Saturday, February 23, 2008

Can a Muslim be a Good American?

I recently received an email which asked the question, “Can a Muslim be a Good American?” The sender asked that I answer the question in my own way.

I had hoped to keep my blog light for a while, only dipping my toes into blogdom and avoiding the hard stuff, at least until I was sure no one was actually reading it!

But, as is often the case in my life, things are put before me in their own time, not mine.

I’ve posted the unedited email over on my personal website. You can read it by clicking here. You can also navigate to the other pages on my site from there if you like.

The email presumes to say that the answer to the title question is no, and offers some selective quoting, thin logic, and outright untruths to support the claim. I should start by saying that quoting the Quran out of context is a fun exercise, and you can do it with our Hebrew and Christian Bible as well. Wanna play? OK, here are a couple of examples.

2 Kings 2:23-24
He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, ‘Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!’ When he turned round and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

That’s one of my favorites. Kids giving you a hard time? Call down a curse, and bears will eat them. No? My children never bought that one.

Exodus 21:15
Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death.

-and-

Exodus 21:17
Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death.

My kids claimed I couldn’t follow this Bible rule either, although I wanted to a couple of times.

Ok, I think I’ve made my point as far as quoting scripture goes. I have enough examples like this to make your head spin. (All quoted passages above from the New Revised Standard Version of the bible)

So, does being a Muslim preclude someone from being a good citizen? I hope not. There are about 2 million of them living in the US now. That’s an estimate, of course. The US Census is not allowed to ask religious preference, so varying estimates exist
(see http://www.adherents.com/largecom/com_islam_usa.html )

This argument reminds me of the questions which dogged JFK in 1960. “We can’t elect him president!” “He’s Catholic!” “He’ll have to follow the Pope’s orders!” More recently, Mitt Romney was forced to answer questions about his faith this election cycle, with some afraid that Mitt was hiding some sort of dark agenda that he would then prosecute once in the Oval Office.

Well, I’m not sure I’m up to debunking every item in this inflammatory email, but I’ll take a stab at a few.

Philosophically - no. Because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran do not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.

Umm, ever heard of Turkey?

And our efforts are certainly trying to support a democratic government in Iraq. And Pakistan.

I would argue that many Middle Eastern countries would have come to democracy on their own, and sooner, if not for the long history of imperial rule in the region by Briton, France, and the Ottoman Empire. They were taught about imperial rule, and dictatorship, by supposedly superior European countries. Whether you support the war in Iraq or not, democracy seems a better example to demonstrate for self rule.


Spiritually - no. Because when we declare 'one nation under God,' the Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in The Quran's 99 excellent names.

Hmm, not quite. I’ll set aside whether our Old Testament God could be referred to as a loving and kind God (don’t make me quote the bible to you again), but here are a few of the 99 names of God in the Quran.

ar:الودود
Al-Wadud
The Loving, The Kind One

And here are a few that are also used for our Christian God:

ar:الخالق
Al-Khaliq
The Creator


ar:الحكم
Al-Hakam
The Judge, The Arbitrator

ar:المحيى
Al-Muhyi
The Giver of Life


Geographically - no. Because his allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.

Would not our country be better if we all prayed 5 times a day?

One more:

Religiously - no. Because no other religion is accepted by his Allah except Islam (Quran, 2:256)

Well, that’s weird. They want people to adhere to Islam? That’s so different from us Christians. We don’t want everyone to be Christians, of course. Oops. Wait. I forgot about the Great Commission:

Gospel of Matthew 28:16-20:
Then the
eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."(NIV)


I admit, that as a pastor of a Christian church, it is a somewhat uncomfortable position to be in, defending Islam. But they have been unfairly painted with a broad stroke of a brush that lumps the vast majority of peaceful people in with a small minority that is extreme and violent. You wouldn’t do the same to Christians. Or would we? As a pastor in the United Church of Christ, I would imagine that my beliefs and traditions would cause some of my more conservative and fundamental brothers and sisters in Christ to recoil in horror. Within Facebook, there is an add-on called MyChurch. They refused to list my congregation, because we didn’t meet their ‘belief system’. After some dialog, they admitted it was because my church is Open and Affirming. They stated that they didn’t consider my church to be Christian. Nice, huh? There is a wide spectrum of Christians, just as there is in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. Hating all of Islam because of the acts of a small minority would be the same as hating all Italian Americans after watching The Godfather.

This email really pushes a button for me. People forward emails around the net with impunity, never considering whether the drivel they forward is actually true. The immediacy of the medium and the ease with which it can be forwarded seems to have removed all logic and reason from people. The slander, untruths, and rants that fill my inbox daily are disheartening.

More another time (and a lighter topic, I promise)

jim