Friday, November 27, 2009

Freedom of religion ~ an Islamic point of view

“Fight against those who do not believe in Allah…from among the People of the Book, until they pay the jizyah and have been humiliated and brought low.”

the discriminatory tax imposed on “People of the Book”—Jews and Christians living under Islamic rule—in accordance with Chapter 9, verse 29 of the Koran

America Magazine - Hidden Prayer in Yemen
Islam and the problem of religious intolerance
David Pinault

Christians in Sanaa, the capital city in Yemen, cannot pray in church. They must congregate in secret in their homes, and non-Christian Yemenis are monitored to ensure that they do not attend. During a recent visit to the country, I attended many of these clandestine services and watched with admiration as both foreigners and local Yemenis sought ways to practice their faith in a hostile environment.

Unfortunately, the plight of Christians in Yemen is not unique. In Iraq, Saudia Arabia and other countries in the Muslim world, freedom of worship is severely restricted, and the number of Christians has dwindled. The values of pluralism and diversity are dismissed in favor of a strict adherence to the rule of the Koran, which sees any visible Christian presence as an attempt at evangelization. Yemen is emblematic of an Islamic culture that fails to see the spiritual growth that can come from encounters with people of other faiths.

Enforced during the height of Islamic political power in the days of the caliphate, collection of the tax was abandoned by secularizing governments of the modern Middle East. But some of today’s Islamist movements view the jizyah as a marker of the resurgence of Islam. For years, Paulos Faraj Rahho, archbishop of Mosul’s Chaldean Catholic community, had made jizyah payments to local militants on behalf of his diocese’s Christians. Finally, as the security situation in Iraq improved, he refused any further payments, a decision that led to his kidnapping and murder in 2008. Eventually a member of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia was convicted of the crime. Under such pressure, almost half of Iraq’s Christians have fled the country.

Click title for the entire article.

The Elephant in the Room: A war of ideas within Islam Philadelphia Inquirer
By Rick Santorum

Three Muslim students approached me after I had finished a speech at Harvard University. I was there to talk about the threat of radical Islam across the globe, as part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center's Program to Protect America's Freedom.

The students, one man and two women, wore Western-style clothes and spoke English with little or no accent. They disputed my description of Islam as it's practiced in the Middle East, maintaining that al-Qaeda's version of Islam in no way reflects the Islam that is practiced around the world.

So I asked them a question: Should apostates - Muslims who convert to another religion - be subject to execution?

One of the women quickly said no. She insisted that she was free to leave Islam if she wanted to, and that she knew other people who had done so without a problem - in the United States.

I said I wasn't talking about her and others' freedom of religion in this country. What if they lived in a Muslim-majority country?

Silence. Eventually, the young man blurted out, "That's different."

Why? I asked. I recall him saying, "Because in Muslim countries, Islam and the government are one, and converting from Islam is the equivalent of treason against the government, punishable by death." The two women agreed.

I suspect that most readers will find it shocking that three liberal, Western Muslims at Harvard expressed this view. But what's shocking is that anyone finds this shocking.

If, after 9/11, the U.S. government had set out to clearly define the nature and gravity of the Islamist threat we face, it would be common knowledge that the views of these three Harvard students are widely held in the Muslim world.

Click title for the entire article.

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