Sudan and Saudi Arabia: Who Speaks for Islam?

In a world in which Islamophobes blur the distinction between the barbaric acts of Muslim extremists and terrorists and the … Continued

In a world in which Islamophobes blur the distinction between the barbaric acts of Muslim extremists and terrorists and the religion of Islam, two recent legal decisions in Sudan and Saudi Arabia will reinforce accusations that Islam is an intolerant religion.

After years of civil war and bloodshed and having failed to effectively respond to what some describe as genocide in Darfur, Sudan’s government and judiciary have captured global attention with an outrageous verdict of guilt for a British school teacher for allegedly insulting Islam.
In a case in which it is clear that Gillian Gibbons did not intend to malign the Prophet Muhammad and that the children in her class had chosen the name Muhammad for their class teddy-bear, some might still question why she was not more culturally sensitive to a potential backlash. That said, school officials or the courts could have asked her to apologize for an inadvertent “mistake” in judgment. But instead, Gibbons who had made the decision and sacrifice to teach in Sudan, was found guilty of ‘insulting religion,’ a victim to a court’s distorted notion of Islamic law and justice.

The Sudanese case came on the heels of a recent decision by a Saudi Arabian court that sentenced a 19-year-old rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in prison. Instead of being appalled at the rape, the gang rape of a woman, a Justice Ministry statement is reported to have declared that the woman invited the sexual attack by seven men because she was in a parked car with a man who was not a relative.

At a time when Islam is under siege from Muslim extremists and extremists from the Far Right in Europe and America, the judiciaries of Sudan and Saudi Arabia have managed to reinforce the vilification of Islam and used Islamic law as a weapon rather than a yardstick for justice. All our futures depend upon an ability to agree upon a global ethic, based upon mutual understanding and respect, that transcends our religious and cultural differences. Whatever our differences, there can never be an acceptable excuse for injustice and intolerance in the name of our religions.

“On Faith” panelist John L. Esposito is professor of religion, international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University. He also is founding director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

John O. Voll is professor of Islamic history and associate director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. He has lived in Cairo, Beirut, and Sudan and has published numerous articles and book chapters on modern Islamic and Sudanese history.

  • timothy

    when you begin your comments with the derrogative term -islamaphobe- you alienate the western reader.under shariah law in muslim countries- a woman who has been gangraped is sentenced to prison and a public beating. while teaching in sudan, a woman’s class names a stuffed toy mohammed and muslims take to the streets with machetes and sticks calling for her to be killed. that’s offensive and frightening to any person living in a free society. if the western world has islamphobia- those living under islamic law are islamaniacs.since you are leaders of the american islamic community -i am waiting and watching to see you go to talk shows, college campuses and the streets- loudly denouncing these latest events in a long history of islamic violence.

  • Anonymous

    “In a case in which it is clear that Gillian Gibbons did not intend to malign the Prophet Muhammad and that the children in her class had chosen the name Muhammad for their class teddy-bear, some might still question why she was not more culturally sensitive to a potential backlash.”Classic example of blaming the female victim. The Free World needs to have a “Name Your Teddy Bear after the Founder of a Religion” day and watch the results.

  • Better leaders needed – all around

    Not sure how two non-Muslims get called leaders of the “American Islamic community”, but anyway, a couple points:1) The tiresome stringing together of atrocities that have little to do with one another except that their perpetrators claimed to be acting in the name of Islam is about as enlightening and accurate as a stringing together of unrelated (not to mention much larger scale) atrocities such as the trans-atlantic slave trade, the colonial raping and pillaging of an entire continent – Africa (not to mention other Southern hemisphere nations); and the Holocaust and indicting all of Christianity just because many of the masterminds and perpetrators of them happened to be Christian and often justified their destruction through appeal to Christian teachings and “manifest destiny”. Or similarly to call all that terror and violence the result of some common sickness of American and European white people. Such pseudo-analysis is laughable and serves no other purpose than to further polarize and antagonize.2) The rulings in Saudi Arabia and Sudan are abominable and totally unacceptable and should be called out as such. Why not focus on that? Islam is not some fringe cult. It is a religion followed by more than one out of every 5 human beings. The totally unacceptable perversions and distortions of it should be called out for exactly what they are. And those who fasten on those perversions to try to further some broader political or bigoted agenda should also be called out for exactly what they are.

  • Better leaders needed – all around

    Not sure how two non-Muslims get called leaders of the “American Islamic community”, but anyway, a couple points:1) The tiresome stringing together of atrocities that have little to do with one another except that their perpetrators claimed to be acting in the name of Islam is about as enlightening and accurate as a stringing together of unrelated (not to mention much larger scale) atrocities such as the trans-atlantic slave trade, the colonial raping and pillaging of an entire continent – Africa (not to mention other Southern hemisphere nations); and the Holocaust and indicting all of Christianity just because many of the masterminds and perpetrators of them happened to be Christian and often justified their destruction through appeal to Christian teachings and “manifest destiny”. Or similarly to call all that terror and violence the result of some common sickness of American and European white people. Such pseudo-analysis is laughable and serves no other purpose than to further polarize and antagonize.2) The rulings in Saudi Arabia and Sudan are abominable and totally unacceptable and should be called out as such. Why not focus on that? Islam is not some fringe cult. It is a religion followed by more than one out of every 5 human beings. The totally unacceptable perversions and distortions of it should be called out for exactly what they are. And those who fasten on those perversions to try to further some broader political or bigoted agenda should also be called out for exactly what they are.

  • Need Better Leaders – All Around

    Anon, I know alot about the New York Yankees. That doesn’t make me a leader of the Yankees.Neither Voll nor Esposito is Muslim. That’s not an arguable point. It’s simply a fact. Esposito was trained as a Jesuit theologian for God’s sake.It’s odd to cite someone’s academic history as, for example, leading the Middle East Studies Association, as evidence that they are a leader of a community of which, frankly, neither is even a member.Regardless, this is not the issue here. You can make it the issue if you like, but you really don’t have a leg to stand on.

  • MAvina

    I just love the easy label “Islamophobe” – as if being hostile to Islamic insanity is some sort of clinical disease that Right-Wing crazies have contracted. We are not talking about Islamic individuals who are acting contrary to the general feeling of their co-religionists, but these are the acts of governments themselves. We are told that we need to be sensitive to the religious and cultural sentiments of Islam – a consideration that they do not return. They vilify Jews and Judaism in Main Stream publications, the Wahabists in Saudi Arabia have a formal program of hate directed toward non Muslims. Hundreds of fanatics rioting in Khartoum because a woman allowed her [Muslim] students to name the Teddy Bear Muhammad is beyond insane. If you do not respect others, you have no right to demand or even expect respect from others. If these people to not represent the main-stream majority of Muslims, then the main-stream majority needs to assert themselves to control and marginalize them. If they will not, or, can not do this, then by default the crazies do represent Islam. The ideas that the rest of the world somehow has to respect and accommodate what is essentially a 12th Century insanity is itself insane. These people are behaving like mad dogs and do not deserve any slack from the rest of the world.

  • Need Better Leaders – All Around

    “these are the acts of governments themselves”Exactly – governments. And not even nearly representative governments at that. Not even closely equivalent to the majority of “co-religionists” as you imply.Regarding standing up against those who commit indefensible acts in the name of religion, I totally agree. That’s why it is nice to see all the statements of Muslim religious leaders and organizations condemning violence against civilians and other barbarous acts – check out And since most of the violent crime we see on TV is committed by American black people, maybe we should take a similar approach and say “These people are behaving like mad dogs and do not deserve any slack from the rest of the world”. Oh wait, that would be unspeakably racist. Guess it’s OK for Muslim-bashers though.

  • Norrie Hoyt

    “…the judiciaries of Sudan and Saudi Arabia have managed to reinforce the vilification of Islam…”My dictionary says that vilification involves the making of “vicious and defamatory statements” about someone or something.A true statement cannot be defamatory.It appears that most current Western statements about Islam are essentially true.It’s therefore inaccurate to say that Islam is being defamed or vilified.What you have instead is unpleasant truth-telling about Islam.

  • Ibrahim Mahfouz

    Re: Who speaks for Islam

  • Need Better Leaders – All Around

    I love it Anon. Now you are pasting John Esposito’s name from a list of Advisory Board members for an organization – half of whose Advisory Board members are not Muslim. Yet you are ommitting the fact that it is the Adv Board list and just printing the logo of the page to imply that the organization calls him a Muslim leader.Esposito has studied and written more about Islam than virtually any non-Muslim scholar so he gets consulted for things like this website and he sits on many boards and associations with Muslims (shudder to think!).If you want to start your own website, write in it “John Espotio converted to Islam” and then paste that here, it would be just about as effective (not to mention relevant and intellectually honest).The guy isn’t Muslim! What’s your point in insisting that he is anyway? Are you so bigotted that you can’t imagine a non-Muslim who would be interested enough in Islam to study and write about it for decades?

  • Mavina

    Need Better Leaders – All AroundI definitely feel put in my place. Islam is not a race for one thing. The comment about TV and African Americans is just nonsense. Not approving of mindless religious violence perpetrated by a religious group is in no way racist – especially since Muslims [like almost all other religion's members] are from all races. Now we can add “Muslim Basher” to the list of labels applied to anyway who has the temerity to question the violence that appears to permeate Islam. When a Muslim is convicted of religious disrespect in America, England, etc., and sentenced to 15 days in jail – with hundreds rioting for her blood, when Mosques are burned and Muslims are murdered because a paper in Cairo or Saudi Arabia runs a cartoon demeaning another religious group, etc. etc. etc, then I will admit that Islam as a religion does not incite people to behave like mad dogs. What slack do you think should be extended to the judge that sentenced the rape victim to 200 lashes and 6 months in jail? What slack to you think should be extended to the rioting hundreds who want to murder the poor British teacher in the Sudan. Calling me a Racist and Muslim Basher does not change the fact that Muslims all over the world seem to be behaving rather badly BECAUSE they are Muslims and are taking their religion and the exhortations of their religious leaders very seriously. I do not believe that I have misrepresented or distorted the facts in order to bash anyone. I understand that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and non-violent, but they must suppress the violence that has hijacked their religion, just as the West has suppressed the more violent and marginal Christians in our midst.

  • Andy

    It’s a little rich to hold Islam’s critics to a vastly higher standard of conduct than that held to Muslims themselves. I for one have a hard time respecting a religion whose adherents are constantly doing outrageous things in its name. The almost ubiquitous suicide bombing, the constant stereotyping and scapegoating, the hatred and intolerance, there are all qualities that Muslims seem especially gifted with. “Need Better Leaders” makes some good points about how we shouldn’t extrapolate from individuals to an entire community (or race), but that’s not really convincing or reassuring. An impartial observer in 1500 would have been perfectly justified in concluding that Christianity was a religion of bloodthirsty fools, or that Europeans were inherently hostile bigots. It was, and they were. Like any system of beliefs or behavior, Islam is only as good as its adherents make it. If a sufficient number of Muslims decide to behave appallingly in the name of their religion (and I submit that we have reached that critical mass) then the rest of us are justified in drawing the appropriate conclusions.

