How the train of thought began
My friendship with various Muslims, mainly women, teaches me that the most strident criticisms we read and hear in the west do not encompass the whole Muslim world, nor do they adequately address the way people go about their lives.
People in the west, ostensibly Christian, are concerned with job, money, house, car, travel, the football, home furnishings, nightclubbing, the opposite sex and so on and that's no different for the Muslims I know.
Foibles, yes, stubbornness, yes, misplaced ideas about everything we also have misplaced ideas about - there are the devout and the not so devout. I once asked a lady if she was religious; it was like a foreign element had been introduced:
"Well, yes, I'm Muslim. It's the religion of my family. What do you want? I love my country and wouldn't want to leave for any great length of time."
So, from this, I'm no closer to understanding why all the troubles around the world.
Fanaticism versus moderation
In 1993 I was in a cottage in the north of
Then, from up the road, I heard shouting and the kids stopped and up to them came a man of about
The kids started one or two at a time to join in and then in unison to shout songs in a sort of chant as they all went down the steep hill, the man passionately clapping, urging and whipping them into a frenzy, as I imagine the Druids might have done. He was walking first in front of them, then to the side, then to the other side, not unlike a dark sheepdog.
Judaic friends won't like me writing of this that but it happened and it was not isolated and it brought back memories of years earlier when I'd taught in an orthodox Jewish school. And therein lies the real issue, I think - Orthodoxy.
Fanatical Orthodoxy - unquestioning, unreasoning and I'm going to use another word here - rabid.
So where does that leave me? I am also Orthodox. I "know" that there is a trinity and that accepting the Word leads to undoubted happiness. I "know" this because I live it every day. I know there is a Comforter who comes in time of need. That makes me a very strange person, no?
But somehow I'm not into the happy clapping, the chanted verses and the mindless devotion and neither was JC himself. He warned people not to get into "vain repetitions" as they do at the temple nor to parade their religion. Just to quietly go about doing good [the good Samaritan] and thus the Christian ministry is well known by its fruits, good and bad.
It's the evangelical aspect which I'm most uncomfortable with. The whole notion of preaching it, as distinct from just simply presenting it, is anathema to me. It seems to me that it's far better to just go about your business doing what good you can and being tolerant of your neighbour and if the question arises, you can say what religion you are.
A Christian Tale
When I was a head teacher there were constant complaints coming to me about one particular new teacher and the substance was that she was preaching Christianity to the children. As a Christian myself, in
That was, until I paid a spot visit to her and was horrified. They were too young to be "converted" but she was having them sing hymns in the classroom in an arithmetic lesson and the thing which struck me was how vehement she was.
When we had a talk in my room later, she was intractable and chagrined that I, who considered myself a Christian, was not implementing Christian Sharia in the school. She left in high dudgeon, convinced I was working for the other side, the devil incarnate.
With such people, imposition, teaching, force, compulsion, total conviction which brooks no questioning voice, this is the daily bread and butter of their evangelism.
I want no part of it.
Clearly the secular Muslims, and they're the ones I know and like, are no different to you and me, except for certain observances during the year and we do that too. Big deal.
So where's the problem? The first problem is when a religion, first promulgated many centuries ago, is imposed by law in the current day and all the observances and outdated claptrap is also imposed by force.
Nothing wrong with the ideals themselves. Have you really, really read the Sermon on the Mount? The hardest words I can find there are:
"Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery in his heart". Hmmm. Think I'm damned then, like Jimmy Carter or:
"Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for fornication, causeth her to commit adultery".
Or if you buy anything on a Sunday, you're causing those shopgirls, indirectly, to break the Sabbath. That's why I buy nothing on a Sunday.
These are hard sayings and what about:
"And if thine right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee."
Pretty violent, huh? So, do you see Christians walking up to people, offering them a dagger and saying: "OK, you know what to do."
The second problem is where a substantial, i.e. threatening minority, of one religion comes into a country where another religion and culture is the norm and attempts to spread, rather than just observing their faith in their own way. I include both Muslim and Christian here but strangely, not the Jews.
My Headmistress at the Jewish school I once taught asked me why I refused to wear the kippar in the synagogue. She asked if I thought she was trying to convert me and smiled:
"We have enough Jews to deal with at the moment, James. We don't need any more just now."What could I say? I wore the kippar into the synagogue, just as I now take off my shoes and wear a cap in the mosque.
Some selections from scripture
In the ancient monotheistic religions, there are verses urging peace and mutual understanding and then there are … well, there are the others. It is these others which are seized on by the fanatics.
