Religious Coercion — Lies they spread about Islam

These days it has become almost comical to see pen-pushing zealots vying to draw our attention to prove how much (actually, how little) they know about Islam. Every John Doe now seems to have an ‘expert’ opinion about Islam. And most of these opinions tell more about the writer’s mentality — which are quite often prejudicial, anti-Muslim and hateful — than Islam.

David Warren [1] writes weekly columns in the Ottawa Citizen. As an American, living in the south side of the border, I have not known about his existence until a few hours ago when a friend of mine forwarded his latest essay that appeared on February 1 issue of the Ottawa Citizen [2]. There he wrote about a recently published book of Efraim Karsh (London’s King’s College). I wondered why someone would provide a positive review with high praises for a book that is written by an obsessed Zionist, bent on the mission to propagate the ‘civilization’ war! A quick search in the Internet gave me some hints. It appears that Warren is a Zionist sympathizer whose favorite three words are “He (Jesus) is arisen.” [What else? I should have known!] He is a believing Catholic and a professional journalist who is also an unabashed and dogged cheerleader for the so-called War on Terror (almost a rarity in Canada). With a tenth-grade education, his recently discovered passion for neo-conservative goals combined with anti-Muslim paranoia seems to have greatly helped his career as a professional journalist in the post-9/11 era.

Since I have not read Karsh’s book “Islamic Imperialism: A History” and don’t plan to waste either my time or my money reading or buying the book, I shall rely on Warren’s analysis for the gist of his message. Like his earlier work, the marks of Karsh’s prejudice against Islam and its people are everywhere.

Karsh says that the quest to establish Islamic Empire or “Allah’s Empire on Earth” by today’s (so-called) Islamist organizations draws its inspiration from its Prophet who said, "I was ordered to fight all men until they say, ‘There is no god but Allah.’" Warren writes, “And while it is true that wars have been fought over history to advance every known religion, including Buddhism, there is no other known religion … that preaches imposition of belief by force.”

How true are such accusations? Is the testimony of faith ‘there is no God but Allah’ any different from ‘The Lord our God is one Lord?’ (Deut. 6:4)

We know for a fact that Muhammad (S) did not fight against all men. More importantly, he forgave his arch enemies – those determined to kill him and his followers hitherto in Makkah (Mecca) and in many battle fields (after the nascent Islamic community was established in Madinah) –” when he marched with his 10,000 Companions into Makkah and conquered the city without any bloodshed. [For Biblical students: this event of the Conquest of Mecca was in fulfillment of the Biblical prophesy –” “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.” (Jude: 14)] That example from the life of the Prophet is something that can hardly be matched by the Biblical prophets that David and Efraim follow. Truly, a man is known in times of adversity and privilege. It is easy to sing ‘we shall overcome,’ but how many can truly overcome their passion for revenge, especially when they are victorious and have the upper hand to wreak vengeance? Yet, we find Muhammad (S) magnanimous to his former foes. In the words of historian Sayed Amir Ali, “But in the hour of his triumph every evil suffered was forgotten, every injury inflicted was forgiven, and a general amnesty was extended to the population of Makkah.” [The Spirit of Islam] Muhammad (S) forgave everyone, even those who killed his beloved uncle, Hamzah, mangled his body, ripped it open, and chewed a piece of his liver. He said, "This day, there is no REPROOF against you and you are all free." "This day" he proclaimed, "I trample under my feet all distinctions between man and man, all hatred between man and man."

When the Prophet was forced to migrate to Madinah (Medina) in the first year of Hijri (622 CE), a treaty (known as the Charter of Madinah) between Muslims, non-Muslim Arabs and Jews of Madinah was put into writing and ratified by all parties. It has been preserved by the historians. It stipulated that “the Jews shall maintain their own religion and the Muslims theirs… The valley of Yathrib (Medina) shall be sacred and inviolable for all that join this Treaty.” Thus, we find that far from religious coercion, the treaty stipulated a city state in Medina, allowing wide autonomy to all communities –” Muslims and non-Muslims.

I am aware that modern-day merchants of hatred paint the treaty as a gesture of expediency when Islam was weak. But history belies their assertion. No Christian, no Jew living in the Arabian Peninsula was coerced into embracing Islam when it became unrivalled. So, it was all too natural for Muhammad (S) to issue the Charter of Privileges to the Monks of St. Catherine who lived in a monastery on Mount Sinai (Jabl Musa). The Charter reads: “This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world)."

As one can see, this Charter consisted of several clauses covering all important aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of minorities living under Islamic rule, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war. No small matter when we reflect upon the fact that Muhammad (S) could have followed the Jewish and Christian predecessors of the Bible in exterminating all non-Muslims and destroying their churches (see, e.g., the books of Numbers: chapters 21, 31 and 33; Exodus 22:20, 34:13; Deut. 12:1-3, 13:9-10; Joshua and Judges). Nor should we be oblivious of the fact that the Charter was issued more than thirteen centuries before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated in 1948.

Still, who can stop the merchants of hatred from spreading their lies!

Thus, neither Karsh nor his bemused admirer Warren tells us anything about the scores of problem verses in the Bible (some cited above) justifying genocidal mass murder against people of other faiths. Nor do they tell us about what their Judeo-Christian prophets had preached and practiced. The Book of Exodus tells us that the children of Levi, under the direction of Moses, killed 3000 idolaters (32:27-28). Truly, if one were to look for the ’empire building’ mantra, one need not go outside the Bible. For instance, the statements of Jesus in the so-called New Testament (see, e.g., Luke 19:27) are enough to understand the minds of mass murderers of yesterdays, today, and tomorrow.