  • Need Better Leaders – All Around

    It’s interesting how enthusiastic and unified so many commentators here are regarding the fact that barbarism and violence condoned by illegitimate and unrepresentative governments in Muslim countries need to be countered more aggresively when our represenative and democractically elected government is responsible for the killing of more civilians – even by our own government estimates – in the single case of the Iraq war than all the atrocious attacks listed ad nauseum by the first commentator here. And that doesn’t even consider Afghanistan, the first Gulf War, etc. etc.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Why these two On Faith panelists do not criticize Islam or note its flaws:”In December 2005, the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (CMCU) received a $20 MILLION DOLLAR “GIFT” from HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, an internationally renowned businessman and global investor, to support and expand the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. The Center was renamed the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU). This endowed fund is the second largest single gift in Georgetown University history. “

  • Anonymous

    Mavina, I agree with every word of “I understand that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and non-violent, but they must suppress the violence that has hijacked their religion”. I just have not gotten even a modicum of that understanding reflected in any comment here until you wrote that.But the equation to the situation of African Americans is not refutable in my view based on the fact that one is a race and the other is a religious belief. The point I was making is that people ignorant of the diversity of a community, and exposed to almost entirely one aspect of it repeatedly, will develop a skewed and biased perception of it. I think it happens to Blacks here, to Muslims here, to Jews in the Arab world, etc, etc.I am not saying that enough is being done to counter extremism. But I am saying that few Americans are aware of that which actually is being done. The problem is that this “reclaiming of the religion” is not as easy as it seems. And not because the religion of Islam is inherently violent, but rather because a large number of Muslims perceive themselves to be under attack. When faced with a coice between so-called moderate leaders calling for non-violence, and violent radicals calling the world black and white and saying they will fight back against injustices that carry a lot of weight among Muslims globally – the Palestinian situation, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the engineering of a coup against an Iranian leader who was about to nationalize his oil supply, the presence of permanent military bases in Saudi Arabia to prop up a totally undemocractic regime that sells us oil at a good price, the jusification of torture in teh Presidential debates of the supposed leader of the free world, but only when it applies to their faith community, etc, etc.It’s these political conflicts and not some evil religious doctrine that extremists point to in order to rile people up and especially to prove that all the non-violent ones are really ineffective or even in collusion with Western powers that perpetrate all this stuff. It’s then a very short step for them to twist the religious doctrine to convince a small percentage of young people who don’t know their faith well enough to resist that the only just course is to take as many of “the oppressors” with them as possible through violence.I’m not condoning the judge in Sudan or Saudi Arabia – I think it’s despicable and I’ve said that from the outset here. But I have just as little tolerance for people who – either out of ignorance or, worse, out of malice – want to paint it as the result of the religion. Because it’s that kind of thinking, mirrored by the exremist thinking in Muslim societies, that assures us all a merry-go-round of wars perpetrated by “us” and terrorism perpetrated by “them”.And Andy, do you really believe that Christianity in 1500 was a religion of bloodthirsty fools?? I really don’t believe that is accurate. But I get your point that similar bastardization of a great religion by too many political and even religious leaders was in full swing then.

  • Need Better Leaders – All Around

    Sorry Malvina – that anon post was mine…As for the concerned Christian, I love how much trouble people have had with Prince Alwaleed when he started funding Islamic studies programs at Harvard and Georgetown, but no one had much trouble when he was bailing Citibank out of almost shutting its doors in the 80’s. Or when he became one of the largest shareholders of Fox Entertainment. Nor when he funded the first ever Ameican studies programs at the American University of Cairo and the American University of Beirut respectively.Sounds like a real extremist to me.Hey, maybe we should all boycott Citibank and Fox too. Oh wait – judging from your previous posting, you problably will.

  • Roy

    Anonymous The Moron sez: “The Free World needs to have a “Name Your Teddy Bear after the Founder of a Religion” day and watch the results.”In Hispanic countries, people name their sons AND their Teddy Bears Jesus. I haven’t seen anyone calling for their executions for this.

  • Andy

    “And Andy, do you really believe that Christianity in 1500 was a religion of bloodthirsty fools?? I really don’t believe that is accurate. But I get your point that similar bastardization of a great religion by too many political and even religious leaders was in full swing then.”Yes, yes I do. Whether it’s popes who enjoyed watching their children execute criminals for fun, or Spaniards slaughtering civilizations that they discovered, or just the daily grind of people who were happy to know that members of other religions were being killed in their name. That’s not necessarily a knock on Christianity per se, more a reflection on the primitive state of the world at that time as seen through our modern eyes and sensibilities. That’s why I said the people were bloodthirsty fools, not that the religion was bloodthirsty and foolish. But as you might have guessed, I’m not a religious person. I don’t believe religion has anything particularly helpful to offer, and that it is no coincidence that religious practice usually declines as a society’s well-being improves. What strikes me about Islam is that its adherents seem more prone to self-victimization. There is a very strong tendency among many Muslims to externalize things. As you note, many Muslims think they are “under attack,” but in doing so they focus entirely on what the other side is doing, rather than on their own conduct that may have actually caused or exacerbated those feelings. (How do they expect the West to respond to repeated train bombings, plane bombings, hostage taking, flag burnings and denunciations?) I don’t sense the same introspection among Muslim societies that swept the USA after September 11th, when many asked “why do they hate us?” Many Westerners assume that they can be responsible for offending others, particularly Muslims (Americans, bless them, are at least aware of the “Ugly American” stereotype), but that mentality seems to be a one-way street.

  • Chris Everett

    MAVINA:Great posts.But you write “I understand that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and non-violent, but they must suppress the violence that has hijacked their religion”.I don’t think this is true. I think the violence is there in the religion inself. (It’s there in just about ALL religions, of course, but expecially in Islam). It’s just that there are peaceful and non-violent muslims that thankfully have not been hijacked by Islam, at least to the point of violence. They are the moderates. But the violence is there, in the religion.The use of the term “hijack” is good to describe religion. It hijacks the mind.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Need Better Leaders – All Around,A Partial Body Count and why “Until the koran is deflawed, no one is safe!!!!1) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens,2) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, 4000 US troops and 77,573 – 84,502 Iraqi civilians 3) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]4) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.5) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.6) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.7) UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.Other elements of terror and our War with it: 1. Saddam, his sons and major henchmen have been deleted. Saddam’s bravado about WMD was one of his major mistakes. 2. Iran is being been contained. (beside containing the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Baghdad, that is the main reason we are in Iraq. And yes, essential oil continues to flow from the region.)3. Libya has become almost civil. Apparently this new reality from an Islamic country has upset OBL and his “crazies” as they recently threatened Libya. OBL sure is a disgrace to the world especially the Moslem world!!!4. North Korea is still uncivil but is contained. With the opening up of rail traffic between North and South Korea after 50 years and with the assistance of the US Navy in retrieving NK ships and personnel, a fresh sense of civility is afoot.5. Northern Ireland is finally at peace.7. Bin Laden has been cornered under a rock in Western Pakistan since 9/11.8. Fanatical Islam has basically been contained to the Middle East but a wall between India and Pakistan would be a plus for world peace. Ditto for a wall between Afghahistan and Pakistan.10. Eric Rudolph is spending three life terms in prison with no parole. 11. Jim Jones, David Koresh, Kaczynski, the “nuns” from Rwanda, and the KKK were all dealt with and either eliminated themselves or are being punished. 12. Islamic Sudan, Darfur and Somalia are still terror hot spots. 13. Although a bit dated, the terror and torture of Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo and Kuwait were ended by the proper application of the military forces of the USA and her freedom-loving friends.14. And of course, the bloody terror brought about by the Japanese, Nazis and Communists was with great difficulty eliminated by the good guys.

  • Need Better Leaders – All Around

    Andy,Nice to have a rational mutually-respecful discussion with someone on this topic! I’ll tell you what I believe on the points you raise for what it is worth.First, the assertion that religious practice declines as a community does better off is almost the exact opposite of what has proven to be the case since the mid 20th century. Western Europe is the only region where what I might call deep-rooted secularism has taken hold. The US, which is among the best-off countries in the world, is also among the most devout in terms of practicing church/synagogue/mosque/temple goers and its influence on our politics has risen, not fallen. Religion is also on the rise in terms of practice in countries like India and China where the economic booms are formidable. And Latin America, which has experienced some of the broadest political and economic reform and development since the early 70s is deeply religious as far as church-going and practice go.I also understand the bad name that religion has, but my own view is that there is at least as much evidence that religion has inspired more people – billions in fact – to serve causes greater than themselves, including poverty alleviation, education and literacy, etc. than any strictly “humanist” creed. And in post-conflict situations, religion is often the only reservoir of empathy that peopel have that is deep enough for them forgive the unforgiveable – which is necessaryin such situations. This is why I think religious figures are so often at the center of truth and reconciliation processes, etc. And finally, the biggest atrocities of what was by far the most violent century (the 20th) were almost all at the hands of non-religious – and in some cases aggressively anti-religious ideologies – communist pogroms, fascist wars, etc.With regard to the frustration you express with a strong self-victim complex in many Muslim societies, I agree with you that it exists and I actually think it is one of the most debilitating problems in many Muslim societies. When you are consumed by the view that the world is against you, you are absolved of any wrongdoing and you spend little time bettering yourself because, well, what’s the point? I think frankly that this kind of thinking is prevalent in alot of places.But where I would differ with you a bit is in the notion that Muslim actions caused Western response. At a certain point – 9/11 as well as previous attacks being clear examples – yes this absoultely did happen. But the kind of political grievances that Muslim countries have been protesting over for decades long pre-existed the first examples of hijackings, suicide attacks, etc. that we started seeing in the 1970’s. And the comparison of who has the primary power in this relationship is not even close – which is largely what fosters the self-as-victim thinking.In my view it is precisely because so many of the “official” leaders – both political and religious – in Muslim societies were seen as being so totally ineffective in stopping or preventing political and military aggression from (or supported by) the West in the early to mid 20th century that more and more extreme elements began gathering force in Muslim societies.I honestly don’t think that most Americans are aware or frankly much care about things that happened in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, but it is incredible how alive and fresh these wounds are many Muslim societiies. And in a world in which many Muslims perceive that both political and military action was being taken against their interests, the only actors in Muslim societies that have been seen as successful in kicking out foreign interference are the more extreme religous/political/military movements – Khomeini kicking out the British and American installed puppet dictator of Iran in 1979; the mujahedin kicking the Soviets out of Afghanistan in 1989; Hizbollah kicking Israel out of Lebanon now twice in the past decade. It’s for these reasons that even Muslims who don’t like the broader ideology of these groups feel some pride in their success at being the only ones to stand up effectively against perceived aggression.You needn’t agree with my version of history – I think it is important to acknowledge it though as something that is broadly felt by many Muslims and not just in the Middle East – where less than 25% of the world’s Muslims live.And I have to say that after 9/11 the outpouring of genuine sympathy and grief for Americans from Musilm countries and communities globally was unprecedented. Sentiment only turned incredibly sour when that event was followed by Afghanistan but much more so by Iraq and by absurdly one-sided policies vis-a-vis Israel-Palestine.

  • Need Better Leaders – All Around

    Mike,I know so many Jewish activists who invest in Jewish studies programs – I haven’t met one who also invests in Islamic studies programs. I guess I should suspect them of soemthing subversive too?And why have you conveniently ignored al-Walid’s investment in the American Studies programs in the Middle East – with one in Egypt and the other in Lebanon? He did both before he gave Harvard and Georgetown anything.Moreover, if you knew anything about al-Walid, comparing that guy to a Wahabbist is laughable. It’s like saying Britney Spears is just like Jerry Falwell because they come from the same country.

  • billinvirginia

    You act as if these were unusual decisions by Sharia courts. In fact, they are exactly the sorts of decisions that are issued every day by Sharia courts all around the world. The only difference is that these particular decisions have been noticed by some segments of the western media. It’s time to grow up and recognize monotheism for the destructive force it is in the world. Its main – perhaps only – function is to stir up hate and anger among its adherents. The answer is blowing in the wind — grow up!

  • Need Better Leaders – All Around

    BillinVirginia:When we all die and get to meet up with Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, Desmond Tutu, and Mother Theresa, I will be sure to make the point to them all that religion is hideous and they all should have “just grown up”. We would all be so much better without them.And there are fewer people than I can count on one hand in the US who I would consider legitimate experts on what goes on in Sharia courts globally “every day” and I am sorry to say that none of them, is likely to go by the tagline, “BillinVirginia”, so forgive me if I don’t take your word for it.

  • yoyo

    Saw a recent video on the net,of a Muslim couple being stoned to death by more than a hundred angry Muslims for the sin of having illegal sex.

