Karen Armstrong is a British author of numerous works on comparative religion, who first rose to prominence in 1993 with her highly successful A History of God. A former Catholic nun, she asserts that, "All the great traditions are saying the same thing in much the same way, despite their surface differences." They each have in common, she says, an emphasis on the transcendent importance of compassion, as epitomized in the so-called Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Awarded the $100,000 TED Prize in February 2008, she called for drawing up a Charter for Compassion in the spirit of the Golden Rule, to identify shared moral priorities across religious traditions, in order to foster global understanding. It was unveiled in Washington, D.C. in November 2009. Signatories include Prince Hassan of Jordan, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson.
Contemporary and historical religion's most prolific author, Karen Armstrong is a highly sought-after lecturer around the world, and is called upon by governments, universities, and church and secular organizations alike to educate about the world's religions and to inform regarding their place in the modern world. A former Roman Catholic nun, she was educated at Oxford and has taught at London University and London's Leo Baeck College for the Study of Judaism.
Her writings include A History of God: From Abraham to the Present, the 4000 Year Quest for God; Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths; The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; Islam: A Short History; The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions; and Muhammad: A Prophet For Our Time. She has been honored around the world especially as a bridge-builder between the Abrahamic Faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Her most recent works are A History of the Bible, The Case for God, and 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life.
One of the 2008 winners of the TED Prize, chosen for her world-changing work and continuing potential to inspire others to do something great for the world, in November of 2009 the TED community helped Armstrong to launch her Charter for Compassion to help to restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.
Karen Armstrong, founder of the Charter for Compassion, discusses recent controversy over the planned building of a mosque and Islamic community center two blocks from Ground Zero. She argues that it's important to "make room for the other," and concludes that the center could serve to "make peace at the site of tragedy."
Relation of human beings to God or the gods or to whatever they consider sacred or, in some cases, merely supernatural. Archaeological evidence suggests that religious beliefs have existed since the first human communities. They are generally shared by a community, and they express the communal culture and values through myth, doctrine, and ritual. Worship is probably the most basic element of religion, but moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions also constitute elements of the religious life. Religions attempt to answer basic questions intrinsic to the human condition (Why do we suffer? Why is there evil in the world? What happens to us when we die?) through the relationship to the sacred or supernatural or (e.g., in the case of Buddhism) through perception of the true nature of reality. Broadly speaking, some religions (e.g., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are outwardly focused, and others (e.g., Jainism, Buddhism) are inwardly focused.
Originally Posted by web coaster
"Make peace with the other" is a great response to a doctrine that says:
Qur'an: 9:29 "Fight those who do not believe until they all surrender, paying the protective tax in submission."
Qur'an:9:5 "Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war."
Unfortunately "the Other" believes in the Quran as complete, unchangeable and unquestionable truth.
This Cordoba effort is probably just an "harass them" stratagem.
n the context of it's revelation, ( This verse is amongst the last ones to be revealed), The Pagans and enemies of Islam during the time of the Prophet, frequently made treaties of mutual alliance with the Muslims, the Muslims scrupulously observed their part, but the Pagans violated their part again and again when it suited them. After some years, it became imperative to denounce such treaties altogether. This was done in due form with four months notice and a chance was given to those who faithfully observed their pledges, to continue their alliance. "If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah. and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge." Quran 9:06 .
This verse 9:05 of Qur'an, is usually the most visible and boldly mentioned verse on all Anti Muslim/Islamic sites. The illusion it's meant to create is that, Muslims are commanded by their God (the Allah), to kill all unbelievers, especially, the Pagans (most Hindu anti-Islamic cites have translated this word 'pagan' to 'idolaters', in order to give a warning message to their readers that, " All you Hindus beware, better kill Muslims first before they come to kill you. It will only be an act of self defense and pre-emption".
9:29 is also a part of the revelation 9:1-37 and it has the same background as 9:5, which has already been discussed above.
It seems as if your eyes are closed to most of what is happening in the world, and your invective is rather hateful. I am from the Ahmadiyya Community, so I know first hand what persecution means, but it is psychotic, blinkered, self-justification of Power creating its own law that persecutes us, not Islam. You mention India, perhaps you could look up the National Liberation Front of Tripura, or the Sinhala Buddhists in Sri Lanka or the 2008 western India bombings and other 'Saffron' terror (not much press coverage for any of these, let alone 'Fox News'. There's plenty to evil for all of these groups to go around, and when you analyse their disgusting rationales and rhetoric for why they kill, they are interchangeable with each other, and yes they cannot recognise their kindred spirits in one another.
Muslims are causing trouble all over the world. Burning churches, Buddhists temples, Hindu temples, Bahais, Ahmaddiyas, Jews.
It's time non-Muslims have to stand tough, an eye for an eye!!
