Dave Sim's blogandmail #13 (September 24th, 2006)
Sunday, September 24 - NEXT READING IN THE "SCRIPTURE AT THE REGISTRY THEATRE" PROGRAM (FORMERLY "NO PREACHING") IS NOVEMBER 12, 2006
"Remember thy seruants, Abraham, Isaac, and Iacob, looke not vnto the stubburnnesse of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sinne: Lest the land whence thou broughtest vs out, say, Because the YHWH was not able to bring them into the land which hee promised them, and because hee hated them, hee hath brought them out, to slay them in the wildernesse."
With the "Scripture at the Registry Theatre" readings on their Ramadan hiatus through to November 12, I thought this might be a good time to print an excerpt from a letter I wrote to David Birdsong about a month ago when he sent me a form letter that had been circulating on the Internet that asked "Can a Good Muslim be a Good American?" which, purportedly, had been written by an American who had spent a number of years living in Saudi Arabia. David had been appalled by it. I certainly disagreed with most of it, but I did think it raised some interesting points that were worth, in most cases, refuting and in other cases addressing in greater depth. The original points are in italic.
Theologically no because his allegiance is to Allah, the moon god of Arabia
That's a bit of a stretch. If the God of the Koran is the God of the Torah and the God of the Gospels (which I assume He is) and He is called Allah in Arabic (as He is called Dieu in French) then that puts him on a much loftier plateau than a "moon god". To even refer to Allah as a "moon god" would be to violate a central tenet of Islam: you must not join gods to God. "Moon god" smacks of animism which is just another form of idolatry and strictly forbidden in Islam. Actually "In God We Trust" is very Islamic and Koranic in tone and certainly calls the Koran to mind more than it does the Torah or Gospels and there's no better instance of America at her best than "In God We Trust".
Religiously no. Because no other religion is accepted by his Allah except Islam (Quran 2:256)
It depends on how you interpret the term Islam which literally means submission to the will of God (a Muslim is "one who submits"). The Koran certainly deplores most Christians and most Jews of Muhammad's time and locale (the Arab Peninsula) but I think it's a stretch to suggest that that means only Islam is accepted by God (I don't believe the name Allah should be used unless you are writing in Arabic). On the contrary in many places the Koran explicitly states that there are good Christians and good Jews and says that it is an unforgivable crime to kill a believer. "You to your religion and me to mine". It also tells us that all the disputes between monotheists will be explained by God on Judgement Day. I think it would be a stretch to infer that all the resolutions will favour Islam. There are definitely Muslims who believe that. It seems to be endemic to monotheistic religions in their adolescence and seems particularly virulent in Muslim ranks, I suspect, because theirs is the most recent revelation. It's hard not to infer from that "disregard all previous memos" as it is hard for Jews not to believe that they have the "true gen" because the Torah was the first and that Christianity and Islam are just weird offshoot cults that can't even get basic quotes from the Torah correct. Myself, I infer that if God says that the disputes won't be settled until Judgement Day then it's kind of pointless to waste time disputing. Do what you think is best, I'll do what I think is best and we'll see who "wins" when we get there.
Geographically no. Because his allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.
His allegiance isn't to Mecca. To declare allegiance to a city would be another form of idolatry. The direction you face when you pray is called a "kebla". The point of bowing in the direction of Mecca is submission to God's will who instructed that believers should do so. The point isn't Mecca or allegiance to a city.
Geographically there IS a dichotomy in that Orthodox Muslims believe that anyone who doesn't live in a Muslim country under Shariah Law is an infidel. Until a few hundred years ago it was unheard of for a Muslim to do so. This is the more salient recurrent point: what do extreme Orthodox Muslims believe and what are they willing to commit murder over? And the answer in both cases is: quite a bit.
Socially no. Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.
Actually the Sura in question forbids being friends with infidels and idolators and suggests that most Christians and Jews are either one or both. Again, I think this had more to do with the Christians and Jews that Muhammad encountered in Mecca and Medina in the seventh century who were mostly of a very corrupt aspect and a long way from home (in more ways than one).
Politically no. Because he must submit to the mullah (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and Destruction of America, the great Satan.
