Too bad this fellow isn’t offering a reward, but no matter how many Qur’an quotes advocating violence against non-Muslims or “apostates” we send him, something tells me Mr. Kadhim won’t believe his lyin’ eyes. From SF Gate, “Finding my Religion,” with thanks to Nicolei.
Abbas Kadhim grew up in Najaf, the Shiite holy city in Iraq where violent clashes broke out a year ago between U.S. military forces and followers of radical Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. He fled to this country in 1992 after participating in the popular uprising against Saddam Hussein. Now a U.S. citizen, he writes a blog on religion and politics in the Middle East titled “Calling It Like It Is.” I spoke with Kadhim, who teaches Islamic ethics and Koranic studies at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union, about the role of Islam in shaping the country’s direction.
Q: You teach students in the United States about Islamic ethics and the Quran. How well do you think Americans understand Islam today?
I would say that the average American is more informed about Islam now than prior to 9/11. Before 9/11, most Americans were either completely ignorant or misinformed. But there’s been a lot of learning since then.
Still, what would you say are the biggest misconceptions?
Many Americans still think of Islam and terrorism as one and the same thing. This is a big problem. I mean, there are 1.7 billion Muslims in the world. If all of them are terrorists, the world is doomed, right? There are a certain number of Muslims who are taking their violent agenda and giving it a mask that is Islamic, but this is not what Islam is. I defy anyone to bring me one verse in the Quran that advocates violence. The Quran talks about fighting and other things, but always in self-defense, and even the verses that mention fighting say that peace is the way to go…
What do you think is going to happen in Iraq? Do you think the country will eventually stabilize itself?
Yes. Iraqis have done very well in handling themselves with adversity. They have gotten their country back much faster than was planned. The original plans were to have a military ruler of Iraq for five years. Iraqis got a government within a year and a half. People are already being sent to jail for corruption and theft. Terrorists are being captured. So Iraqis, if they are left to their own devices, they will do very well. And if there is any trouble, I think it will be because of the interference of people who are trying to pass a different agenda.
What role do you think Islam should play in building the new Iraq?
More than 95 percent of Iraqis are Muslim. These aren’t just Muslims; they are practicing Muslims. In a population with that kind of majority, the religion has to be factored in future plans. It’s important to remember that whatever small success has occurred in Iraq so far has been the result of people using Islam as a positive force. The elections were not an American idea; they were the idea of [leading cleric] Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, who insisted on them. He also has been using his leverage to denounce violence. After the collapse of the regime, there was a wave of looting, and it was the mosques that called for people to return what was looted, and the majority of the things were brought back to the mosque. The mosque has been the only institution in Iraq really functioning in a positive way.
What about the fear that Iraq will become a theocracy, like Iran? Are you concerned about that?
This is not going to happen. Iran is a monolithic society with more than 80 percent who are Shiite Muslims. In Iraq, you have 65 percent of Iraqis who are Shiite. Even if you ignore the secular elements who don’t want a theocracy, you’ve got head Shiite scholars saying they don’t want it, either. The thing is, right now, if you push Islam outside, the entire enterprise will fail, guaranteed. Then you will give the terrorists a good reason to use [violence in] the name of Islam. Every time you exclude a group, you are giving them no choice but to engage in violence…
Yeah, yeah. Nothing is wrong with Islam and so anything that ever goes wrong, like terrorist violence for example, is never the fault of Islamic teaching. NEVER.