Readers' comments have moved me to try to clear up some evidently prevalent misconceptions about the Middle East
. I wish to explain two simple matters. First Arab
s and Muslims
are two different designations. Muslim countries are not necessarily Arab countries. Second, the Quranic verse, "And you shall kill them wherever you find them" does not refer to all non-believers or to all Jews or Christians at all times. The explanation is a bit long.
A surprising number of people are under the impression that the words "Arabs" and "Muslims" refer to the same group of people. I was even sent a map that showed tiny Israel surrounded by "Arab" countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. None of these countries are Arab, though they might have some Arabs living in them. They are not Semitic peoples and they do not speak Arabic except for religious purposes, but the majority religion (and often the state religion) of these countries is Islam
. "Arabs" can refer either to natives of the Arabian peninsula, or to peoples of Arab speaking countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and the North African countries. Most of these countries are Muslim, but there are Christian Arabs of course. The Ottoman Empire
was a Muslim empire ruled by Muslim Turks, who spoke Turkish. They were not Arabs. Some Arab peoples were their subjects, as well as some Europeans.
The second problem is more complicated. To our sorrow, we know that there is an ancient and dishonorable industry of "Talmud quotes" - quotes out of context or fabricated quotes invented to slander Judaism (see Jew Hate
.) It is hard to explain to anti-Semitic non-Jew
s who do not want to listen that the entire Jewish people are not responsible for opinions of one or another rabbi 1500 years ago, or that we do not take certain parts of the Torah literally. There is also a similar and more recent trade in "Zionist Quotes
." Because of Web sites and books full of such quotes, it is next to impossible to convince non-Zionists that Ben-Gurion
never said, "We must expel the Arabs and take their land," or anything like it. It is made more difficult by the fact that right wing Zionist extremists have generated compendiums of similar quotes to "prove" that Zionism
favored transfer of Arabs from its inception, as well as old testament quotes that "prove" we are supposed to murder our enemies.
There is a similar industry in Muslim quotes, manufactured out of ignorance or malice, with a grain of truth added here and there. These too are validated by Muslim extremists, who use them in exactly the same way as Jewish extremists do, to "prove" that their ideas are sanctioned by religion and tradition. When I noted that the phrase, "Kill them wherever you find them" is abused and taken out of context (see Terror Nightmare in Mumbai
, several readers undertook to lecture me on the Quran
and the hadiths
are collections of things that Muhammad
supposedly said. Some are accepted as genuine by all Muslims, others are more doubtful and may have been devised at a later date to validate some idea. There is no doubt that the Quran and the Hadiths contain a lot of potentially incendiary materials, but these are interpreted in a less than literal fashion by most Muslims, just as most Jews and Christians and Muslims do not literally demand an "eye for an eye" (but this indeed is done in Iran
The phrase "And you shall kill them wherever you find them" appears in several collections of "Muslim quotes." For example:
Qur'an 2:191: And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbeliever
Here is a better translation of the Quran (Malik, edited by me) with a bit of context:
2:190 Fight in the cause of Allah with those who fight against you, but do not exceed the limits. Allah does not like transgressors.
2:191 Kill them wherever they confront you in combat and drive them out of the places from which they have driven you. Though killing is bad, creating mischief is worse than killing. Do not fight them within the precincts of the Sacred Mosque unless they attack you there; but if they attack you, put them to the sword; that is the punishment for such unbelievers.
2:192 If they cease hostility, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
2:193 Fight against them until there is no more disorder and Allahís supremacy is established. If they desist, let there be no hostility except against the oppressors.
What sort of mischief is the Quran dealing with? It is "fitna" - civil war among Muslims. It says "Kill them wherever they confront you in combat." It does not say "Kill them where you find them." It is not very pacifistic, but it looks a bit different than the original
A second example is given here: prophetofdoom.net/Islamic_Quotes.Islam, which we are assured gives us the words of Muhammad. Here is the so-called "quote":
9:5 "Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war."
