it.

Theo Spark found the conversation sufficiently interesting to link to it in his blog. He described the discussion as a “raging debate.” I notice that his post has been picked up at Right Wing News. So now this chat among my friends is a raging and somewhat public debate, I guess.

The odd thing is that the “raging debate” is about whether moderate Moslems exist. That they do is a proposition so easily verifiable that I don’t even have to leave my apartment to do it. I can just look out the window.

But no one even noticed the snake pit of controversy embedded in Babür’s claim that Shi’a Islam is a heresy.

Now, as people who know the Islamic world well will tell you, that is–what is it Andrew Sullivan calls it?–the money quote. You just watch and see how much more blood is yet to be spilled over that claim.

And no one even noticed it–their attention was elsewhere.

More from Claire Berlinski

Don’t Be Depressed By the GZM Debate

Moderate Islam: A Definition

Arguments Good and Bad: the GZM, Zoning Law, and the Bush Doctrine

Let’s Not Convince the World’s Muslims We’re Out to Destroy Islam

There are 96 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Claire, your Muslim friend conveniently omits Mohammed’s slaughter of the captive Banu Qurayzah Jewish tribe, 500 of whom he boasted he had killed by his own hand.

    “Total mercy”? I think not.

    • #1
    • August 23, 2010, at 4:49 AM PDT
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  2. Profile Photo Member

    After reading Babür’s comments, I have questions. Boy, do I have questions.

    1) Into which of his four categories would he place the majority of the Shi’a? I suspect they’d end up in the first category, but what I’ve seen of Shia’/Sunni struggles suggests differently.

    2) Where do we place Wahabism in Babür’s summary?

    3) We know Mohammed was not pure as the wind-driven snow. How does Babür reckon his belief that Mohammed gave total mercy with the solid historical account that he did not?

    And I have one for you and your Facebook commenters: When does moderate Islam emerge as a political power to combat the entrenched political power of “extremist Islam” (or, as I prefer to call them, the Islamists)?

    It seems to me that other religions have had to do thing before they could take their rightful place in the free world. The various Christian religions, most notably Catholicism, required a uprising or two to replace the less violent leadership. Islam, I believe, will have to do the same.

    • #2
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:01 AM PDT
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  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    It’s the middle of the night here, so I assume he’s asleep, but perhaps tomorrow I can get Babür over here to Ricochet to answer your questions in person. If you read down in the Facebook comments, you’ll note that Qurayzah comes up quickly.

    • #3
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:06 AM PDT
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  4. Profile Photo Member

    The odd thing is that the “raging debate” is about whether moderate Moslems exist. That they do is a proposition so easily verifiable that I don’t even have to leave my apartment to do it. I can just look out the window,

    Yeah. At one time, 1.5 million Armenians used to look out their windows and see the same thing.

    Am I to believe that there has been some sort of Islamic enlightenment in the intervening 90 years?

    • #4
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:07 AM PDT
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  5. Profile Photo Member

    Claire, I know they exist. Retired now, when I was working I had a very good friend who was Muslim. He and I, a Christian, used to have lunch together regularly. And a frequent topic of conversation was “comparative religion.” There was no effort at proselytizing either way; it was just a remarkable opportunity for each of us to learn something about a hole in our respective educations and experiences. I learned a great deal, and I know that he did, too.

    • #5
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:08 AM PDT
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  6. Michael Tee Inactive

    Claire, with due respect, this is all very illuminating. But the proof in the pudding is in the tasting. As soon as a majority of Muslims have an uprising against the “Extremists” and demand that they cease their reign of terror, I’ll pass on the one or two isolated cases where “Islam means peace” is touted.

    Because I have a ton of evidence to the contrary.

    • #6
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:08 AM PDT
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  7. Charlie Dameron Inactive

    Courageman, what do you actually know of the Muslim world? Because it seems to me that once you get out into a predominantly Muslim place — Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Oman, etc. — then you realize that the implication that you’re making, that there’s something especially and inherently violent about Islam as a religion, is really just empirically wrong.

    I would challenge anyone who wants to hold forth as some sort of blog comment board pseudo-expert on Islam and the Islamic world to actually go there and see how people live Islam on a day to day basis.

    And by the way, the story of the Golden Calf is not some “random” bloodthirsty story in the Bible. It’s quite an important one about the consequences of worshipping false idols. That story is in both the Bible and the Koran. All of our religious traditions have a violent streak in them. And there’s plenty of terrorism in the name of religion on all sides, from Hindu extremist groups to Muslim fanatics to abortion clinic bombers to the Irgun.

