The Corner

The “Muslim Manifesto” & Quoting Scripture

I have probably already said as much as I can say on this subject in yesterday’s marathon of a debate. But some observations about the “Muslim Manifesto” offered by Mustafa Akyol and Zeyno Baran on NRO today.

First, it is obviously a good thing that Muslims of good will are finally trying to come forward in numbers to condemn the cartoon rioting. But we should understand that this business of citing the congenial passages of Muslim scripture for Western consumption (which I have debated with Mr. Akyol before, here) is probably not very persuasive to Muslims, especially the ones doing the rioting.

That is because most of the nice verses, from Mohammed’s Meccan period, are in the early part of the Koran. They are arguably superseded by the later part, from the Medina period, which is much more belligerent, and instructs Muslims, for example, to “fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war.” (Sura 9:5).

Until self-professed moderates revise or reinterpret such passages in a way that sways the Islamic world decisively (a very tall order), all of this citation of scripture actually plays into the hands of the militants because they can credibly contend that the passages they can cite have more authority.

A good example of this is the Manifesto’s claim that “Supported by the Koran’s affirmation that ‘there is no compulsion in religion’ (2:256), we cherish religious liberty.” Later in the Koran, however, Allah instructs: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, from among the people of the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

As I tried to explain yesterday, the jizya, or poll-tax, was a levy imposed on those who did not accept Islam but were willing to live under its protection. Robert Spencer, among other experts, has explained that it was often exacted in most humiliating ways in order to comply with the directive that those paying it “[felt] themselves subdued.”

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