  • Need Better Leaders – All Around

    Well I have to go put my 16-month old to bed. I’ve enjoyed discussing our respective views Andy and would be interested to continue if not for family obligations.One item of interest – the most extensive public opinion polling in Muslim countries is done by Gallup. They have a 100-year program in which they poll the entire world every five years and so do 1/5 of countries every year. Within it they have certain themes they investigate and one of them is the views of Muslims globally on a wide range of matters.When asked whether 9/11 was justified, just over 10% of respondents in most countries answered “yes”, so Gallup tagged that group as having extremist views and then cross-referenced with a host of other answers they gave.They found no correlation at all to devoutness of practice (i.e. how often you go to mosque, do you fast during Ramadan, etc.). The correlation was to a worldview of being under siege, which was shared by young people of all different degrees of religiosity.And of the anti-extremist movements in the Muslim world, one of the most effective, which was launched by the former Indonesian Prime Minister, is called LibForAll. They report unequivocally that the strong-holds for extremist sentiment are not in the religious schools and universities, where young people know their own faith too well to be manipluated by extremists with little religious knowledge but plenty of slogans. The hardest-case young people are the ones in the secular universities who are susceptible to radical ideologies (as many college-ages students are) and who are easily convinced that they, their own societies, their govenrment, and even their parents are all sell-outs for not following a truer religious path. And it goes from there…Things are not always as black and white as some want to make them – and those actually involved in trying to undue all the craziness of the world know that.

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t Muhammad ever hear “sticks and stones may break my bones,but names will never hurt me”?

  • Anonymous

    It is not the only century when the west came in contact with Islam. The Europeans had been remained very close to the Islamic civilisation since its inception, even had been under its influence for centuries. It is something a sort of mockery when any European questions the status of tolerance in Islam. As regards the questions of terrorism, extremism, racism and intolerance with religions, after the second world war, are the products of the colonial mind-sets that germinated in the west as well as in the east. But the west is seemed to be more disturbed after 9/11 and are constantly in fomenting hatred one or the other way. The incident that happened in Khartoum was a sad affair but at the same time, to make a fun of any religion through cartoon was more condemnatory and regrettable. You have to keep the Newton’s law in mind before taking any action.

  • Athena

    While I am horrified by what is taking place in Sudan over an innocent misunderstanding, I have to wonder how much of this hue and cry is whipping up anti-Western sentiment to cover up the government’s own crimes? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that this coincided with a new round of janjaweed killings in Darfur, or the breakdown of peace talks between the Christian and animist (read: Pagan) south and the Muslim north. Sudan is one screwed-up country. If they can use the Evil Western Boogieman to their advantage, they’ll do so.

  • SAMI QURESHI

    It is not the only century when the west came in contact with Islam. The Europeans had been remained very close to the Islamic civilisation since its inception, even had been under its influence for centuries. It is something a sort of mockery when any European questions the status of tolerance in Islam. As regards the questions of terrorism, extremism, racism and intolerance with religions, after the second world war, are the products of the colonial mind-sets that germinated in the west as well as in the east. But the west is seemed to be more disturbed after 9/11 and are constantly in fomenting hatred one or the other way. The incident that happened in Khartoum was a sad affair but at the same time, to make a fun of any religion through cartoon was more condemnatory and regrettable. You have to keep the Newton’s law in mind before

  • GeorgiaSon

    Esposito and Voll have concisely summarized the issue. It’s not just Muslim extremists who are the problem. Orthodox Islam raises many red flags about its compatibility with secular, Western principles of law and justice. How could it be otherwise, in the case of a religion that never went through the Renaissance, Protestant revolution, the Enlightenment, the scientific revolution, the rise of secular democracies, or the industrial revolution, to mention just a few of the forces that shaped and molded modern Christianity?To assert that these religions are just two sides of the same religious coin is an exercise in massive intellectual dishonesty.

  • GeorgiaSon

    Esposito and Voll have concisely summarized the issue. It’s not just Muslim extremists who are the problem. Orthodox Islam raises many red flags about its compatibility with secular, Western principles of law and justice. How could it be otherwise, in the case of a religion that never went through the Renaissance, Protestant revolution, the Enlightenment, the scientific revolution, the rise of secular democracies, or the industrial revolution, to mention just a few of the forces that shaped and molded modern Christianity?To assert that these religions are just two sides of the same religious coin is an exercise in massive intellectual dishonesty.

  • Tell the Truth?

    Stop call people “islamaphobes” and prove that your prophet, his book, and Alla’s follows are not violent. You and your religious com padres are not the victim the people who have experienced Islamic terror from the inception of Islam are the victims. Your religion insults Christians and Jews in the Qur’an and through Alla’s followers. Your book is Christaphobic and jewaphobic. Until you to straighten out your book and its followers stop preaching at us. 9/11 was a very load sermon about what Islam is about.5:72 They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden paradise. His abode is the Fire. For evil-doers there will be no helpers. 5:73 They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. 5:74 Will they not rather turn unto Allah and seek forgiveness of Him ? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 5:75 The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away!9:5 Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.9:30 And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they! 9:31 They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One God. There is no God save Him. Be He Glorified from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)!9:32 Fain would they put out the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah disdaineth (aught) save that He shall perfect His light, however much the disbelievers are averse. 9:33 He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion, however much the idolaters may be averse.

  • Mohammed Abbasi

    Peace upon all,knowledge gained whether from muslims or non-muslims to enhance understanding of the other is a good thing. bigotry and racism coupled with politics is very potent for those who are ignorant on both sides – in the muslim world i can vouch that the majority of muslims are offended not by ms gibbons but by the actions of those who claim to defend islam – these same people have murdered over 300,000 muslims in darfur? yet what a teddy bear named by one of the kids in ms gibbons class is more offensive then killing kids named muhammad in darfur?as muslims we seek partnerships with all muslims and non-muslims to encourage knowledge and understanding of each other – indeed there will be those who wish to cause friction and hatred for whatever reasons – but they are in the minority and will remain in the minority.lets work together for our common future.mohammed abbasi

  • Mohammed Abbasi

    Peace upon all,knowledge gained whether from muslims or non-muslims to enhance understanding of the other is a good thing. bigotry and racism coupled with politics is very potent for those who are ignorant on both sides – in the muslim world i can vouch that the majority of muslims are offended not by ms gibbons but by the actions of those who claim to defend islam – these same people have murdered over 300,000 muslims in darfur? yet what a teddy bear named by one of the kids in ms gibbons class is more offensive then killing kids named muhammad in darfur?as muslims we seek partnerships with all muslims and non-muslims to encourage knowledge and understanding of each other – indeed there will be those who wish to cause friction and hatred for whatever reasons – but they are in the minority and will remain in the minority.lets work together for our common future.mohammed abbasi

  • Sanjay

    I do not know anyone in their right mind would say that only a few people in Islam are terrorists or support terrorists. I mean, every day there are killings, beheadings, suicide bombings, riots over cartoons, naming a toy after muhammad….I agree with poster above: Unless, Islam and Koran are abolished, we are headed towards nuclear holocaust…

  • MHughes976

    I’m grateful for much of the information here. On the ‘Jesus of History’ we might add Thomas Thompson’s ‘Messiah Myth’ for an even more radical view. I’m still a Christian in spite of all the critique but I’m glad that the critique exists. Part of the problem is that there can be no parallel discussion or critique of Islam or Mohammed because of the ambient atmosphere of threat. The hysterical and vindictive behaviour in Sudan, a testimony to the insecurity and near-desperation of those concerned, puts all constructive dialogue at risk. I’m glad to hear from Mr.Hewitt that Mohammed forgave those in Mecca who had insulted him in the past. But did he set up in Mecca or anywhere else a regime of free speech? Not that Christians can be too proud of themselves at this point.

  • Thomas Baum

    Like I have said many times, Jesus is Who He said that He is, but people hiding behind their religion or their holy books are doing just that, hiding, there is no hiding. Whether or not you believe in God, He is a searcher of hearts and minds, He is not such an egomaniac as to sanction such odious behaviour. I am not just referring to the things mentioned in the posting but to all of what has happened throughout history. We will all be judged, like it or not and it is important what we do and why we do it and that is also based on what we know. That does not mean that He isn’t Merciful and Forgiving but we are all members of the Human Family. We do have free will and we will answer for what we have done, all of us. Take care, be ready, see you in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Ernst

    ‘Anonymous’ writes:’Classic example of blaming the female victim. The Free World needs to have a “Name Your Teddy Bear after the Founder of a Religion” day and watch the results.’This is a classic example of lunatic left’s over-simplication to find another “obvious person” to blame. Life simply isn’t that simple, and you know it, dude.The same reason that Israelis and Palestinians and Catholics and the Protestants and Hatfields and McCoys all have their respective revisionist “simple villian” explanations as to who shot first and who bombed first and who violated who first.If you went to China, and insisted that you have a 2nd amendment right to shoot a Panda and eat it, you will be skinned alive on the 6 o’clock news.Don’t pretend that your home country values and laws apply anywhere else. If you think they should apply, go for it. Just don’t expect us to pay tax dollars to the State Department/military to rescue your ass afterwards.Whether you like it or not, Sudan is not a place where women’s rights are respected.You want change? Stop driving your mongo SUV’s and ride a bike or take the bus. If you pay attention to the news, Putin is in power again because we have an insatiable appetite for oil, and we are willing to pay. Sudan and the rest of these crazy “women-hating” cultures would be a little more “open” to our cultural opinions if we aren’t begging them for oil.Catch my drift?Ernst

  • Anonymous

    ‘ANDY’ writes …’If a sufficient number of Muslims decide to behave appallingly in the name of their religion … then the rest of us are justified in drawing the appropriate conclusions.’Amen to that!I would hate to think that 19 Christians who hijacked airplanes to ram into buildings in Saudi Arabia would cause the rest of us in the Western world to be judged as lunatics.However, if all they see on TV afterwards were Christians in mega churches celebrating and cheering the hijackers, I wouldn’t blame them for thinking we are all psycho.Ernst

  • Ernst

    ‘ANDY’ writes …’I don’t believe religion has anything particularly helpful to offer, and that it is no coincidence that religious practice usually declines as a society’s well-being improves.’Well, I don’t think that’s fair.Religion, like any other institution, including government, schools, marriage, etc … have often been corrupted to meet the needs of a greedy or power hungry few.Jim Jones may actually have believed in his own lunatic freak religion, but he would have been drinking Cool Aid alone if he was 100% lunacy. It takes 80% to 90% good work and “appearance” of a good institution that brings positivity to enough people to rope them into supporting the nutty guy in the middle.In theory, most of the time, if there are enough people able to sanity check the nutty guy, the institution itself rarely fails in such a catastrophic way.But once in a while, an institution that is inhabitted by power hungry crazies (think “Cheney”) will use all sorts of tactics (such as secrecy and loyalty) to consolidate power and push an agenda that no one near him will call him on it.And then you get abuses, and just outright tragedy.Religion, I think you can argue, is particularly vulnerable to this kind of failure because of its inherently top-down and secrecy-based structure. Transparent organizations rarely fail in such grotesque manners.I just don’t think it’s fair to say that religion has no positive contributions to speak of.Ernst

  • Viejita del oeste

    This isn’t religion, people. It’s politics dressed up in the guise of ethnic chauvinism. See also: Slobodan Milosevic, the Provisional IRA, Nazi social theory, etc.

  • Roy

    Hey Frank, do you think people in Utah will be upset if I name my dog Moroni?

  • Chandra

    “school officials or the courts could have asked her to apologize for an inadvertent “mistake” in judgment.”Huh? A mistake? And we are Islamophobes because we point out that Islam is an intolerant religion that creates a medieval society? As kafirs should we also apologize for living on this planet?Instead of denouncing Sudan and Saudi, attack us! – nice promotion of interfaith dialog. May be Saudi should give you guys more money from those growing pile of petro-dollars for job done well…

  • Ted baines

    Ms. Gibbons should be punished.She should be lashed.Ms. Gibbons should be punished for insulting the teddy bear doll by letting it be named Muhammad.The teddy bear did not rape female children, did not rob trade caravans and appropriate the loot, the teddy bear did not keep slaves, especially slaves for sex purposes, the teddy bear did not murder people, the teddy bear did not carry out the ethnic cleansing of Jews, the teddy bear did not commit blasphemy by claiming to be a messenger of God.But Muhammad did all the above and therefore the schoolteacher Ms Gibbons insulted the teddy bear by naming it after the criminal prophet Muhammad.

