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The limits of tolerance


A Pakistani author writing in Pakistan’s leading newspaper shows more sense in what he has written than a lot of others.

The limits of tolerance

By Irfan Husain Thursday, 26 Aug, 2010

Dawn
http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/irfan-husain-the-limits-of-tolerance-680

The ongoing furore over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque shows no sign of abating after weeks of noisy controversy. In a sense, it has become a litmus test of America’s cherished freedom of worship, as well as its tolerance of other people and other faiths.

But to put things in perspective, I would like to invite readers to imagine that a group of Christians asked for approval to build a church close to the site of an iconic building in Pakistan some of their fellow-believers had destroyed, killing thousands. How would we have responded?

Actually, this scenario is so implausible as to be practically meaningless. The sad reality is that non-Muslims in Pakistan live on sufferance, and it would be unthinkable for them to even dream of expanding their places of worship, let alone constructing new ones. A few years ago, I recall writing about the trials and tribulations of Christians trying to build a church in Islamabad despite having received official permission. They were bullied by a local mullah, and found no support from the city administration. Since then, things have got worse for the minorities.

The ongoing dispute in New York is another reminder of how civilised societies treat those citizens who do not subscribe to the majority faith. Much to his credit, New York’s Mayor Bloomberg (a Jew, by the way) approved the project, despite opposition from right-wing groups. It is President Barack Obama who has been a disappointment to liberals with his equivocation over the issue: after appearing to endorse it at an iftar event for Muslim ambassadors, he backtracked swiftly in the face of shrill and expected criticism from the right.

In a controversial article that appeared recently in the Ottawa Citizen (Mischief in Manhattan; 7 August), Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah, two Muslims who live in Canada, argued that proceeding with the project is tantamount to mischief-making, an act prohibited in Islam. The authors have been attacked for their stance on the Internet, with readers accusing them of taking a reactionary line.

The truth is that the issue has become highly divisive, with over 60 per cent of Americans opposing the project. Before readers think this reflects poorly on secular attitudes in the country, please recall that there are some 30 mosques in New York. What is really giving offence is the location of the proposed Muslim community centre as it is a couple of blocks from where the Twin Towers stood before 9/11.

For weeks now, this controversy has been in the news with talking heads on TV from across the political spectrum reviling or defending the project, initially dubbed the Cordoba Initiative. Critics have attacked the name of the centre for serving as a reminder of Muslim conquests in Europe. In response, the developer has said the name has been changed to Park51.

In such an emotionally charged debate, it’s hard to be rational. Logically, the location should be immaterial: after all, there is already a mosque in the area, not far from Ground Zero. So why should another make any difference? The truth is that the 9/11 attacks continue to resonate deeply in America, so what’s the point in insisting on a project that is like a red flag to a bull?

The project is expected to cost around $100 million, and many think the bulk of the money will come from Saudi Arabia, even though the source of the funds has not been made public yet. If this is indeed so, Raza and Fatah consider this would be a slap in the face of Americans as “nine of the jihadis in the Twin Towers calamity were Saudis”. More to the point for me is that the Saudis have been funding mosques and madressahs around the world, in addition to paying for chairs for Islamic studies at major universities. Many of these have been used to project the country’s official Wahabi version of Islam that has fuelled the rising tide of extremism and jihadi fervour. Against this backdrop, the question to ask is whether we need yet one more such mosque.

Raza and Fatah ask why the $100 million can’t be put to use to help people in Darfur and Pakistan instead? This is especially relevant in the context of the floods that are devastating much of Pakistan today. My own question is about reciprocity: if the Saudis can aggressively spread their ideology abroad, why can’t other beliefs build their places of worship in Saudi Arabia?

Currently, it is illegal to build a church, synagogue or temple in the country. Even importing copies of the Bible or the Torah is forbidden. Granted, Saudi Arabia is not an example of tolerance and freedom of worship. In fact, it is one of the most benighted societies on the planet where the royal family rules with an iron hand in partnership with the clergy. Nevertheless, every time the government or individual members of the ruling House of Saud wish to fund a religious centre abroad, they should be asked to open up their country to other faiths.

Liberal Americans will respond – to their everlasting credit – that their constitutional guarantee of freedom of worship should not be hostage to mediaeval attitudes in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. Ironically, given the choice between living in a religiously ordered state or in a secular country like America, Muslims have voted with their feet in the hundreds of thousands. Most of them are happier in their adopted home, and are free to worship as they please.

