Thursday, April 03, 2008

What I'm Reading

Yesterday, I cracked open a copy of "Religion of Peace? Islam's War Against The World" by Gregory M. Davis.
It's a pretty compelling read. He goes into the history of Islam by looking at the Koran - the word of Allah as told to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel - and at the Sunnah - the "way" of the prophet as told in the Hadiths, which are personal accounts of those who knew Muhammad. There is some very damning stuff in there, stuff that it is hard for someone raised in the Western Judeo-Christian ethic to get their mind around. That's one of the problems, according to the author - it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for those of a Western background to understand the core concepts of Islam because a religion that not only espouses but demands violent conquest and subjugation of unbelievers is completely foreign to us.
Sure, Christianity had its low points, its own massacres and violence, but those run contrary to the teachings of Christ and are exceptions rather than the rule. Jihad, or holy war is central to Islam's teachings and the encouragement of it in all forms is prevalent throughout the Koran and the Hadiths.
The author also explains the principle of abrogation - which of the Suras (chapters) of the Koran are to be followed, when there appears to be a contradiction - and there seem to be quite a lot. Islamic scholars generally agree that the later Suras take precedence. For example, in the beginning of his "calling" as a prophet, when his followers were few and his religion not yet well established, Muhammad made plenty of noises about tolerance and coexisting peacefully with those of other faiths. As Islam rose to ascendancy in the region, the Suras became more militant and less forgiving of other religions, and according to the principle of abrogation, these Suras take precedence over the earlier, kinder ones.
To confuse things further, the Koran is not ordered chronologically, but by the length of the Suras, starting with the longest first.
The Hadiths themselves are an excursion into horror, lovingly describing the atrocities performed under the guidance of Allah as Islam tears its way across the continent.
To those of us who cherish the separation of church and state, the concept of Islam and righteous (Sharia law) as the only way to order a society is completely foreign, just as it must seem bizarre to a muslim to see secular and religious power separated.
In all fairness, I suppose I should seek literature in favor of Islam too, to get a broader perspective. I think I'll also have a stab at reading the Koran - no pun intended...
However; the more I read, the less optimistic I am about being able to share the planet with Islam in peace.

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