Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Muslims Crossed Pyrenees?
Had Muslims crossed Pyrenees?
What if the Muslim armies hadn't been stopped at the French border?
by Joan Acocella February 4, 2008
The New Yorker
Detail of Carl von Steuben's depiction of the Battle of Poitiers, fought in 732, the year Muslim armies crossed the Pyrenees.
Mike Ghouse comments :: A few corrections are warranted; At the very end of the first paragraph it reads “Their word was now superseded by Muhammad's, as their creeds were supplanted by this new one, Islam.”. The word is not superseded, but progressed or enhanced.
In the Middle of the second paragraph it reads “Muhammad ordered the destruction of the three hundred and sixty idols around the city's great temple,” the word destruction should be substituted by “removal”.
Third paragraph, “and includes such things as the moon splitting in two should be asked to conform to post-Enlightenment thought.” - Jesus walking on the water, Moses cutting through the red sea, Rama flying in special spatial vehicle all sound impossible. They are all based on faiths and all religions have that element as a part of building faith in the impossible, as building faith in the invisible God.
Lewis, David Levering;
"God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570 to 1215" (Norton; $29.95);
In 610 A.D., Muhammad ibn Abdallah, a forty-year-old man from a prosperous merchant family in Mecca, repaired to a cave on nearby Mt. Hira to meditate—a retreat he had made many times. That year, though, his experience was different. An angel appeared and seized him, speaking to him the words of God. Muhammad fell to his knees and crawled home to his wife. "Wrap me up!" he cried. He feared for his sanity. But, as the voice revisited him, he came to believe that it truly issued from God. It called on him to reform his society. Poor people were to be given charity; slaves were to be treated justly; usury was to be outlawed. Muhammad's tribesmen, the Quraysh, were polytheists, like most people in the Arabian Peninsula at that time, but this God, Allah, proclaimed that he was the only God. He was the same deity that the Jews and the Christians worshipped. Jesus Christ wasn't his son, though. Christ was just a prophet, like the prophets of the Old Testament. Their word was now superseded by Muhammad's, as their creeds were supplanted by this new one, Islam.
When Muhammad started preaching in Mecca, people saw him as a harmless crank, but as he gained followers he began to be regarded as a menace. Mecca was an important trading hub, with rich merchants. Muhammad's God forbade all ostentation. Furthermore, if, as he instructed, the pagan idols were to be discarded, that would mean no more revenue from their shrines. In 622, Muhammad and his followers were driven out of Mecca. They fled to Yathrib, which became known as Medina, and from there they warred with their native city. In the beginning, Muhammad's treatment of his fellow-monotheists the Jews and the Christians was conciliatory, but new religions do not normally establish themselves with the help of older religions. The local Jewish tribes conspired against him. After a decisive battle in 627, Muhammad had seven hundred Jews beheaded in Medina's central market. In 630, he and his men took Mecca. Muhammad ordered the destruction of the three hundred and sixty idols around the city's great temple, the Kabah. He proclaimed the supremacy of Islam, and reportedly sent messengers to the rulers of Persia, Byzantium, Yemen, and Ethiopia bidding them to convert. According to his biographer Karen Armstrong, he spent his few remaining years trying to establish peace, sometimes over the objections of his lieutenants.
Soon after Muhammad's death, in 632, the record of what God had said to him was collected in the Koran, and his contemporaries' testimonies about his life were gathered in the Hadith. At the same time, Islam expanded, with a speed unique in history. One of the obligations imposed on the faithful by the Koran was jihad, or struggle. This has been translated as "holy war," and there are passages in the Koran to support such a reading, notably the recommendation that Muslims kill enemies of the faith: "Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme." But just a few paragraphs later the Koran makes the opposite decree: "There shall be no compulsion in religion." Some interpreters of the Koran—particularly in recent years, when holy war has become a matter of public alarm—have argued that "jihad" actually means spiritual combat, every Muslim's fight within himself against the temptations of evil. I don't know why a book that was collected, rather than composed, should have to be internally consistent, or why a religious document that originated within a nomadic society in the seventh century and includes such things as the moon splitting in two should be asked to conform to post-Enlightenment thought. The Bible also contradicts itself, and has water turning into wine. Such matters are a problem only for literalists. As for slaying one's enemies, this is enthusiastically recommended in Psalms ("Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones"), as it is in many premodern writings.
