And Merry Christmas to you, kafir
An attempt at generous outreach that, unfortunately, backfires. “Islam: Bush sends Muslims Eid al-Adha greetings,” from AKI :
Washington, 19 Dec. (AKI) – United States president George W. Bush on Wednesday sent a message of goodwill to Muslims worldwide at the start of the major Muslim Eid al-Adha festival of sacrifice.
“During Eid al-Adha, Muslims around the world reflect on Abraham’s unwavering faith and his trust in God when asked to sacrifice his son,” Bush said in the message.
“These four days are a time for Muslims to honour Abraham’s obedience by celebrating with family and friends and showing gratitude for the many blessings bestowed by God.
“This holiday also helps ensure the important values of compassion and devotion are passed on to future generations,” the message continued.
Bush also paid tribute to the role played by Muslims in America, saying they “enriched” multicultural US society.
“The kindness, generosity, and goodwill displayed by American Muslims during this special occasion and throughout the year have contributed to the strength and vitality of our Nation,” the message stated.
“May all those observing Eid al-Adha find love and warmth during this joyous holiday. Laura and I send our best wishes for a memorable celebration,” the message ended.
Eid al-Adha, which lasts through Saturday, is one of the most important Muslim holidays. It commemorates the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to Allah.
“These four days are a time for Muslims to honour Abraham’s obedience by celebrating with family and friends and showing gratitude for the many blessings bestowed by God.”
“Honor Abraham’s obedience.” What is said is not always heard the way it is meant. In speaking of Abraham, even when doing so in the context of Eid al-Adha, Bush probably thinks of Genesis 22:15-18, in which Abraham is rewarded for his faith and told he will become a blessing to the nations:
And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”
But when Bush congratulates Muslims on Eid al-Adha and exhorts them to honor Abraham, what does his audience hear? Most Muslims don’t read Genesis. When they think of Abraham, they think of Qur’an passages such as 60:4:
There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: “We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship besides Allah: we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever, unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone.” But not when Abraham said to his father: “I will pray for forgiveness for thee, though I have no power (to get) aught on thy behalf from Allah.” (They prayed): “Our Lord! in Thee do we trust, and to Thee do we turn in repentance: to Thee is (our) Final Goal.
Did you catch that? This verse is saying that Abraham is an “excellent example” (uswa hasana, أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ, a term applied also to Muhammad in 33:21). Abraham is an excellent example to follow when he says to the polytheists that there is “enmity and hatred forever” between him and them, unless they “believe in Allah and Him alone.” However, the Qur’an also tells us that he is not an excellent example to follow when he says to his pagan father, “I will pray for forgiveness for thee.” Hatred is held up as exemplary; forgiveness is explicitly ruled out.
When Bush tells Muslims to “honor Abraham’s obedience,” he is thus inadvertently reinforcing a worldview that takes for granted the legitimacy of everlasting enmity and hatred between Muslims and non-Muslims — and doing so precisely in the context of trying to build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims. Honor Abraham’s obedience, says the President: hate the kuffar.
This demonstrates once again how vitally important it is for Bush, and for the rest of us, to have a detailed understanding of the theological and cultural frame of reference of jihadists and Muslims in general. But for lack of this, not only are statements issued that could have and should have been much more carefully worded, but policy errors keep multiplying.