But why did the Muslim react in such a manner when Pope Benedict repeated something that we are already accustomed to hearing from not so friendly western public figures? After all flamboyant televangelists like Jerry Falwell have said worse things than the Pope –- calling the Prophet of Islam a paedophile and terrorist – yet we never asked for an apology. In the modern era, not least because of the late Pope John Paul II, Muslims have a genuine respect for the head of the Catholic church. The Crusades, the Reconquista, the Inquisitions were far behind us. The Catholic Church with its long history and tradition, its large number of faithful and the authority of its leadership, its unambiguous moral precepts and its liturgies and rites represent what constitutes Christian orthodoxy to ordinary Muslim eyes, as the last bastion against the inexorable march of secularization of western society.
Today, we see Muslims being propositioned by Christian evangelical groups and missionaries relentlessly with a zeal that astounds us. Day by day, they seek out the weak, the poor, the sick, the destitutes amongst the Muslims of Asia and work their way in. Many of these missionaries work under guise of charities and relief effort workers. By doing a bit of research, what do I find? Countless projects by the Christian Global Missionaries out with a purpose…to convert the Muslims to their creed.
Apostasy, apparently a human rights related issue, is highly sensitive to the multi-racial and multi-religious character of Malaysia. It tends to be problematic, untenable to some, especially when it deals with conversion into and out of Islam. It is true, the whole question involves certain legal and social implications. At times, its repercussions appear to rattle the social solidarity and religious harmony of our peaceful nation. All these threatening consequences are actually caused by ignorance. This writing is not to incite further dissension. Neither is it intended to sound apologetic. On the contrary it calls for all parties directly or indirectly affected by the subject matter, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to view it with an open heart guided by wisdom.
Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, argue that a pacifistic Jesus was very unlikely. As the authors point out, Qumranian phrases flowed from his lips, sometimes word for word. Traditionally, scholars concede that at least some Zealots made up Jesus inner circle. The Bible itself reveals him acting in a Zealot-like way, driving the money changers out of the Temple. He states in the gospels: “I am come not to bring peace, but a sword”. In the same vein, when a cohort of Roman soldiers comes for him in Gethsemane, Peter raises his sword against them, hardly the act of a meek Christian. As revealing is the number of soldiers in a Roman cohort, six hundred. Why send six hundred soldiers except in anticipation of armed resistance? And crucifixion, remember, was the method of execution for rebels, not rabbis. These biblical events, in conflict with Christian tradition, do not conflict with the Qumran context. On the contrary, they fit.
In the post-9/11 era the Western media are at the forefront of a highly orchestrated assault against Islam and its people. So, I am not too surprised with the Times Online piece trying to raise storm over some 13th century text that are taught at a Shi’ite religious school in London. The subject in question is najasa or impurity: what makes something impure according to Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, a 13th century Shi’ite scholar. The text says, “The water left over in the container after any type of animal has drunk from it is considered clean and pure apart from the left over of a dog, a pig, and a disbeliever.” So, the Times reporter Sean O’Connell draws the conclusion that Muslim students are “being taught to despise unbelievers as filth”, which becomes the news heading, sure to draw much publicity in UK before the election in May.