In any case, however much Muhammad's immediate successors may have struggled with their souls, they also, in the eighty-some years following his death, conquered Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Anatolia, Iraq, and Persia. By the beginning of the eighth century, Muslim forces stood at the northwest corner of Africa. There, only the Strait of Gibraltar, nine miles wide, separated them from the Iberian Peninsula. Iberia at that time was ruled by the Visigoths, a Christian people who did their best to wipe out other religions within their territory—Judaism, for example. There is some evidence that the Iberian Jews invited the Muslims to invade. In 711, they did so. The state that they established in Iberia, and maintained for almost four centuries, is the subject of David Levering Lewis's "God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570 to 1215" (Norton; $29.95).
This book has to be understood in context, or, actually, two contexts. The first is post-colonialism, the effort on the part of scholars from the nineteen-seventies onward to correct the biases that accompanied and justified the colonization of eighty-five per cent of the earth by European powers between the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries. In that period, according to Edward Said's 1978 "Orientalism"—the founding document of post-colonial thought—history-writing about the Near East and the Middle East was an arm of empire. Its goal was to make non-Western peoples seem uncivilized, so that European control would appear a boon. Since Said, much writing on Europe's former colonies has been an effort to redress that injustice.
The other context in which Lewis's book must be read is, of course, the history of terrorism, since the late nineteen-seventies, on the part of people claiming to be instructed by the Koran. When this started, most Westerners had little idea of what the Muslim world was. Harems, hookahs, carpets—that was about it. Nor, after the terrorist attacks, was it easy to catch up in any proper way, for, while there has been an outpouring of books on Islam in the past two decades, many of them were for or against it. A number of prominent intellectuals have denounced Islam. Other people have protested that the vast majority of Muslims do not support terrorism. Some historians have condemned not just the demonization of Islam but the West's ignorance of the Muslim world—a failure now seen as political folly, not to speak of arrogance. Scholars went to their desks to testify to the glories of Islamic cultures. Salma Khadra Jayyusi, in the foreword to her magnificent anthology "The Legacy of Muslim Spain" (1992)—a collection of forty-nine essays describing not just the politics and the religion of Muslim Iberia but its cities, architecture, music, poetry, calligraphy, and cooking—calls the omission of Islam from the West's story of civilization a "historical crime."
Lewis's book is part of that revision. The Muslims came to Europe, he writes, as "the forward wave of civilization that was, by comparison with that of its enemies, an organic marvel of coordinated kingdoms, cultures, and technologies in service of a politico-cultural agenda incomparably superior" to that of the primitive people they encountered there. They did Europe a favor by invading. This is not a new idea, but Lewis takes it further: he clearly regrets that the Arabs did not go on to conquer the rest of Europe. The halting of their advance was instrumental, he writes, in creating "an economically retarded, balkanized, and fratricidal Europe that . . . made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, persecutory religious intolerance, cultural particularism, and perpetual war." It was "one of the most significant losses in world history and certainly the most consequential since the fall of the Roman Empire." This is a bold hypothesis.
The Muslims took most of Spain in a little over three years. The Visigoths had more men, but the Arabs were very skillful warriors, seeming to dance in front of the enemy, attacking, retreating, attacking again. Here and elsewhere, Lewis appears to see them as clever underdogs, David to Goliath, Muhammad Ali to George Foreman. He inventories the great sacks of gold and silver and precious stones that, together with vast numbers of slaves and young women (harem-bound), they sent back to their caliph in Damascus, the capital of the empire. Included in the shipments were the heads, pickled in brine, that they had removed from Visigoth grandees. In 714, they were just short of the Pyrenees, the northern border of Iberia. The peninsula was now theirs. They renamed it Al Andalus.
