Quran used in many ways

Published 7:47 am Monday, August 30, 2010

The nature of Islam and the role of Muslims in American culture and society challenges us as, arguably, no other religious-political issue has ever done in American history. We must come to grips with these issues and craft a reasonable and successful resolution, and we must give this serious attention now.

The American way life, as well as our Constitution and other laws, assure Muslims — citizens and alien residents alike — of full and free practice of their faith—so must we all; we can provide and they can enjoy these rights only when we and they understand how Islam and Muslims fit into American life.

At the moment they do not fit in well, and the reason is most of us do not understand Islam and Muslims and most Muslims do not understand the American way of life. I’m not even sure how many non-Muslim Americans understand our way of life.

Email newsletter signup

My most substantial and authoritative sources have been graduate studies in comparative religion and many books and scholarly journal articles I have studied since. I have read the Quran twice. The most passionate presentations I have heard were a Muslim’s lecture in Turkey and another in the Great Mosque in Cairo. This is not to say I possess a complete and final conceptual and practical understanding, but that I am trying to understand and sustain a reasonable working concept.

I submit the primary source for non-Muslims to understand Islam (the religion) and Muslims (the adherents) is not the scriptures of Islam, the Quran, per se.

We can find anything in the Quran we want to find, and so can Muslims. If we want to accuse Islam as being an absolutely intolerant, warlike political system, there are abundant passages to be exploited for this cause. We can find them, and Islamic terrorists have. If we want to portray Islam as an infinitely tolerant and peaceful faith, we can find these passages. Many Muslims have found them and live by them.

What counts is not what the text of the Quran actually reads but how we or they read the text. How we read it will determine how we understand it. Finally, how we understand the Quran we determine how we use it.

It is unfair and illogical (however earnest) for non-Muslims to make such an absolute and unqualified assertion as Islam is warlike and a threat to world peace, that Islam is by definition and nature terrorist and un-American. It is naïve (however well meant) and unrealistic for Muslims to make such an absolute and unqualified assertion as Islam is peaceful and enhances world peace, that Islam is by definition and nature non-terrorist and compatible with the American way of life.

Both the worst Islam can possibly be practiced and the very best it can be practiced exist in one place or another in the world. Both find warrant in the Quran.

The task of non-Muslims is to relate to individual Muslims and learn what they believe in particular and specifically how they carry their beliefs out in daily life. The task of Muslims is to relate to America life and culture in such a way that their beliefs and practice can be recognized as compatible with the American way of life.

The Constitution does not tolerate any established religion. Any Muslim who thinks religious freedom includes the right to establish sharia in the United States is not only wrong but cannot himself be tolerated. The Constitution does not tolerate any restriction on the free exercise of religion. Any non-Muslim who thinks freedom of religion includes the right to persecute Mulims is not only wrong but cannot himself be tolerated.

Islam, wholesomely believed and practiced, can enrich American culture and enhance our life. This we must not only accept but actually encourage. But it cannot be allowed to transform America into something like Afghanistan.