Hatred's Two-Way Street

Warning to infidels: I appreciate Jim Schutze's admonition against bigotry ("All God's Children," September 13). Hatred for the enemy is a great temptation in war but is no less a sin for that. In the current situation, however, the problem is not our hatred for Muslims, something we must of course guard against, it is the hatred so many of them harbor toward us. And it is a hatred that can explode into religious violence because the Koran does condone violence toward unbelievers, even Christians and Jews, the so-called "children of the book."

As Fazlur Rahman has pointed out in his book Islam, while the Prophet was in Medina, nothing, with the possible exception of prayer and zakat, received greater attention than jihad, and the verses inspired during that period are peppered across the Koran. The reference to Medina is significant. Muhammad's proclamations while he was at Mecca were the proclamations of a prophet. His proclamations at Medina were the proclamations of a ruler. Thus, much of what he reveals about violence occurs in the earlier part of the Koran--in other words, it is part of the later oracle.

Here are some examples. Sura II, verse 191 tells the reader that death in battle is the reward of those who suppress the faith. Sura II, verse 216 says that fighting is good for Muslims. Sura II, verse 217 says that war is to be preferred to oppression, a theme echoed in Sura XXII, verses 39 and 40. Sura IV, verse 74 promises a great reward to one who dies in battle fighting on God's side. Sura VIII, verse 38 admonishes faithful Muslims to kill unbelievers until there are no more of them (see, too, verses 65 and 66 of the same Sura). Sura IX, verse 5 encourages the faithful to use every stratagem of war to slay pagans wherever they are found (one assumes terror is included as a stratagem of war). Sura IX, verse 29 says that even People of the Book--that is, Jews and Christians--can be subdued by war. Sura XLVII, verse 4 assures the faithful again that when they kill unbelievers in war they are doing God's will.

Of course it is possible to interpret such passages in an allegorical way as one might interpret some of Jesus' sayings, especially when those sayings are cast against the background of Jesus' larger teaching. But the passages in the Koran do not read as though they were intended as allegory, nor do they clash in any obvious way with the broader message of the book. And even if one were not a literalist, he might be forgiven for thinking that the Prophet meant them to be taken literally.

Many Muslim apologists, pointing to Sura II, verse 9, have argued that such passages should be understood as sanctioning defensive war only, but Muslims have often pursued aggressive jihad and justified their actions by appealing to the Koran itself, so it should not surprise us that, of the three great missionary faiths, Islam has been the one most prone to religiously sanctioned violence. Indeed, Muslims can understand such acts of violence as both retributive and compassionate simultaneously: retributive because they express God's judgment, compassionate because they warn infidels from worse disasters to follow.

All of this is not to say that most Muslims are even aware of such passages. Most Muslims know the Koran less well than most Christians know the Bible. With the exception of those in sects like Wahhabism, most Muslims rely almost exclusively on what their religious leaders tell them. Until the attack on September 11, the vast majority of Muslim leaders had not spoken out against terrorism, and even in the face of that unprecedented carnage, many have remained conspicuously silent.

All of which suggests that our nation is in for a protracted struggle that, if not against Islam, will certainly be against its more radical elements. Hence it is a war that could easily become a war between NATO and the Muslim world. And it is a war we must win.

Mike Carter

Brightest Star

The ultimate underdog: I like the Oak Cliff Coffeehouse. I wish there were more businesses like it on Davis Street. But it is obvious that someone at your paper has some sort of interest in furthering the career of Amanda Moreno ("The Star Chamber," September 20). First, she is helping the poor widow against Laura Miller ("Vamoose," August 30). Next, she is fighting back against the old guard at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The ultimate underdog? Or is this just the Dallas Observer's attempt to brighten the outlook for a young successful Hispanic?

I enjoy your paper's anti-establishment bent as much as the next guy, but surely you can broaden the cast of characters.

Kevin Poteete
Via e-mail

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