Too hard to understand ...or too unpleasant a story to tell? Each week I wonder how I’ll answer each of those questions while I prepare to present another controversial topic to my four dozen college students. Of late, I’ve found that more is better.
Perhaps that’s because more are studying to be R.N.’s. They seem to have an appetite for documented fact, corroborated. And they love reading about both sides of a debate; they seem to refuse to deny that there can be another view to almost any rational inquiry.
Always, each class, I tell them how much I appreciate that; I remind them that they should challenge anything I present to them, whether factual or well-supported opinion. That allows me to be candid, enables me to deal with subjects that present very rough edges.
One of those is the topic that focuses on whether there should be an Islamic mosque at the Ground Zero site. Preparing them to understand that issue has meant addressing the question of tolerance, i.e., whether it is intolerant for an American who enjoys freedom of religion to be against the free expression of religion when that expression takes on a concrete shape.
Few, if any of the mosque supporters press for an equally meaningful apology from Muslims who appear to be insensitive to the thousands of 9/11 family members and friends (and people like me) who continue to feel traumatized and grief stricken. Healing those wounds would never be the purpose of the Ground Zero muezzin’s call to prayer five times each day. Selling the Burlington Coat Factory building to Donald Trump for a sizable profit might have been.
But even moderate Muslims are unapologetic; they’re victims, misunderstood and, therefore, poorly treated by those who are not Muslims.
Most who try to salve their superficial complaints (as does our President) can’t seem to understand that will never change. There’s good reason for that, good in the sense that it makes good sense to Muslims.
And it’s not hard to comprehend. Muslims divide the world into two realms, Dar el Islam (all who are Muslim), and Dar el Harb (all who are not). Since Harb means war, it is taught that those who comprise Dar el Harb (infidels, non-believers, people of the book, kuffar, etc.) are fair game for Muslims, are proper targets for jihadis. Indeed, authoritative Muslim texts prescribe proper treatment of those who refuse to convert by exclaiming the shehada, a simple statement of loyalty to Allah and his prophet, Muhammad.
Failing to do that causes non-Muslims to be regarded as second class. That means that there are two kinds of justice. One for Dar el Islam, and a totally different set of rules for Dar el Harb. By its very nature, due to the sanctified intolerance of Islam, equal justice that applies to us all regardless of race, religion, or gender has nothing to do with Islam.
Non Muslims have no rights that aren’t given them by Muslims; Muslims can only assign rights to those non-believers according to what is prescribed in the Koran and other holy texts.
Because Islam is seen to be the lone perfect religion and its prophet the world’s role model, there is no place for infidels (non-believers) other than as second class citizens who accept the supremacy of Islam.
In other words, the only good non Muslims are the ones who support Islam’s preeminence. Its believers know that any harm they mete out to non believers is OK according to Allah, especially if they, the infidels, don’t convert.
How is that compatible with religious freedom of expression? Then, too, as an ideology, how can Islam’s distaste for equality (gender and otherwise) make Islam compatible with democracy? For years, I’ve challenged my students to debate about these questions.
Some have tried, but they can’t find Islamic texts that contradict what I’m teaching. Instead, they respond with emotion rather than reason. I plead with them then to use facts. But they can’t.
My guess is that some of you understand their frustration all too well. They have found that, although there may be moderate Muslims, there is no such thing as moderate Islam. If you don’t believe me, please consider coming to my class next year, around the time of the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
And please bring your questions with you.
B. Koplen 9/23/11