Religious Texts: Why A Different Yardstick for Muslims?

Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi: Why a different yardstick for Muslims?

Dr. Habib Siddiqui


In the post-9/11 era the western media are at the forefront of a highly orchestrated assault against Islam and its people. So, I am not too surprised with the Times On-line piece trying to raise a storm over some 13th century texts that are taught at a Shi’ite religious school in London. [1]  The subject in question is najasa or impurity: what makes something impure according to Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, a 13th century Shi’ite scholar. The text says, “The water left over in the container after any type of animal has drunk from it is considered clean and pure apart from the left over of a dog, a pig, and a disbeliever.” So, the Times reporter Sean O’Connell draws the conclusion that Muslim students are “being taught to despise unbelievers as filth”, which becomes the news heading, sure to draw much publicity in UK before the election in May.

What is, however, lost in the currently hyped message is the context under which such rules were recommended by a medieval scholar. Nor should we be oblivious of the fact that such rules don’t necessarily get followed by every individual who follows the Shi’ite branch of Islam. The Shi’ite jurisprudence being quite dynamic, I doubt if al-Hilli’s rulings of the 13th century have any appeal today other than that of mere academic curiosity.

If one were to go back into history of the 13th century, one finds Muslims living in Iran and vast territories of land that is now called the Middle East enjoying a much higher standard of living compared to their Christian counterparts in Europe. Amin Maalouf’s highly scholarly work “The Crusades through Arab Eyes” [2] provides historical sources to explain us how the West appeared to people already resident in those lands. There we find from the chronicles that the Crusaders were truly leading a savage life. They were a rough, uncultured and filthy bunch with no sense of cleanliness. When looked through the prism of the past, it is not difficult to understand the ruling of al-Hilli on matters of cleanliness.

A more important point is to ponder about what would happen if we are to pull every single book that is conceived to be derogatory to some people. Will there be many books left on our shelves? Even Shakespeare’s great works have signs of racism and bigotry. The same is true in the writings of many great literary icons. But people study those books to understand the time and people of those centuries, and the mindset of the author.

In the post-9/11 era, no religious book has been as much demonized as the Qur’an, thanks to cultural coolies and their patrons. There is not a single copy of the Qur’an to be found in the Los Angeles public libraries, because it is considered offensive to Jews and Christians. My question is why don’t these cultural bulldogs apply the same set of rules against their own books, the Bible, and the Talmud for scores of violent and demeaning passages? [3]  Is not the so-called anti-Semitism (actually anti-Juda-ism) a direct result of millennia-old teachings of the New Testament that portrays Jews as the bad guys who committed deicide (i.e., ‘killed’ Jesus)? The fate of millions of Jews was sealed as the guilty ones and punishment came into vogue. [4]

The Gospel account in Matthew 27:24-25 reads: “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” This passage, probably more than any other text in the Christian scriptures, fueled anti-Judaism. In the above account, Matthew records that a crowd of Jews said that they and their children were responsible for Jesus’s crucifixion. This inspired the church father Origen (circa 185-254 CE) to write: “Therefore the blood of Jesus came not only upon those who lived formerly but also upon all subsequent generations of Jews…” Paul of Tarsus, the real founder of Christianity, similarly blamed Jews as can be seen from his statement: “...ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:  Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men.” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15) The Christian church taught until recently that all Jews—past, present and future—are equally responsible for the death of Christ.[5]

Writing about the Jews, Justin, a second century (c.100-165 CE) Christian father, wrote, “The tribulations were justly imposed upon you, for you have murdered the Just One.” [6] The 3rd century Christian theologians, including Hippolytus and Origen, elaborated on this theory of Jewish guilt. [7]


In what follows, let me provide some samples of hatred as preached in the religious books of the Jews and Christians.

The New Testament (NT) compares the Gentiles to dogs. Speaking about the gentiles, Jesus is reported as saying: “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” [Matt. 15:26]

Similarly, Paul writes that the Gentiles worship demons (Satan) and that they are equivalent to darkness:  “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.” [1 Corinthians 10:20-21]  “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” [2 Corinthians 6:14]

What did Jesus say about the Jews?:

“But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. [Matt.12:39]

“A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.” [Matt.16:4]

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” [Matt.3:7]

“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” [Matt.12:34]

“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” [Matt.23:33]

“Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” [Luke.3:7]

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” [John 8:44]

Here are samples of verses against the Jews from the Book of Revelation (NT):

“… I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” [Rev. 2:9]

“Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” [Rev. 3:9]

Here are some samples from the Jewish Bible against the Jews:

“Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers.” [Isaiah 1:4]

“Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, for the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness Or knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing, and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. [Hosea 4:1-2]

Let’s next look at what the founder of Protestant movement, Martin Luther (1483-1546), wrote in 1543 (something that was used as a pretext by Adolf Hitler for implementing the earlier phase of his “final solution” against the Jews):

“What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames.” [The Jews and their Lies] [8]

Concerning Jews, Luther also said,

“Therefore the blind Jews are truly stupid fools… Now just behold these miserable, blind, and senseless people. ...their blindness and arrogance are as solid as an iron mountain. … Therefore be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self-glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously … Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security. … Over and above that we let them get rich on our sweat and blood, while we remain poor and they such the marrow from our bones.  … I shall give you my sincere advice: First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them… Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed… Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them… Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb… Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let they stay at home… Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping… Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen 3[:19]}. For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.” [9]

