Do Unto Others?

by Clifford D. May

Obama’s Nobel speech had its moments. I think Jennifer Rubin over at Contentions delivered a very fair and balanced appraisal.

But among the claims that Obama made is this:

The one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Now this is certainly a solid pillar of Judaism. Hillel, the rabbi and Jewish leader (70 B.C.E.–10 A.D.) was famously asked to relate all the Torah has to say while standing on one foot. He replied: “Do not unto your neighbor what you would not have him do unto you; this is the whole Law; the rest is commentary.”

And Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, may be said to have developed this idea further when he said:

If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

In what would become the Christian view, refraining from doing to others that which you would not want done to you is insufficient — a follower of Jesus treats people better than he is treated.

I don’t think one finds either sentiment in the Koran and the Hadith. Infidels do not enjoy the same status as the Faithful — not in Allah’s eyes and not in the eyes of Allah’s servants. Not unless and until they convert.

That does not mean, obviously, that there are not Muslims who would never treat non-Muslims as inferiors. Of course, there are. I’ve been privileged to know more than a few.

But I think the truth has to matter. Obama and his speechwriters can’t simply be inventing the fundamental principles of major world religions on the basis of what sounds good and may be convenient in terms of policy promotion. This has to make them look foolish — not least to educated and sophisticated Muslims.

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