A colleague of mine suggested I take a look at this recent article in the NY Times about a man trying to understand the Wahhabi ideology of Islam found in Saudi Arabia. I would further recomend this article to my audience.
NYT Article about those who seek change in Saudi Arabia
There is always a lot of chatter about how funding for violent radical Islamist groups like ISIS, AQ, and others comes from Saudi Arabia. I would agree funding for groups that commit terror, murder, and other heinous acts surely comes from the Arabian peninsula among other places in the world. How that money moves and where it exactly comes from is complicated.
What comes out of Saudi Arabi that concerns me more than money is an ideology about Islam that does not help bring peace to the world as it instead teaches intolerance and distrust of modernity and other cultures. This message is not complicated and that’s why it is so easily used to radicalize people into violent Islamist groups.
“While the government seeks to get more women into the work force, the state fatwa organization preaches on the “danger of women joining men in the workplace,” which it calls “the reason behind the destruction of societies.”
The above passage from the article highlights the fear of modernity conflicts with the needs of a modernizing nation. A state that only uses 50 percent of its mental power in the workplace is going to have some struggles.
So where does this thinking about women come from? Where do the ideas of intolerance and bigotry come from in Saudi Arabia? The answer to these questions is troubling.
I have been writing a modern-English interpretation of the Quran for the last six months. One of the Quran’s I am using to help me to determine the basic meaning of each verse and chapter is from Saudi Arabia. Unlike the other 4 Qurans I am using in my research the Saudi published version explains the ideas of Wahhabism. What also sets it apart from the others is that it’s full of parenthetical insertions and lots of footnotes referencing Hadiths (non-Quranic statements attributed to the Prophet Muhhamad). Finally the Saudi published version contains additional appendixes beyond the traditional 114 chapters of the Quran.
In these parenthetical notes and foot-notes, the teachings of Wahhabism become clear. They insert the words “Jews” and “Christians” into multiple verses where they are not actually identified in Arabic. Those verses where the words are inserted are about negative things that God said about humans or negative things he did to humans. In one chapter the word “Jews” was inserted to make clear who God was identifying as the greediest of all human beings.
Beyond the bigotry and misunderstanding inserted into various chapters that exposes young people to hatred as they memorize the Quran in their youth, are the appendix additions to the book itself.
The second appendix in my Saudi approved Quran is a ten page pronouncement with detailed evidence that describes how Christianity is a false religion. It’s written by a Professor of Islamic Faith and Teachings at Islamic University of Medina, a school founded by the Saudi government in 1961. Dr. Al Hilali discusses how the crucifixiction of Jesus didn’t actually occur, that Jesus is not the son of God, and that Christianity only exists today because of the patience and monetary contributions of its followers that keep the lie going.
Clearly this type of information being placed inside the covers of a Saudi government allowed Quran is not helping to foster interreligious dialogue and understanding.
The third appendix is even more troubling given the violence being perpetrated by radicalized Islamists around the globe. The third appendix is a 20 page discussion about how Jihad (using violence to spread Islam in this case) is as important as fasting and prayer in Islam. Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid pens this long call to Jihad and uses this appendix to detail all the commands in the Quran that he thinks demand that true Muslims follow as they fight infidels and spread the true word of God.
So with these kind of messages coming out of Saudi Arabia in the Quran how can the world hope to explain to young Muslims that the best message to take from the Quran is a desire to be a charitable person that seeks to care for their family and society?
The next passage from the NYT article highlights the difculty of speaking out against outdated religious thinking in Saudi society by Saudi nationals that do not believe in all the concepts being put forth by Wahabbist clerics.
“I asked about Mr. Ghamdi.
“From what I read and what I saw, I think he’s right and he stood up for what he believes in,” the professor said. “I admire that.” The problem, he said, is that tolerance for opposing views is not taught in Saudi society.
“Either follow what I say or I will classify you, I will hurt you, I will push you out of the discussion,” he said. “This is anti-Islam. We have many people thinking in different ways. You can fight, but you have to live under the same roof.” ”
Unless a society believes in the value of opposing ideas and free speech it will often stagnate. That is where parts of the world are. We need to support people in societies around the globe that seek to express themselves and change outdated thinking.
If you are a writer or speaker that talks about Islam you will get a bit of hate from both the left and the right, from Christians and Muslims, and from believers and atheists alike. Luckily the opinions that matter the most to me when it comes to Islam are from my longtime Muslim friends.
One of them included a note in his happy Independence Day email that said, “keep writing Jason even if you don’t see results now it will make a long term impact on this topic.”
I will keep discussing controversial religious topics because I don’t seek what groups like ISIS seek. I don’t want a final war between all Muslims and the rest of the world. We must unite as a human race to identify and undermine all violent radical ideologies. Today violent radical Islamism is the cancer of the day on society. Let’s understand why and work to reduce the attractiveness of this ideology.
The United States and other powerful countries need to use real diplomacy when they talk to nations that can do more to decrease violent radical Islamism. This is not a time to bow to, apologize to, or set up a foundation to accept money from any country that is helping, in any way, the mass murderers of the world to spill more blood. Let’s be honest and work together for what is right.