Here is the context and what is evidently the correct translation:
9:3 This is a public proclamation from Allah and His Messenger to the people on the day of the Great Hajj (Pilgrimage) that Allah and His Messenger do hereby dissolve treaty obligations with the pagans. Therefore, if you repent, it will be better for you but if you turn away, then you should know that you cannot frustrate the Will of Allah. O Prophet, proclaim a painful punishment to those who are unbelievers.
9:4 Except (this proclamation does not apply to) those pagans who honored their treaties with you in every detail and aided none against you. So fulfill your treaties with them to the end of their term; for Allah loves the righteous.
9:5 When the forbidden months (10,11,12 & 1 of the Islamic calendar) are over, then fight the pagans wherever you find them, seize them, besiege them, and lie in ambush for them in every stratagem of war, but if they repent, establish Salah [Muslim prayers which include the Shahada - confession of faith] and pay Zakah [charity tax], then let them go their way: surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
9:6 If anyone from the pagans ask you for asylum, grant it to him so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and then escort him to his place of safety: this should be done because these people do not know the truth.
The verse does not say "kill them wherever you find them. It says "fight the pagans wherever you find them" In the original translation, the word used for "Pagan" was Mushrik, which means polytheist or pagan. I changed all the "Mushrik" to "Pagan." In this Sura the Qur'an is probably discussing the attack on the pagans of Mecca (it is during the "great Hajj" -- pilgrimage to Mecca). Even they are to be granted asylum if they request it, and those who honored treaties are to be respected. The verse is not about Jews or Christians, the "al-khitab." Here is a Muslim explanation of the difference between Al-Khitab and Mushrik.
There are two places in Surrah 4 of Quran that evidently say "Kill them wherever you find them, about those "hypocrites" who abandoned Islam:
4:88 What is the matter with you, why are you divided into two groups concerning the hypocrites, while Allah has cast them off on account of their misdeeds? Do you wish to guide those whom Allah has confounded? Whomever Allah has confounded you cannot find a way for them to be guided.
4:89 Their real wish is to see that you become a disbeliever, as they themselves have disbelieved, so that you may become exactly like them. So you should not take friends from their ranks unless they immigrate in the way of Allah; and if they do not, seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and do not take any of them as protectors or helpers.
4:90 The exception to this is for those who take refuge with your allies or come over to you because their hearts restrain them both from fighting against you and from fighting against their own people. If Allah had wanted, He would have given them power over you and they might easily have fought against you; therefore, if they withdraw from you and cease their hostility and offer you peace, in that case Allah has not granted you permission to fight against them.
4:91 You will find other hypocrites who wish to be safe from you as well as from their own people; but who would plunge into mischief whenever they get an opportunity. Therefore if they do not keep distance from you and neither offer you peace, nor cease their hostilities against you, you may seize them and kill them wherever you find them, against such people We give you absolute authority.
The underlined passages show that the intent of the verses are that those who want to live in peace should be left to do so. It would be absurd to argue that Muslims did not wage "Jihad" in the bloodiest way possible at times, and not necessarily according to any rules of fairness, whether it was in attacking Khaybar in the days of Muhammad or conquering Anatolia and later parts of Europe for the Ottoman Empire. Muslims certainly misused these and other verses in the Quran to justify their carnage, and some still do. The cry of "Kill them wherever you find them" was heard in the mosques of Palestine in 1929 and 1936 and in the mosques of Gaza during the Second Intifada and it is used by Hizb ut Tahrir and similar organizations in Central and East Asia. But that is not what it says in the Quran evidently. Medieval European kings oppressed their subjects using the doctrine of "divine right" which they could show was derived from the Bible, which had been deliberately mistranslated. They fought long and hard to prevent correct translations. (See History of the King James Bible). That doesn't mean that Christianity is inherently oppressive.
Whenever you see one of those "Muslim quotes" Web pages, or hear those quotes used, think of the "Talmud quotes" and the "Zionist quotes" used to slander Jews and Zionism. A genuine "Talmud quote" is apposite: "Do not do to your neighbor that which is hateful to you."
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Agha, Saturday, December 6th
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