A Muslim Scholar Takes on CAIR (FrontPageMagazine.com) By Jamie Glazov 02/02/05)
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Frontpage Interview´s guest today is Prof. Khaleel Mohammed,
Assistant Professor at the Department of Religious Studies at San
Diego State University. He has sparked controversy within the Islamic
community by arguing, as a Muslim himself, that the Koran says Israel
belongs to the Jews.
FP: Prof. Mohammed, welcome back to Frontpage Interview. It is a
pleasure to be in your company again.
Mohammed: The pleasure is mine Jamie. Thanks for having me back,
despite the fact that I am often seen as a cantankerous discussant!
FP: Now why would anyone get that idea?
You recently stated that many Muslim groups in the U.S. exist only to
talk about a peaceful Islam, but in fact do nothing about it. And you
used the Hajj* as an example of this, stating that you had a clash of
views with one major advocacy group. What happened?
Mohammed: For me, any talk about reform and peace must come from a
true examination of Islamic teachings, and changing what is
historically incorrect. By this, I do not mean that core Qur´anic
teachings should in any way be twisted to mean what they do not
mean. Rather I am referring to the retelling of stories in such a
way that they do not represent the pristine Qur’anic version. Let us
take for example, the issue of the Hajj. CAIR recently published in
its electronic newsletter (Jan 21), in giving information about the
"When Muslims marked the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, or
Hajj, yesterday, the central figure in their religious celebrations
was the Prophet Abraham, not the Prophet Muhammad as one might
suppose. That fact offers an excellent opportunity for Muslims,
Christians and Jews to recognize their shared religious heritage and
to promote a common future as people of faith. Each year, Muslims in
American and around the world conclude the Hajj with a holiday called
Eid ul-Adha (eedal-ODD-ha), or ´´Festival of the Sacrifice." Eid ul-
Adha not only signifies the end of the pilgrimage, which this year
included an estimated 10,000 American Muslims among 2 million to 3
million faithful, it also commemorates Abraham´s willingness to
sacrifice his son at God´s command. (Muslims believe it was Ishmael
that God asked to be sacrificed.)"
I took exception...as a Muslim and an academic research--to the
parenthetical statement, and wrote to two officials of CAIR that all
Muslims do not so believe, and that the earliest interpretations
showed that Muslims initially followed the Bible story. And that the
later Muslims created a revisionist history to show it was Ishmael.
I, in fact, did an academic paper on this subject a long while ago.
After a long discussion, in which I was basically told it was not an
important matter--among other things, one official let me know that
he was going to have no more discussion on the subject, and the other
one just stopped responding--in fact, he was so brainwashed that he
did not even know that the Qur’an does not say that Ishmael was the sacrificial son.
FP: Are you saying that early Muslims actually literally lied by
twisting the evidence? They replaced Isaac with Ishmael knowing that
this was a falsehood?
Mohammed: Why pussyfoot? You took the words right out of my mouth.
FP: So when Islam says that the Hajj is to commemorate Abraham´s
sacrifice of Ishmael, informed Muslims actually know this is not true?
Mohammed: That is more difficult. You know that when you tell a lie
long enough, it becomes accepted as truth...For most contemporary
Muslims, they accept the story blindly. In truth, I must say that
the CAIR people did not seem to know that there was a problem, but
there they were, purporting to be representatives of Islam, daring to
make public statements about what Muslims think. And when confronted,
they were too arrogant to retract their statement. As one of them
“As I keep repeating, for CAIR, this issue is trivial and it has
decided to follow the view of the majority of trusted scholars, while
not disrespecting or objecting to those who hold the other view.
Believe me, in the process of our work, we do that all the time.”
So for him the issue was not about facts, but about a majority
opinion that could be foisted off to misrepresent a monolith view.
FP: When CAIR advised you to not pursue this matter, what do you
think their motives were? Why do they prefer historical amnesia and
denial on this topic?
Mohammed: As they put it, they do not want division within the Muslim
community. They said that as an advocacy organization, they had to
choose what represents the acceptable opinion among the majority of
scholars and Muslims. So here we have CAIR, representing a religion
that has the presentation of proof as a tenet in its holy book
telling me that what is acceptable to the majority must take
precedence to truth. Or that the voice of the minority must not be
heard. No wonder democracy has such a problem being accepted into
their interpretation of Islam although they may trumpet about Islam
and democracy. I do not think their motives were sinister, but I see
a big problem with their approach: it means that if the majority of
Muslims think the Jews and Christians are misguided and evil, then
they must advocate that. It is similar to their position on the
woman´s headcovering--which they present as "the Islamic position."
