Aug 24, 2011
Fable: There once was a kingdom that used paper money which was printed in the basement below the king’s castle. Since the king was honest and always honored the value of the money, the merchants and the citizens never doubted its worth, and they basically took it for granted. The kingdom was prosperous, and all of the citizens were happy. But one day the printing machine that made the money broke down, and the new currency the king printed didn’t look exactly like the money he used to print. Merchants were suspicious of the new monetary bills, and the citizens weren’t sure that their savings would be worth anything in the future. To calm the concerns in the kingdom, the king issued a decree: “All currency in the kingdom is genuine and valuable.“ The king also made it illegal to question the validity of any money used in the kingdom. This brought great relief to the kingdom. For a while, that is. But then an evil neighboring king who was envious of the prosperity of the kingdom that used paper currency decided to introduce into the trading business his own version of currency which looked very much like the money printed by the honest king. This money from the neighboring kingdom, however, was actually worthless. But since the honest king had declared, “All currency in the kingdomis genuine and valuable,” and made it against the law to even question whether paper money was genuine, people began to accept this counterfeit money in payment and began to save it up for their future retirements. When the people finally discovered how much counterfeit money had been injected into their economy, it was already too late: The economy collapsed, and the neighboring kingdom overran the honest king’s territory and captured all of its people.
News Item: The Islamic Circle of North America issued a press release on July 24, 2011, which stated, “ICNA calls upon the international community and the Obama administration to take action against hate groups and so-called ‘experts on Islam’ who promote this kind of bigotry [i.e., defamation of Islam].”
Are All Religions Genuine and Valuable?
Religion, like currency, can be genuine or counterfeit. When members of one religion want to make it illegal to question or challenge the validity of their own religion, communities and nations that fall under such an edict will be like the good kingdom which was flooded with bogus currency. There will be no difference between truth and falsehood. The New Testament warns about false prophets and false teachers fifteen times. No such warning comes from the Quran, of course, which boasts that Allah is the supreme Plotter (Surah 3:54) and the master of all scheming.(Surah 13:42)
The word religion has the same root word as ligament – referring to how things are connected. All religions deal with man’s connection to God as well has his connection with others. While both Islam and the Judeo-Christian faiths put man’s connection with God as the primary relationship, the nature of that relationship is quite different in the two faiths, as will be discussed below. When it comes to the relationship of man to others, Judeo-Christian faiths call on followers to love their neighbors as themselves, even if they are enemies. The model to follow is that of the “Good Samaritan” who came to the aid of a robbery victim who was of a different race and religion. In Islam, however, believers are told to be merciful to one another but ruthless to unbelievers. (Surah 48:29) These differences are at the crux of the great divide between the Judeo-Christian culture and that of the followers of Islam.
Apologists for Islam claim that Islam is just another Abrahamic faith, and that Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God. Some even claim that Jesus is revered in Islam, and they point out that Mary is mentioned more times in the Quran than in the Bible. Such claims, like the numerals on a counterfeit bill, are easy to imitate. When a counterfeiter makes a bogus $100 bill, he can duplicate the easy parts satisfactorily. Counterfeit bills are pawned off on unsuspecting people who only look at the superficial similarities. What counterfeiters cannot duplicate are the subtle and difficult aspects of a $100 bill –the detail in the engraving, the fibers in the paper, and the watermarks.
The Inimitable “Watermark” of the Judeo-Christian Faith
The distinguishing“watermark” between the Jehovah-god of the Judeo-Christian faith and the Allah of Islam has to do with the relationship between God and man. That relationship is characterized by unconditional love, or loving kindness (Hebrew: checed ). There are many references to this unconditional love in the Old Testament:
The LORD says, “Wise men should not boast of their wisdom, nor strong men of their strength, nor rich men of their wealth. If anyone wants to boast, he should boast that he knows and understands me, because my love is constant(checed) and I do what is just and right. These are the things that please me.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24) (Seealso Psalm 36:7 and 10, Psalm 69:16, Psalm 138:2, Psalm 143:8, and Isaiah 63:7).
The Christian statement of God’s unfailing love is most poignant in 1 John 4:7 to21, where Love is mentioned 21 times in just 14 verses. Here is just a sampling:
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. . . . Dear friends, if this is how God loved us, then we should love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. . . There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. . . . We love because God first loved us. If someone says he loves God, but hates his brother, he is a liar. For he cannot love God, whom he has not seen, if he does not love his brother, whom he has seen.
