Tuesday, June 23, 2009
the Book of Signs
Imagine, if you can, that the Islamic fundamentalists who launched the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, somehow managed to carry out EIGHT more attacks on American soil, causing large loss of life, and the displacement of thousands of American citizens.
Without a doubt, the justifiable anger that we felt on September 11 would escalate into a rage that could not be contained, and would lead to widespread changes in not only our society, but in countries throughout the world.
In view of the stringent security measures that we’ve put in place since 9/11, is there even the remotest possibility that a situation like that could occur?
Not likely, but here’s a sobering thought:
It already has.
Starting in the year 1095, a group of right wing religious fundamentalists, convinced that ONLY their religion was the true path to salvation, launched a series of attacks on a group of people who were the most advanced civilization in the world at that time:
The four oldest degree-granting universities in the world are all located in Islamic countries:
Academy of Gundishapur – established in Iran in 489
University of Al-Karaouine – established in Fez, Morocco in 859
Al-Azhar University – established in Cairo, Egypt in 975
Nazimayya – established in Isfahan, Iran in 1065
(The first western university, the University of Bologna, was established in Bologna, Italy in 1088).
The Muslims, under the direction of the caliph Umar, were also the first group of people to grant freedom of speech, way back in the 7th century.
The official name for the attacks on the Islamic world was the Crusades, and they covered a time period of nearly 200 years. By the time the 9th Crusade ended, in 1272, the influence of the Papacy was much diminished throughout the European continent, and Arab advances (including the development of algebra, optics, and refinement of engineering) made their way west and sped the course of advancement in European universities that led to the Renaissance in later centuries.
There are people today who believe that the Muslim religion is a "killer religion", but the truth is that Christianity is actually far worse. Roughly 4,000,000 people died during the first 4 Crusades, and another 1,000,000 died during the Albigensian Crusade. If you add in the people who died during the various Inquisitions. the number of people killed during the Wars of Religion in Europe, and the 6,000,000 Jews killed by the Nazis (Hitler was raised a Catholic), the total number of people killed by Christians in the name of religion would likely exceed 20,000,000 people. The folks who conducted the Inquisitions, incidentally, weren't shy about using torture which included a procedure that we know today as "water boarding".
By the way, you wouldn’t have had your morning coffee this morning if it weren’t for the fact that Muslim goatherds discovered the beverage in Ethiopia – in the ninth century.
In view of the fact that western civilization has had a rocky relationship with the Islamic world for roughly a thousand years, it’s not too surprising that some members of the world’s largest religious denomination (approximately 1.2 billion people) don’t like us very much.
A couple of months ago, The Book of Signs Foundation dropped off a free copy of the Quran on my doorstep.
After reading an article in the Chicago Tribune about the Foundation roughly a year ago, I had ordered my free copy of the book from the Foundation last fall, so I now have TWO copies of the Quran on my bookshelf.
After receiving the first one, I decided to read it from cover to cover to see if it contained any “evil passages”.
To a very large degree, the answer is “no”.
After reading the book, I put down a few thoughts on paper.
Ultimately, my “few thoughts” turned out to be over 4500 words, spread over 17 pages, which probably makes me one of the most educated Christians in the City of Evanston about Islamic culture, but it absolutely does not guarantee that I’m an expert in the field.
If you’d like to read the more detailed analysis of the book, drop me a line at my email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll send it to you.
If you’d like to get your own free copy of the Quran, the contact information for the Book of Signs Foundation is listed above.
The stated purpose of The Book of Signs Foundation is to provide a reasonably accurate TRANSLATION of the Koran (Quran) , free of the political agendas and anti –Islamic rhetoric that we’ve seen a lot of since 2001.
It’s still absolutely true that there ARE some hard core Islamic religious fundamentalists scattered throughout the world, and it’s also true that the Christian world has its share of “kooks” (have you listened to Pat Robertson lately?).
The best defense against all those crazy people, I feel, is a reasoned attempt to find common ground with the vast majority whose outlook on life really isn’t much different than ours.
Although there ARE people who feel that Barack Obama is a dangerous demagogue, I’d be the first to admit that I feel MUCH more comfortable having him at the helm than the former owner of the Texas Rangers.
The statements that Obama made in Cairo on June 4 are a good attempt to find common ground with the folks that have a different background than we do. The entire text of his speech can be read at the link below:
Obama in Cairo
After listening to, and reading this speech, the only thing that I can add is this:
I feel good