  • BurfordHolly

    The apostate Teddy bear is a threat to Islam in exactly the same way the War on Christmas is a threat to Christianity: they are both the products of power hungry hacks whipping up the illiterate religiously ignorant rabble.

  • Robert

    Islam–what a joke of a religion. Lets be serious people…those are some truly idiotic peoples on display-from Saudi Arabia to Sudan. They are literally of a 7th century mentality.

  • VICTORIA

    peace and greetings folks- ernst- There is no church hierarchy in IslamIn Islam there is no church hierarchy no priests, ministers, vicars, deans, or popes. When a Muslim prays he prays directly to God not through any intermediary. When he serves God he is not serving an institution but God alone. Every human being is individually responsible for their own actions and their own beliefs. No one can take that responsibility away from you.If you think that anyone is ordering you to act against what you sincerely believe to be the will of God you are duty bound to disobey that order and instead obey Allah. This is the principle that Allah is the sovereign Its a pretty self determined religion in that way. The authorities overeacted- the Sudanese Ive met in America are always the example I give of the one group of people Ive experienced who are across the board the most gentle, and genrous kind-heared muslims ive encountered so far. I can only go by my own life experiences, Ive never been to the Sudan. This story, as reported by BBC, is almost unknown in Sudan. Its getting no coverage at all. I do know this though- in Islam a non-muslim is not accountable for things done in ignorance of islamic law. How the people that make decisions in Sudan came to such a strange and violent decision is a puzzlement. Muslims do not personify the god- the god has no eyes, or hands no personifcation- The cartoons and the reaction they elicited worldwide- as overreactive and dramatic as they were, I find it difficult to believe a woman who is choosing to be in a muslim country could be that unaware of her adopted society and its attitude. I guess it is certainly possible, but unlikely. Sudan is certainly a suffering and forgotten by the west corner of the world, so she must have had the best of intentions to even be there trying to educate the children. I am glad the spotlight has not allowed her to be unjustly punished for such a minor and frivolous infraction against the social codes. I wish the attention being paid to this incident were extended to the real tragedies occurring there.

  • Uberthink

    “The almost ubiquitous suicide bombing, the constant stereotyping and scapegoating, the hatred and intolerance, there are all qualities that Muslims seem especially gifted with.” It’s a sad state of affairs, when a guilt by association is done under any religion’s name. I find it awkward Huckabee for example doesn’t want to hold a child responsible for his parent’s sin, yet wants to hold Islam and all of Muslims responsible (Islamofascists) for the most extreme Muslims actions. Besides if you want to talk about violence and quantify the numbers, its not even close. While terrorists with the likes of al-Qaeda might have killed around 6,000 Westerners during the past 60 years… I shudder to think how many innocent Muslim civilians and non-combatants the supposedly “inherently force of good” such as the US under the likes of neoconservative Bush have killed and unleased in the Muslim Middle East, including Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Kurds, Afghanistan and now threatening Iran…And you’d think people would refrain from generalizations?

  • Scott Petersen

    Who judges a religion? The best way is by examining its founder. Jesus was not only “tolerant” towards those who hated him, he told us to “bless those who persecute you” and to “love your enemies”. There could not be a bigger contrast with the mocking and hatred manifested towards these two women in Sudan and Saudi Arabia. Tolerance is not a high enough standard for a religion; The greatest test of your spirituality is love. Do you love those who don’t agree with you?

  • COS MOGNIC

    The British school teacher did not insult Islam but she did succeed in giving teddy bears a bad name.

  • Octomann

    Miss Gibbons is a very lucky girl to get away with such a light sentence. This whole business is but a miniature of the great disasters triggered by abysmally ignorant Westerners blundering around in foreign lands, for example Iraq and Afghanistan. I am a Christian, but I recognise the stupidity of my co-religionists attepting to impose their “systems” upon nations to whom such are utterly incompatible.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah!

  • Tom

    As the Western world becomes progressively more concerned about Islamic extremism/fundamentalism one possibility remains unexpressed: That Islam, as it is practiced outside of Western societies, is not compatible with European-American concepts of justice and human rights. As Western cultures become increasingly focused on the importance of diversity it appears that there is one caveat: diversity as long as it comports with our notion of (to answer Plato) that which is good. It may be time for many well intended Western thinkers to recognize the culture-centric nature of their world views. This might then open the possibility of respecting the fact that Saudi Arabians and Sudanese are living their lives as they choose and should be free to continue to do so. From that point forward, the question of relations between the West and the more fundamentalist Islamic states becomes one of personal and geopolitical choice. If Westerners do not want to abide by or cannot accept the cultural and religious mores prevalent in fundamentalist Islamic countries, then they should stay out of those countries. Likewise, Western countries should minimize international relations accordingly. But the one thing Westerners should all stop doing is believing that our Muslim brothers and sisters will only really be good members of the human family until they start looking like ourselves.Possibly our failure to do this is a more fundamental cause of Jihad against the West than anything intrinsic to Islam.

  • Dan

    The fact that Islam has hard core extremists is not what makes most non-Muslims nervous. Every religion has those people who take it too far. Every religion has rules that are extreme.

  • Sloburn

    Why I would think it obvious Islam speaks for Islam, and actions always speak louder than words.From their actions we can determine that Islam is a primitive blood thirsty religion, just like Catholics were during the dark ages. Our only hope is that they can emerge from their dark ages before they obtain atomic weapons and a means (other than a large pickup truck) to deliver them.

  • A Vermonter

    I think it’s very important that you watch your adjectives. You use the phrase”a victim to a court’s distorted notion of Islamic law and justice.” You are not qualified to determine it is “distorted”? Apparently most of the people of the Sudan think this sentence is not severe enough.This is not a “notion”. It is Islamic law and justice. It’s horrific but it is obviously not un-Islamic.

  • Knowinso Jones

    Islam and it’s goofy mohammidism sucks !!!Christianity in all its thousands of christistRIGHT ON RICHARD DAWKINS !!!!

  • steve Jacobson

    If she had one of those talking Teddy Ruxpin bears and it said DEATH TO AMERICA OR DEATH TO ISREAL they would probably hail her as a national hero.

  • timsiepel

    Well, yes, but. The author’s view of religion is the smorgasbord view, you know, you like chicken, I like steak. You take what you want, I’ll take what I want, we’ll do lunch. The real basis of monotheism is more like what what Moses did, when he came down from the mountain and found his followers had returned to worshipping Baal. He had his men go through the camp, randomly killing the idolators, and thousands died that night. Or what Moses did when he organized 12000 men, 1000 from each ofthe tribes to Israel, to commit genocide against the Midians, because, heavens to Betsy, their women had been kind enough to have sex with the Hebrew men. Or so many of the acts of barbarism that have been committed since by Christians, Moslems, and Jews down through the ages, too numerous and hideous to summarize here. The smorgasbord view is only possible if you don’t take too seriously what you are actually eating. But if you do take your monotheism seriously, if I’m right, you’re wrong; and if you’re right , I’m wrong, and we either way can’t dine together. One of us has to convert or die. This is the real problem.

  • Skeptimal

    “some might still question why she was not more culturally sensitive to a potential backlash. That said, school officials or the courts could have asked her to apologize for an inadvertent “mistake” in judgment.”It is very difficult to have any respect for adherents of this religion when innocent women taking their lives in their hands to help a country in barbaric decline are accused of being culturally insensitive over a benign issue like this. The authors of this article should apologize for *their* insensitivity to human rights.I believe in cultural sensitivity, but where is the sensitivity from the Muslim side?

  • MHughes976

    Sensitivity is very hard to exercise with someone who might take violent offence at anything at all, invents rules every day that didn’t exist yesterday, calls endlessly for sensitivity among visitors while refusing to show the least sensitivity to visitors. I remember as a student wandering into the ME studies section of the library and opening a journal, containing a review which reproved an author for not considering that his view of borrowings by Islam from Judaism and Christianity would cause offence. I thought that it was inconceivable that an academic journal would censure someone for a theological opinion disliked by Jews or Christians. Over the decades many religions have become more intolerant, and sinister forces have been at work everywhere. But Muslims do need to appreciate how massively alienating their use of death threats and angry mobs has become. They might say that they too have been provoked. There again, multiple wrongs do not make a right.

  • ThinkAboutIt

    What’s MISSING:Where is the OPPOSITION to these outrageous and evil actions by other Muslims??If you want to have non-Muslims view religious based extremist acts of violence as exceptions and not as the norm — then franly you need to be more vocal to the media expressing how the vast majority of Muslims denounce this type of hatred and violence.I’m afraid I did not see this in your article either. If it was there, it was burried between the lines– To me your article worried more about Islam’s image, instead of denouncing the evils from your religion’s (fringe?) extremists.

  • MHughes976

    Sensitivity is very hard to exercise with someone who might take violent offence at anything at all, invents rules every day that didn’t exist yesterday, calls endlessly for sensitivity among visitors while refusing to show the least sensitivity to visitors. I remember as a student wandering into the ME studies section of the library and opening a journal, containing a review which reproved an author for not considering that his view of borrowings by Islam from Judaism and Christianity would cause offence. I thought that it was inconceivable that an academic journal would censure someone for a theological opinion disliked by Jews or Christians. Over the decades many religions have become more intolerant, and sinister forces have been at work everywhere. But Muslims do need to appreciate how massively alienating their use of death threats and angry mobs has become. They might say that they too have been provoked. There again, multiple wrongs do not make a right.

  • david

    Ultimately, I think Islamic leaders have to fathom whether Islam is compatible with modernity and what tools it would need to get it there. One thing that would seem to be needed is the ability to criticize itself. Individuals need to ba able to be able to study Islam and express their thoughts without fear of at least physical harm (state sactioned or not) As the Sudan incident shows, that critical facility does not appear to be present.

  • Fahmi Natour

    People do things, not consistent with their religion perhaps due to other motivational factors, perceptions and orientations. Islam is not to blame for all the stupid things that some idiots, who call themselves Muslims, insist on doing.

  • Hsnkhwj

    The paradigms of western societies operate at an entirely different level and often are interpreted as western intrusions of western societies upon Muslims.The infamous speech of Pope Benedict, the Danish cartoon controversy, and the banning of hijab for Muslim school girls in France are cases in point.The Pope expressed regrets that Muslims misinterpreted his intent and were misguided enough to be offended by his words. He did not regret the insensitivity of his utterances nor did he acknowledge the bloody history of Christianity.While the “freedom” to wear hijab for Muslim girls was taken away, the Europeans invoked the “freedom” of the press in defense of the offensive cartoon making the ethnocentrism of the Europeans so blatantly obvious.And how about evangelical Christians waiting for Armageddon and the return of Christ, try to convert all the Jews and non-Christians to Christianity, and if they do not convert then kill them?The West and Islam must engage in a meaningful dialog which requires looking both inward and outward.

  • Peter Heinegg

    Wait a minute–why do I have to “respect” Islam (or Judaism or Christianity), when, quite apart from politics or culture, it’s just another infantile theistic religion, long since exploded by Hume, Nietsche, Freud, etc.?

  • william montague

    What do you mean, “accusations that Islam is an intolerant religion”? Islam IS an intolerant religion. If it weren’t, you’d hear outcries from your imagined majority of “tolerant” muslims. What do you hear? Silence, because “tolerant” muslims can’t speak out against their iron-fisted brothers at peril of their lives. They would be threatened with death, just like the teacher who dared to name a stuffed animal after the alleged prophet. Tolerant religion, my foot. Uh, nevermind. This is typical of muslims. Do you know why fundamentalist cults-of-personality, such as muslims and evangelical christians, are called “organized religions”? “Organized crime” was already taken.