They prefer historical amnesia, I think, because whatever makes the
Muslims look good (and non-Muslims look bad) is taken as sacred.As I
was told when I said that there cannot be two positions of truth on
the matter, "...in many cases it matters not which one is right.”
FP: What is the disposition of Jewish rabbis to you?
Mohammed: There is no one answer to this. There are many Jewish
rabbis who oppose what I do, and for good reason. They feel that my
exposing certain cancers within the contemporary Islamic community
could cause rancor and thwart the apparent bridge-building that seems
to be in progress. On the other hand, there are many rabbis who like
that the exposure should come from an observant Muslim, in the hope
that it will goad the Muslims to reexamine their traditions. The
information that Jewish rabbis oppose me on the Isaac/Ishmael theme
came from CAIR’s statement on the matter. But the fact of the matter
is that I had several discussions with some Jewish rabbis regarding
this issue (of who is the Zabeeh--meaning, in Arabic, the sacrificial
son) and they had no problem with it.
Like me, they agreed that both religions have so many clear-cut areas
of commonality that we do not need to split hairs on this issue; an
issue that will certainly not be resolved with a consensus. Actually
one of the rabbis made an interesting and wise comment. He said that
those from the Muslim community who will try to push this issue will
end up undermining the effort of bridging the gap between the two
communities because they will be perceived by Muslims as trying to
impose one version of history on the Muslim community to please
outsiders (even if it is not true).
You see Jamie, I am not about bridging gaps between communities if I
had to use a false screen to do so. If I felt that Ishmael was
involved in the Aqedah (A Hebrew term, meaning "the binding"--in
reference to the binding of Isaac in preparation for the sacrifice),
I would have certainly have said so. But for me to overlook a lie, to
create a false harmony, is madness. If rabbis did indeed say that
which was attributed to them by CAIR, then I would say they are
breaking Jewish practice (and Islamic and Christian) Are we not
supposed to say what is true? Why should any God be pleased with m e
when I am outwardly nice to a Jew and a Christian, shake his hand
etc, when deep down inside, I am thinking "here is a liar who wants
me to believe it is Isaac when I know it is Ishmael. Let me be nice
to bridge a gap, but I know he is a liar." I can do without that sort
of hypocrisy, thank you.
FP: You mentioned the opposition of some Jewish rabbis, is what you
said above their only reason for opposing you?
Mohammed: Well, there are many rabbis who are willing to allow the
obfuscation of certain facts in order to promote artificial harmony.
And there are those who genuinely feel that since many Muslims are
not extremist, I should phrase my rhetoric more gently. My problem
with them is simple: I feel that Muslims who choose to live in free
societies must act as if they are in free societies and not seek to
subjugate those societies to their often retrogressive and uneducated
views of gender interaction, dress codes etc.
FP: So what is your conclusion on this matter with CAIR then? Are you
really surprised about these things when it comes to CAIR? This
organization, after all, grew out of the Hamas-created Islamic
Association for Palestine. Several of its officials (i.e.
Randall "Ismail" Royer) have been arrested for conspiring in
terrorism. We can’t really expect integrity and truth from CAIR can
Mohammed: Looking at the way your question is phrased, I respond that
no, I should not be surprised. I had hoped that CAIR would have truly
sought to work for a reform within Islam, and do so through the
presentation of truth. I sought to aid this by letting them know that
any talk of harmonious interaction with Jews, Christians and others
can only be genuine when we Muslims are genuine. And this means
questioning, probing, admitting that we have misrepresented history,
sometimes blatantly seeking to revise the past. So, painfully, I must
say that since integrity and truth are inextricably interwoven, and
as shown in this, that CAIR is not willing to admit the truth, then,
integrity cannot be expected from them.
FP: Prof. Mohammed, our time is up. Thank you for joining us today.
I´m sure it won´t be too long before we talk again.
Mohammed: I hope so...the more I surf the internet, the more I
see "Islamic" sites that seek to mask the problems within
contemporary Islam, and lay the blame on outsiders. Thank again for
*Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam which involves a pilgrimage to
Mecca during the month of Dhu al-Qadah. It is expected of a Muslim at
least once in a lifetime. (©2005 FrontPageMagazine.com 02/02/05)
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