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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Robert Wright's "The Meaning of the Koran": Words Speak Louder Than Actions

In commentary in today's New York Times entitled "The Meaning of the Koran" (, Robert Wright sets up a straw man argument by claiming that those worried by radical Islam perceive the Koran as more violent than the New and Old Testaments, and to overcome this prejudice contends:

"A good first step would be to bring more Americans into contact with some of the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are in fact not threatening."

In fact, I think that Americans are not concerned by what is written in the Koran, but rather are troubled, for example by the savage murder of Daniel Pearl, the massacre in Mumbai, the hanging of homosexuals, "honor" killings against women throughout the Muslim Middle East, mutilation of female genitals, brutal persecution of minorities such as Iran's Baha'is, horrific intolerance against Muslim minorities such as the Ahmadis in Pakistan and Indonesia, refusal to grant independence to 35 million Kurds, threats to annihilate Israel, genocide against Sudan's Black animists in Darfur, persecution of Christian Copts in Egypt, the imprisonment and lashing of women who have been gang raped in Saudi Arabia, Qaddafi's threats to dominate Europe, and incessant wars among Muslim states which have killed an exponentially larger number of people than all of the combined Arab-Israeli wars.

Is politically correct Wright claiming that all of the above should not worry Americans? Is he saying that these examples are not in keeping with mainstream Islam? Should we content ourselves with knowing that the Old and New Testaments, like the Koran, are replete with stories of cruelty and savagery?

I am left to wonder whether Wright agrees with Feisal Abdul Rauf that "United States policies were an accessory to the crime [of 9/11]". But be that as it may, I would be delighted if Wright would care to bring me "into contact with some of the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are in fact not threatening."

Let's start with a meeting with King Abdullah in Mecca and see if I literally come away with my skin.


  1. Hi, Jeffrey!

    I like how you defend Americans against liberal friends of Islam.

    It is standard argument of all Islam-apologists: look at the Bible!
    My standard answer: a religion is not about the text, it is about the commonly accepted beliefs among followers. If Muslims believe that Koran calls for establishing sharia everywhere, for suicide-bombing - this is Islam.

    By the way. Obama does not have a right to say that al Qaeda twists Islam: he is not an Islamic scholar. According to Islam's tradition, only Islamic scholars have a right to interprete Koran. Even self-professed "moderate" imam Rauf has nothing against Hamas. So, who is "twisting"?

  2. Americans are also not concerned about the many U.S. drone attacks (murders) on innocent men, women and children in Aghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. As Americans display their hysteria over 9/11, they forget completely that they invaded an innocent country (Iraq) on trumped up myths and destroyed it completely along with thousands of innocent civilians.....As well as displacing millions from their American sit around debating about "rights" and "freedoms" innocent civilians demonstrating against the U.S. are shot at and killed in Afghanistan.....corrupt and oppressive governments that collude with the U.S. to steal the natural resources of the country for the benefit of the U.S. are propped up by the U.S. government as the citizens of that country are denied all freedoms.....Yes....I can say emphatically....Americans are totally unconcerned about anyone well as completely ignorant.....

  3. Anonymous, let's try to summarize your argument:

    1. Americans are indifferent.
    2. . . . .
    3. Americans kill innocent people and invade innocent countries.
    4. . . . .
    5. Americans sit around and kill civilians.
    6. . . . .
    7. Americans support bad people and steal natural resources.
    8. . . . .
    9. Americans are ignorant.

    I have to admit that I opposed the Second Gulf War and also opposed U.S. ground involvement in Afghanistan. However, in your infinite wisdom, perhaps you can tell us the exact number of Kurds and Shiites who were executed by Saddam Hussein in Iraq before U.S. forces deposed him? The estimates I've seen total in the hundreds of thousands.

    I suppose you were not troubled when that innocent country (Iraq) invaded Kuwait.

    I suppose you oppose granting autonomy to the 35 million Kurds in the Middle East, who have known unbridled savagery from Iraq (under Saddam), Iran, Syria and Turkey. I understand you were not troubled when that innocent country (Iraq) under Saddam engaged in gas attacks against the Kurds. (Do you remember Halabja?) As you know, the Kurds now have a significant measure of autonomy in the north of Iraq following Saddam's ouster by those horrible Americans.

    Re Afghanistan, I suppose you have no qualms concerning the murderous behavior of the Taliban and their oppression of women.

    Please enlighten the ignorant among us.

