Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Who Knew? At Inaugural Interfaith Gathering, Muslim Recites Arabic Prayer Attacking Jews and Christians

Let's stipulate, for the sake of argument, that interfaith prayer gatherings are a good thing and that Catholics, including Catholic clergy should participate in them.

Questions immediately arise as to what prayers are most appropriate. Should you choose an "innocuous" prayer - for example, a prayer than doesn't explicitly include any specifically Catholic or even Christian referents - or should you "show the flag," as it were, expecting the other attendees to understand.

Whatever way you come down on that question, I think it's pretty clear that - again, stipulating that interfaith meetings are a good idea in the first place - one thing you shouldn't do is to pick a prayer that specifically condemns or attacks one or more of the other religions in attendance. That's only common courtesy if nothing else. So for example, here's one prayer or passage that I, as a Catholic would not read at such a gathering. It's from 1st Thessalonians 2:15-16:
(The Jews) Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their (the Jews') sins always: for the wrath is come upon them (the Jews) to the uttermost.
Am I condemning or renouncing that passage or claiming that it shouldn't be read at, say, an appropriate Mass (if it's even in the traditional liturgy anywhere - I have no idea whether it is)? Of course not. I'm just saying that there are certain obvious contexts where it would be inappropriate. 

If I did read such a passage at an interfaith meeting, I assume it would cause a sort of scandal.

Now, suppose, at an interfaith meeting, I read it in Latin or Ancient Greek, and assume most of the audience didn't understand those languages. For obvious reasons, that might cause even more of a scandal (at least if any non-Catholic eventually got ahold of a translation).

Luckily, 99.9% of the Bible is made up of passages that do not attack other modern religions. So choosing an alternative wouldn't be difficult.

Flash forward to reality. On Saturday, at an interfaith prayer meeting that was part of the inauguration festivities, the Islamic representative read a prayer that attacked Jews and Christians.

Yes, you heard that correctly. And, no, it's not fake news. It can be easily verified on the video (if you know Arabic).

The prayer was read in Arabic (as most Muslim prayers are), so no one, at least initially, noticed. Here is the prayer. It is simply the text of the first Sura (chapter) of the Koran:
I seek refuge in allah from Satan. Thanks be to allah the merciful one. Guide us on the right path for those whom you blessed (Muslims), not the path of the ones you are angry at (Jews) or the ones who went astray (Christians).
Now, I do think this is a sort of scandal, but perhaps not for the reasons you might at first think.  Let me clarify by making three points:

1. The prayer was read by Sajid Tarar. He is the bald, bow-tied Pakistan-born businessman who spoke at the RNC convention. Tarar founded Muslims for Trump and (unlike many of his Muslim peers in the public eye) he appears to have no ties to radical or supremacist Muslim groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. For obvious reasons, many Muslims who do have ties to those groups and many on the left despise him.

2. The prayer is not exactly obscure. In some ways it is one of the most famous passages in the Koran as it serves as a kind of Introduction to that religious book. Open up a Koran and you will find it on the first page. If you want to read the Koran straight through, it's the first thing you will read. And it's one of the most popular prayers in the Muslim faith - a sort of Muslim "Our Father" or "Hail Mary." Indeed, most Muslims have to recite it at certain times and at certain intervals.This is no doubt why it was read at the meeting. 

3. In some translations of the Koran, the words in parentheses, "Muslims," Jews" and "Christians" do not occur, but all Muslims who study the Koran know who "whom you blessed," "who you are angry at" and "the ones who went astray" refer to. That these are the intended referents is one of the reasons the prayer is so much used. It sets Islam apart and sort of defines the stakes, as it were, as was intended by Muhammed and/or those who originally compiled the Koran.

So the basic point is not so much that Mr. Tarar made some sort of sly attack on Jews and Christians at the meeting, but that the Koran and Koranic prayers are shot through with this sort of thing. And this is one of the ways in which the text and traditions of Islam differ from other faiths. It's as if, all Christians recited "Our Father who art in Heaven and who hates the Jews" every day or Catholics said Grace with "Bless us oh god, but do not bless the Protestants" at every meal.

Can one find passages implicitly or explicitly "hostile" to other religions anywhere in the Bible? Of course (see above). But they are the exception, not the rule. The Old Testament opens with "In the beginning, God created heaven and earth." The Gospel of John opens with "In the beginning was the Word." The Koran, essentially opens with, "God loves Muslims but hates Jews and Christians."

I'm not of course arguing here that, for a Catholic, the differences between faiths or the stakes in recognizing those differences should not be strongly defined and proclaimed. Indeed, it is one of the most obvious and prominent failures of the post-Vatican II Church that they have generally not been. But whatever anyone else says, most of the day-to-day religious life of a Catholic does not consist in an "Us vs. Them" narrative against others. Sorry but it just doesn't.

And it never has.

But the religion of Islam was birthed in violent and bloody opposition to the major two other contenders. And it's been engaging in violent and bloody opposition ever since.

The fighting never stops.

For Islam and Muslims, the reason that the fighting never stops is because it's infused in the text.

Ideas matter.

And even if you're a well-meaning "Muslim for Trump," you cannot avoid the text and its emphasis. Even at a Saturday morning interfaith prayer meeting. Even with allies and friends.

The translation was done by Sandra Solomon (who I believe is associated with Gates of Vienna), and the subtitling was done by Vlad Tepes. There is an error in the text of the video. The man reciting Sura 1 is not Mohamed Magid (an Imam linked to the Muslim Brotherhood who spoke just before) but Sajid Tarar. 

1 comment:

  1. It'd be a fun exercise to try and discover even one of our Founding Fathers (Sorry, Glenn Beck, there were no Founding Mothers) who thought it would be a good idea to let Mahometans move to America to say nothing about praying with them.

    No, it takes a puissant and toxic form of idiocy (liberalism) to make such a choices.