Muslim Persecution of Hindus In India -- The Story You Won't See In the Western Mainstream Media
We are probably getting tied up in the semantics of our perspectives being influenced adversely (and I am guilty of first introducing this to the discussion!) - of course every aspect of our make up, including opinions is 'determined' in this way - and no, I'm not an absolutist either. There's an interesting anecdote relayed by Muhammad(s), that I would suggest captures this well: He mentions Moses (on whom be peace) happened on a shepherd who was coddling a lamb while conversing with God, saying how, if God were in his lap, he would cherish Him and caress Him and pick the lice from His wool. Moses rebukes the shepherd, saying God's sanctity is far above such banality. God in turn rebukes Moses, saying that the shepherd's expressions are more endearing to him than volumes of eloquence.
We all seek to justify our beliefs, and our behaviour - especially using love, or zeal as justification. I don't say that a mullah (puritanical cleric) couldn't find justification, I say that his evidence is the equivalent of me quoting the the word 'violence' from your replies and saying: look, Gunnar endorses violence. Orientalism, not unlike mullaism, is a narrow view of the sources, and therefore the conclusions it pre-supposes are not giving a holistic, and thus fair view.
What Dawkins, Marx and the rest apply to religious thought (and correctly), they don't apply to the secular world. Attribution is free, remember! Wouldn't Darwin be horrified by Hitlers, Stalin and Mao's use of his theories? David Koresh may have been inspired by Matthew 10:34 : "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword," when preparing for the end of days, but we believe Jesus meant that the current order will be disrupted, in fact, revolutionised if they accept his teaching, and we assert this by a holistic reading of the sources. And this is what I mean by citing the atrocities of other religions - we never attribute what the followers think/do to the the originator. As I replied to someone else that "God is an excuse." But is a Klansman or suicide bomber not sincere in their belief? Sincerity, although an admirable quality in itself, does not equate with goodness or truth. Surely you observe this 'law' in Academia also?
The comparison between Jesus and Muhammad deserves more than what we have mentioned, maybe we can go further in a private discussion, but let me mention that I mean no degrading when I say that there was no 'opportunity' for Jesus to show violence. Of course he was never a legislator, or even pretended to try to create a system - his mission, in his own words, was to reform the existing structures. The Islamic view of Messiah is a very special and distinctive dispensation encapsulated by the phrase: "Offer other cheek." The Quran speaks about Jesus metaphorically bringing the dead to life and curing the blind in a way that suggests his swinging of the spiritual pendulum from one extreme - the harsh and cruel practices manifested by a restricted interpretation of Judaic law.
I am under the impression that Islam has a rich history - until the last few centuries - of critical analysis from within its own walls. The records show plenty of literature (with the famous 12th C 'book war' between Ghazali and Ibn Rushd over the validity of rationalism - as far as I know, no one was beheaded!), even until the 19th century within Islam debating most religious topics (there was variety of opinion, for example about whether armed 'jihad' was permissible against the British government in India Link ). And within my own Muslim community we have a forum for self-critical exploration and questioning at various levels.
Yes government is always a big dilemma. I think again, there is confusion here, primarily because Theocracies assume they have a scriptural basis. In fact, the kind of criticality Chomsky and Foucault mention are explicitly propagated in Islam. Briefly, firstly, it talks about 'Shura' or consultative democracy, which it advises on every level of administration. Secondly, it describes government as the 'Sovereignty' of the people, who hold the leaders to account by a standard of justice that could easily be seen as secular - the core principles are about fairness in administering law, upholding the rights of the needy sections of society, a fair system of economics, openness and standards in trade, AND freedom of conscience.
You ask about my opinion on those who present the barbaric face of religion, in particular Islam. It is painful to see those that propagate, and worse, those that follow, (I thought perhaps that was evident in my responses), but to make it clear - their words and actions are abhorrent. Whether initially a creation of the British, Americans or anyone else, and regardless of the Middle East complications they are so morally and intellectually dead that they cannot even see that compassion and sympathy are the fundamental tenets of the religion - we call upon God by his attributes of Benevolence and Ever-recurring Mercy some 33 times per day, yet think you can kill the innocent? The very fact that we elicit God's forgiveness for our own misdemeanors proves that Freedom of Choice is the essential basis of acquiring faith. But I think these people inhabit that same world of absolutism of Pol Pot and Machiavelli, where there is no shade or colour, only black and white.
I look forward to your feedback.
Orientalism is alive and well and I would not say it isn’t. But my point is that Orientalism can’t and shouldn’t be used as an argument in a discussion. Like I said earlier, that my views are coloured doesn’t mean they are wrong. In the social science there is no obvious and objective truth and all of our views are coloured, at least that is what I and most people in the social sciences think. Your views are also coloured, like you said: “The Islam I know permits a myriad freedoms, the foremost being the freedom of disbelief”, but when talking to a radical muslim he would not recognize the Islam like you do and he would have the right sources to back his story up.
