by R.E. (Bob) Burns, GDIS (Grad. Dip. Islamic Studies)
(Qur'an 2:191) "And slay them wherever you come upon them, and expel them from where they expelled you, for persecuting people to sway them from the religion of Allah is worse than slaying."
(Qur’an 8:39) "and fight them until oppression is no more and belief
in Allah is complete and universal;…"
The Meccans were polytheists and had idols of 360 gods in their sanctuary (Ka’bah). They were not prejudiced against Muhammad’s new religion as such but his hatred of their gods eventually made him a "wanted man" and he had to flee. His attitude affected the Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca), a pre-Islamic occurrence which brought in considerable money to the city. He also angered them by stressing that, being non-Muslims, their ancestors would be burning in hell-fire and they knew that Muhammad wanted to usurp their power and set up an Islamic city-state. (Islam has been political from its inception.)
Re the first quote from the Qur'an, most of the Muslims who "fled" Mecca in the Hijra, left voluntarily to set up a new power-base in Medina and were not expelled from their houses. Some of the Muslim converts, however, followed Muhammad’s lead and were quite insulting to the Meccan gods. In an argument over religion, Sa’d of Zuhrah struck one of the disbelievers with the jawbone of a camel causing blood to flow. Allah urged them to "Deal calmly with the disbelievers, give them respite for a while". (Qur’an 86:17).
Rightly or wrongly Muhammad was treated with scorn. You may be interested to know how the Prophet was "persecuted" – what happened to three poets who made fun of Muhammad, and the Meccan who threw offal at him. See "Prophet Muhammad and his Mockers"
We also have been accused of persecuting Islam. In reply we
must firstly say that we have no axe to grind with the moderate Muslims and
with Islam as a personal religion. We did not support the ethnic cleansing of
Kosovar Muslims by Slobodan Milosevic. See January, March Archives 1999.
"Persecution" includes any difference of opinion with Islam. For example Dr. Younis Shaikh has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy. He is alleged to have said that Islam began in 610 CE rather than with Adam. (Moses, Abraham, Jesus et al are officially Muslim prophets.) This article itself would be an example of "persecution".
"Persecution" includes attempting to convert Muslims from Islam to another religion. The penalty for this is death as a missionary is endangering the lives of Muslims, because "apostasy is treason". See "Apostasy and Prophet Muhammad". From the second quote of the Qur’an it can be seen that anything which impedes the Islamization of the world is "oppression". The very existence of a viable civilization which presents an alternative to Islam is "cultural imperialism". Oppression by the West? The West is said to oppress the poorer nations and certainly capitalism is self-serving. Imran Khan, populist politician of Pakistan, has spoken at great length about the IMF and World Bank. But would the "developing" Muslim nations be better off if the West left them to their own devices? Many of them are corrupt and stagnant; they spend vast sums on weapons they cannot afford. Their health and education systems are woeful. For example it is about 50 times more likely for a mother to die in childbirth in Pakistan than in the West.(In Taleban Afghanistan where women could not be treated by male doctors, the maternal mortality rate was 15,000 percent worse than the West) Pakistan President Musharraf has seen fit to insist on general education in the madrasas (religious schools) and not just rote learning of the Qur’an (and, in some, training and recruiting for al-Qaeda)
Yes, the real oppressors of Muslim people are their own rulers (and Osama bin Laden has a point when he says the US helps keep them in power. But what is the alternative? Allow the fundamentalists to take over with wholesale oppression by Islamic law?)
Theocracy, the rule of a god, is the opposite to democracy, the rule of the people. The sad fact is that arguably Indonesia, despite its role in West Papua and Aceh, is the most democratic Muslim country in the world. (It was colonized by the Dutch before hard-line Islam could be established.) Bangladesh and Jordan, also not Islamic states, are among the few Muslim countries where ordinary people have some say.
We consider punishments such as whipping, stoning to death for adultery and amputation of limbs for theft as belonging to the Dark Ages. Western micro-surgeons are successfully rejoining hands lost in accidents but the Qur’an (5:38) "As for the thief male or female, Cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example from Allah … exalted in Power, Full of Wisdom" is still acted upon in some Muslim states (Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Iraq, Oman, UAE and the late unlamented Taleban Afghanistan.)
It is 400 years since the last Christian "heretic" was burned to death. Perhaps a Reformation is possible within Islam? However, there is no Sunni hierarchy with the power to abrogate the Qur’an and Sunnah (traditions of Prophet Muhammad) and change Sharia, Islamic law.
The Bible is taken as being the words of men, albeit divinely inspired, and so subject to acceptance or otherwise. However the Qur’an is considered to be the literal word of Allah and so there appears no mechanism whereby Islam can be made more modern and humane.