The title of this naive and silly New York Times puff piece is “Three Clergymen, Three Faiths, One Friendship,” but from the looks of it, these “amigos” have one faith, not three — “the spirituality of interfaith relations.” At least Sheik Jamal Rahman is honest enough to acknowledge that there is a problem with the “Verse of the Sword” — Koran 9:5 — although he retails the same old tired glib dismissal that we have heard a thousand times before, that it is “taken out of context.”
What context would render it acceptable is seldom explained, although Islamic apologists in the West do often attempt to claim that it doesn’t apply to today or to any situation beyond the life of Muhammad, but rather refers narrowly to a time when the early Muslims were threatened with annihilation and had to fight back strongly in order to survive. The problem with this interpretation — which goes counter to the mainstream understanding of Islamic scholars in any case — is that instead of closing off the possibility of this verse (and other supporting verses) being used to justify jihad violence today, it plays right into the hands of the jihadists. For if this verse only applies to situations in which Muslims are in grave danger, such that Islam itself may not survive, they would argue — and do argue — that that is precisely the situation that prevails today. Accordingly, the interpretation that is supposed to mollify and reassure Westerners actually only opens the door for more jihad.
And of course Islamic jihadists are acting upon the Koran’s imperative to violence against unbelievers all over the world, with little resistance from their peaceful coreligionists.
[...] What distinguishes the “amigos,” who live in Seattle but make presentations around the country, is a unique approach to what they call “the spirituality of interfaith relations.” At the church in Nashville, the three clergymen, dressed in dark blazers, stood up one by one and declared what they most valued as the core teachings of their tradition The minister said “unconditional love.” The sheik said “compassion.” And the rabbi said “oneness.”
The room then grew quiet as each stood and recited what he regarded as the “untruths” in his own faith. The minister said that one “untruth” for him was that “Christianity is the only way to God.” The rabbi said for him it was the notion of Jews as “the chosen people.” And the sheik said for him it was the “sword verses” in the Koran, like “kill the unbeliever.”
“It is a verse taken out of context,” Sheik Rahman said, pointing out that the previous verse says that God has no love for aggressors. “But we have to acknowledge that ‘kill the unbelievers’ is an awkward verse,’ ” the sheik said as the crowd laughed. “Some verses are literal, some are metaphorical, but the Koran doesn’t say which is which.”….