About the distinction between Jesus and Muhammed I won’t go much further. They are both role models for many people and personally I think Jesus is a better role model because it is simply impossible to use violence in his name. People who do think they can use violence in his name don’t have any basis for it then their own figments (you’re probably going to say that the same can be said for Muhammed).
Freedom of religion sounds great doesn’t it, but it thrives on the tolerance of the main religion in a state and the tolerance of it’s leaders. The Romans did allow other religions but only as long those religions remained insignificant. When the Christian community became to big, they were persecuted. Christianity itself has only become ‘tolerant’ after the reformation.
The similarity between the behavior of Islamic theocracies and the past misdeeds of the Christian protagonists is in my opinion partially misplaced. Partially because it is quite similar in the way that both are an example of misuse of power derived from the people. The reason why I think it is misplaced is that all examples show that religion can be an excuse to do terrible thinks and that it isn’t questioned by it’s followers. In this case Dawkins nails it when he says that religion can be an excuse to do harm.
Since you brought up Chomsky I would like to point out something he feels is very import which again religion doesn’t excel in.
According to Chomsky the intellectuals in a state should mostly concentrate on criticizing their own government. In religion this doesn’t happen, because most religions are based on a holy document that is the word of God.
This is also where I’m having trouble with your arguments, they are biased. You seem unable to say anything that could be considered to be bad about Muhammed and the Koran, while according to your own proclaimed principles you should have problems with some of the versus in the Koran.
Finally I would like to ask you, seeing that you think religion is a philosophy that supports the structures of power, how would you limit those who exercise power in religion? And how can we make sure that religion doesn’t restrict other people, even doesn’t restrict them socially.
I think people like you are the key to a wider acceptance of Islam, but I’m not hearing enough criticism on those who think Islam should be imposed on others. It seems like there isn’t enough discussion between muslims about Islam.
I agree 100 percent with you. Christians, Jews, Sikhs and Hindus - all should be permitted to build their places of worship in the places you mention - it's practically a commandment in the Quran.
As a start, the tide can be turned if the industrialized nations begin withdrawing their support to these regimes (and often the support is not obvious), but education is the key. Unless and until there is reform in people's attitudes and convictions because of dead tradition and stories handed down, instead of the a critical exploration of their beliefs, nothing will change. As Socrates said: "The unexamined life is not worth living."
I have to politely disagree; Orientalism is alive and well. I wrote to you after reading an article reporting the 'Dove' Outreach Center's plan to burn the Quran on 9/11, and there were literally hundreds of comments by Americans who believe Muslims worship the moon, or a black box, and our chief delight is in combustibility! And unfortunately the media and pseudo-scholars are perpetuating old myths. With the danger of droning on, an example is the BBC. On 9/11 they broadcast footage allegedly taken in a British mosque showing 'celebrations'. The footage was later found to be of Eid celebrations, from the BBC archive.
Certainly I am wrong about many things (just ask my wife!), and as you rightly say, our perspectives are almost infinitely variable, even with ourselves. The Islam I know permits a myriad freedoms, the foremost being the freedom of disbelief.
You make a very essential distinction between the life of Jesus (on whom be peace) and Muhammad(s). Their ministries are not at all comparable, and neither were their own self-proclaimed missions - and there are reasons for this. Jesus left Palestine with 12 disciples, one of whom betrayed him, another denying him. What opportunity did he have for violence in the three years of his ministry? After 13 years of non-violence, Muhammad was elected by Muslims and non-Muslims as the head of the state of Medina. The city was attacked repeatedly, and now with the ability to establish a society where "there is no persecution and religion is freely professed." (Quran 2:154). this is the same principle as the Hindu concept of 'dharmayuddha', the just war, which Krishna has to convince Arjun of related in the Gita. Even their environment has no parallel, because, as you know, although the Christian community was much later persecuted by the Romans, the contemporary Roman empire allowed freedom of religion (although not sedition). He was allowed to preach, there were at least scores of conflicting sects even within Judaism at the time, and if we remember that famous scene from the "Life of Brian", the militant (Jihadist?) zealots bicker with each other and find that the Romans have given them "health, education, sanitation, public order etc," we get a picture of a relatively tolerant government. The state of the Jews was, from my reading, similar in fact to the state of the Muslims now , not at the time of Muhammad (s).
