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Public Reactions to Muslim Extremists

I have never used this Blog as a platform for my particular political views (even though I suppose they are easily enough seen by a careful reader) or to convert anyone to them.  And I’m not about to start now.   But I do have a category of comment on the blog, not used very often, on “Religion in the News.”   And a couple of news items appeared this past week that are “close to home” for me – one involving Duke University, which is literally close to home (less than a mile from where I live, move, and have my being) and the other involving Oxford University Press, with whom I have published almost all my academic books over the past twenty-two years and with whom I have a very good personal and professional relationship.   Both of these news items involve the relationship of an academic institution to recent developments in Islam.

The situation at Duke is this.   In the face of radical Islam fundamentalism and its much maligned jihadist and terrorist element– maligned by Jew, Christian, and Muslim alike – students and administration at Duke had chosen to show solidarity with other Muslims, who are – contrary to what you read in some papers or here on FOX news – not intent on blowing up your house or beheading your loved ones.   Most Muslims are honest, sincere, and loving.  Considering them bloodthirsty terrorists as a group because of ISIS and Paris makes no more sense than considering Christians bloodthirsty terrorists as a group because of what some Christians have done over the years in the name of Christianity (think: Crusades; Inquisition; IRA bombings – lots of options.  Most Christians had and have nothing to do with such things and are opposed to them.  So too most Muslims with the current atrocities.)

The Duke solidarity involved something very simple.  Every week the Muslim students at Duke gather together for prayer in the basement of Duke Chapel.  They requested that the required call for prayer be sounded publicly for all to hear,  from the chapel tower (much as the ringing of bells occurs for Christian calls to worship in a variety of settings).   The request was granted by those who want to show unity among Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of all faith, as a gesture of solidarity.

The administration, after receiving threats from the Christian right, retracted its approval.  Here’s the article:

http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/01/15/4478652_muslim-students-will-chant-call.html?sp=/99/100/&rh=1

As you’ll see, it was the son of Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, who raised the protest.  Here is what he said:

 “As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism,” said a post on Graham’s Facebook page.

 He urged supporters of Duke to withhold their support (i.e., their money) until the approval was reversed.   In other words, he wanted Duke to be held hostage by its wealthy Christian donors.  For Graham, it is acceptable to have Christians and Christianity publicly represented at Duke (e.g., in the Chapel that towers over the campus), but not Islam.

Make of that what you will.

 

The second news item concerns my publisher Oxford University Press (OUP).   Here is the deal with this one:  after the Paris attacks of last week, OUP issued a directive that authors should not mention pigs, or pork, or sausage, etc. in their books, so as not to offend Muslim sensibilities.  Here is an article on the decision.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/11345369/Oxford-University-Press-bans-use-of-pig-sausage-or-pork-related-words-to-avoid-offending-Muslims.html

This decision created a backlash as people found it to be a rather bizarre and crude form of censorship.   When protests immediately were raised, a highly placed executive at OUP in the U.K. issued an explanation meant to calm the nerves.  Here it is:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/15/books-pigs-global-publishing-oxford-university-press-children

This response is clever and witty and meant to be ultra-sensitive.   But read it closely.   It seems to me she doesn’t answer the question:  is it in fact the case that in light of Muslim extremism and terrorism, that Oxford is telling authors of children’s books (we’re not talking about dictionaries here) what not to write about, precisely to avoid offending Muslim extremists?   And is this really how a free press in a free world wants to operate?   If the issue is sensitivity, pure and simple, why have these decisions not been implemented before?   Has anyone noticed that for millennia JEWS, as well, do not eat pork?  Were Jewish feelings not important enough to establish a policy?  But only Muslim feelings?  And only after Paris?  Is this response really up front and honest about what is really driving this new policy?

Well, these are some of my questions.  You may have some of your own.   These are topics on which every thinking human being in our society appears to have very (very, very) strong views.

 


New Manuscripts and the Destruction of Antiquities
New Discovery of an Ancient Christian Amulet

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Comments

  1. flcombs  January 18, 2015

    It is always interesting how “freedom of religion” only matters to conservative Christians as applying to them but not others. It will be interesting to see how much they still believe in public prayer at events when Muslims start leading it!

  2. BrianUlrich  January 18, 2015

    On the first point, the argument I get from people is that one cannot quote Christian Scripture to justify violence the way one can the Quran. This is, of course, dubious. A four-digit number of women are burned as witches today in Africa and Melanesia, mainly on the basis of the Old Testament, but perhaps also with the excuse of Paul’s anti-witchcraft statements in Galatians.

    Most striking, however, is the role of Christianity in anti-Semitism. The Gospel of Matthew has always been most striking to me in this regard, with the parables like the wedding one that seem to say clearly, “The Jews always kill their prophets, they missed all these obvious signs of Jesus’s Messiah-ship and killed him, so they’ve been superseded and their dire punishment at Roman hands should serve as a warning to us all.” At the very least, this was an important part of the exegetical tradition right up to Martin Luther, whose ideas for how to treat Jews were about what ISIS does to Yazidis and Christians.

