Saturday, April 27, 2013

Facts & Context: There's Just No Getting Around Them

Facts are seldom allowed to get in the way of a good story on the opinion pages of the Murdoch press. Take, for example, this little flight of fantasy from Spiked Online's Brendan O'Neill:

"[F]ar from being political, Islamic terror in the West is deeply nihilistic, a void of ideology... For [the Tsarnaev brothers], violence is not a means to an end but an end in itself." (Left & right have both misunderstood terror tantrums, The Australian, 24/4/13)

Hm... what could our two Muslim brothers possibly have against 'the West'? Well...

"The two suspects in the Boston bombing that killed 3 and injured more than 260 were motivated by the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials told the Washington Post." (Boston bombing suspects motivated by Afghanistan, Iraq Wars: Report, Simon McCormack,, 23/4/13)

Another terrible inconvenience for those who use the Murdoch press as a vehicle for their shoddy ideological wares is context.

Here, for example, is the Dutch drongo, Geert Wilders, telling us, 'I told you so':

"No, I was not surprised when the Tsarnaev brothers... turned out to be Islamic radicals... Nor will I be surprised if a similar attack happens in Australia - or Europe, or anyplace where the authorities remain blind to the true nature of Islam... Read the Koran [sic] and you will find the explanation. 'Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it,' the Koran [sic] tells the faithful (2: 216). In case anyone doubts what is meant by fighting: 'I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, maim them in every limb!' (8:12)" (It's no surprise the Boston bombers were fans of the sheik, The Australian, 26/4/13)

The trouble is, his Qur'anic quotes have been cherrypicked.

Now I have no idea what translation of the Qur'an Wilders is using here, but to illustrate my point, I'll be referencing the 2004 translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem:

Let's begin with the complete 2:216: "Fighting is ordained for you, though you dislike it. You may dislike something although it is good for you, or like something although it is bad for you: God knows and you do not'."

That, of course, can only be fully understood when read in conjunction with 2:217:

"They ask you [Prophet] about fighting in the prohibited month. Say, 'Fighting in that month is a great offence, but to bar others from God's path, to disbelieve in Him, prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and expel its people, are still greater offences in God's eyes: persecution is worse than killing'. They will not stop fighting you [believers] until they make you revoke your faith, if they can."

IOW, as the translator helpfully explains in a footnote: "To persecute people for believing in God is a worse offence than for the aggrieved party to fight back in the prohibited month." (p 24)

In sum, the verse cited by Wilders should be read in conjunction with its companion and the whole viewed in the context of a newly emerged religious community under attack in 7th century Arabia.

Now here's all of 8:12: "When you begged your Lord for help, He answered you, 'I will reinforce you with a thousand angels in succession.' God made this a message of hope to reassure your hearts: help comes only from God, He is mighty and wise... Your Lord revealed to the angels: 'I am with you: give the believers firmness; I shall put terror into the hearts of the disbelievers - strike above their necks and strike all their fingertips'."

As the translator reminds us, these verses relate to "the Battle of Badr (near Medina), the first fought between the Muslims and their Meccan opponents in the second year after the Migration. The Muslims... won in spite of being outnumbered, and began to question the distribution of the gains. The sura (Battle Gains) reminds them that it was God who brought about the victory." (p 110)*

And as for lopping off heads and hands in battle, you really don't need to be the proverbial rocket scientist to know that this was characteristic of all warfare, whether by Jews, Christians, Muslims or others, prior to the invention of the firearm.

So, when placed in textual and historical context, such verses lose the kind of universal, eternal authority that Islamophobes such as Wilders ascribe to them. Typically, Wilders & Co. are too busy grinding their ideological axes to do the necessary homework.

[PS: *To illustrate the mischief being made on a daily basis on the internet by Islamophobes/Zionists here's another variant on 8:12 from the comment thread to an Associated Press report for 18/6/13, Israeli official blasts idea of Palestinian state, by Ian Deitch. The 'comment', from RadicalIslamisCancer, reads as follows: "More truth from the koran..8:12... Terrorise and behead those who believe in scripture other than the Qur'an (8:12)."]  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A good illustration of what means "doublethink".