And I feel it is perfectly valid to say that the Islamic theocracies are wrong, just as we would say the Conquistador carnage, Papal crimes, Puritan hysteria-hunts, Israeli occupations or Hebrew-Midianite atrocities have no real basis in the bible, although their protagonists would say otherwise. In any case, these theocracies are a 20th century constructs of the Free Market strategists to fend off the spread of communism. The historical record shows, that the roots of Pan-Islamism were from the seed of 19th century British (anti Austro-Hungarian/Ottoman) policy. As you probably know, Chomsky points out the obvious, that the so-called clash of civilizations is a farcical idea, with the barbaric Saudis being one of the U.S.'s key allies. And we learn form the so-called 'Islamic' theocracies what we learn from Pol Pot, Kim Jong Ill, Stalin and so forth, that absolute power corrupts, and any philosophy that supports the structures of power (hidden as well as visible) is valid. Islamic fanaticism has a different shade in Iran, a very different colour in Syria and in Libya it is Communism. The amoral use and abuse of systems that maintain hegemony is the the only code, and is common to all.
I hope we can continue this dicussion,
Thank you for bringing this up, it's another misunderstood area. Dar-al-Harb (Abode of war) and Dar-al-Aman (abode of peace) is a concept created from the medieval Islamic period (although first coined by Imam Abu Hanifa, I think), not from source material (Quran and Hadith), but by jurists seeking to accommodate the prevalent Dynast's expansionist policy. You could see parallels with almost no exceptions in the history of expansionist movement in any culture, including American foreign policy. Was it Toynbee or AJP Taylor who wrote that first we act, then we create the justification, the myth that we acted right? As the character Vogel in the 'The Last Valley' expresses to the captain of an invading Christian army: "God is an excuse."
I also found the idea of the establishment of Muhammad's 'unification' of Arabia uncomfortable, until I examined the source material more closely. Firstly, the Quran, 2:194: "And fight them until there is no persecution and religion is freely professed. But if they desist, then remember that no hostility is allowed except against the aggressor." The difficulty of historical proof is of course that the winners write history! But according to the earliest historical sources, excluding the internal 'aggressors' orchestrated by the Meccan Chiefs, there was an external threat from the Byzantines from the north west. Muhammad is reported to have sent scouts to establish the veracity of this which in turn becomes a battle, which in then became a 'stable' zone for the victor. Martin Lings' and Zafrullah Khan's modern day biographies are quite good if you want to find out more.
Originally Posted by kaleemb
Your view is coloured by a thousand years of Orientalist bias. In fact the only division of Prophet Muhammad's life has been misinterpreted, even by Muslims.
As the Hindu scholar, Gyanandra Dev Sharma Shastri has written:
“The critics are blind. They cannot see that the only sword Muhammad wielded was the sword of mercy, compassion, friendship and forgiveness—the sword that conquers enemies and purifies hearts. His sword was sharper than the sword of steel.”
Not a single battle was fought by the Muslims of Muhammad's era that was not in self-defense, and that is the the context of the Quranic verses about war. The second half of his prophetic life in fact shows greater compassion and mercy, because he was elected a temporal leader - examine the entrance at Mecca, and the multi-cultural society created at Medina to see evidence of this, but there are countless examples.
So what happened? Where is the evidence of Muhammad's compassion in Muslim countries? Why is there so much intolerance against non-Muslims in every Muslim country? Why there is no freedom of religion in any Muslim country? Why is it illegal for Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus to build their temples and churches in every Muslim country? Muslims are free to build mosques in USA, don't you think Americans should have the build churches in Muslim countries?
Muslims have complete freedom of religion in the West, why there is no reciprocal freedom? Why did the compassion during the days of Muhammad disappear from Islamic countries? Please explain what happened.
Will Imam Rauf go to Saudi Arabia and campaign for building of Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh temples? Will he campaign for building a synagogue; after all, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a JEW, who is so instrumental in getting the approval of building the mosque on the Ground Zero? As a Jew, will he be allowed to go to Saudi Arabia? Will he be safe in Pakistan?
Originally Posted by Arthur McKenzie
There is a simple solution to establishing this mosque. Dedicate it to the victims of the 911 atrocity including a condemnation of the prophets words that led to the crime. (Bin Laden can give the references!)
Make the statement boldly, publicly and a permanent feature externally and internally and in the languages of all the dead.
I bet they won't do it!
I agree. If 9/11 Islamic terror attack had not happened, there would not have been the talk of building the Cardoba Mosque. Muslims are building this mosque with the sole intention of humiliating Americans and poking in the eyes of America.
If Muslims wanted to show solidarity with Americans, they would have a proposed a multi-religious temple, containing chapels of all the major religions of the world. They could have incorporated a memorial to the victims of 9/11 with their names and stating their religions.
On the contrary, Imam Rauf made an inane statement that the Sharia is compatible with the American constitution. This statement speaks volumes about the real intention of so called moderate Muslims, the dominance of Islam all over the world.
The Sharia is a religious code which enjoins Muslims to impose Islam on the world but the American constitution is secular enshrining equality for all irrespective of religion.