Abraham was called a “friend of God.” (See 2 Chronicles 2:27,Isaiah 41:8, and James 2:23.) This is the relationship with God that both Jews and Christians experience. Jesus the Messiah told his followers: “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father (Jehovah-God) I have made known to you.“ (John15:14-15)
There is no parallel concept of loving kindness or a knowable God in Islam. A sampling of quotes from the Quran describes quite the opposite: “Allah does not love the unbelievers.” (Surah 3:32) “Are the faithful unaware that, had He pleased, Allah could have guided all mankind? . . None can guide those whom Allah has led astray. . . Allah abrogates and confirms what He pleases. (Surah 13:30-38) “Say: ‘I cannot tell whether the scourge you are threatened with is imminent, or whether Allah has set it for a far-off day. He alone has knowledge of what is hidden: His secrets He reveals to none, except to the apostles whom He has chosen.’” (Surah72:28) Allah’s love is always conditional upon the behavior of the person. Islam cannot counterfeit God’s checed because that is very difficult to reproduce – particularly in an ideology that is steeped in violence, hatred, misogyny, and greed. So people who are looking to see if Islam is a true religion in the family of Abrahamic faiths or a counterfeit one need to focus on God’s checed because when that “watermark” is absent it is proof-positive that the ideology is not about the Jehovah-God. It’sbogus.
Some Islamic apologists might point to Quran Surah 10:62, which in some English translations renders the word awliya with the sense of afriendship between man and Allah. Example: “Now surely the friends of Allah – they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.” (M.H. Shakir translation) However, in a footnote in the Muhammad Asad translation of the Quran distributed in the U.S. by CAIR, the translator makes it clear that “friend” would not convey a proper meaning:
Although the term wali, when applied to Allah, as well as to the relationship between one created being and another, is often used in the Quran in the sense of “helper,” “friend,”“protector,” “guardian,” etc., none of these secondary meanings can properly -- i.e. without offending against the reverence due to Allah – describe man’s attitude to, or relationship, with Him. Consequently,the above reference to the believers as awliya of Allah is best rendered as “they who are close to Allah,” in the sense of their being always conscious of Him. This rendering has the support of almost all the classicalc ommentators.
How Americans Dealt with Deviant Ideologies in the Past
No wise leader would decree that citizens will be arrested if they question the value and genuineness of the currency in circulation. Likewise, no wise leader would prevent citizens from challenging the validity of religious faiths introduced into the community. Islam is not the first religion whose ideology was severely challenged by United States citizens. In fact, several other religions had to change their practices before they were deemed acceptable in American society. Let me cite just three examples:
1. Soon after the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, Utah began its efforts to join the union. In 1856 the territory of Utah applied for statehood. Most of the inhabitants of Utah belonged to the Church of the Latter Day Saints, sometimes called the Mormon Church. Mormons practiced polygamy which was offensive to most American citizens. The U.S. political leadership at the time stated their position as follows: It is the “duty of Congress to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism--polygamy and slavery.” To add emphasis to this position, in 1863 Congress passed the Morrill Anti-bigamy Act outlawing polygamy in the territories and ordering the disincorporation of the Mormon Church. (This Act was not effectively enforced.) It was not until July 7, 1887, when the Utah constitutional convention hammered out a constitution that declared bigamy and polygamy "incompatible with a republican form of government" and made both activities misdemeanors, that the U.S. government would even consider Utah’s application for statehood. Utah finally became the 45th state onJanuary 4, 1896, after a forty-eight year campaign.
2. The traditional Orthodox Jewish rite of male baby circumcision includes the Mezizah procedure where the practitioner, called a mohel, sucks the blood from the penis with his mouth. This practice is not only repulsive but patently unsanitary. Until recently, this was happening 2,000 to 4,000 times a year in New York City alone. Three babieshave been infected with neonatal herpes in recent years, and one subsequently died. Of course, there is no scriptural support for this deviant tradition. Most non-Orthodox Jews have abandoned the practice, as have even many Orthodox Jews.