As news of the conquest spread, Arabs from the East streamed into Iberia, and they brought with them the conflicts brewing among them—above all, a nasty feud between northern and southern Arabs. The first twenty-two emirs (governors) of Al Andalus had an average reign of two years apiece. Stability, or as much of it as Muslim Spain ever had, began with the reign of Abd al-Rahman I, a Syrian-born prince who took over in 756 and managed to stay in power until his death, thirty-two years later. Rahman is the hero of "God's Crucible." Lewis loves him, and calls him by his sobriquet, the Falcon. Rahman was a firm ruler—he had taken his throne by force—but he was also a man of the people. Lewis describes him strolling about the capital city, Córdoba, in a white djellabah, without bodyguards, and preaching at Friday services in the mosque. Raised in a palace, he was an arts lover. It was he who built the Great Mosque of Córdoba, the most spectacular extant example of Muslim Spain's architectural achievements. He also botanized, and imported to Spain its first date palms, its first lemons, limes, and grapefruit, as well as almonds, apricots, saffron, and henna. This of course was good for trade, which flourished during his time.
Accordingly, so did Spain's cities, led by Córdoba, which under Rahman had an estimated population of about a hundred thousand. Lewis describes the metropolis that the emir left to his successors: "The qasr"—palace—"was new, completed just as the Falcon ordered the foundations laid for the Friday (Great) Mosque. Not many steps away were the public baths. Nearby was the central market, where basic commodities of bread, vegetables, fruit, oil, and lamb at regulated prices were upstaged by Persian carpets, Damascus metalware, China silks, fine leather and jewelry, slaves, and much else supplied on demand by the Muslim world economy. . . . The capital's streets, following no particular pattern from the long wall beside the gray Guadalquivir River, linked neighborhoods where Jews, Berbers, Catholics and Orthodox, Arabs and muwalladun"—non-Arab converts to Islam—"lived as though in their own separate worlds. Sephardic apothecaries, Visigoth blacksmiths, and Greek surgeons offered services in these long, narrow arteries." Orange and lemon trees in the public gardens perfumed the air. Outside the city, "the long Guadalquivir plain, abundantly irrigated by waterwheels, was carpeted with cereal plantations of wheat, rye, and barley, and olive trees forever." You want to move there.
Rahman was the founder of Muslim Spain's famous convivencia. Translated literally, the word means "living together," in spite of differences, and this idea is the burning center of "God's Crucible." I think it is the reason that Lewis chose to write about Muslim Spain. He is not an Arabist. He is best known for a two-volume biography of W. E. B. Du Bois (1993 and 2000), which won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for each volume. But that book, if it is not about Arabs, is about racial justice, and it is for the furtherance of such justice that Lewis so admires Rahman. Nevertheless, as he points out, the convivencia had its limits. It was not just a humane policy—an act of obedience to the Koran ("There shall be no compulsion in religion") and a way of being civilized—but also a matter of Realpolitik. Iberia was a ragbag of religious and ethnic groups. Tolerance, what we would now call multiculturalism, was more likely to hold them together than forced conversion. Furthermore, the convivencia never involved complete equality. In the early years, a number of restrictions were placed on Jews and Christians. They had to wear identification badges. They could not proselytize, and they were required to pray quietly. Their houses could not be taller than Muslims' houses. Most important, they had to pay a heavy tax, called the jizya. In time, many of these rules (not including the tax) fell away. Jews, especially, were allowed to enter public service, as scribes, clerks, advisers. They taught the Muslims how to run a government, Lewis writes. The golden age of Al Andalus, he says, was also the golden age of Sefarad, the Sephardic Jews. But even those who did not have brilliant careers no doubt found badges and taxes preferable to forced conversion or death. Eventually, many Jews and Christians did convert—probably, in many cases, to avoid the tax. At the end of the eighth century, the vast majority of people in Iberia were Christians. Two hundred years later, the majority were Muslims.
The Muslims never ruled all of Iberia. Certain regions, particularly in the north, remained independent, or were only loosely allied with the emirate, and they repeatedly rebelled. Then there was the strife within the Muslim populace. Christians and Jews were not the only ones who received unequal treatment—any non-Arab did. That included the descendants of the North African Berbers whom the Arabs had added to their empire at the beginning of the eighth century and who came with them to Spain. The Iberian Berbers were Muslims, and the emirate's best warriors. (Tariq ibn Zayid, who led the invasion of Iberia, was a Berber, and so was his cavalry.) They also outnumbered the Arabs in Spain. Therefore, they resented their second-class status. For much of the history of Al Andalus, the emirs had to deal with Berber revolts. Another reason the Iberian Arabs had to go back to war was that the conversions to Islam, in freeing people from the jizya, were depleting the treasury. The emirs had to find more infidels to tax. Finally, there was the command of jihad. The Arabs had never meant to stop at the Pyrenees, and, in 732, only twenty-one years after they entered Iberia, they scaled the great mountains and went down the other side.