    • #7
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:14 AM PDT
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  8. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Kenneth: Yeah. At one time, 1.5 million Armenians used to look out their windows and see the same thing.

    Am I to believe that there has been some sort of Islamic enlightenment in the intervening 90 years? · Aug 22 at 5:07pm

    Turkey has, indeed, gone through a revolution since then that completely transformed the relationship of religion to the state, yes.

    • #8
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:17 AM PDT
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  9. Profile Photo Member
    Claire Berlinski: It’s the middle of the night here, so I assume he’s asleep, but perhaps tomorrow I can get Babür over here to Ricochet to answer your questions in person. If you read down in the Facebook comments, you’ll note that Qurayzah comes up quickly. · Aug 22 at 5:06pm

    That might be an unkind thing to do to your friend. He seems unaware that we here in the West have had nine years to study up on Islam and the Prophet, on the web and in books and documentary films.

    We are aware that the more “moderate” parts of the Koran were written before Mohammed had consolidated power and needed to present a moderate tone – and that the later parts are bellicose and bloody in the extreme.

    • #9
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:17 AM PDT
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  10. Profile Photo Member
    Claire Berlinski

    Kenneth: Yeah. At one time, 1.5 million Armenians used to look out their windows and see the same thing.

    Am I to believe that there has been some sort of Islamic enlightenment in the intervening 90 years? · Aug 22 at 5:07pm

    Turkey has, indeed, gone through a revolution since then that completely transformed the relationship of religion to the state, yes. · Aug 22 at 5:17pm

    Perhaps Turkey has…but Islam hasn’t.

    • #10
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:18 AM PDT
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  11. Kennedy Smith Inactive

    Just to keep you wakeful, I’m wondering if a novel invoving the thwarted assassination of Al Hunt by pirates would sell. Think of it as Day of the Jackal, starring Kevin Kline in a puffy shirt. Would it help if Al Hunt solves crimes?

    • #11
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:19 AM PDT
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  12. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Kenneth That might be an unkind thing to do to your friend. He seems unaware that we here in the West have had nine years to study up on Islam and the Prophet, on the web and in books and documentary films.

    We are aware that the more “moderate” parts of the Koran were written before Mohammed had consolidated power and needed to present a moderate tone – and that the later parts are bellicose and bloody in the extreme. · Aug 22 at 5:17pm

    I suspect he can take it and would enjoy the debate, if he has time.

    • #12
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:20 AM PDT
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  13. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Kenneth Perhaps Turkey has…but Islam hasn’t. · Aug 22 at 5:18pm

    When you transform the relationship of state to religion, you inevitably transform both.

    • #13
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:22 AM PDT
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  14. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Michael Tee: Claire, with due respect, this is all very illuminating. But the proof in the pudding is in the tasting. As soon as a majority of Muslims have an uprising against the “Extremists” and demand that they cease their reign of terror, I’ll pass on the one or two isolated cases where “Islam means peace” is touted.

    Because I have a ton of evidence to the contrary. · Aug 22 at 5:08pm

    It’s more than one or two cases, I promise you. And what are the policy implications of your “passing” on these cases?

    • #14
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:23 AM PDT
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  15. Profile Photo Member
    Tom Lindholtz: Claire, I know they exist. Retired now, when I was working I had a very good friend who was Muslim. He and I, a Christian, used to have lunch together regularly. And a frequent topic of conversation was “comparative religion.” There was no effort at proselytizing either way; it was just a remarkable opportunity for each of us to learn something about a hole in our respective educations and experiences. I learned a great deal, and I know that he did, too. · Aug 22 at 5:08pm

    Yes, and Admiral Yamamoto learned a great deal about Americans from the warm friends he made during his pre-war sojourn here. That didn’t stop him from bombing Pearl Harbor.

    I had a Muslim work pal, too – an American-born black convert. One day, I asked him, “Hey, what’s with the Muslim thing? Is that just a way to poke whitey in the snout?’

    He smiled and said, “Yep!”

    • #15
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:24 AM PDT
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  16. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    After reading Babür’s response, I’m not sure that he’s calling all Shi’a heretics. Is he?

    I think, as Jimmie Bise Jr intimates, the first two categories of Shi’a aren’t heretical, even if they’re politically different (Category 1) or even far-fetched (Category 2).