  • Hsnkhwj

    The punishment given to the British school teacher is disgusting and is contrary to both the law and the spirit of Islam. Muhammad is the most common name among Muslims all over the world and should have been interpreted as an honor to the prophet rather than a blasphemous act.Blasphemy is an intentional act of insulting and distorting the symbols of the sacred entities of any religion. Clearly, the British school teacher did not do that. I agree with the authors that this episode highlights the ignorance of the paradigms of Islam on the part of Westerners and the ignorance of Muslims of the paradigms of the West.Christianity, Judaism and Islam are religions of peace, love, and mercy. It is unfortunate that events like the punishment given to the British school teacher on ignorance (false pretexts) gives Islam a bad name.I repeat that the West and Islam must engage in a meaningful dialog which should be extended to all the major religions and reflect the desire for learning about the paradigms of one another.

  • irishjazz

    What? No one speaking up for the devout individuals calling for the execution of the infidel? How the naming of a stuffed toy became an international incident is just another object lesson in the need for the separation of church and state. Still, the idea that a religion can somehow be cleansed of flaws is a incredible as the idea that Allah would be incensed that the name of his prophet was given to a toy animal. Then again, one of these posts may change everything.

  • Sahar

    If it quacks and walks like a duck then it is duck. What you see is true Islam. Why are you trying to wish for Islam what it is not. Sahar

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, and Analogous “Koranics”,You continue to moan that there is no Islamic global hierarchy, thereby there is little control of the recent significantly stupid events in Saudi Arabia and Sudan. There is therefore nothing that can be done about it even though you agree that both events were significantly stupid.Ahh, but there is something you can do right from your keyboard. Simply send the Five Step Program for “Deflawing” Islam to your list of Islamic friends via your extensive e-mail address lists with a request that they forward said Program to all their global Muslim associates.

  • George

    Islamophobes? Are you kidding? Since 9/11, there have been over 10,000 attacks by the religion of peace (www.religionofpeace.com).Number one, this is not religion – it is a cult of death. World wide, the one common denominator of islam is death. Death for apostasy, death for infidelity, death for insulting islam. One barbaric example after another.All for islam. Children set up as suicide bombers in Gaza, children targeted in Israel, school girls beheaded in the Philippines, innocent civilians targeted in America, Spain, Kashmir, Thailand, Sudan, the list goes on and on.The recent court rulings only serve to illustrate what is just under the surface of moderate islam.Is there a worldwide cry of disgust over these rulings – or any act of barbarism by islamics?There is the silence of acquiescence. World wide.That tells the non islamic world all it needs to know about islam.

  • Hsnkhwj

    Concerned Christian now liberated:Your “liberation” is understandable but we must look at the sociological functions of religion.1- All religions give codes of conduct and ask for conformity to the social standards of the particular society.They try to achieve this by giving people a system of reward and punishment. Heaven and hell in monotheistic religions. Acheieving “nirvana” through conformity and a code of conduct in Buddhism.Religions are based on faith and not science.2- Religions provide a map for living a life. This is achieved through a system of systems of symbols and rituals. Do they really acieve it? No. There are always people who violate them for their own self interest. It is difficult to go into further details. But I cannot condemn religion but condemn the excesses of the followers of religion.This is why I hold the view that a dialog between all the major religions is necessary.

  • Rich Rosenthal

    I also understand the bad name that religion has, but my own view is that there is at least as much evidence that religion has inspired more people – billions in fact – to serve causes greater than themselves, including poverty alleviation, education and literacy, etc. than any strictly “humanist” creed.

  • Anonymous

    “In a world in which Islamophobes blur the distinction between the barbaric acts of Muslim extremists and terrorists and the religion of Islam, two recent legal decisions in Sudan and Saudi Arabia will reinforce accusations that Islam is an intolerant religion.”Well, duh! This “distinction” will continue to be blurred until the Islamic world speaks out agains these “barbaric acts.” We are still waiting for this. But the Islamic world remains silent–either out of general agreement or pure fear of becoming targets themselves of “Mulsim extremists and terrorists”. We are awaiting the outcry of the Islamic world. Waiting. Still waiting. Until Gehanna freezes over, apparently.

  • john

    Apologists for Islam always appeal to an alleged distinction between the religious beliefs of the extremists and “true Islam.” Their case is made significantly weaker by the frequency with which they must resort to it. Killing apostates? Aberration. Killing blasphemers? Stoning adulterers? Same. Waging war to spread the faith? Holding slaves? Beheading prisoners of war? Whoops, can’t be aberrations, the “prophet” himself did those… I guess we’ll have to say those acts were taken out of context. Religion in general is awful and dehumanizing, and it doesn’t make one an “extremist from the Far Right” to say so.

  • probashi

    But in all fairness, if we didn’t have the protection of the Constitution some Christian zealots in this country would have happily enforced their views about god and morality on the rest of us. Those who preach about Armageddon from the pulpits are not too far apart from the Mullahs who declare fatwas on individuals for perceived insults to the Prophet. In the Islamic world the mob is ever ready to answer the call of rabble-rousers.

  • Janet

    I agree totally with Mavina’s statement, which is posted below in case you missed it. Using the word “islamaphobe” to describe people who resist the insanity of a great deal of Islam, is a cheap shot. Those who resisted Hitler’s and Stalin’s mad dreams are not called “Hitlerphobes” or “Stalinphobes”, so don’t think you are scoring any points with your “islamaphobes”:

  • Hsnkhwj

    MOORTHY MUTHASWAMY: “WHAT IF EXTREMISM WAS DESIGNED TO BE INHERENT?”Read this and tell us if Hinduism is designed to be an extremist religion or way of life: a threat” assumes that our memories are short and we would not remember that the first incident of bioterrorism on American soil was committed in 1984 by the Rajneehee Hindus in Oregon.

  • Pierre JC

    A crowd formed outside the jail where the teacher was held, demanding she be put to death for naming a teddy bear.

  • Robert

    The problem for Islam is not that people in the West (especially “the Far Right”) tend to focus on the more barbaric and intolerant acts taking place in the name of that religion, the problem is that today, Islam is the only religion under which banner these sorts of acts are taking place. The possible exception being the Hindi, which is relatively isolated in comparison.

  • mustafa

    hi

  • mustafa

    hi

  • mustafa

    hi

  • mustafa

    hi

  • Hsnkhwj

    Moorthy Muthaswamy:Hindus of India are known for urine drinking, burning alive of brides for the sake of dowry, burning alive of widows in the name of sati, painting homes with cow dung, worshiping ordinary animals like monkeys and snakes. Is this all inherent in Hinduism?Let me remind the readers that the very first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

  • Maham Saleem

    I just wanted to say that the Westerners tend to mistake Islam as Wahabism. Islam’s small faction is Wahabi Islam which teaches Jihad and terroris. Osama bin Laden is Wahabbi. Wahabism is Radical Islam and is promoted by Oil and Saudis. Saudis are Wahabiis. Islam is not intolerent. A faction of Islam known as Wahabism is.

  • Maham Saleem

    I just wanted to say that the Westerners tend to mistake Islam as Wahabism. Islam’s small faction is Wahabi Islam which teaches Jihad and terroris. Osama bin Laden is Wahabbi. Wahabism is Radical Islam and is promoted by Oil and Saudis. Saudis are Wahabiis. Islam is not intolerent. A faction of Islam known as Wahabism is.

  • Maham Saleem

    I just wanted to say that the Westerners tend to mistake Islam as Wahabism. Islam’s small faction is Wahabi Islam which teaches Jihad and terroris. Osama bin Laden is Wahabbi. Wahabism is Radical Islam and is promoted by Oil and Saudis. Saudis are Wahabiis. Islam is not intolerent. A faction of Islam known as Wahabism is.

  • Maham Saleem

    I just wanted to say that the Westerners tend to mistake Islam as Wahabism. Islam’s small faction is Wahabi Islam which teaches Jihad and terroris. Osama bin Laden is Wahabbi. Wahabism is Radical Islam and is promoted by Oil and Saudis. Saudis are Wahabiis. Islam is not intolerent. A faction of Islam known as Wahabism is.

  • jhbyer

    Religion is proof there is no God/Allah.

  • jayakumar

    i fully agree with this view. it is time they should (MUSLIMS)SHOULD RELIAZE THAT BY DOING THESE KIND OF THINGS THEY SHOULD NEVER IMAGINE A SEAT IN PARADISE .ALL THESE THEY ARE DOING THINKING THIS WOULD PLEASE ALLAH THE GOD. THEY ARE ABSOLULTELY WRONG

  • Ciap

    Islam is a religion born by violence and bathed in ignorance.In Saudi Arabia young schoolgirls fleeing a burning school were shot on their way out for not taking the time to put on an Hajib.A girl sitting in a car receives 200 lashes accused of causing her own rape by sitting in a car with a non-relative.These things are so barbaric they transcend the word horror.And to think someone actually believes these things are Gods wishes just surpasses my ability to comprehend the total lack of humanity it would take to be able to even conceive of doing something so sadistic.I will never trust any Arab again, I will always look at them as barbaric throwbacks to an age I thought had passed 1000,s of years ago.

  • John Crazy Fox

    I don’t buy it. Islam is an intolerant religion. That’s the truth. So is Christianity. Most, if not all, montheistic faiths have a strong streak of fundamentalism – to pretend otherwise is foolhardy.Until these faiths can truly accept a diversity of world views the human aspiration to live peaceably and harmoniously with our fellows on mother earth will be threatened.The first step forward is to break out of denial, admit that intolerance runs deeply through these faiths, and then ask – what if human beings developed a new view that went beyond this narrow fundamentlism – what sort of world community might be born?We can change, which is reason for hope.

  • Kent Benson

    Religion is almost defined as intolerance . If I have to hear about your religions moral superiority let alone , its justifications of barbarity , can you tolerate my hating your guts ?

  • emzee

    mustafa, say it, don’t spray it :)

  • Cu na Mara

    Dr. Esposito and Dr. Voll raise an excellent point here. These decisions do reinforce the view held by many non-Muslim people that Islam is an intolerant and even crazy religion. I have no doubt that some of this is do to selective coverage- extremism of any kind is always going to grab more “news space” than moderation (hence the drive among American politicians towards extremism during primary campaigns). But it also seems that such bitter and destructive intolerance is more prevalent in Islam than in other faiths.What is desperately needed is a louder moderate Islamic voice. We in the West hear only the extremists, we don’t hear moderate Islamic voices. We hear death threats, we hear anger, we hear hatred, we hear an intent to dominate the world- and we hear it every day. We do not hear compassionate Islamic voices. We do not know what moderate Muslims think. For relations between the Muslim world, especially in the Middle East, and the rest of the world to progress it is essential that moderate Muslims speak up and show that there is common ground.

  • dB

    Authors Esposito and Voll start with “In a world in which Islamophobes blur the distinction between the barbaric acts of Muslim extremists and terrorists and the religion of Islam”.Hold on a minute – isn’t it the terrorists themselves who do the blurring, not us infidels? Or is it the “professors” themselves – I’m pleased to be described by Islamists as an infidel, but if I think something is wrong somewhere with Islam if these atrocities are done in the name of Islam, then you would respond by denouncing my thought as that of an “extremist from the Far Right”?dB

  • anon

    Isn’t it interesting that islam is not held to account for the actions and teachings of its clerics – yet a lot of the same apologists for islam have no problem blaming the Catholic Church for the actions of a few priests?How so many attempt – unsuccessfully – to morally equate Christianity in the dark ages with present day moslams, is laughable.The tired old comparisons of violence in the Old Testament fall flat when someone who actually knows the Bible reminds the critiques that the New Testament overrides the Old.One thing is for sure – violence and barbarity are present day, acceptable traits of islam. Whether it be, sunni, whabbi, shia or moon god – its there in spades. Taught in the madrassas and preached in the mosques.

