Saturday, August 26, 2006

American loyalty

Recently I received an email from my mother with a forwarded message from a family friend in California. One of our friend's coworkers had received an email which posed the question of whether a "good" Muslim could also be a "good" American and then proceeded to answer the question in the negative with Quranic references. The coworker questioned our friend if the material in the email was true. Knowing that I had read somewhat on the subject, she forwarded the email to me through my mother. Following is first a reprint of the email, and then my response.


Can a good Muslim be a good American?

I forwarded that question to a friend that
worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years.

The following is his forwarded reply:

Theologically - no. Because his allegiance is to
Allah, the moon God of Arabia.

Religiously - no. Because no other religion is
accepted by his Allah except Islam (Quran, 2:256)

Scripturally - no. Because his allegiance is to
the five pillars of Islam and the Quran (Koran).

Geographically - no. Because his allegiance is
to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.

Socially - no. Because his allegiance to Islam
forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.

Politically - no. Because he must submit to the
mullah (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and
Destruction of America, the great Satan.

Domestically - no. Because he is instructed to
marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him
(Quran 4:34).

Intellectually - no. Because he cannot accept
the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and
he believes the Bible to be corrupt.

Philosophically - no. Because Islam, Muhammad,
and the Quran do not allow freedom of religion and expression.
Democracy
and Islam cannot
co-exist. Every Muslim government is either
dictatorial or autocratic.

Spiritually - no. Because when we declare "one
nation under God," the Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah
is NEVER referred to as heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in
The Quran's 99 excellent names.

Therefore after much study and deliberation...
perhaps we should be very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country.
They obviously cannot be both "good" Muslims and good Americans. Call
it what you wish....it's still the truth.

* * * *
My reply:

The easy answer to this question is, it depends on what kind of Muslim we're talking about. The latest statistic I've heard is that there are something like a billion and a half Muslims in the world these days. With over two billion Catholics, that puts Christianity as still the most populist world religion, but I think it would be safe to say that the majority of Muslims, just as the majority of those who identify themselves as Christians, see their religious identity as civic or hereditary rather than a true, personal commitment; so in the same way that there are many (perhaps a majority) who claim to be Catholics, yet rarely attend Mass, give confession or pray, I suspect the same can probably be said of most Muslims in world--in other words, they don't say their daily prayers, fast during Ramadan, attend a Mosque, or have a single verse of the Quran memorized. For that type of Muslim I would wager that being a loyal American is perfectly okay. We know there are many Muslim Americans in the armed forces. It stands to reason that a substantial number of them would fall into this category.

The question gets more complicated, however, as we look at more committed Muslims. It's not so much a question of first loyalty. Christianity and Judaism demands first loyalty to God over national identity just as Islam does. But at the heart of this question is how each religion views civic government; this is one of the areas where Christianity and Islam are most at odds.

There are two scriptures which define Christianity with respect to civic government, and they embody the unique way in which Christianity in the United States has approached its relationship with the state (unlike historic Christianity in Europe): the first is Luke 22:21, "Therefore render to Caesar the things that Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." The second is John 18:36, Jesus' answer to Pilate's question if he was the King of the Jews, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." For the first three centuries of the church it followed these dictums from Jesus, and despite intense persecution, flourished. But with the conversion of Constantine, and the establishment of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman empire--a departure from these dictums--it entered a long dark history of corruption and horror as earthly kingdoms perverted Christianity for its own purposes, and the church tried to rely on those kingdoms to exercise authority over men. Finally, with the unique governmental experiment that was the United States, Christianity once again flourished as it had in the early centuries of the church by recognizing--and codifying in the establishment clause of the Constitution--that civil government and "the kingdom of God" inhabited different realms. Christian moral truth influenced American law, but law did not enforce church orthodoxy (i.e. punishment for breaking the Sabbath, blasphemy, heresy, apostasy, etc.).

While admittedly much of Christian history has been at odds with these principles established by Jesus, the entire concept of Islam's relationship to government is completely different. Contrary to popular myth, Christianity was not spread through religious war. Most of what might be called religious war on the part of Christendom was fought defensively against Islam, first in the Middle East (remember, Christianity started in Judea and predated Islam by 600 years), then in Spain and finally in Austria. The balance of Christian religious war was for the most part internal conflicts during the Reformation between Protestant factions and Catholics. Islam, however, was primarily spread through violent conquest, and much of that during Mohammed's own lifetime. Mohammed himself was a warrior king (or Bedouin marauder, depending on one's point of view, and the historical period in his career) and his central method of proselytizing was the threat of decapitation--convert or die. And while Jesus himself established the concept we now call the separation of church and state (although I am reluctant to use this term because of the way it is presently being abused and distorted by anti-Christian forces in our culture), there is not only no tradition or history of such a concept in Islam, such a concept is completely contrary to Islam.

The Arabic word "shar'ia" is often interpreted as religious law, but in reality it simply means law. There is no distinction in Islam between religious and secular law. Shar'ia, as codified in the Quran and the books of the Hadith (the oral traditions of Mohammed), define every aspect of legal, cultural and religious behavior for both Muslim and non-Muslim in Islamic society. Historically, Christians and Jews were tolerated in the Islamic empire as long as they met the following requirements:
*Paid a special, often exorbitant tax
*Wore clothing that instantly identified them as non-Muslim
*Never owned or rode a horse
*Never attempted to covert a Muslim

As for marriage, Muslim men to my knowledge aren't "instructed" to, but they are "allowed" to marry up to four women. This is a tradition established by Mohammed himself. Part of this tradition also has to do with the allowable age for a female to marry. Mohammed married his final "wife" when she was nine years old, which is why this is now the legal age of female "consent" in Iran. Guidelines for wife-beating are also clearly delineated by Mohammed himself in both the Quran and Hadith.

The Quran also does proscribe friendships between Muslims and non-Muslims.
"O ye who believe!  Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors; they are but friends and protectors to each other.  And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them.   Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.  ( Quran, 5:51)"
"O ye who believe!  Take not for friends and protectors those who take your religion for a mockery or sport - whether among those who received the Scripture (i.e., the Bible) before you, or among those who reject Faith; but fear ye Allah, if ye have Faith (indeed).  (Quran, 5:57)"
"Yea, to those who take for friends unbelievers rather than believers: is it honour they seek among them? Nay,- all honour is with God.  (Quran, 4:139)"
"O ye who believe! Turn not (for friendship) To people on whom Is the Wrath of Allah.  Of the Hereafter they are Already in despair, just as The Unbelievers are In despair about those (Buried) in graves.  (Quran, 60:13)

The punishment, under Shar'ia, for a Muslim who abandons the Islamic faith, whether through skepticism or conversion, is death.

I could go on, but all one has to do is look at the legal system of any Muslim country based on Quranic Shar'ia, i.e. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, or all of our favorite--Afghanistan under the Taliban. That's Shar'ia.

So perhaps the telling question to any Muslim American might be, "Do you think it would be good for America to be governed under Shar'ia law?" Ibrahim Hooper, an American convert to Islam of European heritage and spokesman for the Counsel of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), when pressed by radio talk show host Michael Medved, answered yes to this question. I can't imagine that one could find even a handful of Christians in this country who would agree that it would be a good thing for America if our legal system would adopt the death penalty for atheism, witchcraft, or heresy as some European Christian nations did in the past. But this is exactly what Islamic law would advocate.

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