Since my retirement on March 31, 2011, I have fallen behind in my reading of Challenge Weekly, New Zealand’s Christian newspaper, which the publisher sends to my former office at the Manawatu Standard in Palmerston North. But here are two interesting columns by Mark Keown, lecturer in New Testament at Laidlaw College, published on April 11, 2011, and May 16, 2011, respectively.
The first article is unremarkable until we reach the last paragraph, where we read: “The Qu’ran [sic] is not to be burnt by believers [Christians], despite what it leads a small minority of extremist Muslims to do” [emphasis added].
Needless to say, the claim that the Qur’an — not the American/Israeli invasion and occupation of Muslim lands, and the massacre of millions of Muslims* — prompts some Muslims to commit terrorist acts is another example of Christian/Western propaganda. Since we in the West are the “good guys”, and since everything we do in the Muslim world springs from the noblest of motives, we can’t possibly be at fault. So if a Muslim sets off a bomb somewhere, he must be acting in accordance with “instructions” in his holy book.
To me, this raises a fascinating question: As the Qur’an has been around for a rather long time, and was certainly around when I was a boy in the 1950s, why was there little or no “Islamic terrorism” before the 1980s?
There was terrorism, especially in connection with the Algerian struggle for independence, but it was never, as far as I recall, identified as “Islamic”. Indeed, that was the period of pan-Arab nationalism, when the organizations and movements of the day, with the possible exception of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, were keen to keep (potentially divisive) religion on the sidelines.
As late as the 1970s, any list of leading terrorist organizations comprised such names as the Red Army Faction (the Baader-Meinhof Gang), the United Red Army of Japan, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the IRA, the Black Panthers, the Tupamaros, ETA, al-Fatah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. All were either secular or Marxist-Leninist.
What were committed Muslims doing in those days? Weren’t they reading the Qur’an — and those ayahs that allegedly encourage them to commit acts of terrorism?
The second column (below) reveals an uncritical acceptance of the “official line” that is typical of superficial Western commentators. “Surely, if anyone’s death is justified, this man’s [Osama's] is,” Keown writes. “After all, he masterminded Sept 11…”
But hang on a minute! Where is the evidence that Osama masterminded the attack on the World Trade Center? (See “FBI says it has ‘No hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11′” at Information Clearing House.)
One also looks in vain for explicit recognition of two key facts: that an extra-judicial execution is murder, and that torture is illegal in all circumstances under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which the United States signed. Instead, we find wishy-washy statements and questions, like “I feel sad” and “Is this [torture] ever right?”
Oh for a little Islamic rigor here!
* Keown acknowledges, in the second article, that millions have died “across Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan” as a result of the so-called war on terrorism, but apparently does not see those deaths as a possible cause of Muslim outrage and further acts of terrorism.