No, he must submit to the will of God as a Muslim. If as a Muslim he believes that that entails submitting to the teachings and directions of mullahs who counsel the destruction of believers (taking it as a given that there are believers in Israel and America which I think any thinking Muslim has to do), well, he is obligated to do so. I find it inadvisable as I would find it inadvisable to ask a priest or a minister or a rabbi what I should or shouldn't believe and how I should or shouldn't conduct my religious observance. If following their instructions let me off the hook in some way when it came to either reward or punishment in the next world, then fine, I would just pick someone arbitrarily, do what he told me and then use the Nuremburg defence: "I was just following orders". But I sincerely believe that will no more "wash" on Judgement Day than it did at Nuremburg. Most folks choose to follow a religious authority and ignore all others without ever looking at their own specific beliefs and how they might be at variance with that authority. It's a choice, a choice I personally choose not to make and I will derive the benefit or suffer the consequences. "You to your religion and me to mine." This is the crux of the debate: whether God desires submission to His will by any and all means possible (like the kidnapped Fox News reporter and cameraman who were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint) or if He is only interested in submission to His will as a free choice. I think the Great Democracies favour the latter view (as do I) and Muslim extremists favour the former view. Which is the reason that much of the Arab world was (and is) in favour of or coming to be in favour of the disarming and (if necessary) the eradication of Hezbollah. It seems to me a large step in the right direction.
Domestically no. Because he is instructed to marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Quran 4:34)
He is allowed to marry up to four women if he can provide for them and treat them equally. Which even Muhammad proved incapable of doing. It is universally agreed in Islam that Aisha was his favourite wife and that directly contradicts the spirit of the law (although Muhammad was also given special dispensation to have as many wives as he cared to have). A Muslim is instructed by the Koran to take physical action against a wife only if she is demonstrably guilty of harlotry. Scourging so far as I know is limited to whores and whoremongers. There are a wide variety of interpretations of what constitutes a harlot and what constitutes a whore and what constitutes a good wife and that is a core element of the debate between the West and Islam. The vast majority of girls and women in North America would certainly qualify as harlots and whores in Muslim frames of reference. One of the reasons that Muslim girls and women choose to wear the hijab or other form of cover is to sharply draw that distinction: to consciously choose to be a good wife instead of a harlot or a whore. They are not flaunting their beauty, their hair or their flesh. They are modest and believe modesty in attitude, attire and conduct is an attribute of a believing woman. Anything that deviates from that leads to harlotry and whoredom which is defiance of God or fitnah or haram or various other negative states of being. But a key element is choice, again. Choosing to dress modestly is different from being forced to dress modestly. The Koran also tells us "good women for good men, bad women for bad men". If you want to be a harlot or a whore or marry a harlot or a whore that should be your business and no one else's, as far as I can see. You're only harming yourself in doing so. Madonna spends every night of her current tour pretending to be nailed to a cross with a crown of thorns. I wouldn't pay to see it and I sure wouldn't want to try explaining it to God on Judgement Day, but, "You to your religion and me to mine."
Intellectually no Because he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt.
Again, this is an issue between extremist and non-extremist Muslims. Most extremist Muslims would believe that no law has validity unless it is Shariah Law and is based on one of the handful of approved schools of Islamic Law which are founded in the Koran. It's the reason that Saddam Hussein refuses to countenance the court that's trying him because he sees it as being based on American or International Law and not on Shariah Law. The American constitution isn't based on Biblical Principles that I'm aware of. It's a document which protects choice, person and property. If you are a Muslim and believe that those protections are divinely inspired (as I do) then you can certainly be a good Muslim and a Good American. You make your choices based on what you believe and let others make their choices based on what they believe. "You to your religion and me to mine." The vast majority of Muslims would believe that I'm damned to eternal hellfire for my beliefs and my advocacy. I really couldn't care less what the vast majority of Muslims believe about my beliefs. The only opinion I care about is God's and I'll find that out on Judgement Day and live with whatever it ends up being.
Philosophically no. Because Islam, Muhammad and the Quran do not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist.
So far as I read in the Koran, it does allow for freedom of religion and expression. It counsels moderation, as do the Torah and the Gospels. It specifically prohibits, as an example, targeting churches and monasteries in wartime. It has very little patience with shoddy religion and I think much of North American Christianity and Judaism would have to be described as shoddy religion insofar as the momentum is in the direction of allowing everything and judging nothing unfavourably. I don't believe in judging others, but I do believe in judging myself and quite harshly, too. I think that's the only way you can improve. I got rid of all my electronic media, CD player, tape player, television, etc. That's harsh self-judgement on a Taliban-style level for a Westerner. "Dave you don't need this crap and you're getting rid of it. No ifs ands or buts." But I have no interest in banning electronic media in general or advocating that. I do advocate that individuals choose to throw away their electronic media. "You to your religion and me to mine." I'm perfectly aware that 99% of North Americans worship pop music to an extent that overwhelms any sense of God that they might have. That's their problem. I co-exist with that universal viewpoint and am untroubled by it. As long as you don't pass a law that I have to listen to pop music in my own home or I have to have a television, I'm perfectly amenable to being bombarded by the stuff when I go into any public place.
