The Dissenting Muslim

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by 2cents, Jun 18, 2007.

  1. as a foreword, i am neither jew nor israeli nor arab nor muslim nor theist etc and to me "holy" scriptures are at best interesting reference material to foster a discussion... i just find Khaleel Mohammed's work interesting, notably as a Muslim reformist... this is not the only example, but interesting nonetheless...

    The dissenting Muslim

    SDSU’s Khaleel Mohammed looks to the Quran for his controversial thesis: Palestine belongs to the Jews.
    By Judd Handler

    Jews have a wealth of sacred passages to point to when arguing for a Jewish right to Palestine. But what about the Quran (Koran)? Does it claim an equal Islamic right to Palestine?

    Not according to Dr. Khaleel Mohammed. In fact, according to this professor of religious studies at SDSU, the Quran grants Jews sacred right to the land of Palestine. This controversial thesis has predictably made him few friends in the Muslim community.

    Born in the South American republic of Guyana and educated at Montreal’s McGill University, Dr. Mohammed believes that the Quran unambiguously says that the Holy Land belongs to the Jews. He’ll go to any mosque and debate any doubting imam. He hasn’t received any death threats from fanatic Muslims, but he has gotten some bitter emails. Those don’t frighten or deter him from his mission: to combat the growing tide of Islamic political radicalization by teaching what the Quran actually says – not how the Islamic holy text is interpreted by imams.

    “We should do everything possible to encourage… moderates like him to step forth and speak out,” says Rabbi Efraim Warshaw, who runs Star Speakers, a speaker bureau that represents Dr. Mohammed. “If they are the majority in the Moslem community, as is so often claimed, America needs to hear from them and learn what they think and believe.”

    So what’s the reason for Dr. Mohammed’s support for Israel? Chapter 5, verse 21 in the Quran offers proof of a divine promise to the Jews of a land of their own in the Holy Land:

    “Moses said to his people: O my people! Remember the bounty of God upon you when He bestowed prophets upon you, and made you kings and gave you that which had not been given to anyone before you amongst the nations. O my people! Enter the Holy Land which God has written for you, and do not turn tail, otherwise you will be losers.” According to Dr. Mohammed, if God has “written” that the land is for the Jews, what human can erase His handwriting?

    Dr. Mohammed also cites chapter 2:40, which says, “O children of Israel! Call to mind My favor which I bestowed on you and be faithful to (your) covenant with Me, I will fulfill (My) covenant with you.”

    Although the Quran never says point-blank, “Israel belongs forever to the Jews, Dr. Mohammed thinks these verses are unequivocal in God’s commandment that Israel be the religious homebase for the Jews. Even Medieval-era Islamic scholars such as Ibn Kathir and Muhammad al-Shawkani recognized this right. Al-Shawkani interpreted “That which God has written for you” as “that which God has allotted and predestined for you in His primordial knowledge.”

    Furthermore, Dr. Mohammed contends the Quran never mentions Jerusalem as a holy city.

    As Dr. Mohammed leans back in a chair in his SDSU office, where the walls are lined with religious texts and posters of Bob Marley and Muhammad Ali, he explains that, contrary to popular opinion, history backs him up. “If you’re going to take it from a secular point of view,” he says, “you must involve history, which states very clearly that in 70 A.D. the Temple burned, and in the year 135 the Jews were exiled. And in 638 the Muslims full well knew whom the land rightly belonged to…. Muslims left the borders of Arabia to enter a land that according to their own scriptures, belongs to the people of Moses.” He likens Muslim occupation of the land – and failure to help Jews reacquire the land – to complacency in the face of a crime.

    But a Muslim could claim that Muslims controlled the Holy Land for centuries under the Ottoman Empire, a lot longer than modern Jews have controlled Israel.
    Doesn’t matter, according to the professor. “It’s in the Muslim consciousness that the land first belonged to the Jews. It doesn’t matter if the Jews were exiled 500 years or 2000 years, the Holy Land, as mentioned in Quran belongs to Moses and his people, the Jews.” Dr. Mohammed says the conditions of the birth of the State of Israel – which included the violent displacement of some Arabs – are irrelevant.

    So why is it that most Muslims, not even the scholars, don’t see things the professor’s way? Naturally, politics and greed play a crucial role in fomenting hate, but a major reason is the hadith, commentaries on the Quran that are somewhat akin to Judaism’s Talmud. Dr. Mohammed says you must look at the context of the hadiths’ origins. They were conceived during medieval times, when Jews were demonized.

    Dr. Mohammed doesn’t dismiss all hadith out of hand, but he has problems with inserted comments that change the meaning of the original text. For example, after the passage “Enter the Holy Land which God has written for you,” a hadith adds “…but not after Moses died.” “Allah tells Muslims that the Quran is perfect,” says Dr. Mohammed.

    Dr. Mohammed says he has convinced many of his Muslim students to see things his way. But they tell him they are afraid of speaking up at their mosque. “In a mosque, I always win an argument,” he claims.
    In essence, Dr. Mohammed sees politics, not religion, as the culprit for the radicalization of Islam. It is not that radical Islam flowers naturally from the Quran, but rather that it was borne out of the resentment and turmoil of numerous Muslim defeats: the end of the Ottoman Empire, the foundation of Israel, the Six-Day War, the fall of Iraq.

    In an effort to shift the Muslim consensus, Dr. Mohammed recently started the Foundation for the Abrahamic Study of the Religion. He says he’s gotten interest from students as far away as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. These students, although he’s never met them, seem to possess a more open-minded interpretation of Islam, rather than a strict and violent one.