The kingdom they were invading was Frankland—roughly, France, Belgium, and parts of western Germany—under the rule of Charles the Hammer, or, in French, Charles Martel. The Muslims lost some engagements and won others, but because of a Berber revolt at home they were soon forced to withdraw. In 778, the Franks—now under the leadership of Charles Martel's grandson, Charles I, the Great, or Charlemagne—retaliated. Second to Rahman, Charlemagne is a hero in Lewis's eyes: not just a military genius but a good man and a dashing fellow. Lewis tells us three times that the Frankish king stood six feet three inches tall. He pictures him, his blond hair flowing, his blue cape billowing behind him, astride a huge white stallion. If the Franks were primitive, Lewis says, the peoples whom Charlemagne had conquered—the Saxons, the Lombards, the Avars—were more so. Their new king tried to improve them. He imposed chastity on the priests, to their distress; he forbade incest, apparently a popular practice among the people. To elevate the culture of Frankland, he founded the Palace School, a combination think tank and college, and imported learned men to staff it, but his efforts were limited by the fact that he was constantly in the field. Charlemagne's neighbors did not submit easily to his rule—especially since, unlike the Muslims, he required them to convert. So when he wasn't conquering he was reconquering. That is what ended his Spanish campaign. After a few months, he received news that the Saxons were in revolt, and he had to go home.
Both Rahman and Charlemagne were primarily founders, men whose actions bore their finest fruit after their deaths—in Charlemagne's case, long after his death. (Rahman died in 788; Charlemagne, in 814.) But their struggles are the central human drama of Lewis's book, and once that is over he loses heart somewhat. In the case of Frankland, he could hardly do otherwise. Less than thirty years after Charlemagne's death, the empire that he had worked so strenuously to unite was carved up into three parts, one for each of his grandsons. Meanwhile, the Vikings invaded, and the divided kingdom was powerless to stop them. By the end of the ninth century, Frankland was a ruin. "Walled settlements anchored timorous villagers and peasants driven from their land," Lewis writes. "Blackened silhouettes of abbeys and monasteries outlined the horizon." The Vikings did not care to have palace schools. "They are the filthiest race that God ever created," a Muslim ambassador wrote. "They do not wipe themselves after going to stool, nor wash themselves . . . any more than if they were wild asses."
Al Andalus died more slowly. The Vikings made no headway there; Muslim Spain was attacked, as usual, by its own—the Iberian Berbers, the Christian territories of the north—and by North African Berbers who came in as reinforcements and then seized power. These Africans brought with them a form of Islam far more strict and exclusionary than Iberia had known before. Between that and a cycle of rebellions and reprisals, convivencia came to be viewed as a form of laxity. In this late period, the armies were not headed by Arabs. Prosperity had softened the Arab élite. They liked the good life; they had little taste for war, where you couldn't get a decent meal or a bath. (The Iberian Muslims felt strongly about personal hygiene. They had toothpaste and underarm deodorant.) So they stayed home, and sent Berbers, Africans, and slaves to fight their wars—less wisely, and more brutally, than they would have done. Here, Lewis sounds a tragic note: the more civilized a people, the more vulnerable.
Year by year, the good life vanished. Book burnings began, together with pogroms. Revolts and reprisals were conducted in an ecstasy of violence. When Córdoba, under the emir Muhammad II, was invaded by a rival claimant to the throne, the latter's Berber army raped the women, sacked the city, and knocked down its splendid buildings, including Rahman's palace. (They spared the Great Mosque.) Twenty years later, the Iberian caliphate was dissolved, and the peninsula was divided among taifas, or petty kings, who ruled with a new cruelty. At this point, the Reconquista—the recapturing of Spain by the Christians—began in earnest. Toledo fell to Alfonso VI of León and Castile, a Catholic king, in 1085. Four more centuries passed before the expulsion of the last emir from Granada, in 1492, but Lewis gets through them fast. He doesn't want to talk about it.
