Intolerance in Islam and the Various Arguments

Based on my entry Allah vs Other Gods: Tolerance in Islam I got some interesting comments on desicritics post.

Here are some:

what about:
guru nanak. he was later, so no.
buddha. was before, so possibly.
sai baba. now, so no.
to worship allah or ?? , the rivals for the mekkans were Lat, Uzza and Manat deities. this doesn’t change the nature of allah or Uzza, but this is not a statement about their existence , just that they were being worshipped at the time and people converted for practical reasons.. …depends on the understanding .//
the point of 60,89 was to not offend first, and to take offence when attacked. it certainly is not relativist about religion – any one will not do, but dont offend.
yes i agree the line between muslim and non-muslim is quite clearly delineated, but in practice this was not so. because in reality there are shades. and mixture of influences. such as in the popular religions of today.
– Gazelle

And From Huzaifa:

“What about the ‘prophets’ who came after Mohammad”
I don’t see why that is a contradiction. Muslims explicitly believe Muhammad was the last prophet. Period. Why should they acknowledge Buddha, Guru Nanak etc.? And before Muhammad, only certain select people were acknowledged as Prophets, not any and everyone who claimed to be a Prophet.
“Disgraceful punishments and hellish scenario’s ordained on non-believers”
The Quran does not tell one to inflict torture on others. This all started after Prophet Muhammad died, when Islamic world split into various factions. Each of these factions had their own interpretation of Quran, some more extreme than others. These interpretatons, on many counts, bore no resemblance to the real Islam.
For eg: The term “Jehad”, which stands for “Holy War”, is actually an act of self defense. Prophet Muhammad only used Jehad when enemies used to prevent his followers from practising their faith. Jehad was never used as a tool of attack, never used as a first strike. It was only used for defense, to protect those who wanted to follow Islam.
Unfortunately, after the Prophet died, this term was misused by many to further their own causes. Today the meaning of the word has been corrupted beyond recognition. OBL’s philosophy is a far cry from the true Islam.
Do not judge Islam on the interpretations of a few people.

Given these comments, it seemed fairly clear that they sided with the literal interpretation of Quran that there was no Prophet after Muhammad. Also, Gazelle starts juxtaposing “Allah” as it has been posited in the lore in the traditional sense. The obvious questions that arise were:

  • So who or what is Allah? What is His/Her/Its nature or Utility?
  • If Allah is to be understood as One who is approachable ONLY through Muhammad, then isnt such an Allah a potent way to have a “My God” vs “Their God” paradigm conflict?
  • And the final question, if there were so many “Prophets” before Muhammad and he was indeed the last.. whose word carries more Power? Muhammad’s or the ones before him.. and Why? So other Prophets are Prophets in name ONLY!!! They just have Presidential Powers – ornate but of no significant use. To understand this better – what happens when there is a contradiction between Bible and Quran? Is Jesus right or is Muhammad? and more importantly WHY?

Of Course, Ruvi of Jerusalem injects and corrects me by saying:

1. Is the Hebrew Bible right or the Qur’an? Why?
2. Is the Christian book right or the Qur’an Why?

Well put.

Though Gazelle and Huzaifa tried some more to discuss their point of view but they were basically tied in their traditional nuances without getting to the basic crux of the argument. The Basic Underlying logic that flows under all the intolerance is:

My Word vs Yours Word; where My Word wins because yours has been rendered IRRELEVANT by the sheer basis of not being MINE!

So either you go or you take back your word. Hence either the Truth is the casualty or the person who articulates it.

The most interesting post was from a blogger named Sumanth. I am reproducing it here in full. Now, it seems like Sumanth has taken a high road and tried to argue from a philosophical standpoint. But as soon as you look into it the contradictions shout out at you! (included below are my comments)

In a complex system, the faults occure where-ever sharp boundaries exist.
Think of “organised religions” or “Nation states” or “caste system”. All have got high derivatives/gradients.
Near a sharp boundary the gradient of the system approaches +infinity or -infinity. This creates an fault which can travel across whole system.
All the arguments about “misinterpretations” of holy books etc. are just secondary.
I may not fully endorse Samual Huntington. But, there will always be a conflict, if the boundary is sharp and conflicts do no one any good. It has nothing to do with Islam. Its the same from all the book based religions, hindu caste system or the nation states. Full stop.

