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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

When Ignorance is not bliss, but rather pure bigotry and shame

A recent Associated Press story stated that about two dozen Oklahoma lawmakers plan to return copies of the Qur'an to a state panel on diversity created by Gov. Brad Henry after a lawmaker claimed the Muslim holy book condones the killing of innocent women and children.

The lawmaker, Rep. Rex Duncan, is obviously ignorant. Hey, there is no shame in being ignorant. We all are ignorant about many things. But it is a disaster when one is in denial of his/her ignorance and even makes judgments and bigoted decisions based on that ignorance. There is absolutely not a single verse in the Qur'an that condones the killing of any innocent people, including women and children. If anything, Islamic teachings clearly and strongly stresses the value and sanctity of every human life. Even in times of defensive just wars, Muslims are unequivocally forbidden from harming women, children, the old, non-combatants, the wounded, animals, and even the environment.

Rep. Duncan went on spewing more lies and hate, saying: "we never hear those...Muslims opposing the practice of violence on innocent people".
Mr. Duncan, do yourself a favor and read the following site to learn about some of the efforts Muslims undertook in face of terrorism.

Well, this lawmaker's shameful ignorance did not stop here (some politicians just don't know when to stop talking). When asked if there was any double standard since lawmakers received a Centennial copy of the Bible earlier in the year from The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, Rep. Duncan was quoted saying:

"Mine is proudly on my desk on the Capitol and I don't think I ever read a part of it that condones the killing of women and children in furtherance of God's word."

Here is another proof that Duncan does not read much, if any. To say that Christian teachings (like that of Islam and Judaism) forbid the harming of innocent people, including women and children, will be accurate. But to say that he never read a part of the Bible that condones such killing is definitely inaccurate. Either Duncan never really opened the Bible gift given to him (what kind of a claimed Christian must he be? Probably a politician who panders to the Christian Right!), or he is reading a different Bible than the one I studied in my Christian schools.

Like all scriptures (and probably more than others), the Bible carries many verses dealing with violence. Such verses tend to be manipulated by extremists to justify their radical and violent views and actions. The Holocaust, slavery, the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and even the murdering of abortion doctors are all a result of such twisted interpretations. Rep. Duncan, don't feel singled out, such radicals exist in every religion. But to claim that such text does not exist is really dumb. Sorry, I had to use that word.
I strongly suggest reading: Beware sensational translations of holy verse, torn out of context

Here is a sample of such verses in the Bible:

In the New Testament, Jesus was quoted saying:

I come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled (Luke 12:49)

But those my enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me (Luke 19:27)

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all thing that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be they wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt 13: 41-42)

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I come not to send peace, but a sword (Matt 10: 33-34)

The Old Testament includes:

Ezekiel 9:4-6. And the Lord said unto him... Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; ...and begin at my sanctuary.

I Samuel 15:2,3. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ...Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

Isaiah 13:15-16. Everyone that is found shall be thrust through; ...Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.

Hosea 13:16. Their infants shall be dashed in pieces and their women with child shall be ripped up.

Numbers 31:17-18. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that has known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves (as concubines).

Psalm 137:9. Happy shall he be, that takes and dashes their little ones against the stones. [the Babylonians' children.]

Exodus 35:2 states the anyone working on the Sabbath should be put to death.

Leviticus 20:13 "If a man lies with a male, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Deuteronomy 13:6-8, 8-9 'If your brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife tries to secretly entice you, telling you to go and worship other gods, gods of people living near you, or far from you, or anywhere on earth, do not listen to him.' 'You must kill them. Show them no pity. And your hand must strike the first blow.'

Again, such verses do not define the Christian teachings of peace and forgiveness. But the truth is that those verses are part of the Bible. As a Muslim, I am taught to learn about others based on their interpretation of their religious beliefs, not based on the actions of the fringe followers. (I wish Rep. Duncan follows that rule too)

The ignorance expressed by Rep. Duncan is certainly not bliss this time. It is pure bigotry and shame. There was a time when lawmakers were true leaders; leaders who were expected to be intelligent, informed, wise, uniting, and with common sense. Gone are the good old days.
Today, some of those false "leaders" lead by their ignorance and by the fear of the "other" that they instill in their constituencies.

Fortunately, most Christians that I know and closely associate with (including family members and friends), do not follow Rep. Duncan's deformed brand of Christianity which preaches hatred toward others.

At the end of the AP story, spokesman Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations was quoted saying:

"It just points to the amount of education about Islam and the American Muslim community that is needed in all levels in our society, including elected officials."

I could not have said it any better. He just is much more diplomatic than me.


Zena said...

How dare you. You don't have a clue what is meant by the 'separation of church and state', or religious tolerance. Or you don't care. If you are going to live in our country I suggest you LEARN. I would be highly insulted by being given such a gift. It would be suggesting my values are not right because they are not YOUR values. And if they aren't going to use them, what in the hell would they do with them? Throw them in the trash, burn them? Then you could be insulted and raise hell, or is it ok as long as you don't know what they do with them, as long as they take them? What kind of a statement was your community trying to make with such an outrageous act? You just wanted to start a religious war here in Oklahoma? If you want to do that, then read OUR bible and go after the Catholics and the Southern Baptist Convention people who mouth the words but don't live by them. Then you can have a bloody war on your hands....and I just might support you on that one. Have a great day.