This is America’s major strength, and it would be a pity if the events of 9/11 were to erode it. Despite the strong religious strand in American society, it welcomes all faiths. All the more reason, then, for everybody in this melting pot to be respectful of others.

If I am having a meal with a devout Hindu friend at a restaurant, I would not dream of ordering a steak because I am aware that for him or her, cows are sacred. While we all have certain rights, we often do not choose to exercise them so as not to cause offence. This is what living in a heterogeneous society like America entails, so if Muslims opt to live there out of their own free will, it seems to me that they would be wise not to test the limits of tolerance.

The limits of tolerance


A Pakistani author writing in Pakistan’s leading newspaper shows more sense in what he has written than a lot of others.

The limits of tolerance

By Irfan Husain Thursday, 26 Aug, 2010

Dawn
http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/irfan-husain-the-limits-of-tolerance-680

The ongoing furore over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque shows no sign of abating after weeks of noisy controversy. In a sense, it has become a litmus test of America’s cherished freedom of worship, as well as its tolerance of other people and other faiths.

But to put things in perspective, I would like to invite readers to imagine that a group of Christians asked for approval to build a church close to the site of an iconic building in Pakistan some of their fellow-believers had destroyed, killing thousands. How would we have responded?

Actually, this scenario is so implausible as to be practically meaningless. The sad reality is that non-Muslims in Pakistan live on sufferance, and it would be unthinkable for them to even dream of expanding their places of worship, let alone constructing new ones. A few years ago, I recall writing about the trials and tribulations of Christians trying to build a church in Islamabad despite having received official permission. They were bullied by a local mullah, and found no support from the city administration. Since then, things have got worse for the minorities.

The ongoing dispute in New York is another reminder of how civilized societies treat those citizens who do not subscribe to the majority faith. Much to his credit, New York’s Mayor Bloomberg (a Jew, by the way) approved the project, despite opposition from right-wing groups. It is President Barack Obama who has been a disappointment to liberals with his equivocation over the issue: after appearing to endorse it at an iftar event for Muslim ambassadors, he backtracked swiftly in the face of shrill and expected criticism from the right.

In a controversial article that appeared recently in the Ottawa Citizen (Mischief in Manhattan; 7 August), Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah, two Muslims who live in Canada, argued that proceeding with the project is tantamount to mischief-making, an act prohibited in Islam. The authors have been attacked for their stance on the Internet, with readers accusing them of taking a reactionary line.

The truth is that the issue has become highly divisive, with over 60 per cent of Americans opposing the project. Before readers think this reflects poorly on secular attitudes in the country, please recall that there are some 30 mosques in New York. What is really giving offense is the location of the proposed Muslim community center as it is a couple of blocks from where the Twin Towers stood before 9/11.

For weeks now, this controversy has been in the news with talking heads on TV from across the political spectrum reviling or defending the project, initially dubbed the Cordoba Initiative. Critics have attacked the name of the centre for serving as a reminder of Muslim conquests in Europe. In response, the developer has said the name has been changed to Park51.

In such an emotionally charged debate, it’s hard to be rational. Logically, the location should be immaterial: after all, there is already a mosque in the area, not far from Ground Zero. So why should another make any difference? The truth is that the 9/11 attacks continue to resonate deeply in America, so what’s the point in insisting on a project that is like a red flag to a bull?

The project is expected to cost around $100 million, and many think the bulk of the money will come from Saudi Arabia, even though the source of the funds has not been made public yet. If this is indeed so, Raza and Fatah consider this would be a slap in the face of Americans as “nine of the jihadis in the Twin Towers calamity were Saudis”. More to the point for me is that the Saudis have been funding mosques and madressahs around the world, in addition to paying for chairs for Islamic studies at major universities. Many of these have been used to project the country’s official Wahabi version of Islam that has fuelled the rising tide of extremism and jihadi fervour. Against this backdrop, the question to ask is whether we need yet one more such mosque.

Raza and Fatah ask why the $100 million can’t be put to use to help people in Darfur and Pakistan instead? This is especially relevant in the context of the floods that are devastating much of Pakistan today. My own question is about reciprocity: if the Saudis can aggressively spread their ideology abroad, why can’t other beliefs build their places of worship in Saudi Arabia?

