Islam is a religion of……….WHAT?
03 Feb, 2007
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare.
So, with Shakespeare in mind, aren’t the accepted meanings of words common to all peoples, all languages? If one mentions the word rose in the English, Spanish, German or Chinese language, surely the same imagery appears in the mind of the listener? Well, at least one would think so……. What about more abstract concepts like love and peace? Don’t they resonate with the same import in the minds and hearts of all cultures?
Personally, peace for me, would invariably conjure up an image of tranquility, calm, and in human relationship terms, individually or globally, an absence of hostility and the presence of a tolerant, harmonious co-existence.
Well, it appears that “It ain’t necessarily so”.
Despite most of the world’s inhabitants agreeing with the above definition there seems to be one theological school of thought which has an entirely different idea of what constitutes peace, according to Syrian born Dr. Professor Bassam Tibi, who teaches political science at Goettingen University in Germany.
Dr. Tibi, who claims to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, is a member of a small worldwide Muslim reform movement which calls for a renovated, Europeanised Islam that is compatible with Western secular democracy. He recently warned the West against wishful thinking in any dialogue it entered into with Islam.
"The dialogue is not proceeding well because of the two-facedness of most Muslim interlocutors on the one hand and the gullibility of well-meaning Western idealists on the other," Bassam Tibi said in an interview with United Press International.
So, what’s the fly in the ointment?
Well, it turns out, that the problem is the understanding, peculiar to Islam, of the word peace!
In the final analysis, it becomes all too clear that we are not, in fact, talking about the same concept at all.
Islam, understands peace to be a different bird of a different feather, altogether.
And it’s not a dove….
Professor Tibi continues:
"First, both sides should acknowledge candidly that although they might use identical terms, these mean different things to each of them. The word 'peace,' for example, implies to a Muslim the extension of the Dar al-Islam – or 'House of Islam' – to the entire world. This is completely different from the Enlightenment concept of eternal peace that dominates Western thought, a concept developed by Immanuel Kant, the 18th-century philosopher.” explained Tibi, who was also a research scholar at Harvard University.
And when it comes to that other desirable quality you may have thought a prerequisite for peace, namely tolerance, Tibi has this to say:
"Similarly, when Muslims and the Western heirs of the Enlightenment speak of tolerance they have different things in mind. In Islamic terminology, this term implies abiding non-Islamic monotheists, such as Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, as second-class believers. They are 'dhimmi,' a protected but politically immature minority."
So, there you have it!
No common interpretation on either count.....”peace” or “tolerance”.
If peace can only come about when the entire world is taken over by, and unified under the rule of Islam, Muslims, in the meantime, will just have to manage, grit their teeth and “put up with you” unless of course, while you’re still a dhimmi you get a bit uppity and demand some human decency from your new-found masters. Then, quite frankly, anything could happen, because a Muslim can do what he likes to a dhimmi but a dhimmi doesn’t have any recourse to justice over a Muslim, neither is he permitted to give evidence against a Muslim in an Islamic court of law.
So, if you were inclined to demand respectful treatment and special dispensations, as Muslims currently do in the West, you could well end up, in the time honoured Islamic tradition, with your head separated from your body as millions have before you at the hands of the religion of “the other kind of peace.”
According to Tibi, the quest of converting the entire world to Islam is an immutable fixture of the Muslim worldview. Only if this task is accomplished, if the world has become a "Dar al-Islam," will it also be a "Dar a-Salam," or a house of peace.
Tibi has appealed to his co-religionists to "revise their understanding of peace and tolerance by accepting pluralism."
Furthermore, he said, Muslim leaders should give up the notion of Jihad in the sense of conquest, as opposed to Jihad as an internal struggle of the individual.
Before we leave Bassam Tibi, we should take note to what extent tolerance is a “one way street” when considering “interfaith dialogue” with Muslims.
The following account is of a good-will visit to a Mosque by a German Bishop …..it speaks volumes about reciprocity ….or lack thereof.
“The bishop of Hildesheim in Germany paid an imam a courtesy visit in his mosque. The imam handed the Catholic prelate a Koran, which he joyfully accepted. But when the bishop tried to present the imam with a Bible, the Muslim cleric just stared at him in horror and refused to even touch Christianity's holy book.”
"The bishop was irritated because he perceived this behaviour as a gross discourtesy," writes Tibi, "but the imam had only acted according to his faith. For if an imam gives a bishop a Koran, he considers this a Da'Wa, or a call to Islam."
This, explained Tibi, must be borne in mind when one engages in a dialogue with Muslim "scholars," for it corresponds to a verse in the Koran:
"And say ... to those who are unlearned: (of Islam)….. “Do ye submit yourselves??" (Surah 3:20).
Warner MacKenzie is a resident of Sydney with a long standing interest in Islam and its impact on Western society.