Let us look at President George W. Bush, a born-again Christian. His is a good example to understand the effect of religion (here Christianity) on a world leader of our time. He claims to hear the voice of Jesus, and all his acts relating to the Middle East since coming to power supposedly follow the directives of his lord! Those Jesus-sanctioned activities include among others – lying, distorting, misleading, wire-tapping, and murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us also not forget the use of White Phosphorus against the Iraqi civilians, and also the dehumanizing tortures, rapes and abuses in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Diego Garcia, Afghanistan and other torture cells around the world. He was also the person who condoned the murder of innocent civilians in Palestine and (more recently in Pakistan). No eyebrows were raised by him and his Judeo-Christian advisors in the White House and the Pentagon when thousands of innocent unarmed civilians –” infants, children and the elderly –” were killed by the trigger-happy Sharon’s war criminals from the IDF. Why should he condemn Sharon, a fellow war criminal, when he finds him more zealously — more than most Bible-thumping Christian fundamentalists who are funneling dirty money to — cleansing the Occupied Territory to prepare the coming of his lord – the Messiah? And what about those Palestinians (from the Occupied Territories) that even include people who claim to be Christians? No, they are expendable! They are not ‘real’ Christians; they are all enemies of Jesus; so, whatever Sharon has done is part of God’s work! All acts of mayhem are justifiable in the eyes of our lord Jesus! Amen!

To create an atmosphere of hate, its merchants constantly remind us about the mind-set of Islamic ’empire dreamers’ in Hamas and other (so-called) Islamist groups. No wonder that all on a sudden ‘Islamic Caliphate’ is a dirty phrase in English, too worrisome, too panicky for Judeo-Christian empire-pirates. No trepidation or unease is felt about the naked fact that not a single Muslim army today is in any country outside their own unless it be for a peace-keeping UN mission. But can we say the same thing for the armies of Judeo-Christian faith? Why are the Anglo-American forces in the Middle East? Why are there hundreds of military bases outside America today? Why are they against a nuclear-free world? This might be too much to ask of our modern warlords, equipped to the teeth with nuclear weapons. Let me ask a simpler question: why are they against nuclear-free Middle East? Why? Why? Who is practicing the mantra of ’empire-building?’ Sorry Karsh and Warren, I don’t see any Muslim there, but only the followers of Judeo-Christian faith doing their lord’s work! It is no fluke that in Karzai’s Afghanistan today, a country that did not have a single Christian, there are Christian Churches spreading like mushrooms.

Let these merchants of hatred reflect upon what Pandit Gyanandra Devsharma Shastri said at a meeting in Gorakhpur, British India, in 1928, on the coercion of religion, “The critics are blind. They cannot see that the only ‘sword’ Muhammad wielded was the sword of mercy, compassion, friendship and forgiveness – the sword that conquers enemies and purifies their hearts. His sword was sharper than the sword of steel.”

Similarly, historian De Lacy O’Leary said, "History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated." [Islam at the Crossroads, London, 1923, p.8]

Let me also repeat what a Sikh journalist wrote in the Nawan Hindustan (November 17, 1947): “Those who believe religion can be spread by force are fools who neither know the ways of religion nor the ways of the world. They are proud of this belief because they are a long, long way away from the truth.”

Unfortunately, the merchants of hatred only see fire instead of light in Islam, and ugliness instead of good. In their evil zealotry, they distort and present every good quality as a great vice. Such a mentality only reflects their own depravity, if not an unconstrained bigotry.

Lastly, let me comment on Warren’s absurd question about Islam and democracy: ‘can Islam and democracy coexist?’ I say ‘absurd’ because Islam was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for, in the mosque, when the call for prayer is sounded and worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the subject and ruler kneel side by side and proclaim: ‘Allahu Akbar’. The city state of Madinah embodied the very notion of the League of Nations and UN.

After the recent election in the Occupied Territories, Warren is more vociferous with his skepticism about the coexistence of democracy in Muslim societies. Such skepticism is simply snobbish and insulting. It only epitomizes his unbridled arrogance that democracy is not color-blind. Islam is a religion, much like any other religion practiced today. Democracy is a form of government like communism is in some parts of our world. Even if one were to ignore such distinctions between religion and politics, a more pertinent question would be: is Judeo-Christianity compatible with pluralism? If it is, can Warren and his idol explain the current events in Denmark and other parts of Europe? A related question is –” how sincere are Judeo-Christian warlords about democracy in other parts of the world? If they are serious, and democracy is good and noble, why are they constipated about the Hamas-win in the Palestinian election? The election result was neither an endorsement of terrorism nor for a government that imposes religious coercion, but simply a pragmatic assessment about which party is most likely to help Palestinians reach their basic goals of liberty, peace and prosperity. Shame on these hypocrites who now use food and aid as weapons to sabotage democratic aspiration and verdict of people! It is all about: my way or highway!

Warren in his website claims that his ‘three crucial quotes from the Bible are Isaiah, 46:4; Matthew, 22:37-40; & Revelation, 1:17-18.’ (King James Version.) Interestingly, in Matt. 22:40, Jesus is reported to have said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” What a mockery from the foot-soldiers of Christ working in cahoots with the drum-beaters of the Armageddon!

Have not we seen enough of these hypocrites?



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