Currently, it is illegal to build a church, synagogue or temple in the country. Even importing copies of the Bible or the Torah is forbidden. Granted, Saudi Arabia is not an example of tolerance and freedom of worship. In fact, it is one of the most benighted societies on the planet where the royal family rules with an iron hand in partnership with the clergy. Nevertheless, every time the government or individual members of the ruling House of Saud wish to fund a religious centre abroad, they should be asked to open up their country to other faiths.

Liberal Americans will respond – to their everlasting credit – that their constitutional guarantee of freedom of worship should not be hostage to mediaeval attitudes in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. Ironically, given the choice between living in a religiously ordered state or in a secular country like America, Muslims have voted with their feet in the hundreds of thousands. Most of them are happier in their adopted home, and are free to worship as they please.

This is America’s major strength, and it would be a pity if the events of 9/11 were to erode it. Despite the strong religious strand in American society, it welcomes all faiths. All the more reason, then, for everybody in this melting pot to be respectful of others.

If I am having a meal with a devout Hindu friend at a restaurant, I would not dream of ordering a steak because I am aware that for him or her, cows are sacred. While we all have certain rights, we often do not choose to exercise them so as not to cause offence. This is what living in a heterogeneous society like America entails, so if Muslims opt to live there out of their own free will, it seems to me that they would be wise not to test the limits of tolerance.

Exposing the Myth of Moderate Islam


Exposing the Myth of Moderate Islam

By ; Ali Sina  and Reproduced  here.

I have always maintained that “moderate Muslim” is an oxymoron. We have two kinds of Muslims: Terrorist Muslims and ignorant Muslims. The former are those who know Islam well and live by its dictum. The latter have no clue about their religion and have an idealized image of Islam that has no basis in fact.

Mr. Tarek Fatah’s editorial published in the National Post on March 12, 2010 confirms my view. Fatah attended a debate between Dr. Wafa Sultan, the courageous ex-Muslim woman that shook the Arab world when in an Aljazeera televised debate she pointed out that the problem with the Muslim world is Islam, and Dr. Daniel Pipes, a scholar of Islamic history and the director of the Middle East Forum.

In this debate Pipes argued that Islam is not essentially an intolerant religion and that there have been instances when Jews who were persecuted in Christian countries had sought refuge in Muslim lands. Sultan disagreed and reminded her audience that Muhammad had raided several Jewish tribes who lived in Arabia, massacred their unarmed men and allowed his marauding band to rape their women, while always reserving the prettiest for himself.

Upon hearing these comments, Fatah was “traumatized”. “Even a hardened secular Muslim such as myself was deeply hurt by what I heard that evening,” wrote Fatah.

While acknowledging the validity of Sultan’s criticism of Islam, Fatah repined that “instead of using her newfound fame to challenge the established theocracies and corrupt kingdoms of the Middle East, Sultan veered off the deep end and could not resist the temptation of becoming the poster child of Islam haters, joining their ranks with the fervour of a convert.”

Why should Sultan challenge the established theocracies and corrupt kingdoms when these are the rotten fruits of the poisonous tree of Islam? As a medical doctor she is trained to look at the cause of the disease and not the symptoms.

Fatah accused Sultan of fear mongering and telling to a predominantly Jewish audience, that Muhammad was a Jew killer. He wrote “Wafa Sultan delivered an astonishing account of how the Prophet had slaughtered Jews and then raped the wife of the defeated Jewish tribe.”

Astonishing account? These accounts were reported by early Muslim historians. If Fatah is astonished it is because he, like most Muslims, has not read the history of Islam. Few Muslims care to investigate their religion. The references to Muhammad’s raids, rapes and lootings can also be found in the Quran. Muslims chant the Quran for thawab (reward), but they don’t study it and often don’t understand what they read.

The hatred of the Jews is in the Quran. The first sura of this book is a prayer where Muslims supplicate to Allah, “Show us the straight path. The path of those whom Thou hast favored; not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.”

Muslims agree that “those whom Allah has favored,” are Muslims, “those who earn Allah’s anger,” and “those who go astray” are Jews, and Christians, respectively.

Jews are stereotyped as greedy in all Muslim countries. This is due to quranic verse that says Jews “cling to life more eagerly than any other people. …every one of them would love to live a thousand years,” but they will burn I hell. (2:96)

Many verses of the Quran portray the Jews as evil doers, wicked, transgressors, prophet killers, and despised by God. Because Muhammad hated the Jews, Muslims will always hate the Jews. This hatred is inseparable from Islam.