Instead, he turns to Muslim Spain's contributions to learning, which peaked as its political situation was declining. Architecture continued to flourish (the Alhambra, in Granada, was begun in the thirteenth century), as did music, poetry, science, and mathematics. It is thanks to Muslim Spain that we no longer have to cope with Roman numerals. Paper-making technology was imported from China. The central library of Córdoba housed four hundred thousand volumes. But Al Andalus's most lasting cultural achievement was its translation and elaboration of ancient Greek texts. In the tenth century, the physician Hasdai ibn Shaprut supervised an Arabic translation of the Greek De Materia Medica, by Dioscorides, a surgeon to the Roman army in the first century. Retranslated into Latin, this treatise was a standard medical reference until the Enlightenment. In the twelfth century, Averroës (Ibn Rushd) wrote his commentaries on Aristotle, and Moses Maimonides (Musa ibn Mayum) produced his Aristotle-inflected "Guide to the Perplexed." Both these Córdoban philosophers took on the task of reconciling reason with faith, of proving that there was a God. For the Christian world, that job would be done by the Scholastics, above all by St. Thomas Aquinas, whose writings were the basis of European philosophy from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. But Aquinas relied heavily on Averroës's reading of Aristotle. Insofar as Western culture grew out of Greek culture, and became "classical," it did so because the scholars of Al Andalus transmitted Greek thought to western Europe.
By the twelfth century, though, such thought was dangerous in Spain. (Averroës's books were burned; some were lost permanently.) It was more dangerous on the part of Jews, like Maimonides. He died in exile, bitterly reproaching his homeland for its abandonment of liberal ideas. (Here one thinks of the European Jews of the nineteen-thirties.) With the deaths of those two men, the lights go out in "God's Crucible."
In view of Lewis's high opinion of learning in Al Andalus, it is amazing how little space he gives it. Averroës and Maimonides get seven pages between them, but, given their importance, that's meagre. Lewis doesn't care much about art, either. In his description of the fabled palace Zahra, built by Rahman III, in the tenth century, what he stresses is not so much its art as its political impact: its ability to awe visitors, humble them, impress them with the power of the caliphate. Social history, too, is largely absent from "God's Crucible"—we get no sense of what it was like to be an Andalusian citizen, rich or poor—and there is almost nothing on the country's religion, which is a strange omission in a book about a theocracy. Basically, "God's Crucible" is about fighting and ruling. Lewis makes warfare exciting. ("The heavily armored cavalry . . . commenced the attack in a chorus of 'Allahu akbar' "—"God is great"—"tearing up the hill from the Roman road in a nimbus of nostril steam from their mounts behind volleys of arrows.") He is also partial to succession struggles. We get to hear how Pippin II, Charles Martel's father, roused himself from a coma long enough to issue a death warrant for some throne-grabbers and, that done, lapsed back into the coma and died. Lewis also gives us the excellent sobriquets of the rulers in his story, not just Charles the Hammer but Bertha of the Big Foot (Charlemagne's mother) and al-Walid the Inadequate. Even when he doesn't have a story, he tells one. Little is known about the monks who wrote what history we have of the Dark Ages from a European perspective. But Lewis imagines such a chronicler, at the abbey of St. Denis, outside Paris, on a cold night in the early eighth century: "Perhaps he sweetened a carafe of rough wine with honey or cinnamon while he shivered near the fire in a smoky room, his eyes straining in the penumbra as the stylus incised momentous events on the page." It's like a movie. Finally, Lewis has a wonderful command of narrative structure. Anyone writing the history of Muslim Spain must also, in some measure, give a history of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Frankish Empire, and indeed the Muslim Empire that ruled the East before and during the Arab rule of Iberia. Lewis does so very skillfully, moving these polities in and out as if he were operating a rotating stage set.
His lively prose sometimes tips over into vulgarity. When he quotes people, their words are "gasped" or "winced." When there is a battle on the Rhône, the water flows crimson; when there is a battle on the Euphrates, it flows burgundy. Lewis likes extended metaphors, including the mixed variety. ("The French nation and the papacy, the future house of Europe's post and lintel, were entities in utero as the Muslim dawn broke over the peninsula.") And he has a weakness for jargon and cliché. Kings recruit "the best and brightest." If they are doing well, they are "on a roll." "On the minus side," they may get locked in a "superpower death struggle," and if they don't use "scorched-earth tactics" they may go into "a downward spiral" and lose their "real estate." There is something like this on every other page.
