Friday, May 6, 2011

Osama bin Laden, Islam, and Religious Freedom

As I wrote on Wednesday, "Osama bin Laden is still dead." The White House said so - and, I understand, has Al Qaeda. My guess is that most folks acknowledge that the fellow who is to a great extent responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 people on 9/11 is now dead, himself.

Killing bin Laden won't bring his victims back. My opinion is that in an ideal world, bin Ladn wouldn't have been killed: but in an ideal world he wouldn't have decided to kill folks who offended his sensibilities. I've opined about this before. (May 4, 2011, May 2, 2011)

Osama bin Laden's Islam

After the 9/11 attack Osama bin Laden was, arguably, the best-known Islamic religious leader in America. As such, he may have done as much for Islam in this country, as the Ku Klux Klan did for Christianity.

Although I think - and hope - that the KKK's particular brand of jingoism is nowhere near as popular as it was a half-century ago, cross-burnings still happen.

I've compared the Klan and folks who follow bin Laden's lead before, but I think it bears repeating.
"...Most - many, anyway - Americans probably know that the various iterations of the KKK weren't all that happy with black people being free. Or being around, for that matter.

The KKK's Attitude Toward Catholics, Jews, and Other 'Furriners'

What isn't as obvious to someone immersed in American culture is the Klan's attitude toward Jews, Catholics, and other people who weren't just like them. (Jackson 1992 ed., pp. 241-242. Jackson, Kenneth T. (1967; 1992 edition). 'The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915-1930.' Oxford University Press, as cited in a Wikipedia article)

"I would be upset about white supremacists' expressed hatred toward blacks, even if that were the only group they despised.

"But I think it's okay to point out that some cliques of 'real Americans' are none too well-disposed toward other groups, too...."
(A Catholic Citizen in America (January 22, 2010))
Now, about Osama bin Laden, Islam, and all that.

Earlier today, I ran into an interesting post on CNN's Beliefs blog. Here's how it started:
"Bin Laden's theology a radical break with traditional Islam"
Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor (May 4, 2011)

"Osama bin Laden wore the mantle of a religious leader. He looked the part and talked a good game, but his theology was a radical departure from traditional orthodox Islam...."
(Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor)
There's more about bin Laden, and an apparently-informed view of Islam, and of what bin Laden preached.

Wild Claims and 'Those People Over There'

I suppose this has to be said: I don't think killing folks in New York City's World Trade Center was right. I think it was a bad thing to do.

I also think that war is unpleasant. Very unpleasant.

But that doesn't mean I'm a pacifist.

As the name of my other blog says, I'm a practicing Catholic. Who lives in America. That affects how I view the world: a little more about that later. Right now, two points:
Even before the 9/11 attack, it was fairly obvious that some folks in the Middle East and elsewhere had decided that God was telling them to kill folks who weren't like them. Obvious in 20-20 hindsight, anyway: and that's another topic.

I haven't been inclined to believe wild claims about Islam. Partly because I think tolerance is a good idea. Partly because I'd heard the same sort of thing before: with the Catholic Church as the Satanic plot, instead of Islam. (February 8, 2009, A Catholic Citizen in America (September 26, 2008)) Incredible assertions about the "whore of Bablylon" piqued my interest in the Church, led to my conversion, and that's yet another topic.

Back to that CNN blog.

Osama bin Laden: Different Band, Same Tune

I've put excerpts from "Bin Laden's theology a radical break with traditional Islam" post at the end of this post.1 Basically, it looks like Osama bin Laden had no formal religious education. He read Islamic scriptures - and decided that what he thought parts of it meant were absolutely, positively, without question, true.

Also that anybody who disagreed with him was an apostate and should be killed.

Then he talked quite a few other folks into believing what he said.

The CNN blog editor quotes some folks who do know about Islam - and they seem to agree that bin Laden's got it wrong. Very, very wrong.

Osama bin Laden's 'scripture only' brand of Islam reminds me of outfits like the Westboro (Kansas) Baptist Church. (October 26, 2007) Although I'm sure that the 'God hates fags' folks and Al Qaeda members wouldn't see the similarities.

Tolerance: Yes, it's a Good Idea

We live in a big world. It's also a world where not everybody is the same. I like it that way, but some folks obviously don't.

And some think they've got to kill folks who don't dress, eat, or worship the 'right' way.

I'm not allowed to believe that, because I'm a practicing Catholic. For one thing, the rules say that I've got to support religious freedom. For everybody. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)

If that's not what you've heard about the Catholic Church: well, I'm not surprised. And that's yet again another topic.

"love" isn't "approval"

Somewhat-related posts:
News and views:
My take on religion and tolerance:
1 Excerpts from "Bin Laden's theology a radical break with traditional Islam," Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor, CNN Belief Blog (May 4, 2011):
"...Bin Laden had no official religious training but developed his own theology of Islam.

" 'We don't know that (bin Laden) was ever exposed to orthodox Islamic teachings,' said Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of religion and Islamic studies at Duke University.

"The writing of ideologues in the Muslim Brotherhood influenced bin Laden heavily, Moosa said.

" 'He takes scriptural imperatives at their face value and believes this is the only instruction and command God has given him - unmediated by history, unmediated by understanding, unmediated by human experience. Now that's a difference between Muslim orthodoxy and what I would call uber- or hyperscripturalists,' Moosa said.

"The vast majority of Islamic scholars and imams say the teaching of the Prophet Mohammed happened in historical context that needs to be understood when reading and interpreting the Quran....

"...In the entire leadership structure of al Qaeda, 'no one has had any sort of formal religious training from any seminary,' said Aftab Malik, a global expert on Muslim affairs at the United Nations Alliance of Civilization. He is researching a Ph.D. on al Qaeda.

" 'What you had was an engineer and a doctor leading a global jihad against the whole world,' Malik said. 'That would never happen in normative Islam. It's just such an aberration.'...

"...'...What bin Laden ends up doing is saying anyone who disagrees with him, any Muslim, is in fact an apostate,' he [professor of religion and international affairs (Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service) John Esposito] said. That includes Muslims who would not join his fight, he said. 'It's a distortion of the traditional teaching, and it just extends the parameters and the consequences in order to legitimate how when you're fighting on the ground you're fighting against your own people.'

"Malik said, 'The key issue is of apostasy,' referring to when a person leaves a faith. 'One of the things Osama bin Laden deviates from is calling those people who do not implement Sharia, or God's law, on the planet as apostates. If they did not implement Sharia, they deserved death. This is a major departure from normative Islam.'..."
(Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.