    Clearly, Babür counts Ismaili Shi’a as heretical. Batinis (Batiniyya), which Babür called heretical, could I think describe Ismailism, Alevism, or even Sufism — any sect where the Quran has an additional esoteric meaning. I’m unsure what Babür means by Durzi — Druze, I presume?

    I, like Jimmie, would also like to know how Wahhabism fits into this (beyond the Wikipedia entry, which calls Wahhabi a conservative Sunni sect).

    I am glad Babür, your friend, hence fairly trustworthy, believes “Islam ABSOLUTELY forbids even the slightest offense against individuals” including terrorism, even if we don’t totally get his justification for his belief.

    Babür writes English quite well, but even so, it can be a bit difficult to follow a non-native writer I’m reading for the first time. You know Babür already, and so probably have a clearer idea of what he means.

    • #16
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:27 AM PDT
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  17. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Kenneth Yes, and Admiral Yamamoto learned a great deal about Americans from the warm friends he made during his pre-war sojourn here. That didn’t stop him from bombing Pearl Harbor.

    I had a Muslim work pal, too – an American-born black convert. One day, I asked him, “Hey, what’s with the Muslim thing? Is that just a way to poke whitey in the snout?’

    He smiled and said, “Yep!” · Aug 22 at 5:24pm

    Not sure what you’re getting at, here. Are you saying that friendship is no proof against war? Obvious, I guess, history is full of examples, but it doesn’t say much about the specific claim in question.

    • #17
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:30 AM PDT
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  18. Profile Photo Member

    Claire, I admire your dogged efforts at bridge-building, Honestly.

    But you live in a totally atypical Muslim country, secularized by Ataturk.

    I wonder how different your perspective would be if you lived in, say, Pakistan or Yemen.

    Perhaps we can say that if there is anything approaching Islamic moderation, it exists in Turkey. But even there, the trend looks ominous.

    If tomorrow, I woke up and heard that the Turkish government had acknowledged the truth about the Armenian genocide, I might have some hope of a shift towards moderation. Until then…I remain, despite my respect for you, unconvinced.

    • #18
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:30 AM PDT
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  19. Profile Photo Member
    Claire Berlinski

    Kenneth Yes, and Admiral Yamamoto learned a great deal about Americans from the warm friends he made during his pre-war sojourn here. That didn’t stop him from bombing Pearl Harbor.

    I had a Muslim work pal, too – an American-born black convert. One day, I asked him, “Hey, what’s with the Muslim thing? Is that just a way to poke whitey in the snout?’

    He smiled and said, “Yep!” · Aug 22 at 5:24pm

    Not sure what you’re getting at, here. Are you saying that friendship is no proof against war? Obvious, I guess, history is full of examples, but it doesn’t say much about the specific claim in question. · Aug 22 at 5:30pm

    My point is that cross-cultural friendships take a back seat to tribal loyalty.

    • #19
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:32 AM PDT
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  20. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Babür writes English quite well, but even so, it can be a bit difficult to follow a non-native writer I’m reading for the first time. You know Babür already, and so probably have a clearer idea of what he means. · Aug 22 at 5:27pm

    Well, no, to be honest. Mostly when I see Babür in person we discuss really controversial subjects, like “Which martial art is the best.” If you think this topic gets people excited …

    • #20
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:34 AM PDT
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  21. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Kenneth

    My point is that cross-cultural friendships take a back seat to tribal loyalty. · Aug 22 at 5:32pm

    Sometimes. But of course you know that history is replete with counter-examples.

    • #21
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:36 AM PDT
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  22. Profile Photo Member
    Claire Berlinski

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Babür writes English quite well, but even so, it can be a bit difficult to follow a non-native writer I’m reading for the first time. You know Babür already, and so probably have a clearer idea of what he means. · Aug 22 at 5:27pm

    Well, no, to be honest. Mostly when I see Babür in person we discuss really controversial subjects, like “Which martial art is the best.” If you think this topic gets people excited … · Aug 22 at 5:34pm

    When Claire and I get together, we discuss whether marinated cats are best served with a Chardonnay or a Pinot Grigio.

    Sparks fly.

    • #22
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:37 AM PDT
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  23. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Kenneth: Claire, I admire your dogged efforts at bridge-building, Honestly.

    But you live in a totally atypical Muslim country, secularized by Ataturk.

    This is exactly my point, though. Every time someone says, “Islam cannot be secularized,” I smack my head.

