April 29, 2014

Parsing between Muslim religion and culture

Posted by WARREN PERLEY – Editor, BestStory.ca
Writing from Montreal

As a former career journalist who covered federal and provincial politics for The Canadian Press, our new contributor James Osborne knows a thing or two about tackling controversial subjects. In fact, he warned me during one of our first email exchanges almost three months ago that an analysis he wanted to write about Western prejudice against Islam would likely “provoke some controversy.”

Former career journalist James Osborne.

So I expected there could be blowback on the subject once the piece was published. However, I didn’t even have to wait for it to be posted before I got a taste of the kind of negative perceptions prevalent in Western society about Muslim culture.

A Canadian writer to whom I mentioned the pending story by Jim immediately told me that would be a “must-read” piece for her because she had heard nothing good about Muslim culture, citing among others an Internet article titled “The Joys of Being a Muslim Woman” written by Nonie Darwish.

Darwish has also written a book titled, “Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law.” The basic premise of her writings is that the goal of radical Islamists is to impose Sharia Law on the world and in the process destroy the Western rule of law based on protection of human rights.

Darwish, born in 1949, spent her childhood in Gaza, then under Egyptian control. Her father, Colonel Mustafa Hafez, an Egyptian military officer in charge of army intelligence in Gaza, died in 1956 in a targeted killing by the Israel Defense Forces after he led covert attacks on civilians in Israel. Darwish became disillusioned with Muslim culture as she had experienced it in the Middle East and eventually converted to Christianity after immigrating to the U.S. with her husband in 1978.

In her 2009 book, “Cruel and Unusual Punishment,” Darwish describes the Quran as “violent, incendiary and disrespectful,” saying that barbaric acts such as beheadings, stonings, rapes of women and persecution of gays come directly from it.

So why wouldn’t an average non-Muslim reader of Darwish come away with negative thoughts about the Quran and Islam in general? After all, she grew up in the religion and the culture. If anyone should know the truth, she should, right?

Well, not necessarily. Even though she grew up as a Muslim, that does not make Darwish an expert on the Quran. What she is knowledgeable about is the repressive Muslim culture she was forced to endure during her childhood in Gaza and young adult years in Egypt.

So why pontificate about a subject — the Quran — on which she might not be an expert? I can’t answer for Darwish, but I do know that James Osborne’s analysis is based on the solid research of trained theologians which sheds light on how the real teachings of the Quran have been subverted by influential fundamentalist Islamists to create a xenophobic culture which subjugates women and teaches hatred of Western values.

As a journalist and researcher, Jim is suggesting that non-Muslims should not confuse the teachings of the Quran with the way extremists have misinterpreted them to create a regressive Muslim culture, which moderate Muslims reject. His message is that predominantly Western Christian society should overcome its prejudice and embrace moderate Muslims in their moral battle against extremists waging jihad.

Jim will be the first to tell you that he does not consider himself an expert on the Muslim faith. But he has spent three years of his life studying research by recognized academic scholars of Islam and Christianity in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

His article on the home page of www.BestStory.ca explains how Western prejudice against peaceful Muslims could be paving the way for more Islamic terrorism against the West.

“This issue has bothered me for some time,” Jim told me before he submitted the piece to BestStory.ca. “Some results of my research came as quite a surprise to me. It also points out that certain practices attributed to the Islamic religion are, in fact, culturally based, which is why these vary widely among numerous Muslim countries.”

Jim’s keen journalistic sense, which he employs to parse the line between religion and culture, allows us as readers to understand how an author such as Nonie Darwish could get it right when she talks about the repressive nature of the Muslim culture she experienced, but how she could go off-track in attributing that culture directly to the Quran.

Jim’s determined effort to provide an objective analysis of how Muslim religion and culture intersect will, I hope, be appreciated by my friend the Canadian writer who told me that such an article would be a “must-read” for her. For all of us non-Muslims, understanding the difference between religion and culture is an important distinction to make if we hope to understand the basis for the terror and tyranny which have been foisted on the world by the evil people who perpetrated 9-11.

Published: MAY 2014
Terrorism by Muslim extremists not connected with Quran's teachings

Writing from Vernon, British Columbia

Despite denunciations of terrorism by Muslim moderates, the predominantly Christian Western world continues to harbor prejudices against Islamic culture, fed by a cliché-prone news media which headlines terrorist groups, as well as oppressive, totalitarian regimes and practices. A reading of the Quran shows that, like the Bible, one of its principal messages is peaceful, harmonious coexistence. It’s time for open-minded Western society to stop allowing its perception of all Muslims to be influenced by a violent, fundamentalist minority.

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