  • Cu na Mara

    “The infamous speech of Pope Benedict, the Danish cartoon controversy, and the banning of hijab for Muslim school girls in France are cases in point.”The latter is a selective interpretation. French law bans not only hijab for school children but also crucifixes, yarmulkes and tzitzits, etc. Probably Buddhist students would not be permitted to wear saffron robes. Many Muslims chose to interpret an impartial law as being specific about Islam, but doing so was incorrect.

  • Nelson

    In the grand scheme of things, we as Americans must remember that we too are intolerant of the “other.”

  • Christian

    My personal favorite is when the Cartoon of Mohammad with a bomb in his turban came out and Muslims around the world declared it as blasphemy and burnt and destroyed many things western. Of course, they missed the point that by doing so they immediately solidified the truth of the cartoon.

  • Michael Costello

    In your opening paragraph, you seem to admit that “islmophobes” are correct.So, what pejorative term would you recommend for people like yourselves who are wrong about Islam?

  • Pete Mulholland

    It would appear that Islam actually IS an extremist religion despite those who hope we believe otherwise (perhaps to be caught by surprise later)

  • Chris C

    Islam is as Islam does. EVIL.

  • Mary M

    I am not really surprised at the hatred of all religions that is so obvious in many of the posts here but it is rather indicative of the ignorance so many ‘educated’ people have about religions. It’s especially noteworthy that very few of you have any idea that the U.S. enjoys the freedoms it does because of the deep allegiance of our founding fathers to the judeo-christian bible and the 10 commandments. If you go to their original writings, you will see this expressed time and time again. Remember the words of Jefferson that were affixed to the Northwest Ordinance: “Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good governance and the happiness of mankind, the means of education…shall forever be encouraged.” (Sorry, that quote is from memory so may be somewhat off.) If you claim them to be merely deists, or atheists, or secularists, you show yourself ignorant of their actual writings This hatred of all religions also shows a shallowness of historical and religious knowledge (ie, the comment that christians aren’t blamed for Hitler…no one could make this statement without a complete ignorance of Christianity). As for blaming African slavery on christians, yes, it was wrong, but the slaveship captains bought their slaves from muslims arabs who did the dirty work of actually capturing the africans and bringing them enslaved to the ports. What does the person say to the fact that it was christian europe whose conscience was eventually woken up by dedicated christian people motivated by what the word of God actually said, that such slavery and the slave trade was eventually outlawed? Are you aware that nowhere else in the history of the world was this done? And are you aware that slavery is alive and well in Islam, and still practiced wherever that religion holds power, and that it is condoned in the Koran? I would suggest before you condemn the religion on which your freedoms rest (check it out in non-religion hating books and by reading original documents), you actually take some time to read the rest of the bible. Then explain how intolerant the Year of Jubilee was, or the incredible hygienic laws were just dreamed up, and how the intolerant and hateful followers of Jesus are guilty of hospitals, orphanages, outpourings of charity, private property, Deitrich Bonnhoeffer, Mother Theresa, food banks, schools… Oh, and please write some books about christian terrorists and how justification for their actions is found in the Gospels. And, by the way, there is absolutely NO support for what post states that christians are supposed to ‘kill’ all those who don’t convert. Come on, you guys are just getting ridiculous. I want chapter and verse on that one.

  • kurt

    The judiciary of Sudan who sentenced Gibbon, and the mobs who called for head, are all insane. We should not condone that kind of irrational behavior or that hatred by being polite or eqivical. We should freely condemn them. We should also revoke any financial and military assistence.

  • kurt

    The judiciary of Sudan who sentenced Gibbon, and the mobs who called for head, are all insane. We should not condone that kind of irrational behavior or that hatred by being polite or eqivical. We should freely condemn them. We should also revoke any financial and military assistence.

  • halozcel

    Islam is the cult of violence,nothing else.Islam is compulsion and *headscarf* is the mark of this compulsion.99 percent of women put it on because of compulsion and oppression.Woman who says *it is my choice* speaks lie.Islam is the *civilization killer*.Islam killed the civilization in Egypt and islam dried Egypt.Kleopatra gone,bogeywoman in black cage came.There is not any *speakable side* of islam.Islam is Saudi Arabia.Islam is Afghanistan.Islam is the islamofascist Malaysia.Islam is the islamic republic Iran.Solution,yes solution.

  • pegleg

    I’m no “Islamofascist” screamer but unless moderates move to control the levers of power in the Muslim world then that world will become totally marginalized. If not for oil that would have already happened. I have come to belive that at just over 1300 years old Islam has not yet “matured” as a religion. Christianity at age 1300 was pretty darn disfunctional.

  • pegleg

    I’m no “Islamofascist” screamer but unless moderates move to control the levers of power in the Muslim world then that world will become totally marginalized. If not for oil that would have already happened. I have come to belive that at just over 1300 years old Islam has not yet “matured” as a religion. Christianity at age 1300 was pretty darn disfunctional.

  • Wes

    And, let’s not forget that when extremists Muslims commit acts of terror, we see pictures of Muslims celebrating in the streets. This week, we are treated to over 10,000 Sudanese Muslims demanding Gibbons’ execution!! Boy, that looks like a religion I feel comfortable living next to.If there is such a thing as “moderate Islam”, it would be good for them to be far more vocal than they are now. These clerics that preach this violence must be publicly declared heretics and thrown out of the mosques. Those that accept these teaching of hate, if Islam believes them wrong, need to be publicly rebuked. “Moderate Islam” cannot continue to live in the shadow of it’s Satanic brethren. Oops – guess I’m on a death list now.

  • Luke

    Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham. Now let’s give them guns and let them rid the world of each other.

  • Luke

    Concerned – shame on you. You have me agreeing with you more and more.

  • Jack

    John and John:You clearly seem to be writing from the viewpoint of a muslim believer or at least a strong sypathizer with Islam. Your statement that “Islam is under siege” reveals that you think there is some sort of true and good Islam that is worth defending. Could it be that these events merely reflect another strain of Islam that you reject.I find it astonishing that you would suggest that Gillian Gibbons is in any way deserving of blame. By writing that “Gibbons did not intend to malign the Prophet Mohammad” it is as if she should be punished if she had done so intentionally.Your article, and this is true for most of Espisito’s academic work, would be better titled “Defending Islam”. If you were being honest you would take a long hard look at Islam and ask yourselves if it’s not just balderdash.

  • worldly

    Fahmi Natour writes “The Muslims are not one nation that strictly interprets the Quran consistently, yet stupid acts committed by some Muslims are always attributed to Islam, in the West.” Does he not see that this is because they justify their actions in terms of Islam. Hitler did not say he did all the unspeakable things in the name of the Pope or Jesus Christ. More recently, the PLO or even Hamas do not give Islam as a justification for their actions; they cite Palestinian grievances. Hence they are referred to as Palestinian militants not Islamic militants.

  • Dick Bulova

    The photo of enraged Sudanese screaming for the English teacher’s execution speaks volumes. These same people who pray to “Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate” are blind to their own hypocracy. And where is CAIR and the so-called moderates who insist that Islam is a religion of peace? Their silence is deafening. Is it unspoken concurrence or fear of Islamist wrath?

  • Mavina

    Mary M.I am soooo tired of this Judeo-Christian founding fathers nonsense that seems to appear in almost every thread. This country is the result of rationalist deists [and maybe a few outright Atheists]. The Treaty of Tripoli explicitly states this fact. I wish that the people who keep holding up the 10 Commandments as the foundation of Western Law would actually read them and think about the implications of actually implementing them. They, if put into practice with their original punishments, would at least be comparable with the barbarisms of Sharia Law. Death for Worshiping any other god, Death for Adultery, Death for dissing your parents, Death, Death, Death. Sound familiar? I can only thank the goddess [small g intended] that the 10 Commandments and their punishments are NOT the law of the land. Stop showing your ignorance of US History and to some extent even the Bible.

  • Jihadist

    Ah so. Just as expected for its predictability of posts in the culture wars, religious wars. Cultural ignorance lead to cultural gaffes lead to cultural misunderstanding lead to cultural war. Same for religion.Muhammad and its numerous variations of spelling -Mohamed, Mohammed, Muhamad etc and preceding another name such as Muhammad Yunus, Mohamed Heikal, Mohammad Abbas is one of the most common name for Muslim men and the one of the most common names in the world. I don’t think anyone appreciate their names being named for pets, toys or teddy bears and mistakenly responding when your call you mongrel or teddy bear.I see that some are now deliberately calling their pets, toys Mo or Mohammed. Perhaps it is cool and the thing to do in the west to name pets and toys after human names as a way of humanising animals and toys. How is the British teacher, the English, who are more affectionate with their horses and dogs than with their own children, to know that? “J”

  • G Scooter

    As long as actions by Islamic courts and clerics continue to display a venemous and intolerant attitude toward any percieved or real violation of Islamic law: as long as the general Islamic populations of the world do not rise up and repudiate the behavior of these clerics and courts, there is no way that the rest of the world will or should percieve Islam as a “peaceful” religion. Indeed the continuing string of attrocities and blood thirsty actions of Islamic courts, cleric and “leaders” simply validate the claims that Islam is anything but a peaceful “religion.” Is it impossible to see how it is “religion” that can or will peacefully exist in a world that does not bow to it’s whims.

  • Wes

    Umm, Jihadist,Look at all the stuff named for Jesus. Do thousands of Christians take to the streets demanding death when someone names a dog, band, or offensive work of “art” “Jesus”? No. If Islam is offended, there are plenty of peaceful means of showing your displeasure. Riots, waiving machetes and swords, shooting guns in the air, etc do not help anyone understand the allegations that Islam = Peace. Nor, do such actions make anyone want a large Muslim community as neighbors.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Ahh, The Jihadist continues to avoid the real problem i.e. the flaws in the founders and foundations of Islam with deflecting and unsupported statements like “How is the British teacher, the English, who are more affectionate with their horses and dogs than with their own children, to know that? ” (Also a rather ironic statement about a teacher of children.)We have provided The Jihadist with the facts but somehow her Three B Syndrome continues to blind her neurons. (Bred, Born and Brainwashed in Islam). We have even provided her with a free Five Step Program to correct her “cultish” brain cells but alas she continues to resist. We shall persist as good global, concerned citizens and neighbors do for their fellow hominids!!!

  • Leslie Wolf

    Who are these “extremists from the Far Right” who have Islam under siege? And just how are they besieging Islam? Where is this taking place? Is this a current event? Just curious. Thanks.

  • heywaitaminute

    Need Better Leaders – All Around:

  • A Hatred of islam

    What is this thing with islamic courts? When I see what is happening in saudi Arabia and the Sudan I realize that islam is just about oppression and sexism. An islamic appeals “judge” saying that he would have sentenced her to death for naming a stuffed animal Mo! What a crock. Another reason for the separation of church and state.In saudi Arabia, it is nice to know that rape is legal but speaking with a man that is not a relative is a crime. Sick, that is what it is.We don’t need saudi Arabia, they need us. The Sudan is just another pos of an African country that was invaded by sword swinging arabs a few hundred years ago.Let them kill each other and then go and pick up the pieces.

  • Lou Jobin

    Read “Teddy bear blasphemes the Prophet” at delmarvahumanists.orgIt’s the best write up I’ve seen on the subject. They really make those people look stupid!

  • Lou Jobin

    Read “Teddy bear blasphemes the Prophet” at delmarvahumanists.orgIt’s the best write up I’ve seen on the subject. They really make those people look stupid!

  • Aaron

    Not a very enlightening topic. Did the persecution of Thomas Scopes mean something profound about “Christianity” or only about the good people of Tennessee? These issues are at root local. Britain occupied Sudan for alonst seventy years, flogging, imprisoning and killing people with impunity, all in the name of “Western civilization.” Do you think it’s an accident that this teacher is English? Similarly, religious repression in Saudi Arabia is inextricable from political repression in Saudi Arabia–and the Saudi regime is of course propped up by rents and political assistance from the entire industrialized “Western” world.How exactly is the Sudanese political climate a reflection on Kadiris in Azerbaijan? You might as well say that these two cases are a reflection on Euro-American imperialism, or Kapital, or whatever. It wouldn’t be any more enlightening. Pity that an actual scholar like Esposito has descended to this kind of unhelpful and self-defeating hand-wringing.