The goosing-up is often in service of showing that the Franks were less civilized than the Muslims—a point that Lewis cannot stop making. The Muslims built cities; the Franks lived in uncleared forests. The Muslim emirs had marble palaces; the early Frankish kings, wooden houses. The Muslims got around on their fabled stallions; Charlemagne's ancestors were "trundled to their few ceremonial duties in ox-drawn carts." The Muslims had silver coins, and traded in silks and spices. The Franks had a largely barter economy, "little better than the Late Neolithic." Upper-class Muslims are shown attending salons, where they read poetry and discuss ideas, unlike Pippin the Short, Charlemagne's father, who received ambassadors in a room filled with "bearskins, stacked weaponry, snoring dogs, cluttered bones, and upturned wine jugs." Frankish knights spend only winter in their homes, "with howling wolves outside and indiscriminate copulation within." Come spring, they discontinue copulation and begin slaughter, which occupies them for the rest of the year. The Muslims' northern foes are "piranhas," "veteran killers," "unbathed, larcenous"—hairy, too. Their culture is "the Occidental void." Often, Lewis compares their activities to twentieth-century atrocities: ethnic cleansing, the "final solution."
Rightly, he does not make a fuss over practices—conquest, slavery, and the subjugation of women—that, however unjust to our eyes, were normal in the Dark Ages, but when he can give the Muslims an edge in these matters he does so. Unlike others, he says, they did not enslave their co-religionists, only infidels. (Why is that better?) As for restrictions on women—an inflamed topic in our time—he acknowledges that the Muslims' were harsher than the Franks', but he believes that Muhammad did not intend this severity, and that the Koran is kinder to women than either the Torah or St. Paul. When the Muslims crucify infidels, this is one of the "regrettable aspects of nation-building." When the Muslim state falls, the jihad on which it was built is not in view—only the Christian jihad. The reason Lewis concludes his book in 1215 is that that was the year in which Pope Innocent III launched the Albigensian Crusade, an especially vicious example of the religious fanaticism that, in Lewis's view, Europe developed in reaction to the Muslims, and inflicted on a bleeding world for many centuries thereafter.
If, as Edward Said wrote, the old history books were covertly ideological, the current ones tend to be overtly ideological, as each new generation of scholars rides in to rescue supposedly worthy peoples who were wronged by earlier scholarship and, in their time, by axe-wielding conquerors. But all these peoples, or all the ones in Lewis's book, were conquerors. If the Christians took Spain from the Muslims, the Muslims had taken it from the Visigoths, who had appropriated it from the Romans, who had seized it from the Carthaginians, who had thrown out the Phoenicians. Lewis does not pretend that the Muslims were not conquerors; he simply justifies their conquest on the ground of their belief in convivencia, a pressing matter today. I can foresee a time when another matter important to us, the threat of ecological catastrophe, will prompt a historian to write a book in praise of the early Europeans whom Lewis finds so inferior to the Muslims. The Franks lived in uncleared forests, while the Muslims built fine cities, with palaces and aqueducts? All the better for the earth. The Franks were fond of incest? Endogamy keeps societies small, prevents the growth of rapacious nation-states. The same goes for the Franks' largely barter economy. Trade such as the Muslims practiced—far-flung and transacted with money—leads to consolidation. That's how we got global corporations.
Each new problem in our history engenders a revision of past history. Many of today's historians acknowledge this, and argue that their books, if politicized, are simply more honest about that than the politicized books of the past. This pessimism about the possibility of finding a stable truth may be realistic, but it seems to sanction, even encourage, special pleading—of which "God's Crucible," for all its virtues, is an example.
SUCCESSFUL NAATIA MUSHAERA ON 2.21.14
45 PICTURES AT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157641382648224/
August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916
Mirza A Beg
PLANNED MUSLIMS RESPONSE TO QUR'AN BURNING BY PASTOR JONES ON 9/11/13 IN MULBERRY, FLORIDA
We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.
Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.