Are the Fundamentalists projecting a false image of Islam?
Stabroek News
December 3, 2001

Dear Editor,

The many letters appearing in the Stabroek News, in response to mine, have constrained me to offer a reply. I have been accused of quoting out of context, misquoting, misinterpreting and misrepresenting the Quran in an attempt to mislead and propagate misinformation.

All the writers, in their bitterness, have missed or evaded the main issue of my letter, to wit, that Mr. bin Laden and the Taliban, and tens of thousands like them throughout the world, justify their actions through the authority of the Quran. Are they in fact projecting a false image of Islam? It is significant they all use Quranic phrases like "unbelievers" and "infidels". Are they guilty of misinterpretation and misinformation? They are Islamic scholars. Quoting out of context or misquoting is not the issue in question.

Dr. Sobhy as-Saley, a contemporary Islamic academician quoted Imam Suyuti, author of Itqan Fi 'Ulum al-Quran, who wrote: "The command to fight the infidels was delayed until the Muslims became strong; but when they were weak, they were commanded to endure and be patient." [Sobhy as-Saleh, Mabaheth Fi 'Ulum al-Quran, Dar al-'llm Lel-Malayeen, Beirut, 1983, p. 269.].

Other Islamic scholars, like Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi, Ga'far ar-Razi', Rabi' Ibn 'Ons, Abil-Aliyah, Abdar Rahaman Ibn Zayd Ibn Aslam, etc. agree that verses like "slay the idolaters wherever you find them" [9:5] cancel those few earlier verses that called for tolerance and were revealed when Islam was weak.

In "The voice of moderate Islam", [ S. N. 26.11.01], Professor Muqtedar Khan, Director of International Studies at Adrian College, Michigan, and formerly Managing Editor of the Journal of Islamic Studies, was reported as saying in the Sun Newspaper, inter alia: "Why I, a Muslim deplore our extremists culture of hate...No matter how strongly we condemn the attacks, the fact remains that the accused have indicated that their motivation was Islam...If Osama bin Laden were an isolated individual, there would be no problem...The century old Islamic revival is in jeopardy because we have allowed extremists to hijack it."

Iran, itself a fundamental Islamic State is the latest Islamic country to come out against the Taliban for its un-Islamic acts. Arab scholars have called upon the Muslim world to set its house in order by fighting the extremists.

In a Reuters report, printed in Stabroek News on June 17, 1994, it was stated that 2000 Muslim fundamentalists marched in the Bangladesh capital calling for the death of feminist writer, Taslima Nasrin, herself a Muslim. She was described as an agent of the devil. Her crime? She called for a thorough revision of the Koran.

Muslims claim that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance; that Allah of the Quran never advocates killing; that this is the work of misguided individuals. However, the Muslims who perpetrate these crimes think differently. They believe that what they do is Jihad [holy war], and that killing of unbelievers is justified. Those who blow up their own bodies to kill more innocent people do so because they believe they will be rewarded in Paradise. Are these people completely misguided ? or, are we misguided?

The question which Muslims should honestly answer is: What has been responsible for the shaping of these people's belief ? What has contributed to these people becoming extremists ? Does the Quran lend itself to an interpretation of being intolerant to those not professing the Islamic religion?

To Mr. Abdul Rahim Forde, I advise that we must be alert against rules which appear to have divine authority but when examined have only the authority of male institutions.

Yours faithfully,

Oliver Barclay