What you essentially are saying is – The Best of Islam is as bad as the Worst of the “Hindu” society! Hindu is in the quotes because its a misnomer. A religion is a western construct in any case. When the Source of Ego or Individuality is Fixed and Rendered Unchangeable – the “My Word” vs “Your Word” conflict becomes a necessity. THAT precisely is what I am arguing in my article. The Source of Islamic Intolerance!

Please notice “Nature”, which is so stable and lively. You will not find many sharp boundaries in nature.
Nature is also contradictory. All truths are a set of contradictions which co-exist.
If you want harmony, make the boundaries fuzzy. Otherwise, pay the price and please do not crib to gain sympathy. It is a person’s personal choice to create “with us and against us” language and pay the price.
The most strongest belief occures in spirituality and not certainly in “organised religion”.
Spiritual people have deepest beliefs even though they may not wear it on their sleeves like the way the religious fanatics do.

Let us start with a simple but, to me a compelling example of how a spiritual journey may be “approached” and indeed has been by most. In Gita, Arjuna gets preached by Krishna. He knew Krishna and his “significance” and “stature” because of their prior relationship. But how does he appraoch Krishna’s word? With complete Skepticism!! Not once does he “believe” or have “faith” in what Krishna says to him instead he asks another question and at many places he says as much as “How can I believe as to what YOU are saying is correct?”.. NOT Until the part where Arjuna is shown the “Viraat form” in this story, does he say – “I believe you now”! And NOT once does Krishna ask for simple Faith and that no more questions be asked of him!!

Also, if Jesus had complete “Faith” in Jewish Religion – He would NOT have become The Christ. If Guru Nanak had complete belief in the sermons of the Temple Priest, he would have not become The Guru Nanak Dev… ditto for Buddha.. .the list is ENDLESS!! Skepticism and an INDIVIDUAL-OPEN MINDED search is the KEY in all these examples!!

Another point, I have argued in my earlier post “Open Source Spirituality” that Religions are Created when the Fountainheads share knowledge as OWNERS as opposed to CONTRIBUTORS. That is why, Vedic Rishis were able to contribute to Vedas and Upnishads and yet NOT create a religion. Something that seems to be prevalent even in case of Gita’s Preaching. At most places… Krishna tell Arjuna.. this is a Truth that has been reiterated by the “Learned”! Not as an owner of the Truth.. but as a Contributor.

I am not saying that Gita is the Truth or it is the only thing worth following.. for I would approach it with – at least – as much skepticism as Arjuna did if not more. And Quran or any other scripture WILL NOT ESCAPE THAT TREATMENT from me Either!!

Sumanth may go for belief and faith and the “General Theory of Edges” but for me Skepticism is THE Path to my Inner Self. And whichever Prophet, Guru, or Saint tells me He/She/It has the ONLY Word.. I know for sure that there is no Truth to be found there!!

Anyone can claim anything in this world. I can claim, I believe in God. I can claim I have IQ of 190. Does that mean what I am saying is correct (i may be lying subconsciously)?
To believe, one has to make an inward journey, a journey which never ends. All true believers take these never ending inward journeys.

If you already “believe” or have “faith” in something being True – then what journey are you on??? Destination is already known – thwn is journey even relevant? Exploration is taken with an open mind.. not with a preconceived Picture of reality!!

How could you have comprehended or “Visualized” Something that you do not even know of?? Understanding the Origin or “God” is like Understanding Time. To say time started “then” would mean that Time would have preceded itself for you to make that assertion. Which leads to the a conjecture that Time may not be understandable in its own dimension. You are firmly enconsed in the known and looking for the Unknown??

Needless to say, the contradictory positions of those who argue in favor of Tolerance in Islam are fairly self evident. Not once do such people ever sit back and think through what they are saying. They use the very words that create the contradictions in the Original text as the evidence of its correctness!!

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