  4. To Anonymous:

    I am an American, and I am deeply troubled by killing of civilians by drones. Why there is no mass protests about it in Muslim countries, as they protest cartoons and a fantasy about burning Koran?
    Also, I am deeply troubled by Muslims deadly riots all over the world when we exercise our freedom of speech and say something unflattering about Islam. America can not be responsible for thousand of years corrupt regimes in Muslim countries.
    I was against invasion of Iraq exactly because no freedom and no democracy is possible in culture which knows only dictatorship and corruption.

  5. You have some great examples of some of the ethnic conflicts - And surely, as soon as you look at the issues and try and find a common denominator, it isn't Islam. Muslims generally slaughter Muslims - damn, there goes your whole argument.

    The times they kill non Muslims is a geographical or political motive - like the west.

    There are 40-50 million Muslims in Europe... They don't do much. Seems geopolitical motives and poverty are the drivers.

    20 million Westerns visit Egypt every year. Mostly they are attacked by good food, great accommodation and wonderfully friendly people.

  6. Anonymous,

    Surely you're not serious. "Muslims generally slaughter Muslims"? Tell that to the 400,000 dead Black Africans in Darfur.

    "The times they kill non Muslims is a geographical or political motive"? Brutal persecution and murder of Baha'is (non-Muslims) and Ahmadis (they label themselves Muslims) is premised upon the refusal of mainstream Islam to accept any prophet who came after Mohammed.

    "There are 40-50 million Muslims in Europe... They don't do much"? Tell that to Theo van Gogh. Oops, that's no longer possible: van Gogh was decapitated by Mohammed Bouyeri.

    "20 million Westerns visit Egypt every year. Mostly they are attacked by good food . . ."? Unless they happened to be at the Ghazala Garden Hotel in July 2005, when a bomb brought down the hotel. You want to see a recent list of terror attacks on tourists in Egypt? Go to:

  7. Again, you are talking about Tribal and ethnic conflicts. Van Gogh was killed by an idiot, much like Virginia Tech, Columbine, Oklahoma etc etc. (and really, 40-50 million people supposedly MUST kill infidels, and one does?)

    Go to the site and look at travel advice for Egypt and USA. Look at the paragraphs that read about the number of people who visit, and risk. They are very similar.

    Travel has its risks as well.

    It is just you don't understand there are different risks.

    Find out about Tribal/Enthic/National issues. Muslims are very peaceful when there are no conflicts. Much like Westerners (50 million died in WWII, due to Ethnic/National issues)

  8. I like the best:

    "Muslims are very peaceful when there are no conflicts." Great joke!

    Where there are Muslims, there are conflicts! That's the problem!

    Muslims kill infidels by dosens every day: look at the statistics of suicide bombing, bombing of mosques in Afghanistan, Pakistan. And it is all not "craziness", it is socially approved, heroic behavior in Muslim nations. 9/11 attackers were celebrated as heroes in Muslim countries. This behavior is dictated by Muslims' beliefs, which is Islam.

  9. Marina. Where there are Muslims there are conflicts!

    So 40 million Muslims in Europe, none killing infedels! Why?

    Because Religion doesn't make them killers. Tribal conflict and geopolitical instability does. Same with Europe (christian) in the from 1914-1945.

    Similar to 12,000 murders a year in USA, but 93 percent are black on black or hispanic on hispanic.

    (Infidel means "one without faith", so when Muslims kill Muslims it is neither killing infidels or anything to do with Religion)

  10. Popular Russian joke:
    "Will elephant eat a pine apple? It would, but who will give it to him?!"
    ("s'jest to on s'jest, da kto emu dast").

    Muslims never stop trying to kill European and Americans. It is just they have limited possibilities. Lots of terrorists acts have been prevented. Some of them were not prevented: there were bombing in Madrid and London.

    For Sunni Muslims, Shia are infidels and vice versa.

  11. I am not feeling very politically correct towards not-Ahmadi and not-Alevi Muslims these days.

    Rauf is a faux-Sufi - at heart he is still the Kuwaiti-born Egyptian, educated by Palestinians in Kuwait, who is a Sunni 'mole', determined to create deliberate controversy :)

    No use trying to argue with a Muslim who believes in the post-modern "Muslims are victim of colonialism" narrative. Which seems to be the vast majority of Muslims, including the millions living in Europe. If they hate the West so much, then go back to Egypt or Pakistan and create a better society there.

    Better yet, can we watch the Sunni kill the Shi'a, starting in Iran? on CNN? send Christiane Amanpour back to the field?


  12. No violence from Europe's Muslims?

    On Friday a Chechen was arrested after a letter bomb he was preparing exploded in his Copenhagen hotel room. It is suspected that he intended to send the letter bomb to a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

    Also on Friday, five Algerians were arrested in London by counter-terrorism officers over a suspected threat to Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the UK.