In the following, Red = Muslim, Green = Jewish and Purple = Christian:
"And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they first fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them." [Surah 2:190-193]
"The gentiles are outside the protection of the law and God has exposed their money to
." [Baba Kamma 37b] Israel
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." [John 13:34]
"No two religions are to exist on the Arab peninsula." [Ibn Kathir d. 1372]
If a Jew is tempted to do evil he should go to a city where he is not known and do the evil there. [Moed Kattan 17a]
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." [John 15:12]
"Kill the disbelievers wherever we find them." [Surah 2:191]
"If a heathen (gentile) hits a Jew, the gentile must be killed." [Sanhedrin 58b]
"Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently." [1 Peter 1:22]
"Not to make friendship with Jews and Christians" [Surah 5:51]
"Gentile girls are in a state of niddah from birth." [Abodah Zarah 36b]
"And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another." [2 John 1:5]
"I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: you smite them above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them." [Surah, 8:12]
"All gentile children are animals." [Yebamoth 98a]
"But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." [Matthew 6: 7, 8]
"Kill [even] the good among the gentiles." [R. Shimon ben Yochai]
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. [Ephesians 6: 12, 13]
"O Prophet! Make war against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be merciless against them. Their home is hell, an evil refuge indeed." [Surah, 9:73]
"She who was the descendant of princes and governors played the harlot with carpenters." [Sanhedrin 106a] Referring to Mary.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. [Matthew 28: 18-20 - this one is disliked by the Jews and Muslims.]
"When we decide to destroy a population, we send a definite order to them who have the good things in life and yet sin. So that Allah's word is proven true against them, then we destroy them utterly." [Surah, 17:16-17]
Scriptural interpretations, esp. today
And in which way do the other two religions consider the third errs today?
Accusation against Israel
Injustice leads to injustice and a sin leads to another. First,
Accusation against Christians
Dr. Trasta Breganka Kunha, a Catholic citizen of Goa writes, "In spite of all the mutilations and concealment of history, it remains an undoubted fact that religious conversion of Goans is due to methods of force adopted by the Portuguese to establish their rule. As a result of this violence the character of our people was destroyed. The propagation of Christian sect in
Accusations against Muslims
More moderate pleas for peace and reconciliation
Of course not everyone is a fanatic. Just a small minority who whip the others into a frenzy. I am currently corresponding with a Sudanese Muslim girl. The voice of reason can be heard in each of the religions. Here are some examples:
"Our philosophy asserts that every human being is created in the image of the Lord and the primacy of integrity and honesty in all dealings without exception. I strongly repudiate any assertions in the name of Judaism that do not represent and reflect this philosophy." [Rabbi Malkiel Kotler, Dean of
"Of the five fingers that Almighty G-d has given most of us on each hand, if we point one at
"First, to address the apparently irreconcilable difference between how Christians have seen Muhammad's life - as a sinner's guide - and how Muslims see his life, as a noble example, Christians should read such biographies as Martin Lings' Muhammad, or Karen Armstrong's." [Clinton Bennett www. geocities. com/clintonbennett/ Lectures/Muhammad.htm]
I can only speak as a Christian but in the criticism of Christian missionaries by Dr. Trasta Breganka Kunha [above], I also see the woman I fired for her manner of evangelizing children in our school.
I can only conclude that when the more distasteful references in each of the scriptures are seized as justifications by people who are not completely calm and rational in their own general demeanour, for the purpose of either evangelism, exclusivity, killing or revenge, then that is contrary to the overall spirit of those scriptures.
In the Jewish school I worked in, my best friend was Rabbi Steven Levy and where could you hope to find a more rational, reasonable man? Here one of my best friends is a Muslim lady who is of a similar outlook. I've known some fine Christians and Humanists.
The world should be in the hands of such moderates, the calm and the open-minded but not the degenerate - people of recognized integrity, decency and moderation in their field.
Look, it can all be explained by Krikkit. And what exactly is Krikkit, for those born in another galaxy who don't know?
After ten billion years, sentient life evolved on Krikkit, blissfully unaware of the concept of 'others'. Slowly nurtured by Hactar, the Krikkiters eventually discovered a universe beyond their sun, and since it conflicted with their concept of life, the universe and everything, they decided to get rid of it - the rest of the universe, that is.
Ford continued, picking up his early fierce momentum as best he could.
"The point is," he said, "that people like you and me, Slartibartfast, and Arthur - particularly and especially Arthur - are just dilletantes, eccentrics, layabouts, fartarounds if you like."
Slartibartfast frowned, partly in puzzlement and partly in umbrage. He started to speak.
"- ..." is as far as he got.
"We're not obsessed by anything, you see," insisted Ford.
"And that's the deciding factor. We can't win against obsession. They care, we don't. They win."
"I care about lots of things," said Slartibartfast, his voice trembling partly with annoyance, but partly also with uncertainty.
"Well," said the old man, "life, the Universe. Everything, really. Fjords."
"Would you die for them?"
"Fjords?" blinked Slartibartfast in surprise. "No."
"Wouldn't see the point, to be honest."
"And I still can't see the connection," said Arthur, "with whelks."
Ford could feel the conversation slipping out of his control, and refused to be sidetracked by anything at this point.
"The point is," he hissed, "that we are not obsessive people, and we don't stand a chance against ..."
"Except for your sudden obsession with whelks," pursued Arthur, "which I still haven't understood."
"Will you please leave whelks out of it?"
"I will if you will," said Arthur. "You brought the subject up."
"It was an error," said Ford, "forget them. The point is this."
He leant forward and rested his forehead on the tips of his fingers.
"What was I talking about?" he said wearily.
"Let's just go down to the party," said Slartibartfast, "for whatever reason." He stood up, shaking his head.
"I think that's what I was trying to say," said Ford.