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On Malaysian Bibles & misguided ‘Muslims’

January 27th · 2 Comments · Bible, Christian, Extremism, Florida Conference of Muslim Americans, Islam, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Muslim, Quran

“Last November the Malaysian government refused to release 10,000 Bibles it had seized because they contained the word Allah to refer to God…A few Muslims unfortunately went further and attacked churches, badly damaging some of them. Such actions are condemnable as they contradict normative Islam.”

Appreciation to my friend Imam Enrique Rasheed of Jacksonville for alerting me to this item (“Let ‘God’ be ‘God’!”) in an online publication, The American Muslim. The site is another readily available resource that clearly states — contrary to repeated statements by those who don’t know, and others who don’t want to know — that “Muslims Denounce Terror,” and that “Terror Has No Religion.”

The publication also refers readers to “a lengthy collection of Muslim denunciations of terrorism, extremism and violence.” It includes “collections of responses to claims about Islam and Muslims, resources about Islamophobia, and general resources on many topics.”

In short, it’s another of the readily available resources that the professional haters, and too many of my colleagues in the news media, in academia and elsewhere, prefer to claim don’t exist, as they focus attention instead on the relatively few extremists, and the even fewer violent extremists among those, who act in contradiction of the Quran, which is unmistakable in stating that:

“Whoever kills a human being, it is as if he killed all mankind. And whoever saves the life of one, it is as if he saved all mankind” (5:32).

Imam Enrique’s e-mail grabbed my attention because the Malaysia subject came up last week during my excellent Bible class at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-By-The-Sea, where Tom O’Brien currently is guiding us to better understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures.

To hear of Malaysian officials snatching people’s Bibles for using “Allah,” as Arabic-speaking Christians obviously do, and as others the world over routinely translate the Arabic for “God,” sounded patently absurd; inconsistent with reason or common sense. Not to mention a contradiction of the Quran, which prescribes:

“Let there be no compulsion (my italics) in matters of religion” (2:256).

I can’t offer enough appreciation for our Bible class, of which O’Brien says: “The art for us is to find that which is timeless and integrate it into our lives.”

Following the logic of a few misguided folks in Malaysia and elsewhere, however, a Muslim should not be allowed to benefit from such a class. To the contrary, I’m a beneficiary of the growth among many in my country who have left that kind of bigotry behind.

To offer a critique of the excellent essay by my friend Dr. Parvez Ahmed and his co-author, it seemed their piece might have communicated better had it been a bit less academic.

“Normative Islam”? I can see Muslim and non-Muslim eyes glazing over on that one. Among the article’s various descriptions for the “Ultimate Listener,” the “one Possibility,” and the references to the fact that “we worship the same God,” I looked for one clearly recognizing that same God as — The Creator. The Maker — of all we know, and the infinite we don’t know. The One Who says in the Quran, in the chapter titled The Hajj:

“Those on Whom ye call other than God can never create as much as a fly, even if they combined together to do so. And if the fly should snatch anything away from them, they would have no power to recover it” (22:73).

My hopefully constructive criticism echoes the recent outstanding Islamic education session during which a noted imam observed that Muslims often “don’t talk real enough, we’re talking lofty.”

The words were from Imam Abdul’Haq Muhammed of Ft. Myers, a widely recognized public servant and convener of the Florida Conference of Muslim Americans. Imam Haq, as we affectionately call him, urged that in our local communities we “speak real, talk real. Because people are not up there where we think we are.”

Thus the reminder for myself and others to do more plain talking. With that, let me affirm that I long ago got out of the judging business. The quote marks around “Muslims” in the title of this post are meant to emphasize that by definition, we cannot rationally claim a label that our actions contradict.

For example, in speaking to various groups on these kinds of issues, I often point out that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Ku Klux Klan, both claimed the Bible. Both claimed to be following the teachings of Jesus Christ, God’s great Word to humanity, upon whom observant Muslims pray Peace.

In that inconsistency is a reminder: that the One Who made us all is sufficient to judge who truly are Christians. And, similarly, who truly follow God’s revelation to humanity  in the Quran, as well as who is sincere to all the other labels we human beings claim.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Husam Amin

    Thank you brother Hanif, beautiful article.
    May Allah reward you for all you do.
    This new issue in Malaysia just proves a point that i always make to Muslims and non-Muslims alike and that is, as Muslims we need to understand our religion before anything else, if we did we and the rest of humanity will have a lot less problems. We have to understand our faith so we can be the guide to ourselves and other nations like Allah had intended for us to be.
    Assalamu Alaikum.

  • Gholam Rahman

    thanks brother hanif for your fine analysis. the word Allah predates our prophet by maybe thousands of years. His father, not a Muslim, was named Abdullah, abd Allah or servant of God. Luckily we don’t own Allah!

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