Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Islam and interpretation

As a recent comment on this blog has pointed out, some confusion exists about the Koran and Islam. Interpretations seem to be a problem. Many people think that our enemies (terrorists and their supporters) are extreme radicals who select an extreme interpretation of the rules and laws stated within the Koran. There is some justification for this.

A good example is the argument about striking your wife. The Arabic word that is used in the Koran can have several meanings, such as turn away. This problem is known to exist with Chinese as well. The inflection in the voice imparts meaning that is not apparent in the written word. One problem is that the Koran has so many of these issues. This has been partially resolved by the Islamic Jurisprudence that has ruled upon the Koran for the past 1400 years and has determined ‘authenticity’. The ‘authentic’ phrases were actually spoken by Mohammed. Even now, it can be argued how each individual phrase is to be interpreted. What is a real problem is the overall picture.

Take for example the ‘law’, the penalty for leaving Islam is death. This has been universally accepted by Islamic jurisprudence. This penalty has been enforced for 1400 years. But the implication is that once someone is Muslim, they will always be Muslim. Another ‘authentic’ law is the worldwide obligation to ‘kill the occupiers’ of Muslim land. Taken together, this would imply that once a Muslim owns land, it couldn’t ever revert back to non-Muslim ownership. This is where the idea of Muslim ‘waters’ comes in.

By today’s standards, only a nation-state can have ‘waters’ to defend. International law determines the limit of coastal waters, but the Koran was written long before the concept of the nation-state.

I have studied hundreds of wars. Generally, it takes at least one or two really important issues to justify the destruction and waste of waging war. Even a war-oriented culture, like ancient Sparta, did not wage war unnecessarily. If this is the case, why is the Islamic world engaged in so much violence and warfare? Can it all be miss-interpretation?

The answer lies within the Koran itself. No matter how you interpret it, many of the ‘authentic’ phrases and laws are of the type that will trigger warfare.

1) Tribute. Payment of infidels living in Muslim land. Would you like to start a war? Start demanding payment in exchange for existing. This concept has been expanded to ships passing through Muslim ‘waters’ in the past. The U.S. paid the ‘Tribute’ for years until we tired of it. Then we fought a war. "Millions for defense, not a penny for Tribute!" was the battle cry.

2) Moral obligation to kill occupiers of Muslim lands. This will ensure that wars will continue until Islam triumphs. This is one of the basic reasons for the constant Arab-Israeli violence and wars. The land that Israel sits on will never be considered (Even 1000 years from today) anything except ‘occupied’ until Islam is the law of the land. That area had been overrun by Islam by 700 AD and had a population that was primarily Muslim until the 20th century.

3) The penalty for leaving Islam is death. (An Apostate) This is a critical part of the reason why Shiite and Sunni can’t reconcile. Fighting Apostates qualifies as jihad.

4) Stoning people to death is a punishment that has to end, today. We no longer live in the 7th century and have much more humane punishments. Like ending slavery, this one is worth waging war over. Ending this ‘authentic’ law will trigger warfare. Riots occurred in Nigeria in 2006 because a court did not allow the punishment to be administered to a woman accused of adultery. The court therefore was guilty of Apostasy, punishable by death. These are two very important laws being broken. Enough people interpreted the court action in this way to trigger widespread violence.

5) Jihad: The four ‘legal’ enemies of Islam to wage war against:
a) Infidels
b) Apostates
c) Rebels
d) Bandits
(The first two qualify for ‘Jihad’.)

"The presumption is that the duty of Jihad will continue (Interrupted only by truces) until the world adopts Islam or submits to Muslim rule." "Those who fight in the Jihad qualify for rewards in both worlds. Booty in this one, paradise in the next." (Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam, Page 31, copyright 2003.)

So you can wage war against infidels, Apostates, Rebels and Bandits. This means to kill. No other excuses or justification is necessary. Jihad is the mechanism that Islam uses to perpetuate itself.
Jihad should be interpreted to mean an internal struggle for the individual. However, "For most of the 1400 years of Muslim history, the most common interpretation of jihad is armed struggle for the advancement or defense of Muslim power". (Bernard Lewis)

How much more clearly can we interpret? Yet changing this interpretation has and will trigger organized violence in the form of warfare.

6) Islamic electoral policy has been classically summarized as "One man, (men only) one vote, once." I included this one to demonstrate how Islam is hostile to democracy. Islam is designed to be a nation-state complete with foreign policy, economic policy and a legal system.

The inescapable conclusion is that major structural changes must be made to many of the traditional interpretations of the Koran to end the constant violence that is so common throughout the Islamic world. Many ‘authentic’ laws need to be stricken altogether and others changed so that they are ONLY interpreted in a way that is not hostile to the rest of the world. Changing traditional Islam has been proven to be very difficult, to put it mildly. Historically, the Islamic world responds to challenges (Muslims tend to think of them as insults) to its structure and interpretation with violence and open warfare.

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