I’m a bit late with this, but it is still worth noting. The Islamic Feast of Eid al-Adha commemorates the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, and Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son — Ishmael in the Muslim version.
In thinking of Abraham, most Americans think of the Biblical figure. In Genesis 22:15-18, Abraham is rewarded for his faith and told he will become a blessing to the nations: “by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”
But the Muslim audiences that Obama addresses here do not read Genesis. They read the Koran, in which Allah says that Abraham is an “excellent example” for the believers when he tells his pagan family and people that “there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever, unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone” (60:4). The same verse relates that Abraham is not an excellent example when he tells his father, “I will pray for forgiveness for you.”
Thus the Koran, in its picture of Abraham, the man Obama invokes as a symbol of the common elements of the three faiths, holds up hatred as exemplary, while belittling the virtue of forgiveness. Obama therefore reinforces a worldview that takes for granted the legitimacy of everlasting enmity between Muslims and non-Muslims — and does so while attempting to build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims.
This demonstrates once again how crucial it is for American policymakers to have a detailed understanding of Islam’s theological and cultural frame of reference, and of the actual teachings of the Koran. For lack of this understanding, careless statements continue to be made, and policy errors keep multiplying.
“Obama greets Muslim pilgrims,” by Foon Rhee for the Boston Globe, November 25 (thanks to all who sent this in):
President Obama continued his outreach to the world’s Muslims today, sending greetings to pilgrims to Mecca.
He also noted that his administration is assisting Saudi authorities in preventing the spread of swine flu.
“Michelle and I would like to send our best wishes to all those performing Hajj this year, and to Muslims in America and around the world who are celebrating Eid-ul-Adha. The rituals of Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha both serve as reminders of the shared Abrahamic roots of three of the world’s major religions,” Obama said in a statement.
“During Hajj, the world’s largest and most diverse gathering, three million Muslims from all walks of life – including thousands of American Muslims – will stand in prayer on Mount Arafat. The following day, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid-ul-Adha and distribute food to the less fortunate to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son out of obedience to God,” the president added in the statement, translated on the White House website into Arabic, Persian, Dari, Urdu, Pashto, Russian, and French.
“This year, I am pleased that the Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with the Saudi Health Ministry to prevent and limit the spread of H1N1 during Hajj. Cooperating on combating H1N1 is one of the ways we are implementing my administration’s commitment to partnership in areas of mutual interest.
“On behalf of the American people, we would like to extend our greetings during this Hajj season – Eid Mubarak.”