When is the UN Forum on “Christianophobia” going to begin? From Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, with thanks to Anthony:
United Nations, 10 December 2004 — A deep misunderstanding of Islam is fueling anger, hatred, and fear about one of the world’s great religions.
Scholars and diplomats from around the world gathered in New York on 7 December to discuss the rising wave of anti-Muslim sentiment. Secretary-General Kofi Annan kicked off the daylong seminar at UN headquarters.
“When the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry — that is a sad and troubling development,” Annan said. “Such is the case with ‘Islamophobia.’ The word seems to have emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, the weight of history and the fallout of recent developments have left many Muslims around the world feeling aggravated and misunderstood, concerned about the erosion of their rights and even fearing for their physical safety.”
Annan rejected widely held views that Islam is incompatible with democracy or irrevocably hostile to modernity and women’s rights. He said stereotypes also unfairly depict Muslims as anti-Western despite a history of commerce and interaction in the arts and sciences.
It depends on what Annan means by “modernity.” I don’t believe Islam is incompatible with modern technology. But about what are otherwise universally recognized human rights and women’s rights, Muslims themselves have been abundantly clear. Compare the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the 1981 Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights or the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which we owe to the courageous Charles Malik of Lebanon, states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” You will find no analogous guarantee of the freedom to change one’s religion in either of the Islamic declarations. What’s more, the Cairo declaration states: “Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari’ah.” If Sharia is the norm, women’s rights as well as those of non-Muslims will be severely restricted.
And these two documents were not written by “Islamophobes,” but by some of the foremost Muslim thinkers in the world.
But Annan is, of course, oblivious:
Getting over Islamophobia and any other kind of phobia is crucial in a world of intense global economic competition, according to Annan. “Any strategy to combat Islamophobia must depend heavily on education, not just about Islam but about all religions and traditions so that myths and lies can be seen for what they are,” he said. “We must prevent the media and the Internet from being used to spread hatred while, of course, safeguarding freedom of opinion and expression.”
A key factor contributing to the raise of Islamophobia, panelists noted, is the concept of “jihad” or “holy war” against infidels. Militants such as Osama bin Laden invoke jihad to rally Muslims to their cause.
But Ahmed Kamal Aboulmagd, an Egyptian judge and law professor at Cairo University, said that the notion of “holy war” does not exist in Islam.
“In Islam and in Islamic literature there is no such thing as ‘a holy war.’ This is [a] Western invention that was attributed to us, I don’t know how and why and when,” Aboulmagd said. “In the Koran, there are many verses that say [that] when you need it [jihad], and you Muslims need it — [you need] explicit authorization to engage even in a war of self-defense. So the concept of holy war is always a hateful thing.”
I defy Aboulmagd or anyone to prove that jihad in traditional Islamic theology and law has not meant and does not still mean warfare against unbelievers. There is offensive jihad as well as defensive jihad. I’d like to see Aboulmagd refute this careful Qur’anic exposition, written by a Muslim, of the development of the doctrine of jihad. Taqiyya alert: Aboulmagd is engaged in patent deception.
And of course, when there’s a taqiyya exercise, John Esposito is usually close by:
“The impact and implications, the influence of Islamophobia raised many questions and issues,” said John Esposito, director of Washington’s Georgetown University Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. “No. 1, it certainly feeds the perception in many parts of the Muslim world that it’s not a war against global terrorism — it’s a war against Islam. It raises questions about the extent to which our [U.S.] domestic and foreign policies are influenced not simply by a concern about extremism that we need to address them, but in fact by Islamophobia.”
Esposito called for more efforts from educators and the media to correct distorted perceptions and to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
“For at the end of the day Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance know no religious, racial, tribal, or national boundaries or limits,” Esposito said. “The message at the end of the day is clear, the message is simple — Islam is not the enemy, religious extremism is.”
Religious extremism, eh? I hope Dr. Esposito will tell us what other religious tradition besides Islam has a developed doctrine, theology, and legal system mandating warfare against unbelievers — as well as a global movement dedicated to putting these things into practice.