  • Anonymous

    The idea that someone must BE the thing he/she is studying is specious, absurd, and in fact a red herring. I don’t need to be a star or planet to be an authoritative and informative astronomer. And the PR executive for a large corporation might not be the best person to get good, accurate information from regarding the company’s controversial activities. In fact, NOT being part of the group could increase one’s credibility by appearing more objective. Imposing any set of rules based upon ancient beliefs that haven’t changed in centuries by ANY organized religion on an individual or group in place of well reasoned law that has evolved since the Magna Carta is plain wrong.

  • Chris

    Up is down, right is wrong, the fascists of Islam are the victims… Who do you two work for again? Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center? Ah.

  • Jihadist

    Wes,It is not Islam that is offended. It is Muslims. By their culture, history and traditions, Muslims are different in countries and regions where they are and coloured by pre-Islamic traditions and cultural norms. When Muslim ulema say Islam is a religion of peace, it is not to appease non-Muslims to make them feel better and unthreatened. It is addressed to Muslims to hold back from raging against those they regard as offending them and to remind that Islam is a about peace in oneself and with others. This is real cultural-religious cluelessness going on and dangerously so in being fanned, as some posters noted, by the politicised extremists of both sides. Ignorant and self-serving bigots and chauvinists I should say, who in saying the other is vile and evil certainly don’t make them any less vile or evil. Fundamentally, Muslims leave the religious beliefs of others to their own believers and not question their core beliefs. Even the most rabid ones only vent against western foreign policies and culture, but not on religious dogmas and beliefs of the west. This has its basis in the fact that Suras in the Qur’an do state – to you your beliefs, to me my beliefs; that God will open the hearts of whom It wish to It; in the afterlife, non-believers will be shown the proof of God, and if they continue to disbelieve, hell for them. There are many Suras, and not just the oft-quoted there is no compulsion in religion that makes Muslims more inward than Christians on matter of faith, and to focus on their community rather than on the beliefs of others nor to care to save th souls of others. Hence, it is precisely for these reasons that Muslims do get all riled up when non-Muslims do “step in” to talk on Islam and Muslims in what Muslims regard are internal matters. They don’t “step into” Christianity or Hinduism or Buddhism, and the adherents of other faiths are judged personally by actions and not their faith or belief. Muslims look at the way the west denigrate Jesus, who has no say at all in how Christianity developed over the centuries, and see all the statues of Jesus, the images of Jesus in churches in commercial purposes, but never questioned it, even if Jesus is one of the most lauded Prophets in Islam. It is not for us to question how the west see their own beliefs and to denigrate it in arts such as Piss Christ, or the Last Temptation of Christ. If Christians and westerners are not offended, then it is their own particular state and stage of Judeo-Christian western heritage and civilisation. Leslie Wolf, Christians extremists? Think of the Vatican (who is under siege itself), the likes of Pat Robertson and other Armageddon proponents and evangelicals going around in Afghanistan, Iraq and other Muslim lands spreading the “good word” to save the souls of Muslims and for their salvation. Needless to say, to increase the number of Christians, they do resort to denigrating other beliefs, including Islam. Muslims, as I stated above, don’t make it a mission to denigrate other people’s beliefs. Just look at the posts of Muslim posters and Muslim panelists in On Faith. Not a single one denigrate the beliefs of other religions, but other adherents, from Hindus to Buddhists to Christians do. As I said, cultural and religious cluelessness lead to cultural/religious misunderstandings lead to cultural/religious gaffes lead to cultural/religious wars. This is real. It is not going to go away. Muslims in the academia, think tanks and media are getting increasingly assertive. God help us if and when such Muslims, in reaction, start to breach and hit at the core beliefs and dogmas of other faiths. Perhaps better for Muslims to rage in the streets than to do that, and leave the west further clueless on what is really going on and not understanding when Muslims say they are “hurt” and people should “respect” other people. Two beliefs, two values rubbing against one another : the almost monolothic Judeo-Christian western civilisation and the pluralistic Islamic-Muslim heritage with diverse cultural traditions. Thank you.”J”

  • Rob

    This is shows the logical endpoint of multiculturalism: no distinctions, no ability to judge between cultures. All are equaled, and so there is no difference between good and bad, right and wrong. The writers become caught in their own contradictions, and that’s why it reads as mush.

  • danredmond

    Mark Steyn just made a mockery of these two professors over at National Review’s corner- it’s a brutal takedown of this essay-

  • anonymous

    “At a time when Islam is under siege from Muslim extremists and extremists from the Far Right in Europe and America…”Gentleman, what evidence do you have that Islam is “under siege” in America. What I have observed by Americans is nearly full capitulation to any and all grievances — most false, by the way — of Islamic people in the US. I have seen the President of the United States host a Ramadan dinner at the White House where, incidentally, there will be no similarly celebrated Christmas dinner. I have seen Muslim foot baths installed in public universities where Christian prayer has been banned. I have seen Muslim holy days celebrated in public schools where “Santa Claus” can’t even be uttered. I have seen people in full, face-covering burkas board airplanes based only upon their word that they are, in fact, the person on the driver’s license presented. I have seen American businesses told by courts they can no longer sell pork products because a single Muslim employee complained. Where is this “siege” you speak of? How have I noticed all of those things above, but missed an entire “siege”? I feel sure I would have noticed a siege.” Really, where is the damn siege?

  • Bob

    Sorry but the cases in Sudan and Saudi Arabia are completely different. Sudan is making a judgement call as to what constitutes disrespect with total disregard to the clear evidence that it was unintentional.Saudia Arabia has explicitly written laws regarding what women can and can’t do. The woman in question was fully aware of the law and she admits that she violated the law. Does she get away with her violation because of her personal tragedy? What of any other woman who violates the same law? Should the law look at the circumtances and say – “you have been punished enough”? That is for the Saudi justice system to decide. We in the US and most other countries do not agree with such laws but that is none of our business – unless we want to go to war with Saudia Arabia to get them to change their laws.I have trouble understanding the reasoning used by so many people in the US to decide when we should get involved in other countries’ internal affairs and when we are merely being bullies.

  • Alcibiades

    No one speaks for Islam. Ignore these middle east yahoos. American Muslims need these ignoramuses as much as Christians need frustrated bigoted monks from the old country, like old Ratty. The Arabs have always had a penchant for the melodramatic and an urge to hide their inferior culture behind religion. No self respecting Asian Muslim would look to an Arab for anything intellectual. It’s just a pity that the Prophet was an Arab. I think he would have made a great Viking.

  • Jihadist

    Hello Jon:)You don’t know what those books are really about do you? The books you quoted from the Malaysian Star newspaper are on: (a) On Women “Tajul Muluk; Fiqh Perempuan” Wahhabi/Salafist take on women. Malaysian Muslims are Sunnis of the Shafie school of jurisprudence. Want to have further Talibanisation of Islam in Malaysia, especially on women? (b) On Sufism “Tasawuf Perenial Kearifan Kritis Kaum Sufi”; “Kumpulan Ilmu Ghaib”; “Penyembuhan Cara Sufi and Kitab Kaysf Al-Asrar”. Too much mysticism and into saint worship. Want to have too much mysticism and supernaturalism and ignoring temporal affairs by going too much into rejecting realities and confusing Sufism with spiritualism? (c) On Jesus : “The Muslim Jesus: Kisah dan Sabda Yesus dalam Literatur Islam” Want to have Muslims mock Christians for believeing Jesus as God and offending Christians who believe in the dogma of Trinity?. The book is very offensive to Christians. This seem to be a beginning of Muslims mocking Christian beliefs which the government, at the behest of the Muslim religious authorities, are not keen on. Personally, I don’t mind these books written by Malaysian Muslims to be published and circulated and to let people decide. But the government is wary of Muslims promoting Salafism/Wahhabism, or giving a specific take of Sufism, or mocking Christianity and Christians and angering any segments of multicultural and multireligious Malaysia. The government just wimp out and don’t want to deal with religious discords amongst Malaysians as those books will certainly be politicised. Got to go and thank you.”J”

  • Hsnkhwj

    I just watched CBS’s “60 Minutes” in which one segment focused on the plight of the Christians of Iraq and how they have fled Iraq. The Christian priest attributed this madness of expelling the Christians of Iraq to the bloody history of Christianity.When will this kind of madness –Christians killing Muslims and Muslims killing Christians stop?WE are living in the 21st. century. One hopes that sane people of all religions will get together and stop Human Rights violations. All parties are to blame. Correct the mistakes of the past and accept the fact that human history is full of mistakes.

  • j. caddidy

    at first blush, i want to agree with your post. or at least with the universalist sentiment behind it. it is unfortunate that political opportunists on the campaign trail have resorted to extremist descriptions of “islamo-fascism,” a term that makes no historical sense.and yet and yet.one has to wonder at the repeated displays of astonishing intolerance across the muslim world. there is simply no excuse for the sorts of things you allude to. none at all. if there is to be any sort of real conciliation between the west and the “dar al islam,” then the latter needs to do real soul searching about what values it really seeks to promote.

  • jon

    Jihadist- Thank you. Remember this book being banned?”Banned books in Malaysia include works of noted Islam scholars, such as John Esposito’s “WhatCare to share why it was banned?

  • Alfred J. Lemire

    The article by Messrs. Esposito and Voll demonstrates the intellectual failures and ethical errors of America’s college and university faculties. In their opening sentence, they claim “Islamophobes blur the distinction between the barbaric acts of Muslim extremists and terrorists and the religion of Islam.” And they write, “At a time when Islam is under siege from Muslim extremists and extremists from the Far Right in Europe and America.” Name the “Islamophobes.” Name the “Far Right” people in Europe and America. What are their organizations, if any. How many of them are there? How do they “blur distinctions”? In what way or ways have they placed Islam “under siege”? If they are identified, perhaps other bien-pensant liberals can seek to correct them of their mistaken ways. This writer is American and many people would consider him to be on the “Far Right.” I read a lot of allegedly “Far Right” stuff, in magazines and journals, and frequent like Websites. I don’t encounter anything that might pass for “Islamophobia.” I have read more criticism of Islam in the comments here than I have encountered on the “far right” mass media outlets. This writer has yet to see a religious faith or any atheism or agnosticism burn anyone at a stake or slay all the inhabitants of a town or behead anybody or stone anyone to death or murder thousands upon thousands of “landlords” and rich peasants or send millions of innocents to gas chambers or torn down churches and murdered priests. Doesn’t happen. People do all those things, whether they believe in God and a particular religious faith or have declared fierce opposition to the “superstitions” and “hallucinations”of religion. My conclusion: it’s human nature to sin and sin grievously, regardless of religious belief or lack of it; people have to know that certain acts are objectively wrong and society has to have the means to prevent or punish the most transgressive of those acts. Ah, but what’s a sin or a transgression and how does one prevent and punish? Interesting question, that. Objecting most strenuously to people claiming to be Muslim sending suicide murderers to kill innocent children or to others wanting to behead a woman because children in her class named a teddy bear Muhammad, or protesting when Christians are jailed for daring to hold services in private homes, which must be what the “Islamophobes” do, are all things of which one should approve, not castigate. But the professors do report the bad things, e.g., the sentence of a 19-year-old rape victim to 200 lashes and possibly they do not approve of that. Are the “Islamophobes” any different? Until one learns otherwise, one has to consider the professors guilty of reckless name-calling. Perhaps the problem lies with the nature of today’s colleges and universities, stuffed full of bigoted and ignorant people who add little to learning and teach little of value to students, people who live in a fairy land not that much different from the Laputa Gulliver encountered. Until such time as someone with the demonstrated ability of Mark Moyar joins a (formerly, in my view) reputable university faculty, I won’t think much of all university faculties.In my city, Worcester, Mass., “Far Right” people likely are fewer in number than elsewhere, for whatever reasons. But there are enough. I often drive by the impressive, new mosque that lies on a well-traveled road here. I have yet to hear of a single incident involving the mosque, and I’m sure the propaganda-loving local newspaper would have publicized it, had it happened. As with many people who float on that Laputa-like cloud, the professors want to float the world to a “global ethic” while bypassing the swamps and snares and traps of human action down below, where us humans live, and the real and tedious work that’s needed to let us all get along together. Regrettably, humans (this writer is one) being mostly stupid, the road to tolerance and peace often has to pass by pools of blood; I wish that were not so. The professors, to be fair, have a nice dream of a world where we all get along. Their slurs do not lead to that idyllic place.