Here are some samples against the gentiles (non-Jews) from the Talmud (Jewish oral traditions):

“A Jew must not associate himself with gentiles because they are given to the shedding of blood.” [Abhodah Zarah (22a)]

“An Israelite must not associate himself with the Akum [Christians] because they are given to the shedding of blood.” [Iore Dea (153, 2)]

“Animals must not be allowed to go near the Goyim (Gentiles), because they are suspected of having intercourse with them.” [Abhodah Zarah (22a)]

“Why are the Goyim unclean? Because they were not present at Mount Sinai. For when the serpent entered into Eve he infused her with uncleanness. But the Jews were cleansed from this when they stood on Mount Sinai; the Goyim, however, who were not on Mount Sinai were not cleansed.” [Abhodah Zarah, 22b]

“A woman must wash herself again if she sees any unclean things, such as a dog, an ass, or People of the Earth; a Christian (Akum), a camel, a pig, a horse, and a leper.” [Biur Hetib, a commentary on the Schulchan Arukh]

How about incitement for stealing [10] other’s land (a rationale for annexation, colonization and plunder) and associated violence (including demolition of homes and places of worship)? We can find the supporting verses in the Bible:

“Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.” [Deuteronomy 12:2-3]

“Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it. And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man’s inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit. But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.” [Num. 33:52-55]

“The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness. Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.” [Ezra 9:11-12]

“Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword. And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be a heap for ever; it shall not be built again.” [Deut. 13:15-16]

How about instructions against idolaters? The Bible says:

“If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” [Deut. 13:6-10]

“He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” [Exodus 22:20]

How about instruction against religious minorities? The Bible says:

“If there arise among you a prophet, ... saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them…And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death…So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee….” [Deuteronomy 13:1-5]

“Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.” [Psalms 79:6]

How about instruction against witches? The Bible says:

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” [Exodus 22:18]

How about open call to enslave other individuals? The Bible says:

“Slaves you may possess, but make sure they are foreigners. You may also make slaves of the natives who dwell among you and from their children who are born and reared in your land. You may own them as chattels and leave them to your sons as their heriditary property, making them slaves forever. But you should not lord it over your own countryman, your own kinsmen.” [Lev. 25:44-46] (See also Deut. 21:10)

How about open call to rape women when one is in war? The Bible instructs:

“Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.” [Num. 31:17-18]

“Suppose you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God hands them over to you and you take captives, And you see a beautiful woman, and you are attracted to her, you may take her. … If she ceases to please you send her away. You may not sell her or treat her as a slave, for you have humiliated her.” [Deut. 21:10-14]

How about encouragement against foreigners? The Bible says:

“In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab (strangers): And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people. And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?” [Neh. 13:23-27]
“Thus cleansed I them from all strangers ...”
[Nehemiah 13:30]

Need I continue further?  While the idea that such problematic verses have very limited appeal or relevance to a majority of practitioners or preachers of the Judeo-Christian faiths prevails in the western media, it cannot be dismissed completely that a significant segment of the fundamentalist preachers or their believers have often acted otherwise, and often quite publicly. 

One need not be a rocket scientist to understand or explain the offensive graffiti or markings on the casing of the rockets and bombs that were used in the first stages of the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.  The evidence is easily available for all to see.  The seeming indifference of the Western media to such behavior, which most likely has biblical roots, is markedly different to its response when it comes to the behavior of extremely small groups among the peoples of the Islamic faith.  The blanket condemnation that follows encompasses not only the entire Muslim world but also the Islamic faith.  It appears that the logic of the 3Ps (place, period and people) while relevant to the religious texts and traditions of the two earlier faiths is inexplicably denied to the later Abrahamic faith, i.e., Islam.  Such selective reasoning is exemplary of the ancient phrase Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi [meaning what is allowed to Jupiter (the supreme Roman god) is not allowed to the cattle, i.e. the general public]!

It is more than relevant to ask why such a double standard when it comes to Islam? What belies such an apparent knee-jerk reaction? Where does such idiosyncrasy lead us to other than breeding further hatred?


Notes:

1.  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2142403,00.html#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=Britain
2.  http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=1-0805208984-4
3.  See e.g., the book: The Talmud - Judaism’s holiest book Unmasked: The Secret Jewish Rabbinical Teachings Concerning Christians by Rev. I. B. Pranaitis; http://www.religioustolerance.org/bibl_hate2.htm.
4.  Tertullian, Apol. 17:6 (PL, 1:433), as cited ibid., p.39.
5.  Gerd Ludemann, “The unholy in Holy Scripture: The dark side of the Bible,” Page 98-99.
6.  Dialogue, ch.16; FCCH, St. Justin Martyr, p.172, as cited ibid., p.40.
7.  Ibid., p.46.
8.  http://www.humanitas-international.org/showcase/chronography/documents/luther-jews.htm
9.  From Luther’s Works, Volume 47: The Christian in Society IV, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971). pp 268-293; http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/luther-jews.html
10.  See also Luke 19:29

 


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