Christoph Luxenberg is the pseudonym of an enormously perceptive and courageous scholar who has done ground-breaking research on what the Qur’an actually says. It is Luxenberg who posits that the Qur’an promises grapes, not virgins, to those who kill and die for Islam. In Islam Unveiled I wrote about him as an example of the difficulties that Islamic scholars and reformers encounter when they go against entrenched orthodoxy. Now Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times’ intrepid proponent of theological equivalence, has noticed Luxenberg’s work, and hopes “that this scholarship is a sign of an incipient Islamic Reformation – and that future terrorist recruits will be promised not 72 black-eyed virgins, but just a plateful of grapes.”
He notes, however, that there is opposition:
But Muslim fundamentalists regard the Koran – every word of it – as God’s own language, and they have violently attacked freethinking scholars as heretics. So Muslim intellectuals have been intimidated, and Islam has often been transmitted by narrow-minded extremists.
(This problem is not confined to Islam. On my blog, www.nytimes.com/kristofresponds, I’ve been battling with fans of the Christian fundamentalist “Left Behind” series. Some are eager to see me left behind.)
So, he concludes, “the obstacle is not the Koran or Islam, but fundamentalism.” Ah. Of course. Those nasty fundamentalists, be they Muslim or Christian, they’re causing all this trouble.
But just one question, Mr. Kristof: you note that Luxenberg uses this pseudonym “for security reasons.” And that’s true: he is in danger of his life from Muslim “fundamentalists,” who are also operating terrorist organizations worldwide. Can you please point out to me where Biblical scholars have ever had their lives threatened by Christian fundamentalists, no matter how extreme the views of these scholars have been?
I eagerly await your reply.
(Note: I am not claiming that Christianity has a spotless record. Far from it. But those who, like Kristof and Arsalan Iftikhar, would have us believe that the Islam of today’s terrorists is incidental, not essential, to their identity and goals, would have us misapprend them severely. And that misapprehension plays out today in all sorts of dangerous ways: CAIR training law enforcement officials, etc.)