Fatah continued, “I left the synagogue deeply disturbed. In the fight against Islamofascism, Wafa Sultan’s hatred of Islam was cultivating the very forces she claims to be exposing. When a questioner asked her ‘What is the solution?’ she just shrugged her shoulders. Perhaps the answer she had in mind was too outrageous even by her own standards: Force Muslims to convert or die.”

Sultan has all the reasons to hate Islam. Former Muslims hate Islam because we hate discrimination against women, violence against non-Muslims, dictatorship and imposition of faith that characterizes the true Islam, and because we know the damage that his overgrown cult has done to our people, our culture and our countries. We don’t shrug our shoulders when asked for the solution. Obviously this “hardened secular Muslim” was so traumatized that he could no longer hear what Wafa Sultan was saying.

Former Muslims propose telling the truth as the solution. We believe that truth can set us free. Former Muslims do not advocate violence and hate against our own kin, brothers, sisters, parents, and loved ones. We strive for their freedom and their right to know the truth. We oppose censorship and political correctness that have enslaved the truth. Truth can hurt our feelings, but lies will kill us.

I do not dispute with Dr. Pipes’ historic account that sometimes Jews who were persecuted by Christians sought refuge among Muslims. However, I respectfully disagree with him when he presents this as evidence of the tolerance of Islam.

Islam is not tolerant because Muhammad was not tolerant. This does not mean all Muslims are intolerant. There have been many Islamic rulers who were tolerant, but they went against the canons of Islam, as many do today. That is why the jihadists  who follow the true Islam are attacking these Muslim rulers.

Unlike the crusaders who wanted to convert everyone to Christianity, the jihadists don’t want to convert everyone to Islam. They want to establish the Caliphate and dominate the world. In an Islamic state, ruled under the Sharia, non-Muslims, particularly the people of the Book, (Jews and Christians) are protected, as long as “they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Q: 9:29).

This is no different from Nazism. Hitler did not want everyone to become Arians, nor did he want to exterminate all mankind. He wanted to dominate the world.

By drawing a distinction between Islamic terrorists and “moderate” Muslims Dr. Pipes is treading a dangerous path. One is either a Muslim, therefore emulates Muhammad and is a terrorist, or he is not a Muslim. Moderate Muslim makes as much sense as moderate Nazi. A Muslim who does not practice Islam or believes Islam means peace is not a moderate Muslim, but a wishy-washy Muslim or an ignorant Muslim.

Lies always come back to haunt us. It is this myth that allows Glenn Beck to malign Geert Wilders and call him a “fascist,” or Jacqui Smith and other British officials to bar him from entering the U.K. There are countless good people who are harassed, prosecuted and called racists because of this myth.

I respectfully urge Dr. Pipes to stop promoting the myth of moderate Islam. I also cordially invite him to a written debate on this topic. Getting to the bottom of this matter goes beyond academic interest. This myth is endangering the lives of the critics of Islam and is violating their right to free speech. Good people are called islamophobe, bigot, racist and fascist because the world prefers politically correct untruths to the inconvenient truth. It is thanks to this myth that telling the truth has become the new hate speech.

Mr. Tarek Fatah proves my point that there is no such thing as moderate Muslim. He calls himself hardened secular, but fractures when he hears a historic truth about his prophet. So much for his hardness! When he says, “Wafa Sultan’s hatred of Islam was cultivating the very forces she claims to be exposing,” he is talking about himself. Many honest Muslims prefer not to hide their heads in the sand; they face the truth and deal with it in a rational way.

I would like to remind the readers that virtually all Muslim terrorists come from a secular background. At one point they were just as “liberal” as Mr. Fatah is today until something happened in their lives and they turned to their faith.

Every “moderate” Muslim is a potential terrorist. The belief in Islam is like a tank of gasoline. It looks innocuous, until it meets the fire. For a “moderate” Muslim to become a murderous jihadist, all it takes is a spark of faith.

It is time to put an end to the charade of “moderate Islam.” There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. Muslims are either jihadists or dormant jihadists – moderate, they are not.

P.S.

A copy of this article was sent to the National Post. Since they published Mr. Fatah’s attack on Dr. Sultan, I hope they would publish this response to him. However, if they refuse to publish it I won’t be offended. Most westerners have no problem shadowboxing the “political Islam,” as if dealing with an entity different from Islam, but they shun the critics of Muhammad and Islam itself. This mighty task is left on the shoulders of former Muslims like the corageous Wafa Sultan and a few heroic souls like Geert Wilders.

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