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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Islam: solution or problem, that is the question

An earlier version of this article appeared in the November 2014 edition of The Melbourne Anglican.

A slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood is “Islam is the solution”. Dean Philip Jensen recently stated in regard to the Islamic State (ISIS) that “It is time to face the truth that Islam itself is part of the problem.” Solution or problem: what is the truth about Islam?

The world has been shocked by ISIS, which has committed beheadings, crucifixions, stonings, enslaving and selling captives, and imposing the notorious ‘three choices’ upon Syrian and Iraqi Christians. More than this, it has showed itself proud to do such things. The fact that thousands of Muslims from around the world have been traveling to the Levant to join ISIS suggests that these people also consider the acts of ISIS to be in accordance with Islam.

The publicly stated position of ISIS is that it is motivated by religious devotion. The English language version of the ISIS magazine Dabiq recently praised the enslavement of the Yazidis, a non-Muslim group in northern Iraq. The article ‘The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour’, defended the practice from Islamic legal history, the example of the first Muslims, and Muhammad himself:
“The enslaved Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers as the mushrikīn [idolators] were sold by the Companions [of Muhammad] … before them. … enslaving the families of the kuffār [non-Muslims] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Sharī’ah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Qur’ān and the narratives of the Prophet [Muhammad] … and thereby apostatizing from Islam.”
ISIS is a product of Islamic revivalism. After enduring several centuries of Islamic decline, a view developed across the Muslim world that if only Muslims were more religiously observant, Allah would make them ascendant again. This conviction has driven the Islamic revival, which seeks to renew Islam by going back to original sources, including the life of Muhammad.

What is significant is that a groundswell of protest against such revivalism is now rising up across the Muslim world. Magdi Abdelhadi, former Arab affairs analyst for the BBC, recently blogged that “a growing number of voices are laying the blame for the proliferation of groups such as ISIS squarely on Arab-Islamic shoulders … One writer after another concluded that ISIS, far from being an aberration, was in fact a textbook example of brutality in the name of Islam.

For example, one of the writers referred to by Abdelhadi criticised an Islamic tradition in which Muhammad said “he had come to slaughter” his enemies. This was featured in an ISIS propaganda video Clanging of the Swords Part 4 (view from 2:20) of Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a Kosovar ISIS commander. Muhaxheri was quoting the Qur’an to justify hatred: “to ... infidels wherever they may be we say the same thing that Abraham said to his father … ‘We have rejected you and between us and you there is enmity and hatred and hatred for ever until you believe in Allah alone.’” (The Qur’an, Sura 60:4) He then recited Muhammad’s words to the Meccans: “We say to you as the Prophet Muhammad said: ‘We have brought slaughter upon you’.” He was saying that ISIS is hating and killing because it desires to be faithful to Islam.


http://jihadology.net/2014/05/17/al-furqan-media-presents-a-new-video-message-from-the-islamic-state-of-iraq-and-al-sham-clanging-of-the-swords-part-4/

It is beyond dispute that many of the offensive acts of the Islamic State have precedents in Islamic sacred texts. For example, Muhammad enslaved two young Jewish women, Rayhana and Safiyya, after killing their husbands. These women are counted among his wives.

One of them, Safiyya, was a Jew from Khaybar who had been allocated in the division of the spoils of war to one of Muhammad’s companions, Diyha Ibn Khalifa. When Muhammad saw how beautiful Safiyya was, he desired her for himself, so he took her, telling Diyha to choose another.

Safiyya was led to Muhammad by Bilal past the mutilated bodies of her male relatives, including her father and husband. (Later Muhammad rebuked Bilal for this insensitivity.) When Muhammad made Safiyya his wife, he declared that he was freeing her from slavery, and the gift of her ‘freedom’ would count as her bride-price. On their ‘wedding night’ one of Muhammad’s companions, Abu Ayyub, Khalid b. Zayd was marching around the nuptial tent until dawn. When quizzed in the morning by Muhammad about this, he replied: “I was afraid for you with this woman, for you have killed her father, her husband, and her people.” Muhammad congratulated him on his thoughtfulness. According to Baladhuri’s Kitab Futuh al-Buldan (“Book of Conquests”), after Muhammad's death, Safiya confessed that “Of all men, I hated the prophet the most – for he killed my husband, my brother, and my father.”

Years ago I spent a summer reading through Islam’s canonical sources: the Qur’an, the hadith ‘traditions’ and sira ‘biographies’ of Muhammad. It was a deeply disturbing experience encountering many texts such as this. These days, when I see ISIS ideologues citing these very same sources, I continue to be disturbed, but am no longer surprised.

These are not easy things to discuss in public. Certain fears rise up. But discuss them we must. One problem is that until someone has read authentic sources for themselves they will have difficulty imagining just how problematic their contents are. Nevertheless it is rational and necessary to give sober consideration to such information.

