December 31, 2008

The Etymology of Islamic Terrorism

Speaking at a function in Kolkota to mark 200 years of the Bengali translation of the Quran, the Minister for External Affairs of India, Mr. Pranab Kumar Mukherjee assailed the use of the adjective Islamic to describe terrorism around the globe:

Not only is this expression Islamic terrorism unacceptable, there should be protest against it. Islam has nothing to do with terrorism.[emphasis mine]

Spoken as a truly street-smart Kolkota politician, I guess! Let's leave aside for a moment, the reasonableness of Mr. Mukherjee's objection to the use of the term "Islamic terrorism". There should be protest? What kind of protest? The kind that Kolkata witnessed 13 months ago, when a band of mainly Muslim thugs took to the streets, demanding the expulsion of Taslima Nasreen, and the army had to be called to control the situation?

Or, perhaps, the senior minister of the world's largest secular democracy wishes to stoke the fire a bit more, à la the violence that followed the Danish cartoon controversy?

Now, let's return to Mr. Mukherjee's main objection:

Challenging those who described Islam as a religion of fundamentalists, Mukherjee asked them to show which part of the Holy Book encouraged fundamentalism.

Considering that the learned minister was invited to speak at a function relating to the Quran, I don't suppose he needs a refresher course on the commandments of what he calls "the religion of peace and compassion". Nevertheless, here are a few Quranic verses that may enlighten him on the etymology of the phrase "Islamic Terrorism":

2:191- “And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.”

5:82- "Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists,"

8:12- “When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”

8:17— "So you did not slay them, but it was Allah Who slew them, and you did not smite when you smote (the enemy), but it was Allah Who smote, and that He might confer upon the believers a good gift from Himself; surely Allah is Hearing, Knowing."

9:5- So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

9:29- "Fight those who do not believe in God and the last day... and fight People of the Book, (Christian and Jews) who do not accept the religion of truth (Islam) until they pay tribute (Zizziya tax) by hand, being inferior.”

9:123- “O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).”

47:4- "So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates. That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish.”

48:6: "And (that) He may punish the hypocritical men and the hypocritical women, and the polytheistic men and the polytheistic women, the entertainers of evil thoughts about Allah. On them is the evil turn, and Allah is wroth with them and has cursed them and prepared hell for them, and evil is the resort."

98:6: "Surely those who disbelieve from among the followers of the Book and the polytheists shall be in the fire of hell, abiding therein; they are the worst of men."

Lest Mr. Mukherjee should dismiss these as quotes from a self-serving translation of the Quran by M. H. Shakir of Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc., or a mischievous interpretation of what actually are chants of peace and joy for all, for an added measure I'll quote what Syed Kamran Mirza, a columnist from Bangladesh, has to say about "the religion of peace and compassion":

Big question: is the beheading Islamic?

Yes, beheading is, of course, an Islamic justice to the infidels, criminals, and sinners. This cruel way of killing infidels is sanctioned by Islamic Sharia laws...

Islamists are not ready to take the burden of ugly reality of the fact that human beheading is 100% consistent with the sacred Islamic Jihadi practices. Hatreds towards other religion such as Jews, Christians, Hindus and other polytheists are the ardent teachings of Islamic holy book Quran. Beheading was practiced by the Prophet Muhammad himself during the 7th century period of Islam and by the most Islamic rulers thereafter.

I wish Mr. Mukherjee the best in his efforts to secure the borders of India against the Army of the Pure [Lashkar-e-Taiba] and its state sponsor, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, who have been commanded by none other than their prophet, Muhammad, to restore the glory of Islam over the land of the infidels!

  1. Am too shocked for words to see that something that purports to be the word of God himself would incite people to such violence. This seems like the manifesto of some nazi-like cult rather than a religion. And how do the Islamic sympathisers justify a religion that dictates such senseless acts of violence against humanity?

  2. Yawn...another pseudo-secular politician in a drunk stupor rejecting reality. Maybe someone should send him Sam Harris's "The End of Faith" as a birthday present.

  3. Er, sure, but the word of god has more often than not been of such ilk. Read the old testament and you'll see that it's an even bloodier affair.

    Some argue that the Q'ran, bloodthirsty though it may be, if you take it in the context of its genesis and compare it against the old testament (whichever version you choose, by the way, and whether you call it the old testament, the bible or the torah) is in fact an improvement from the point of view of civilisation. It is less harsh and more forgiving than its predecessors.

    I'm no expert, far from it, but if you compare for example your quote:

    9:5- So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

    to, for example, Exodus 32:26-27:
    Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, "Whoever is for the LORD, come to me." And all the Levites rallied to him.

    Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.' " The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.

    then you see that mercy was not quite the order of the day. A bunch of people act in a way that make Moses the laughing stock of the enemies, well, just go and slaughter them. Don't ask them to convert, to pay a tribute, don't ask them to repent, just nix them, and in priority your brother, neighbor, friend, if he has not heeded Moses' call.

    So you see, it's not so simple as that.

    Examples like the above abound, BTW, it's by no means a quirky passage.

    Violence and barbarism is not about what's in the religious texts, it's about power, neuroses, psychopathologies, fear and loathing, etc. In other words, human traits, whichever book they decide to use to provide somekind of justification to their deeds.

  4. Usha:
    If you read other "Books" - cf. vfwh's comment above, and the Hindus' "Laws of Manu" - they do look a lot like the manifestos of 20th century religions such as Fascism, Nazism, Maoism, etc., too. The day religion is eradicated will be the day of a giant step forward for civilization.

    Except that this pseudo-secular politician in a drunken stupor is the Minister for External Affairs :(

    I don't deny that Quran is not unique among the religious books in its inhumanity. The problem is that it's the only book that today forms the effective basis of law in Islamic countries. That Moses ordered a tribe - Levites - be killed in the name of LORD, pales into insignificance, when compared to the religious discrimination and punishment for "idolators" sanctioned by Sharia in Saudi Arabia or Malaysia.

    Consider these "Laws of Manu", a Hindu scripture:
    270. A once-born man (a Sudra [or low caste]), who insults a twice-born man [a Brahmin or high caste] with gross invective, shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin.
    271. If he mentions the names and castes (gati) of the (twice-born) with contumely, an iron nail, ten fingers long, shall be thrust red-hot into his mouth.

    Imagine if India were to be declared a Hindu Republic and these words of god (Manu is considered as a god or god's son by many Hindus) were to find their way into the Indian Penal Code! I'd like to see Mr. Mukherjee and his ilk defending the Laws of Manu as a book that's about universal brotherhood and compassion.

    Quran may be an improvement upon Deuteronomy and the Laws of Manu, but if I criticized the latter for spreading hatred against fellow humans, no national court of law today will issue a "fatwa", ordering punishment by death for blasphemy to me.

  5. You're absolutely right in what you say above (at least I completely agree with it, which are not equivalent propositions, unfortunately). You were however in that post commenting on the religion itself and its barbaric nature. I don't like to give opportunities to other religions to live in the fantasy that they would be the humane and nice religion.

    With respect to the sharia being implemented in some countries, I stick however to the idea, and I think the distinction you make bears this out, that it clearly shows that this is not about which religion is the nicest or the nastiest, it's about the political conditions that prevail, that will or will not enable lunatics to hold power, whichever religious book they use.

    One could discuss for a long time about the stream of events that led to islam being the one holding this role today, but that's another question.

  6. isnt it worth thinking that other religions aka. christainity and hinduism, even though have mentioned slaughter of the enemy (other religious groups) in the past long gone, they do not act upon it now and have eveloved, whereas islam continues to follow the words written long time ago, to the book.


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