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Religion: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes “Slaves be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh” (Ephesians 6:5). Elsewhere in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes “Slaves in all things obey yours master on earth (Colossians 3:22). Nowadays, of course, no Christian takes seriously those remarks by the Apostle Paul. What is intriguing about Islam is that there are so many Muslims who hold the view that the Coran should be taken literally even when the Coran requires or recommends a form of behavior that nowadays we rightly deemed to be ever so morally indefensible. In the French newspaper Le Point, the following article appeared on-line : “Pakistan : une foule enragée tue et brûle un couple de chrétiens” (“Pakistan : An outraged crowd kills and burns a [married] Christian couple”)

The married couple was killed and burned for having profaned the Coran.

As much as anyone, I hold that the biblical texts of a religious tradition should be accorded a modicum of basic respect. So, for instance, neither the Coran nor the Bible nor the Torah should be used as a doorstop. But I am curious as to why across the board Islam has not made the kind of reasonable progression that Judaism and Christianity have made in terms of how we treat other human beings.

As I have already said : No Christian nowadays thinks for a moment that any form of slavery is justified. And the truth of the matter is that the Coran is not filled with one passage after another, page after page, about how the non-believer should be brutally treated. At Surah 2:221, we find the words “A man slave who believes [in Allah] is better than a non-believer”—a claim which sounds more familiar than not to the claims about slavery attributed to the Apostle Paul mentioned above.

However, if one takes the Coran literally, then the following passage might offer some insight : Surah 4 : 56 : Those who reject our Signs we shall cast into the Fire.

On this view, no decency at all is owed to the person who does not embrace Islam, from which it can be “thought” to follow that harming the non-believer in Islam simply does not constitute a wrong ; and surely the “we” in the quote is not Allah, but mere mortals who are Muslim. Clearly, something like this view is embraced by sufficiently many people of the Islamic faith ; and at this point in time that difference constitutes a sharp difference between Islam and Christianity as well as Islam and Judaism. It is not uncommon to read “Convert to Islam killed or tried to kill someone who is not Muslim”. Recently, in France there is the article “French Jewish Girl Converts to Islam, Joins Islamic State, tries to Kill Her Parents”. And there is the story of the male convert to Islam who in Oklahoma who cut off a woman’s head.

Of course, there countless many converts to Islam these days who do not kill anyone. But the contrast is that there is no respect all in which converts to either Christianity or Judaism are thought to be inclined to kill someone merely on account of the depth of their religious conversion. While it must surely be the case that such thing has happened at some point or the other, a Google search in that regard does not turn up anything. Interestingly, though, a Google search will turn up cases where a parent has killed a child who converted to Islam.

Let me conclude this blog entry with a parallel observation about the Jewish female who converted to Islam and then tried to kill her parents as well as the man who converted to Islam. Whatever else is true, that behavior by the female reflects an unspeakable level of moral callousness on her part. A like claim holds for the male. This, in turn, reveals something rather troubling about a conception of Islam that sufficiently many Muslims embrace, namely that there is a conception of Islam that either (a) is compatible with nourishing hatred towards someone simply on account of the fact that the person is not Muslim or that (b) deems as quite morally excusable horrific acts of wrongdoing committed against a non-Muslim. And the proof of this is that neither in France or the United States was there an outcry on the part of Muslims with regard to the respective behaviors committed by the Muslim converts mentioned above. And what we all know is that a lack of disapproval is often enough tantamount to none other than a form of approval.

Am I running around full of anger at my present or former Muslim students or Muslims generally ? Absolutely not. Au contraire, there many Muslims whom I profoundly admire, whereas there other Muslims whom I simply know en passant but have no reason whatsoever not to have basic respect towards them. A part of living well consists in making distinctions that are ever so appropriate. And I would mightily distance myself from and morally frown upon anyone, no matter how that person is configured either ethnically or religiously, who approved of willfully killing an innocent person. So far, the opportunity to do so has never presented itself ; and I hope that it never does.

© Laurence Thomas

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