  • Alfred J. Lemire

    I should not have written, “possibly they do not approve” of the unwarranted sentencing of a rape victim to 200 lashes. “Instead of being appalled at the rape” makes their opposition clear. I erred. The professors erred elsewhere. As to error, whether mine, the professors’, or the sentencing authority’s in Saudi Arabia, well, to err is human. We indeed are fallible, fallen creatures. That’s part of my religious ethic, which, in my view, stands on a firmer ground of human understanding than nonreligious ethics that have sprouted in the West in recent centuries.

  • Nick Crettier

    Like it or not for millions (perhaps billions) of people, in spite of the protestations of the imams and moderates, the AP photos (Abd Raouf) of Sudanese protesters wielding swords calling for the death of a teacher ARE the face of islam. Angry, misogynistic, disaffected brown or black men between the ages of 15 and 50. Sadly it’s only getting worse.

  • Ed

    The “judiciaries” of Sudan and Saudi Arabia …. have not done anything different to what the would have done 50 years ago …. or for that matter 500 years ago …. I do not “understand” how any “scholar” …. can have such an self serving position …. “How could they (the muslim hierarchy) do not have understood that the actions of the muslim satraps …. savage in nature …. would alineate western observers?” …. what the “scholars” do not understand is that the only way in which cults maintain control over its members is through fear and reward (the brutality of the muslim atrocities just makes the rewards cheaper for the satraps ….. just being left alone – and alive – counts) …. this is what islam is …. just another savage cult …. albeit one that controls over a billion muslims (the correct translation from arabic would be “subjects”) …. as for the “scholars” who wrote the report …. they are so incompetent I want to know when will they be fired ??????

  • robert legge

    What I don’t understand is why is it so blasphemous in Islamic culture to call a teddy bear “Muhammad” but so many people are called Muhammad ? Worth noting that in Latino culture, “Jesus” is a common name. But in the US/European culture, it is unheard of.

  • rohit

    “All our futures depend upon an ability to agree upon a global ethic, based upon mutual understanding and respect, that transcends our religious and cultural differences.” I fully agree with this, and I also agree that the decisions are ridiculous, for they bring shame on Islam. But the Western world which encourages adultery, abortion, and alcholism, is it any better? Is the West going to mend ITS ways? Will pigs fly? Recently a German judge ruled that it was against the law for husbands to use DNA testing to find out if “their” chidren were actually theirs. The reason given was that such testing would violate the privacy of the children. But that decision also sends a message to adulterous wives, “sleep around and the law will be on your side.”

  • rohit

    A couple more facts. Three Muslim countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia have all had women heads of states. The US, after its 230 year history, MAY catch up in 2009 to these three countries. A couple of years ago, an Iranian women’s team climbed Mt. Everest. Women outnumber men in Iranian universities.Western media love to present non-Western countries in an unfavourable light, and very often the criticism is deserved. But the West itself can be criticized, and arrogance is not the way to mutual understanding.

  • Anonymous

    Hsnkhwj, the problem simply is, organized religion as a social/civil structure. It should serve solely as spiritual self growth.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Again and again and again, it is all about the koran!!!! “Until the koran is “deflawed”, no one is safe.” (Even The Jihadist)

  • Patrick Carroll

    You’re joking, right? You have to be.You trot out some horrors from greater Derkaderkastan and then attach blame to “the Far Right in Europe and America”. This is beyond parody.Everywhere in the world, Muslims are parading around, waving machetes in the air, and demanding infidel blood. Lying back and spreading your buttocks is only going to encourage them. If Britain had a government worth its history, today’s images from Khartoum would have ended with strafing and napalm, and the world would be a bit safer as a result. Instead, we’re going to have to endire poltroons like you, right up to the point where we nuke Mecca and Medina.Bloody apologists. Bloody collaborators. You sicken me.

  • Jeff

    It took two people to write this? I love the way you’re more concerned that this might give fuel to “far right extremists in Europe and America” than about the actual injustice here. Or what it says about Islam when mobs on parade chant for the death of Mrs. Gibbons. Have another drink from the poisoned multiculti well, why don’t you? Pathetic.

  • Bud

    “Whatever our differences, there can never be an acceptable excuse for injustice and intolerance in the name of our religions.”But the bible says …”Thou shalt have no other gods before me”That sure sounds like intolerance to me.

  • okay

    “In a case in which it is clear that Gillian Gibbons did not intend to malign the Prophet Muhammad…”And what if she had? Are you implying that then it would be understandable that she’s in jail and threats against her life were warranted. Pathetic.

  • Karen

    Mr. Esposito and Mr. Voll are part of the lunatic left that are blaming the victims. They wrote a letter that appeared in Muslim newspapers that begged forgiveness for all the bad things Christians have done to muslims. Absolutely nothing was noted about beheadings, planes into buildings, the Olympics, throwing wheelchair ridden men off cruise ships, blowing up pizza parlors, etc. These religious apologists have given validation to the tactics of islamic extremists, and told them they are the victims, and go ahead keep up the beheadings. This insane logic should be exposed and stopped. Let us remember, these men receive money from the same group that supports the lashing of rape victims. They disgust me.

  • bob garcia

    Islamic law as a yardstick for justice. Can anyone really believe this? There is evidence of concern for “justice.” The word has a completely different meaning in Islam than anything I could comprehend. I suppose I should get me to Gerogetown to learn about Islam and justice.

  • bob garcia

    Islamic law as a yardstick for justice. Can anyone really believe this? There is evidence of concern for “justice.” The word has a completely different meaning in Islam than anything I could comprehend. I suppose I should get me to Gerogetown to learn about Islam and justice.

  • Anonymous

    “All our futures depend upon an ability to agree upon a global ethic, based upon mutual understanding and respect, that transcends our religious and cultural differences.”FALSI CRIMEN; FRAUS EST CELARE FRAUDEM; LUPUS IN FABULA.

  • Aangelis

    “Whatever our differences, there can never be an acceptable excuse for injustice and intolerance in the name of our religions.”Uh…I think that someone disagrees with you.

  • katielenn

    No, what can never be excused is the lashing of women who dare to be gang raped, or killing of teachers who let the children in their classes name teddy bears.Until this type shameless, gutter behavior is denounced and condemned by Muslims it will be left to people of other religions to do so.

  • ender

    1 Million Dead Iraqis. 2 million Dead Sudanese Christians and Animist.Whether it’s George Bush’s Crusade Against Iraq or the Wahubbi Jihad in Sudan, the CULTS OF ABRAHAM have been the excuse for Murder for Money(0il in these cases) since their inception.Any religion that even allows interpretaions that can support these atrocities should be recognized for the human created political control mechanizm that it is.It really is time that humanity got these two thousand year old tribal monkeys off of it’s back and acted in an rational and possibly even benevolent manner.Or at least admit Murder for Money for what it is, and quit fooling the ingnoring masses with superstition and imaginary retributions.The world survived Communism and Fascism.Will it survive the Cults of Abraham?

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Ender,You noted: “The world survived Communism and Fascism.Will it survive the Cults of Abraham?”Yes, indeed as it is simply a matter of “deflawing” the founders and foundations of said cults. The Jews and Christians are well on their way in doing this. The Muslims are way behind but they have been given the information and programs they need. Hopefully with the use of the Internet, complete “deflawing” of the three cults will not take too long.

  • ender

    Neither xtianity nor judaism are as “flawless” as you seem to think.When an arbitrary decision to take away a peoples homeland and give it to another can be justified by a 2200 year old claim from a collection of tribal mythology, I must assume that everyone that participated in that decision is pretty “flawed”.Were Israel not there, the Islamic monarchies and dictatorships would either have to invent another enemy to justify the harsh treatment, isolation and denial of human rights the met out to their populations, or allow the exposure to Western Secularization that could have started the modernizaton of thought that is the beginning of freedom from superstition and religion.But, we gave them the perfect mechanism for controlling a tribal people with ancient tribal hates and predjudices, an enemy that makes them all jealous of it’s success. And by making sure that ‘enemy’ is the very picture of success, by supporting their land grabs that took control of most of the water in the area, while they refuse to recognize the chartered boundaries that would have created a separate state for the disputed ‘holy’ sight, as we keep them glutted with billions each year in support, we play into the hands of the dictartors and monarchs.And we keep the string of lies going back 3000 yrs, a major player in modern geopolitics, when it should be three dead religions that have outlived their usefulness.

  • MAvina

    I just don’t understand all the hand wringing and moaning that takes place on the left [amongst whom I count myself]. Why should the West be sensitive to the outrageous religions sensibilities of Islam. I simply don’t understand how validating or excusing the behavior encourages discourse. We need to think of a way to empower and encourage the moderates within Islam rather than either try to bomb them into submission or bend over backward in our guilt over Imperialism. The person who posted above about how accepting of other religions Islam is needs a reality check. Both Christianity and Islam are, at base, Imperialistic and have a driving need to convert or destroy the infidels. Fortunately, at least for now, the Christians have been defanged by secularism – until there is a parallel movement within Islam, I believe that we are in for some rough times.

  • Orson Olson

    Denial of Muslim moral backwardness used to struck me as odd and ignorant. But since 9/11, it is only laughable and ridiculous! That was my reaction to Espositio and Voll’s column (Nov, 30, 2007)In his many books on religion, the late Princeton philosopher Walter Kaufmann, often used Islamic doctrine to illustrate the fact that not all religions say the same thing – such as the Koranic penalty for apostasy: death – a fact brighter people than Esposito and Voll keep in mind when Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie is mentioned.Another smart man is retired philosophy professor Antony Flew, who, after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, predicted another more devastating attack on that morally offensive edifice. How did he divine this accurate prediction, so many years before 9/11? By reading what British Muslims were writing and advocating. Clearly, Esposito and Voll need to get out more if mere philosophers are so easily and often wiser than “learned” Mid-East scholars like them.

  • Nancy Reyes

    I see both writers are from the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, a think tank that is essentially Saudi funded and to promote Islam.Ah, but where is the equivalent “think tank” in Saudi Arabia?Indeed, when a million Catholics in Saudi Arabia are denied churches and risk deportation for privately worshipping in their own homes, it seems to me that their statement “there can never be an acceptable excuse for injustice and intolerance in the name of our religions” is a bit absurd.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Ender, Ender, Ender,You noted: “Neither xtianity nor judaism are as “flawless” as you seem to think.”I noted they were being “deflawed”. Neither is close to being “flawless”.With respect to Israel, your “beef” is with the UN who established the State of Israel in 1948.With respect to who were the original owners of the lands of Palestine, we must go back 40,000 years to find the original settlers. Tough to say but the Hittites and Canaanites are probably as close as we can get. Got any of their genes in your DNA?Again with respect to original settlements, you are currently living on American Indian land. When are you moving???

  • Francis R Taormina

    Couldn’t agree more!! Can we envisiion the cultural icons of the world/s religions – name them – lighting the fire at the inquisition – lashing the teracher in the Sudan – not comforting and supporting that poor girl in Saudi Arabia? Why is there alwasy such a lack of humanity among religious extremists? Why are thes folks – something like our own evangelists in the USA determined to relive the Middle Ages?

  • Gil Franco

    a case in which it is clear that Gillian Gibbons did not intend to malign the Prophet Muhammad and that the children in her class had chosen the name Muhammad for their class teddy-bear, some might still question why she was not more culturally sensitive to a potential backlashWhat breath-taking (and weasely) apologists.

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