    • #23
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:39 AM PDT
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  24. Profile Photo Member
    Claire Berlinski

    Kenneth: Claire, I admire your dogged efforts at bridge-building, Honestly.

    But you live in a totally atypical Muslim country, secularized by Ataturk.

    This is exactly my point, though. Every time someone says, “Islam cannot be secularized,” I smack my head. · Aug 22 at 5:39pm

    But Ataturk arose at a unique time. The Ottoman Empire had just been destroyed in WW1 and Ataturk, whose father was Albanian and whose mother was Macedonian, was more Westernized than most of his countrymen.

    He realized that the only way to lift Turkey out of its humiliation was to modernize – which meant to secularize. And he set about, brutally, to make that happen.

    Where is today’s Ataturk? Islam is moving away from his nationalism and toward a dream of a restored Caliphate.

    • #24
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:46 AM PDT
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  25. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Kenneth Where is today’s Ataturk? Islam is moving away from his nationalism and toward a dream of a restored Caliphate. · Aug 22 at 5:46pm

    Let’s wait for the election–or maybe even just for the September 12 referendum–before we declare the end of Kemalism, shall we?

    • #25
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:51 AM PDT
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  26. Profile Photo Member

    Claire, I’m curious: are cousin marriages common in Turkey, as they are in many Muslim countries?

    • #26
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:52 AM PDT
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  27. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Kenneth: Claire, I’m curious: are cousin marriages common in Turkey, as they are in many Muslim countries? · Aug 22 at 5:52pm

    Yes.

    • #27
    • August 23, 2010, at 5:55 AM PDT
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  28. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Babür replies (and why he’s awake, I do not know):

    Thanks for all comments.Anthony, that piece of information contains several deficits:1) Despite all Jewish hostility, even a number of attempts to assassinate the Prophet (sav), he always preferred to grant the Jewish tribes with autonomy; …as in the cases of Hayber, Vadi’l Qura, Fedek, Teyma and Taif Jews..2) Throughout all the debates concerning “Islamic mercy against enemies”, my opposites HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE to present a single sample other than Qurayza Tribe. WHAT OTHER EXAMPLES DO YOU HAVE, OTHER THAN BENI QURAYZA?

    3) The Islamic “slavery” concept is the very opposite of its Western counterpart. Islam has smoothed the conditions of the slavery so substantially and encouraged the freeing of slaves so strongly that, slavery totally lost its meaning and “feasibility” in every GENUINE muslim society. One can comfortably assert that, Islam PRACTICALLY abolished slavery 12 centuries before A. Lincoln did..

    … continued …

    • #28
    • August 23, 2010, at 6:01 AM PDT
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  29. cdor Member

    Good Muslim, bad Muslim,good religion, bad religion, Christian, Jew, Hindu, bottom line, courageman at #52,”Virtually every terrorist group in the world acts in the name of Islam”

    And that has been the case for at least 30 years with no end in sight. I am all for embracing moderate Islam. Guys like Zuhdi Jasser should be held up on a pinnacle. But we cannot help moderate Muslims be pussyfooting around the tulips. Pandering and mollifying Islamists won’t help to support moderates. Just the opposite will continue to take place. Islamists will reign supreme and moderates will be forced to cower in their corners.

    Support the moderate Muslims. OUTLAW SHARIA in the USA.

    • #29
    • August 23, 2010, at 6:03 AM PDT
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  30. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    and he continues:

    (NOTE: 1-The fact that later Islamic states have maintained the institution of slavery at a certain scale AND displayed oppression in a number of occasions doesn’t bind Islam PRINCIPALLY, 2-one may ask why Islam didn’t forbid slavery once and for all. It’s simply because the global economic reality at that time compelled a soft transition)4) As a matter of fact, Beni Qurayza THEMSELVES preferred and asked for the punishment, in accordance with the Old Testament rules. Consider the flow of the historical facts:-The Prophet (sav) signed agreements with three Medina Jewish tribes, ensuring the protection of their lives, assets and religious freedom.-Although these agreements were not honored by any of the tribes, who actively participated in the war against muslims, the Prophet (sav) attempted to restore the agreements.

    -When Beni Kaynuka and Beni Nadir tribes refused to restore their agreements, they were sent away from Medina. Their properties were untouched, only a fraction of their war equipment was seized.

    … continued …

    • #30
    • August 23, 2010, at 6:03 AM PDT
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