3. From 1849 to 1978, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church) had a policy against ordaining men of African descent into the priesthood. Blacks could become members, but this policy prevented them from achieving the highest degree of salvation. In 1978, church leaders announced that they had “received a revelation” instructing them to end the racially discriminatory policy. Not coincidentally, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited racial discrimination in all public facilities.
Life-threatening Ideologies in Recent U.S. History
Given the high degree of religious freedom and tolerance of diversity in the United States, it is not surprising that several very evil and downright murderous “religious” organizations have sprung up here over time. Here are just three examples of religions which have blossomed and disappeared because of their own destructive ideologies and never recovered due to the public outcry against their ideologies:
1. Peoples Temple –Founded by Jim Jones in 1955, this religious cult grew to the point that they established a separatist colony – Jonestown --in Guyana. When word leaked out that there were serious abuses going on there, the ensuing investigation triggered a mass suicide/murder in November, 1978, where 918 people died after drinking arsenic-laced Kool-Aid. This was the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster prior to the terror attack on September 11, 2001. California Congressman Leo Ryan, who spearheaded the investigation, became the only Congressman murdered in the line of duty in United States history.
2. Branch Davidian – This schism from the Seventh Day Adventist Church was formed by David Koresh in 1955. When the followers tried to claim property belonging the Seventh Day Adventist Church, they tangled with courts and law enforcement officers. Ultimately there was a stand-off in Waco, Texas, in 1993. Afterthe followers barricaded themselves for fifty days in the Branch Davidian Ranch armed with weapons and explosives, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with the FBI moved to rescue the trapped families onApril 19. Unfortunately, seventy-six people (24 of them British nationals) died in the ensuing fire, including more than twenty children, two pregnant women, and the sect leader David Koresh. Only nine people survived the fire. Exactly two years later, Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which claimed 168 lives and left over 800 injured. He said he picked that date to remind people of the Federal involvement in the events in Waco two years earlier. That was the most devastating terror attack on U.S. soil prior to the September 11, 2001, attack.
3. Heavens Gate – This was an American New Age communal UFO religion originated by Marshal Applewhite and his nurse Bonnie Nettles in the early 1970’s. They believed that aliens planted the seeds of mankind millions of years ago and only a few spiritually evolved humans would advance to the transhuman state. In Marchof 1997, thirty-nine members of the cult including Applewhite dressed in identical outfits, put $5 and change in their pockets, ate a pudding mixed with cyanide and arsenic, and stretched out on beds to transition to an alien aircraft which would meet them above San Diego, CA. A few additional members committed suicide in a similar manner in 1998. Bonnie Nettles had died in 1985.
Are Religious Ideologies Open to Debate?
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation is trying to get the nations of the world to implement UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, titled “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief.” While much of this resolution is about discrimination against individuals, it also covers religions in general. However, Section 4 of the resolution still endorses open public debate of ideas, and by logical extension, ideologies. It states:
. . . 4. Recognizes that the open public debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue, at the local, national and international levels can be among the best protections against religious intolerance and can play a positive role in strengthening democracy and combating religious hatred, and convinced that a continuing dialogue on these issues can help overcome existing misperceptions . . .
The Quran is an accessible written document presenting the ideology of Islam. Although it was originally penned in Arabic,there are enough authorized and reliable English translations of the Quran that it is easy for non-Muslims to comprehend its major teachings. Those teachings are, in many respects, hostile to and unacceptable in the American culture. Just as Congress would not allow Utah to become a state unless it made polygamy and slavery illegal, it is unlikely that Islamic leaders would ever achieve general religious acceptance in the United States as long as their ideology endorses such practices as: Amputations for petty theft (Surah 5:38), Death for apostasy (Surah 47:21), Hostility towards non-Muslims (Surahs 5:51 and 48:29), Justice by retaliation (lex talonis) (Surahs 2:178 and 5:45), Marriage of prepubescent girls (Surah 65:4), Polygamy (Surah 4:3), Rejection of man-made laws (Surah 5:50), Unequal inheritance of women (Surah 4:11), Unequal testimony of women (Surah2:282), Wife beating (Surah 4:34), and War mongering (Surah 9:123).
Just as not all currency is genuine and valuable, not all religions are genuine and valuable. This is an issue that requires open public debates, not censorship and intimidation.
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