Muhammad certainly expresses a number of opinions in the Hadith, the sayings of the prophet that aren't found in the Koran. I don't read the Hadith because I don't think it's divinely-inspired. It's just the opinions of the human being who was God's conduit for the imparting of the Koran to mankind. He may very well have been opposed to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. The Koran interests me greatly so Muhammad as God's last messenger interests me greatly. Muhammad the man doesn't at all.
Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.
Usually both, but founded in Sharia Law and in the handful of Islamic Law Schools based on the Koran. If you're saying that a good Muslim living in a Muslim country can't be a good American, I disagree. It would be profoundly difficult because you would have to stick to your guns that freedom of choice supersedes the imposition of faith which runs contrary to virtually all Muslim governments. But that just means that a good Muslim would have to be both a good American and an extremely brave American in a Muslim countrywilling to courageously face imprisonment, torture and execution for the sake of his beliefs as an American. But, then, that's why America is called the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
Spiritually no Because when we declare [ourselves to be] "one nation under God," the Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah is never referred to as heavenly father, nor is he ever called Love in the [Quran's] 99 excellent names.
Wow, that's quite a dog's breakfast of observations. Since the full declaration of the Pledge of Allegiance is "One nation under God with liberty and justice for all" I think that returns to my previous assertions that the debate is largely between freedom of choice (liberty and justice) and the imposition of faith. "Allah" is never referred to as heavenly father but then I tend to the view that the procreative function is a terrible thing to accuse God of. We are God's creations, not his offspring. But I also accept that people can in good conscience hold what I consider to be a blasphemous view. Whether God had a son or not or whether that son was the Synoptic or Johannine Jesus, God will let us know on Judgement Day. I can't picture any way for it to be settled before then. And the original concept of Christian Love as encompassed in the Greek term agape is far more on an intellectual plateauprofound respect and acknowledgement of staturethan it is about smarmy sentimentalism, in my view. [18 September update - coincidentally enough, last night I was reading Sura 19- "Mary" where verse 96after discounting that God has a sonasserts "But love will the God of Mercy vouchsafe to those who believe and do the things that be right." So love is not an unknown commodity in God's dealings with his Muslim followers.] In all but one of the Suras of the Koran God is addressed as The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful and Muslims believe that no enterprise great or small should be embarked upon without that pre-eminent acknowledgement "In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful". I don't think, as a result, Muslims are lacking in proper reverence for God. How many Christians or Jews pray five times a day?
Therefore after much study and deliberation perhaps we should be very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country. They obviously cannot be both "good" Muslims and good Americans. Call it what you will it's still the truth.
I quite agree. I think until Muslims begin more universally to deplore extremist Islam and to denounce the excesses of extremist Islam and join the West en masse in the war on Terror and the eradication of those who advocate and practice the intentional eradication of civilians and functioning democracies that all Muslims and those with Muslim loyalties (like myself) should be viewed with suspicion. I think there are good signs that things are changingthe fact that much of the Arab world now supports the eradication of Hezbollah I would consider to be a good vital sign, the fact that much of the Arab world still thinks the "Palestinians" should get the West Bank seems to me a bad vital signbut it's five years after 9/11 and those positive signs are still anecdotal and few and far between. As Ronald Reagan said, quoting a Russian proverb to Gorbachev, "Trust, but verify."
If you find yourself intellectually in agreement with the above statements, perhaps you will share this with your friends. The more who understand this, the better it will be for our country and our future. Pass it on, Fellow Americans. The religious war is bigger than we know or understand.
Again, I quite agree. I think it will take a while to sink in, but I think ultimately it will sink in that the war is between those who believe people have the right to choose their own behaviour and those who don't believe people have the right to choose their own behaviour. As an example, I don't think Iran can be reasoned with any more than Iraq could be reasoned with. I think Iran needs to be invaded and occupied until freedom of choice prevails over imposition of faith. I think as with Iraq that will probably take decades and thousands if not tens of thousands of lives but I think there could be no more worthwhile investment of resources and lives on the part of the Western Democracies if we are going to build a better future for the world.
Scripture at the Registry Theatre
122 Frederick Street in Kitchener
November 12, November 19, January 7, January 21,
January 28 All 1 pm start times
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