Monday, January 18, 2010

Two stories you might want to chew over, Part I:

As a regular visitor to, the website of The Times of London, I read one story on Sunday with particular interest.

The article claims that Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, of a group called Minhaj-ul-Quran, has written a 600-page document which declares that attacks on innocent citizens are "absolutely against the teachings of Islam." Such a statement is clearly a good thing and will be welcomed almost universally outside of Islam. I am greatly encouraged that finally a mainstream Muslim group has taken a stance on the highly divisive and worrying matters of terrorism and extremism.

We are told that Islam is a religion of peace, and this in turn allows people to turn and deliver what they see as a winning blow by declaring such a title to be preposterous given the appararent Muslim predilection for blowing things up and treating women as sub-human. But I don't see things that way. I reserve my judgement until I have learned a significant amount more than I know at the present. Yes, terrible things are done by Muslims, any maybe even disproportinately so compared to the rest of the world's religions, but wasn't Christianity as a whole absolutely vile to the Jews in the Middle Ages? Now that the wild excesses of Christianity have subsided, it has become a relatively placid faith, but it too was a cause for rampant murder and strife centuries ago. We would do well not to judge Islam by it's fundamentalists. Yes, if we look to the Koran we will find numerous 'proofs' that it is, by nature, a violent religion. but so too are the Torah and the New Testament replete with verses that appear extreme. The key is in the interpretation. If Islam can prove itself to be, at its core, a religion of peace, then that is what its Imams and clerics must do at a time when its name is being seemingly besmirched by a violent and noisy minority. We hear so often of the silent majority, but there is no need for this to be a reality. Certainly not in the twenty-first century.

As a religious Jew, I obviously believe my religion to be the one true religion, but that doesn't mean that I see other religions as being totally, utterly evil. Nor does it mean that I perceive other religions' followers to be beyond hope. It is not against Judaic thought in any way to believe that a righteous gentile can be much, much closer to God than a Jew; and there are surely many such cases.

As such, while I think that Muslims have got this religion thing hopelessly wrong, (and no doubt they think much the same of me,) I don't feel the need to let them know that Judaism is the one true path — there's simply no point. Similarly, I don't think there's much point trying to sell Zionism to a nation who feel, rightly or wrongly, that this ideology violates their own rights. That's not to say that if a Muslim wants a reasoned debate with me on Zionism I will refuse, merely that I don't go out of my way to convince others as to the relative merits of my belief systems.

But while I feel that I need not justify Zionism, I applaud Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri for his actions. He doesn't need to explain Islam to anyone else — it is his belief that being a Muslim is the correct way of life and he is entitled to it. What I applaud him for, however, is that he has decided to take a stance against those extremists who are hijacking his religion. (And I give Islam the benefit of the doubt here, because there is a doubt in my mind as to whether it truly is the vicious religion it is sometimes made out to be.) When I originally read this article, I accessed the Times website from my mobile phone. Beacuse of the limitations of mobile phone techonology, the Times' mobile internet site is stripped down and I didn't see the picture of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri that accompanies this article on the website when accessed from a regular computer. I worried that this man wouldn't be an orthodox Muslim, but would turn out to be some kind of reformist.

Having seen the picture now, it would seem that he is an orthodox Muslim, though. My concern was that had he not been a man who represented orthodox Islam, he would have been accused of selling out to the Western world and Western ideology. In much the same way that I regard the conservative and reform Judaism with deep distrust, (for I believe that they are constantly distancing themselves from original Judaism,) I am happy that this man seems to be a part of the orthodox Muslim establishment. If (orthodox) Islam really is a "Religion of Peace," then it needs to be proactive and make sure that all those who act violently in its name are thoroughly denounced. It seems unlikely that honour killings and suicide bombings can be actively prevented by the fundamentalists' fellow Muslims, but an atmosphere in which such heinous activities are branded as utterly unacceptable might help.

To be continued...


  1. I have a question concerning zionism and the creation of a Jewish state. Here it goes:

    Why does having a state make the Jews more "free" than they were before Israel's creation? Why did the Jews choose to create a state to escape their persecution in Europe instead of fighting for their rights in the places they lived? There were many anti-zionist Jewish organizations that wanted to do exactly that, such as the Jewish Labor Bund (a socialist/syndicalist Jewish group in imperial Russia which was destroyed by Lenin and the state socialists). If you compare the Bundist movement with the zionist movement you'll see that zionism was very much a bourgeois movement (the first zionist settlers, if I recall, were somewhat wealthy Jewish lawyers and scholars) while the anti-zionist bundist movement was made up of the Jewish proletariat. And about forming a Jewish state - states are created by the ruling class to protect the interests of the ruling class (the bourgeoise). There is a reason why nation-states arose in Europe almost immediately after capitalism and the start of the great class divide arose in Europe. That fact is not an accident.

    I'm not a Muslim or an ethnic Arab; I'm a non-religious follower of anarchist philosophy. I don't think Israel's existence or the existence of any state for that matter is morally justified in any way. We should stop clinging to our nation-states and work for participatory democracy so that states are abolished once and for all.

    So again, how does having a state make the Jewish people freer than if they were to have stayed in Europe and the Arab countries and fought for their right to be Jews there? I would like to hear the other side.

  2. Hi Julia,

    First off, I'd like to thank you for your reasonable approach. You might describe yourself as anarchist but you seem anything but unreasonable - although it may be attacking in nature, I really appreciate your measured and respectful question. So thank you for being polite when discussing this subject with someone with someone coming from a rather different perspective.

    Secondly, I'd like to let you know that while I am not answering your question straight away, I would like to discuss the points you raise at some later date. Just not *now* as I am in the middle of my exam period. I finish late February and would be glad to respond fully then. The points you make deserve proper inspection and response; something I sadly do not have the time for at present. I prefer not to spew... t'would be a tad disrespectful to you.

    So all the best, and expect a response some time in the not-too-distant future.

    All the best,

  3. The brutally true answer to this question: "Why does having a state make the Jews more "free" than they were before Israel's creation?" we can defend ourselves against antisemites and our enemies. That's a pretty good advantage, though.

  4. Julia this link answers your question.
    The last major antisemitic event was the Holocaust. Before that, Jews were spread out, a minority wherever they were, with no strength to defend themselves. With Israel, Jews are a majority there, now they can have an army to protect Jews everywhere, not only Israel. Georgia, Ethiopia, Yemen - Israel takes in Jews if they're ever in trouble anywhere else.
    I'll leave your other points for Elan to address!

  5. Well not that link, this link

  6. Not that either! the url ends