August 19, 2010
I’m reading the book Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. When I first heard of this book, I ignored it, simply because I am tired of seeing sensational, dramatic stories about poor, abused Middle-Eastern women under the oppression of terrible Islam.
Now I am reading it so that I can discuss it with a group of other women who are reading it.
I was prepared to dislike this book and its author, but instead, I find myself admiring her courage, intelligence and maturity. Unfortunately, she has become an atheist, but given her particular circumstances, I’d have become an atheist, too.
She approaches Islam not from a spiritual or theoretical position, but from the grit of everyday life in a culture festering in ignorance. She was raised in Somalia. There, the justification of sadistic cruelty was based upon an elaboration of so-called divine principles not yet subjected to the light of science or reason.
Many Muslims, myself included, will turn away from problematic verses in the Qur’an, but this author points to them, jumps up and down, and makes everyone look at the elephant in the room. For that, I do not like her. She makes me realize that I’m guilty, along with many modern Muslims, of denial, and rejection of parts of the Qur’an.
I won’t cite the particular verses– we all know they’re there– the ones about polygyny, wife-beating, killing Jews, etc.
I used to think it was OK to ignore these verses. I ignored lots of verses in the New Testament when I was Christian. How else does one deal with unacceptable verses about which one can do nothing? Can one apply the twelve-step recommendation to, “Take what you need and leave the rest.”?
Before 9/11, I did just that, and so did every other Muslim I ever met. After 9/11, denial became problematic, and there’s no end of it in sight.
This book makes me realize that denial (along with its sister, rationalization) is root of the problem of Islam with the rest of the world, and yes, one can say that denial could be the root of problems in all religious disputes. Denial is just a more accurate way of saying “interpretation”. One can interpret certain verses, but others can interpret them differently, and when the verses address issues such as beating and killing, we’ve got big problems that aren’t going to be swept under the rug.
When I was growing up Christian, I was taught that I was so lucky! Those poor souls in Africa, who’d never heard of Jesus, were doomed.
Some Muslims claim that all children are born into a state of Islam –submission to Allah. Parents then infuse other religions into them. When they grow up and discover their real religion –Islam –they “revert” to the original state. This is why some converts call themselves reverts.
To the extent that all of us had no control over our births, and little more control over our deaths, we are indeed born into a state of submission.
What would happen if a child were to be brought up without any system of religious thought? I don’t mean atheism– that has its own peculiarities. What if a parent were to teach a child that God (Allah, G-d, Yahweh, Buddha, etc.) is up there, and that, “Surely, we are from God, and to God we shall return.”?
What if the family lived in a multi-cultural, free society where each resident practiced a different religion and all residents acknowledged the paths of all others as legitimate?
This question used to engage me because every person in my family practices a different religion– that’s six of them! How can I believe that only one of them will enter Heaven (ME! Me! me?), and the others are doomed? I prefer to think that Allah sits above it all, and that He permits various religions because he permits various approaches to Him, and that all systems have flaws as well as profound wisdom.
I know, I know, the Qur’an says that no religion other than Islam will be accepted, but Christianity says the same thing. Are the two equal? Hardly! Just ask a Muslim– then ask a Christian. Sometimes I wish I could become indifferent to religion. Someday I might develop that capability, but for now I still ponder the nature of divine reality, and I wonder whether we’ll all get to Heaven in the end and say to each other, “Oh! Now I understand!”