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Friday, October 28, 2011

MyPeace on Australian TV and "Islamic Values"

mypeace.com.au is an Australian dawah (i.e. missionary) website.  It is designed to invite people to convert to Islam.  Disingenuously it states that it exists to "address the many misconceptions about Islam".

MyPeace is unashamed in declaring the superiority of its beliefs.  For example mypeace.com.au characterizes Christian beliefs as 'blasphemous', 'distorted' and 'extreme'.  It also speaks of the Islamic Christ, who when he returns will, by military force destroy all other religions, and usher in a utopia of Muhammadan sharia law across the earth.  Furthermore, 'only Muslims today actually follow Jesus and his true teachings. Their way of life is much more in tune with the way of life Jesus practiced than any of the modern day “Christians."'  In order words, Islam is the true Christianity.

This is an example of how MyPeace 'addresses misconceptions' about Islam.

MyPeace grabbed national attention with a series of billboards in Sydney earlier this year.

This week it is about to launch a TV ad campaign.  The ad can be viewed here.

The text of the ad is:
 [Qur'an:]
"To save one life is as though you have saved all of humanity". [Sura 5:32]
"Show kindness to your parents, just as they cherished you in childhood." [Sura 17:23-24]
[Muhammad:]
"Give in charity of the good things you earn"
"Even a smile is charity"

"Explore the real values of Islam at mypeace.com.au"
The text is read by a man with a broad Australian accent over scenes of:
  • a lifesaver saving a young boy in the Australian surf, 
  • an elderly (unveiled) woman who has a shawl put around her shoulders to warm her, and 
  • someone giving charity to a destitute young man.
Islam is based upon the Quran and the teachings and actions of Muhammad.  The ad neatly reflects this.  Australians should be more aware of both the Quran and Muhammad's life and witness.

In the interests of 'addressing misconceptions' about Islam, I offer the full text of Sura 5:32-34, which is the first passage from which the TV advertisement quotes:
For this reason [i.e. Cain killing Abel] did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men; and certainly Our apostles came to them with clear arguments, but even after that many of them certainly act extravagantly in the land.

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement. 
Except those who repent before you have them in your power; so know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (Sura 5:32-34)
This cheery text includes a quote, somewhat altered, but still unmistakeable (in bold above) from the Talmud:
"Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a)
There is multiple irony in MyPeace's advertisement.  First the 'life-saver' verse  is in fact a Jewish text.  Second this verse is followed by and conjoined to a verse which calls for apprehending, killing, crucifying, and chopping off fingers and limbs of those who oppose Allah and Muhammad 'in the land'.

In reality verse 32 aims its message against Jews (and perhaps also Christians), of whom it is said that Allah's 'apostles came to them with clear arguments'.  What  should happen to such as these who 'make mischief in the land'? (v.32).  The answer is found in the next verse: those who behave badly 'in the land'  should be killed, mutilated or crucified.  Well, except for those who convert to Islam (i.e. those who 'repent' see Ibn Kathir on verse 34):  it is acceptable to let those who convert keep their fingers, arms, legs, lives and liberty.

Ibn Kathir goes on to report the view that this verse is in fact a warning against taking the life of a Muslim (but not of non-Muslims, because their lives are not protected in Islam like the lives of Muslims):
He who allows himself to shed the blood of a Muslim, is like he who allows shedding the blood of all people. He who forbids shedding the blood of one Muslim, is like he who forbids shedding the blood of all people
This is not a Nice Verse.

MyPeace is to be commended for bringing such an interesting and important passage to the attention of the Australian public.  But they did not go far enough: let them present the whole passage to ordinary Australians, together with the interpretations of great Muslim scholars  (such as Ibn Kathir) so that popular misconceptions about Islam can be eradicated in Australia.

Or else, if MyPeace's goal is just to give a positive spin to Islam, they might like to reconsider leading with another verse, and stay clear of Sura 5:32.