    Nonetheless, of course, modern Christians have their own interpretations of these texts, and even though there is a denomination called “Lutheran,” no one looks at them and assumes they all carry forward Luther’s anti-Semitism.

    • jbjbjbjbjb  January 19, 2015

      Hey Brian, I enjoyed reading your response. I was interested in the modern example of biblically justified violence “in Africa and Melanesia” – your mention here is probably meant to be vague “are being burned” and “four-digit”. If you have any more information at all on this situation then would you please reply with a reference or just more info?

      Thank you.

      John

      • BrianUlrich  January 20, 2015

        It is hard to track. I’ve seen it in scattered news stories, but can’t find where someone has done an overall study. Try googling witch burnings with countries: Kenya, Congo, Papua New Guinea are ones I remember.

    • Helmut  January 20, 2015

      I am currently half way through an eye opening book that documents Christian anti-Semitism from the Gospels onward. It was written by a former Catholic priest, James Carroll, and is very thoroughly documented and researched. The title is “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews”. One quickly realizes that the ant-Semitism was there very early and part of the Scriptures.

  3. pstrst@pacbell.net  January 18, 2015

    If bells are being rung during Christian services, and both the bells and calls to prayer are not so loud as to be disruptive to those with no interest in either type of services, it seems purely discriminatory.

    This is sort of slanting off-topic, but I would be very interested in reading a book about the Qur’an from a social and historical perspective. In other words, do you know if there is a Bart Ehrman of the Qur’an out there? Other blog readers might be interested also.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 19, 2015

      I don’t think there is such a book! I wish there were….

      • BrianUlrich  January 19, 2015

        There is a whole literature of historical Quranic studies. However, most scholars don’t see its text as complex in the way the Bible is. (There are exceptions.) The equivalent of critical Biblical studies in Islam would be hadith criticism. Jonathan Brown has two books for general readers. One, Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World, is a good introduction. More recent is is Misquoting Muhammad, which I have not read.

      • Mhamed Errifi  January 19, 2015

        hello Bart

        All christian apologists when they are confronted with their bloody past they replied that bible did not inspire those christians to commit those atrocities and there is no passages in NT that encourage that . you as an expert in the fields do you agree with them if not please explain how this was done in the name of christ

      • nichael  January 19, 2015

        Although it’s not a book (nor a “rigorous critical analysis”) The Atlantic published a pretty nice article in 1999 that, among other things, touched on the textual history of the Quran:

        “What is the Koran”
        http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1999/01/what-is-the-koran/304024/

        • Bahtiyor Tuhtayev  January 20, 2015

          Hi nichael,

          Toby Lester is not an authority neither in Islam, nor in Quran, let alone Quranic manuscripts. His highly misleading article has been refuted numerous times by scholars and non-scholars alike . You may be interested in reading “The History of the Quranic Text, from Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments” written by a true scholar Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami which partly deals with his article as well. So, Toby Lester’s article in the atlantic.com is just the wrong source to refer to.

          • nichael  January 21, 2015

            Just to be clear, Al-Azami’s book is a defense of the traditionalist view of the history of the Qumran which demonstrated that the Quran (quote) “has remained completely intact and unchanged since its reception by the Prophet in the seventh century.”

            I think it is reasonable to suggest this constitutes a refutation of the issues that Lester raises in the same sense as claiming that the publications of Dr Ehrman have been “refuted” by citing the works of Richard Carrier, or pointing to books like Andrew’s “Misrepresenting Jesus”.

            In short, I think it is best that we simply agree to invite the reader to read the referred to sources and to make up their own mind.

      • talitakum
        talitakum  January 21, 2015

        No historical criticism on Q’ran? Guess why 🙂

    • Bahtiyor Tuhtayev  January 20, 2015

      There is a book by Jonathan A.C. Brown “Misquoting Muhammad” (named after Dr. Ehrman’s book). The author is a Muslim, and he is not a “Bart Ehrman of the Quran”, but it’s still worth reading.

    • pbrockschmidt  January 20, 2015

      Try Thomas Holland’s In The Shadow of the Sword for a non-Islamic viewpoint (which got him in trouble when they made a film of the book). I find most of the work in this field hagiographic.

      • BrianUlrich  January 21, 2015

        Tom Holland represents the views of the skeptical school, which is “a” non-Muslim view, as you say, but not necessarily the only one. The evidence still strongly suggests that the Quran’s textual history simply isn’t as complex as that of the Bible. It is a completely different kind of book.