Hussam Ayloush said...

Hi Zena,
Thank you for writing.

I think that you did not fully read the comment. The objection was not about the fact that Rep. Duncan rejected the gift (he has all the right to do so), but rather about the ignorant and hateful comments he made in response to the gift offer. (ie the false claim that the Quran calls for the killing of women and children and that Muslims have not condemned terrorism).

I personally have 5 gift copies of the Bible, including one in Arabic, I also have 2 Books of Mormon (in Arabic and English). I am so honored that so many friends gave me a gift that is so valuable to them. It does not mean that I have to consider it a sacred text or that I have to convert to Christianity or that I reject my own sacred text.

It only means that I am secure enough in my faith that another religious text does not make be feel threatened. It also means that I appreciate the religious diversity and pluralism we have in America and this should encourages all of us to be more open and respectful to other faith groups.

The purpose of the 'separation of church and state' is to ensure that government does not treat any religion in a preferred way or that public money is not spent to promote any specific belief. In this case, similar groups were allowed to distribute the Bible to all lawmakers, and in both cases, the Quran and the Bible copies were funded through private funding and not taxpayers' money. Of course, the main part is that in both of those cases, the purpose was to educate and not to convert or promote any religion.

As a nation, we need to value the great history of religious tolerance and diversity we have and make sure that we continue to uphold this value which makes our country the great model to so many other countries in the world.
This is going to take a lot of education, dialogue, and maturity from all of us.

Kathleen said...

I was raised a Catholic and am familiar with mostly the new testament and the Gospels we heard each Sunday. I never heard any kind of violence emphacized and I am alarmed when I hear some fundamentalest preachers talk of the sword of Christ. I find it so foreign to the teachings of my childhood and even my young adult faith. As a person who has grown with the idea of accepting all people and at times was troubled by the "one true faith" teachings of my Catholic upbringing I was very happy when Pope John started the ecumenical movement which brought a reconciliation of faiths to Catholicism where Catholics and non-Catholics were brought together to find oneness in belief in one God. I'm sorry at the time that Muslims were not included. I am only of late finding out that Jews, Christians and Muslims share the same prophets and Muslims unlike Christians and Jews revere all the prophets and unlike the Jews also honor Jesus. I was very happy and honored to receive a copy of the Quran when it was offered to me.I keep my Bible, a gift I got almost 50 years ago from a boy while I was in high school, with a beautiful copy of the Quran I got last year. I understand only now how the 3 religions are related in our faiths and as are our origins, many practices, rituals and teachings are naturally similar.
Zena is the one who apparently does not understand the word, "religious tolerance".

Shaun said...

I suppose that I’ve become cynical enough to expect our elected officials to behave in the manner of Rep. Rex Duncan. However, I grieve every time I read of actions similar to his. His statement "we never hear those...Muslims opposing the practice of violence on innocent people," is accurate with the modification of one simple pronoun: change the “we” to an “I” and his argument is most likely right on the money. Either his mind, and thus his ears, have been closed to this verbal opposition, or (forbid us to say), the bureaucracy in which he has wrapped around himself as a politician has closed out any concern, voice or view that doesn’t belong to the “majority” of his constituency.
Furthermore, his actions, while being rude and discriminatory, demonstrate a lack of any form of logical or rational thinking. Is it not his duty to be informed about anything that he might feel is a threat to the constituency who elected him? Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, chairman of the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council created by Gov. Brad Henry, as stated in the Associated Press article sited, said the gift was a way to introduce the council to lawmakers so they can use it as a resource to "serve their offices and constituents," If he truly felt that Islam was a threat to his community should he not accept those texts as a resource and become as familiar with them as possible so to more fully “understand the mind of his enemy?”
I need not reiterate spokesman Ibrahim Hooper’s statements regarding education. I myself was amazed when I learned in college that while Christian Europe was in the middle of the Dark Ages, the light of the Islamic faith was burning strong and maintaining the learning of previous generations. Were these facts being kept from me as a student until it was felt that I could “handle it?” I would like to think not, but as James W. Loewen has stated in Lies My Teacher Told Me, history before the post-secondary level in not necessarily geared toward teaching students the truth, but toward how to be a good American citizen, and that most history teachers aren’t even aware of this discrepancy.
Finally, I’m amazed at the comment that “Zena’s” posted. Did she and I even read the same article? How did she even find your blog? Her arguments boiled down to “you had better learn MY kind of tolerance, or shut up and go away!” I suppose the unfettered, free exchange of ideas should be upheld regardless of what kind of whack-jobs crawl out of the woodwork, but wow! Do you suppose the handle of “Zena” might be a hidden reference to “xenophobe?” Tolerance, people, tolerance!