Culture War Must Focus in on Mutual Understanding


The word, “innocent,” seems to have come up a few times with reference to Islam, over the weekend.  In an essay printed in the Sunday Providence Journal, Texas high school journalism teacher Huma Munir disclaims Islamofascists as “so-called ‘Muslim’ terrorists.”  An Ahmadi Muslim, Munir holds the creed “Love for all, hatred for none”:

The only thing ISIS and other militant groups are good at is using Islam as a tool to manipulate people into committing acts of brutality. They raise slogans of jihad while being utterly ignorant of what the word means. While the Quran says that taking one innocent life is like killing the entire mankind, the terrorists value life so little that one wonders if they are not some made-up characters from a horror movie. The violence and the brutality these terrorists carry out seem unreal and unfathomable.

The word appears again in a CNN story about the Easter attack on Christians in Pakistan, with a so-far death count of 72:

Because of the innocent setting, an unusually high number of those injured were women and children. But the attack, claimed by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, intentionally targeted Christians, the perpetrators say.

In order for denunciations such as Munir’s to have the intended effect, we need more discussion of the concept of “innocence.”  Munir’s reference appears to be to Koranic surah 5:32, which one translation puts as follows:

… We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.

The context is the story of Cain and Abel.  After God (Allah) accepts Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s, the latter kills the former, who accepts his fate, even saying, “I want you to obtain [thereby] my sin and your sin so you will be among the companions of the Fire.”   The chapter goes on (5:33) to explain:

… the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land.

What does it mean to “strive to cause corruption”?  The text is sufficiently cryptic to allow interpretation.  Taking Munir’s creed, one might suggest that “waging war against Allah and His Messenger” means failing to have “love for all” and define “innocence” as broadly as family time in a park.  On the other hand, the Koran goes on to say (5:45), “whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.”

Muslims who see the active promulgation of Christianity (for example) as a war against Allah therefore have scriptural justification for violence.  And so, we hear reports that on Good Friday, ISIS crucified a Catholic priest whom the group had abducted from an old folks’ home, where they’d killed four nuns.

The Western world desperately needs to shed the ropes that constrain its thought by making topics forbidden.  Political correctness cannot produce mutual  understanding because its entire formulation assumes that both sides are already sufficiently well understood, with one being approved and the other being explicable only as an expression of irrational hatred and intolerance.  And the penalty for those who wage war against tolerance is to be exiled from the public conversation.

What’s needed is not plaintive assertions that the Koran protects the innocent, but forceful explanations of why surah 5:32-33 means innocence broadly understood and not something more like avoiding any blasphemy.  Also needed in the West is an understanding that this is a live debate, not a settle question that we can wish away like so much political chalk on a campus.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I understand that there are at least 100,000 books (collectively the “Hadith”?) explaining and interpreting the Koran. So, once again, it is a choice.

    The news now reports that the priest was crucified on Easter. Even for those of us who are only “cultural” Christians, there is an abhorrence for the act which is difficult to explain. Perhaps it is time to start coating our bullets with pig fat?

  • bottomfish

    There are many schools of thought in Islam and many interpretations of the holy texts. What is needed in my opinion is an authoritative body that would issue definitive “readings” of Quranic passages, with the penalty of heresy for those who continue to uphold a reading that has been determined to be wrong. As I wrote in a comment in another article some years ago, Islam needs an infallible Pope. As might be expected, the comment was laughed at, but to me it still looks like the only solution.

    Being non-Muslim myself, I cannot say how such a body would be assembled, or if it were, how it would command very much obedience given that so many believers are used to following whoever suits them.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      “What is needed in my opinion is an authoritative body that would issue definitive “readings” of Quranic passages, with the penalty of heresy for those who continue to uphold a reading that has been determined to be wrong.”

      Sounds like the “Inquisition”. Some would say that “it worked for us”. Some would say it gave us the “Reformation”. Lutherans, for instance, have rejected the “infallible Pope”, we don’t see them crucifying priests lately (they did kill them once). Our own history is one of using military force to suppress religions we do not approve of. Pres. Grant(?) sent troops into Utah to root out “cohabitors”. Utah was not allowed to join the Union until it passed laws outlawing the Mormon practice of multiple wives, that law was enforced by federal marshals. There was also Waco, which at least had the color of religion. Well into the 20th century the ;law permitted property to have “restrictive covenants” which prevented ownership by “Hebrews”. Seems to me that a member of George Bush’s cabinet owned one of those.

      Tie them down, force feed them pork. It has worked before. One of the causes of the “Indian Mutiny” was the rumor that the British where using pig fat on cartridges that the Indian troops had to rip open with their teeth.

      • bottomfish

        Yes, there was an Inquisition but it has not burned anybody in at least 200 years. Muslims are burning and bombing and beheading each other right now. My proposed solution is not ideal but it is after all a possibility. How you get from the Inquisition to restrictive covenants on the sale of property is beyond me.. I believe the US Supreme Court outlawed such covenants in the 1940s I believe.

        • Rhett Hardwick

          1940 was not so long ago. Knowing such covenants are difficult to remove (even if unenforceable) , I sympathized with the cabinet member who had one on his property. It was from 1920, he probably didn’t even know it.

          My point is that we are not so removed from religious intolerance. I have a friend who swears his family home was set afire in the 1950’s, because they were Jewish and unwelcome. I have heard similar stories about boats in Barrington, during the same time period.

    • D. S. Crockett

      Be careful of what you ask for, such an infallible Pope of Islam may just pontificate that all non-believers must be crucified.

  • ShannonEntropy

    If we are ever gonna defeat Islamo·terrorism we really need to get beyond that pile of PC bull·carp known as “Islam is the religion of peace”

    There are peaceful Muslims sure. But …. =►

    • Mike678

      Excellent article. Those that feel Islam is a ‘religion of peace’ might want to research the number of religions (and their populations) that used to reside in SW Asia vice today.