Many have said that anyone can find hatred in the scriptures of any religion. Of course it is true that Christians have quoted scripture to support gross wrongs. A case in point was Augustine’s appeal to Luke 14:23 ‘compel them to come in’ to justify forced conversion. Some, knowing about the history of Christians’ abuses of the Bible, imagine they can thereby understand Islamic extremism, but if this is all they know, they do not know Islam. The canonical Islamic sources are several orders of magnitude more problematic than anything found in the Gospels or even the whole Bible. The imagined comparison is not reality-based.

It also will not do to say that ISIS’s actions are un-Islamic because only a legitimate Islamic ruler can declare a military jihad. This technical argument ignores the fact that even if the ISIS fighters’ reasoning can be faulted, the point still holds that their actions are guided by their theology.

The religion of Islam has long been regarded by many Muslims as a prestigious brand, a symbol of stability and justice. However wherever Islamic revivalism has been implemented in recent decades, as a ‘solution’ to the problems Muslims face, it has produced results which many Muslims are finding intolerable: consider Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Algeria, Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood, and now what remains of Iraq and Syria under ISIS.

In the light of the failures of Islamic revivalism, Western denial serves little purpose.

Muslims themselves are now deeply embroiled in a debate about Islam. The key question being aired across the Muslim world is not whether ISIS has been influenced by Islamic teachings – that is a given – but whether this is, as ISIS itself claims, the long-awaited solution to Islamic decline, or whether it is, as Dean Jensen has intimated, a “problem”.








Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-GinsburgWriting Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness. His book The Third Choice explains the implications for Christians of living under Islamic rule.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jihadi Islam: a further response to John Azumah

By Mark Durie


This is an edited version of an article posted by Fulcrum.

John Azumah has taken yet another bite of the apple by releasing a third response to my Lapido Media article “‘Three Choices’ and the bitter harvest of denial”. This is an earlier response, now re-issued, in edited form, with Fulcrum (for his previous comments, both reported on Lapido Media, see here and here).

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fear and the rhetoric of 'unprecedented' barbarity

By Mark Durie

Many leaders have been stating that the Islamic State’s actions are ‘unprecedented’, ‘extreme’, ‘unique’, or even ‘eccentric’.  Western leaders who are intervening in the Syria-Iraq conflict justify their actions by declaring the Islamic State to be uniquely evil.  In announcing military action and increased security measures, Australian Prime Ministry Tony Abbott said of the Islamic State that “To do such evil — and to revel in doing such evil — is simply unprecedented”. David Cameron stated that “ISIL is a terrorist organisation unlike those we have dealt with before.”  Barack Obama claimed “these terrorists are unique in their brutality.”

Muslims Need Truth and Love

By Mark Durie

This article first appeared in Eternity Magazine.

The past few weeks have been hard ones for Australians, not least for Australian Muslims. Various alleged plots by Islamic State supporters to slaughter Australians has Islam in the news. Even as I write, five out of ten of the “most popular” articles on The Australian’s website are about Islamic jihad and national security.

What are ordinary Australians to make of conspiracy theories aired by Muslims on the ABC’s Q&A program, implying that recent police raids were staged as a cynical act to manipulate public opinion?  Are Muslims being unfairly victimized by all these security measures?

How are we to evaluate Senator Jacqui Lambie’s claim that sharia law “obviously involves terrorism”?  Or the Prime Minister’s decision to mobilise Australia troops against the Islamic State? 

What about the Islamic State’s grandiose claim that “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women.”  Or Mr Abott’s declaration that the balance between freedom and security needs to be adjusted in favour of greater security and less freedom? 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Complexity, Truth and the Islamic State: a Response to John Azumah and Colin Chapman

Recently Lapido Media published an article of mine entitled ‘Three Choices’ and the bitter harvest of denial: How dissimulation about Islam is fuelling genocide in the Middle East.  In it I argued that Western theological illiteracy, made worse by demonstrably false statements put out by scholars, has weakened leaders’ and governments’ capacity to manage the risks associated with Islamist radicalism.  Because of this illiteracy Western leaders have had great difficulty grasping the implications of the global Islamic revival, especially its impact upon religious minorities.

I referred to three Christian scholars whose writings are examples of this problem: Miroslav Volf, Colin Chapman and John Esposito.  

Colin Chapman and John Azumah have responded to my article (see here, here, and also here), to which I am responding in my turn with this article.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Christians are 'asking' to pay jizya: reflections on the Islamic State

An important documentary by VICE News has been published which uses extensive footage gained by a journalist embedded with Islamic State forces.  The youtube video linked here is set to start at 29m 58s, just before a section in which it is declared that Christians had asked for a dhimma pact, requesting to pay jizya.