6 comments:

  1. The Australian public's conception of the violent Islam is a legitimate one resulting from the many Islamic theologically biased acts of violence manifested by practicing Muslims who have scholarly knowledge of Islam. My- Peace need to address these issues to those Muslims who practice this hateful violent acts, rather than to the Australian peaceful public. Shifting the legitimate concerns of the Australian public into an accusation of misconception - at a time when practicing Muslims are slaughtering the Copts of Egypt, massacring the Assyrians of Iraq, beheading Islam leavers, defending young girl's forced marriage - can only be read as projection and deceive to the Australian public.

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  2. If I see one of these ads, I will contact the channel, tell them of my strong objections to the ad (using the information above about the misleading use of the text), and also tell them that I will contact other sponsors of any programs during which I see the ad to say that I will not watch those programs as long as the channel continues to show the ad. If enough people voice their objections to channels and sponsors, we might make an impact.

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  3. My Peace is doing a wonderful job Durie. If you have a problem with that, that is your headache. They have every right to address the issue as they please and might I add they address it wonderfully.Your post reeks of your own insecurities.

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  4. To Anonymous, comment no. 3. Your comment is a good example to the Australian public on the new rules of the game that they are being introduced to. No Anonymous, it is not Durie's problem alone, it is the Australian public's problem. No Anonymous, in a society that respects the individual and values telling the truth, my-peace are not free to to address the issue with deception. In Australia, the game is played by different rules. Australians make others accountable when they chose to address the public. In Australia integrity counts and lack of integrity will be openly criticised.

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  5. How can you condemn the demonisation of religious minorities in Muslim countries, while at the same time doing all you can to demonise a religious minority in your own country? I'm sorry, but someone who has one rule for themself and another one for others is just not credible. Please note that I would say the same thing if I read an article by a Muslim who was baiting Christians and insinuating that they followed underhanded tactics designed to destroy Muslims, as this article does the other way around.

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  6. Bob S. - I normally don't allow ad hominem attacks and personal vilification in comment posts (see guidelines in italics above), but in this case I'm glad to reply to your personal attack on me.
    First it is not the 'demonization' of 'minorities' which I normally write about, but incitement against them and active persecution. My issue with persecution of Christians in Muslim lands is not that some Muslims consider Christians to be evil, but that Christian's human rights are trampled upon.

    Second, I made no comment about Australian Muslims at all. I certainly did not characterize them as 'evil' or 'demonic'. My beef was with MyPeace's add. And even with that, what I gave were truthful, accurate reflections about MyPeace's own statements, about relevant contextual contents of the Qur'an (it is wrong to take verses of scriptures out of context), and about a respected commentator on the Qur'an (Ibn Kathir).
    None of these I characterised as evil or demonic. I do confess I said it was 'not nice'.

    Do YOU feel Ibn Kathir's interpretation of this passage is 'demonic', or that what MyPeace has to say about Christianity was 'demonic', or that the context of Sura 5:32 in the Qur'an is 'evil'? Are YOU not demonizing the Qur'an, MyPeace and Ibn Kathir by claiming that my factual report is demonization?

    Third, I don't believe MyPeace is 'underhand' (i.e. deceptive). The claim to be 'addressing misconceptions' is nevertheless disingenuous (less than straightforward) because MyPeace is a missionary website: its goal is not to inform but to convert. They are not dishonest, but nevertheless not candid either. It is their right to proselytize. And rational and reasonable that others could challenge their message and evaluate it in the light of the Qur'an and of course on the basis of what MyPeace's own words.

    Third, I did not insinuate that MyPeace is deploying tactics designed to destroy Christians. What an appalling suggestion - again you demonize them by suggesting that the drawing attention to the context of their quote implies such a thing.

    My point was more specific - that the verse they cited occurs in the context of verses in the Qur'an which are hostile to those who oppose Islam. It is an irony that they would use such a verse to promote positive regard for Islam. You don't think that is ironic?

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