    “Islam sees itself as something of a continuation of the Abrahamic message,” says the professor. “Christianity and Judaism don’t deny democracy. In Quran, the prophet Mohammed says ‘Consult the people’ and therefore, Quran doesn’t deny the development of human thought and a world in which we can respect one another for our differences and come up with new ideas to make a better world.”

    To read the full text of an interview with Dr. Mohammed, see

    The scathing scholar
    Leading Muslim professor Khaleel Mohammed's controversial views have sparked an uproar in the Muslim world -- and he's just getting started. Canadian says foreign-born imams are a threat to national security and they can't relate to Canadians
    Chris Cobb, The Ottawa Citizen
    Published: Tuesday, February 06, 2007
    Foreign-born imams who don't speak English, and who have little understanding of the Canadian way of life, are a threat to Canada, says a leading Muslim scholar.

    "They should be familiar with the Canadian outlook and understand the cultural values of Canada," said Khaleel Mohammed, a professor of religion at San Diego State University.

    "There is no need to import imams, because they cause a lot of friction. They come from Bangladesh, South Africa, Guyana, Egypt and Syria etc. and they bring their cultural baggage with them."

    Mr. Mohammed, a Canadian citizen who was born in Guyana, came to Canada as a teenager in 1974. He studied in Montreal, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Syria and Yemen.

    The academic has been inundated with hate mail for previously saying that despite what Muslims are taught, Islam's holy book, the Koran, supports the right of Israel to exist and for Jews to live there.

    In a scathing criticism of imams during his interview with the Citizen, Mr. Mohammed said that many wilfully or otherwise misinterpret the Koran and are often not qualified to teach religion.

    His criticism comes as representatives of Ottawa's 50,000 Muslims are preparing to choose a new imam following the resignation of their respected spiritual leader, Gamal Solaiman.

    "They (Canadian imams) have to speak English," said Mr. Mohammed in an interview ahead of his lecture this evening at Carleton University. "All mosques I've been to -- give or take five per cent -- have been using an overwhelming amount of Arabic that is incomprehensible to the people listening. I can go to a mosque now and I can start reciting the Koran in Arabic. I can quote one verse and tell them it means whatever I want it to mean."

    Mr. Mohammed, who was a practising imam in Montreal in the late 1990s and still presides at family affairs such as weddings, said "authorities" in Canada and the United States are resisting taking action because they perceive any interference in mosque affairs as "trampling on minority rights."

    "But one has to think in terms of national security," he said. "Do a random survey tomorrow -- choose a church, a synagogue and a mosque. The average church has a priest who speaks English with a Canadian accent and can relate to Canadians because he has grown up in this country and understands the outlook and cultural values. Go to a synagogue and you'll find the same thing. Go to a mosque and it is not the same. And Muslims can't use the argument that they often use that they are new immigrants because it is not necessarily true. Muslims have been here for a long, long time."

    For example, Mr. Mohammed said it's impossible for an imam with little knowledge of the Canadian way of life to counsel young people.

    "When a teenage Canadian Muslim boy goes to an imam and says 'I like Fatima, we go to school together,' he cannot relate to this youth as a Canadian. He relates to the youth as he would relate to a youth in his own country."

    The "single most difficult problem" facing Islam, said Mr, Mohammed, is that Muslims only understand Islam through the imams' interpretations and have not read the Koran themselves.

    "As an example," he said, "I am from Guyana where we speak English. The average Muslim in Guyana reads the Arabic script, but they do not know what it means. So he comes to Canada and for the first time, presumably in a mosque, finds an imam of Arab origin. The average imam has not taken a course in Christianity. What he knows, or presumes he knows of Christianity, comes from some medieval Muslim interpreter. So he comes to the mosque and tells Muslim youth this is what the Christians believe and this is what the Jews believe and it's all distorted."

    It is a widely held misunderstanding that imams are on the same general level as priests, ministers or rabbis, added Mr. Mohammed.

    "Because there is no ordination system," he said, "the imam might not be intelligent, or particularly knowledgeable of the Koran. I can't speak for every mosque, but based on my own observations, I would say it is significant enough to be a great problem in Canadian society at large. It is a problem in Canada that Muslim leaders have not traditionally been chosen for their Islamic knowledge but for their stature in society -- a medical doctor, a computer scientist. So he gets to speak wearing the mantle of a scholar either in the mosque or as the representative of Canadian Muslims. The imam is not the equivalent of a priest, which is something most Canadians forget. A priest is trained. An imam is not necessarily."

    Mr. Mohammed says he decided to promote his view of the Koran because "the violence being conducted in the name of Islam bothered me."

    Much of the hate being spread by radicals, he added, is because the Hadith, or oral traditions of Islam, have been allowed to supplant the teachings of the Koran.

    "Muslims who yearn for peace," he said, "are trying to establish the primacy of the Koran as the source of authority. No one doubts the Koran, but there is a difference of opinion over the Hadith. The Shias have a different body of Hadith than the Sunnis and within the two groups they argue about which is authentic and authoritative.

    "So the push of some Muslims now is to negate the Hadith as a source of authority, especially when it has become something that foments violence.

    "It's the only way to fight the voice of radicalism," he added.

    Mr Mohammed speaks tonight at 7 p.m., at Paterson Hall, Room 303. Seating is limited.
  3. rock1968


    whats u p with that?