(The link for the youtube video is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUjHb4C7b94)

There are many noteworthy things about this documentary.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

‘Three Choices’ and the bitter harvest of denial: How dissimulation about Islam is fueling genocide in the Middle East

By Mark Durie

Published first by Lapido Media: see here.
Republished by permission.
Also see summary and comment by Jenny Taylor here.

In northern Iraq religious genocide is reaching end-game stage.  Islamic State (IS) soldiers, reinforced with military equipment originally supplied by the US, are driving back Kurdish defenders who had been protecting Christians and other religious minorities.  While hundreds of thousands of refugees have been fleeing into Kurdistan, around 40,000 Yazidis and some Christians are trapped on Mount Sinjar, surrounded by IS jihadis.  (Yazidis are Kurdish people whose pre-Christian faith derives from ancient Iranian religious traditions, with overlays and influences from other religions.)

The Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq has reported that children and the elderly are dying of thirst on Sinjar.  Parents are throwing their children to their deaths off the mountain rather than see them die of thirst or be taken into slavery by IS.  

The IS jihadis are killing the men they capture.  In one recent incident 1500 men were executed in front of their wives and families.  In another incident 13 Yazidi men who refused to convert to Islam had their eyes plucked out, were doused with gasoline and burned alive.  When the men are killed, captured women and children are enslaved to be used for sex, deployed as human shields in battle zones, or sold to be used and abused as their new owners see fit.

The United States has ironically called for greater cooperation.  UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, urged ‘all parties to the conflict’ to allow access to UN relief agencies. She called on Iraqis to ‘come together’ so that Iraq will ‘get back on the path to a peaceful future’ and ‘prevent ISIL from obliterating Iraq’s vibrant diversity’.

Of course it is not ‘vibrant diversity’ which is being wiped out in Iraq, but men, women and children by their tens of thousands.  This is not about the failure of coexistence, and the problem is not ‘conflict’. This is not about people who have trouble getting on and who need to somehow make up and ‘come together’. It is about a well-articulated and well-documented theological worldview hell-bent on dominating ‘infidels’, if necessary wiping them off the face of the earth, in order to establish the power and grandeur of a radical vision of Islam.  


Monday, June 23, 2014

Update on The Koran and Child Marriage

In my last post I criticized  an article which had appeared in The Australian, It is the young flesh they want.  

 I challenged a paragraph in which an academic, Associate Professor Jennifer Burn was quoted as claiming that “The Koran does not support child marriage”.  However Associate Professor Burn asked the Australian to amend the article by removing this quote, as she had been misquoted: Anne Barrowclough, the journalist who wrote the article, had apparently not checked the quotation its alleged source. The Australian has made this correction. 

The original offending paragraph was:
“It is critical that the whole community is educated,” says Jennifer Burn of Anti-Slavery Australia. “The Koran does not support child marriage and the Grand Mufti of Australia says that consent is vital. But there are over 60 different traditions within the Muslim community, with different interpretations of the religious scriptures. We need the religious leaders to take the message into the communities, because they will listen to their leaders rather than us.”
The corrected paragraph is:
“It is critical that initiatives to address child marriage and forced marriage are developed in consultation with communities and with community leaders.”  
I have amended my previous post to inform readers about this correction.

I would also ask those who have reposted my earlier article to update their versions using the version at: http://markdurie.blogspot.com.au/2014/06/the-koran-and-child-marriage.html

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Mark Durie is a theologian, human rights activist, pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle Eastern Forum, and director of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness. He has published many articles and books on the language and culture of the Acehnese, Christian-Muslim relations and religious freedom. A graduate of the Australian National University and the Australian College of Theology, he has held visiting appointments at the University of Leiden, MIT, UCLA and Stanford, and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1992.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Koran and Child Marriage

Today a report appeared in The Australian, a national daily newspaper, which discussed forced marriages in our nation.  There were many good points made in this article, which was entitled It is the young flesh they want. [This article has now been amended - see below: changes paragraphs are in blue.]

However the article reported, as if it were true, a completely false and easily disprovable statement about the Koran.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Boko Haram and the Dynamics of Denial: Islam is not the victim here

It is a common refrain of pious Muslims in the face of atrocities done by other Muslims in the name of Islam that Islam must not be shamed: whenever an atrocity potentially dishonors Islam, non-Muslims are asked to agree that ‘This is not Islamic’ so that the honor of Islam can be kept pristine. However the real issue is not what would be good or bad for Islam’s reputation.  … Islam is not the victim here. The pressing issue here is not to get people to think well of Islam, but how these girls can be rescued, and above all how Boko Haram’s murderous rampage is to be halted.

This article was first published by Front Page Magazine.