Dear Madame L,
I heard on the news today (Thurs., Feb. 16) that Umar Farouk Abdulmutalla, the so-called Underwear Bomber, claimed that the Quran says it's okay for Muslims to kill non-Muslims. Is that really true?
Thought Muslims Were People of the Book
Dear Person of the Book,
Madame L is no expert on Islam or the Quran or its teachings. Quite the contrary, in fact. Therefore, Madame L doesn't want to get in an argument with anyone on either side of this issue, though Madame L would like to hear from anyone has any thoughtful, informed, and civil comments to make about this issue.
It is Madame L's understanding that Islam does not teach that killing people is acceptable except in war or self-defense. Madame L has been told by Muslim friends that the "jihad" or "holy war" so often mentioned by terrorists refers in fact to the internal struggle every individual undergoes to subdue evil tendencies and replace them with thoughts and actions that are acceptable to God.
Madame L believes that in fact the terrorists who wage "jihad" against non-Muslims aren't doing this from any "holy" motivation, but rather are acting from anger and hatred and a misunderstanding of Islam. By the way, the word formed by the consonants "s-l-m," in a religious context, means "voluntary submission to God," and Allah, the God of the Quran, the same God worshiped by Jews and Christians, abhors murder. So it's hard to accept the idea that that same God actually approves of any of His followers committing murder or any terrorist acts.
Madame L has read that many recruits to the various pseudo-Islamic terrorist groups are actually unschooled in Islam and are recruited for that very reason. While Madame L cannot find the source for her original reading on this, she has found this quote from the online journal Middle East Forum: "Among Islamists, conspiracy theories thrive, reinforced by influential preachers unschooled in the ways of the West."
Madame L recommends this article for those who want to understand more about the way that terrorists justify their terrorist acts. In fact, terrorism, including hostage-taking and murder, consists of a series of tactics used to gain political and social power. It has no actual religious justification, any more than any such act if it were committed by someone of another faith.
Finally, Madame L notes that the term "People of the Book" ("Ahl al-Kitāb") refers to people of the non-Muslim monotheistic religions: Jews, Sabians, and Christians---all the people who believe in the God of Abraham and/or are descended literally or spiritually from Abraham. These people are supposed to be at least tolerated by Muslims, as these quotes indicate:
"And there are, certainly, among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), those who believe in God and in that which has been revealed to you, and in that which has been revealed to them, humbling themselves before God. They do not sell the Verses of God for a little price, for them is a reward with their Lord. Surely, God is Swift in account." (Quran 3:199)
"And do not dispute with the followers of the Book except by what is best, except those of them who act unjustly, and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our God and your God is One, and to Him do we submit." (Quran 29:46)
"Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." (Quran 2:62)
"Those who follow the Jewish (scriptures) and the Sabians, Christians, Magians and Polytheists — God will judge them On the Day of Judgement" (Quran 22:17).
Madame L prays that all of us will be tolerant of those of other faiths and let God judge everyone, rather than attempting to pass judgment and punishment on people who are different from us.