        On a related note, I blogged about some current work into the “historical Muhammad” here and in three subsequent posts linked at the bottom: http://bjulrich.blogspot.com/2014/09/reconstructing-historical-muhammad.html

  4. Mhamed Errifi  January 18, 2015

    “It’s wrong because it’s a different god,” Graham said

    I am tired to read this nonsense repeated ONLY by the way by christians from the west Allah is another God

    The Arabic word allah is not generic word and the prove is if i want to say my god in arabic i wil not use the word allah therefore allah is not generic word , but it is rather the name of deity who created the universe and no other deity can be called allah we do not use the word allah in Arabic to refer to other gods of other nations such as Greek . Does this evangelist know the word allah exist in armaic language so jesus used the word allah to refer to god and allah is used in arabic bible in verse gene 1:1 in the begining allah created heaven and earth so Graham if it is name of false god why you have it in arabic bible

    • rostopchin  January 19, 2015

      You are right. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in the God of Abraham. If you trace the etymology of both Elohim and Ellah (the older form of Allah) you wind up at the Canaanite deity El, the Father of Humanity and all creatures, at least according to tablets we have found at Ugarit. The cuneiform that is used in these tablets seems to a bridge older types like Sumarian and Babylonian, and the ancient Hebrew used to write the Torah (Bart, chime in if you think I’m wrong). If we go back even farther, we can credit a good part of Genesis (not sure about the Qu’ran, but I’m aware of reference to Ibrahim and the great flood) to the Sumerians. The oldest creation Myth we have found so far is Eridu Genesis, and in fact most evidence reveals that the Sumerian city of Eridu is probably the oldest city on earth. In the creation myth the Gods can’t sleep because of all the noise people were making, so they wiped them out in the flood. The first name “Noah” is Ziusudra and later Utnapishtim both of which mean “he found life.” All myths seem to agree he was the king of the Sumerian city of Shuruppak. Abraham came from the Sumerian city of Ur (though by his time it was likely overtaken by the Chaldeans, it depends on the timeline you use) where we’ve found the oldest (and quite advanced) code of laws to date. I’ve could go own for hours, but it is clear to me that we can thank the Sumerians for inventing the first writing, the first code of laws, the wheel, the plow, irrigation, the Zigurrat (think Tower of Babel), and western religion. If you’ve never read it, you should at least read Eridu Genesis if not Enuma Elish, and my person favorite, the Epic of Gilgamesh. The roots of the tree of western religion all come from the same place, maybe we should just role with it and quit being so bigoted. Once I’m done studying ancient Sumeria and Egypt, I’m reading the whole Bible (though I won’t be able to resist the urge to research individual concepts). I’m either going to read the Qu’ran or Buddhist teaching next, probably the Qu’ran. I think all religions have something to offer, if nothing else to help us understand ourselves. We keep finding that the temple has always come before the city, so I think we have to credit belief in the divine for civilization itself. Most of my training has been in science, mathematics and engineering. Religion provides a whole dimension of the human experience that is intentionally missing from science. I credit Bart Ehrman for kindling was has become sort of an obsession with religion in general. The fact is, who really knows what it all means, so I need to study it for myself.

  5. shuhan  January 18, 2015

    As a Muslim I find what OUP was stupid and unnecessary, but on the other hand what Duke university did was admirable and courageous.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 19, 2015

      Really? Do you think it was admirable not to allow Muslims to have a public call to prayer?

      • shuhan  January 19, 2015

        I meant before they retracted their approval

  6. countybaseball  January 18, 2015

    Well here’s my 2 cents worth. I live in what you would call a bible belt area. I asked people all the time about Islam and they think they are all alike. Everyone I have spoken with even in my own family thinks that all Muslims agree with ISIS. There is no talking to them and they dont care what you say. I dont take up for any religion but I dont think all Muslims agree with ISIS. When I tell my family that, they ask why am I taking up for them. It’s aggravating. Everyone in this area thinks if your not Christian you are whats wrong with this Country. I have to deal with this shit everyday. And to go with it no one in my family goes to Church. They just say they believe. And dont live by what the bible says about anything. Very screwed up around here. Just wonder in anybody else has to deal with this.

    • jbjbjbjbjb  January 19, 2015

      Hi – I definitely do not live in a bible belt (Marseille, France’s most muslim-populated city). I bought a car last week from a North African who is actively demonstrating a third category I was not aware of. It basically goes a bit like this, and is based on conspiracy plots.

      “The west organised the terrorism in Europe, both Paris and Belgium suspects.
      Ok some innocent people got killed, but it was paid for by the west.
      There’s a documented story X (sorry can’t remember the details, I was feeling too incredulous to listen attentively)
      And there’s a now-deleted video of Coulibaly apparently already handcuffed when he was shot
      20 years from now you will look back and see that I am right”.

      He texted me a link to a video of an outraged Muslim at an American broadcast of a political leader declaring that this is a war on Islam [and not just terror or Islamic extremism].

      I found this very far fetched indeed needless to say! But what is interesting in it is a third category existing of strong anti-west, conspiracy types, that place ultimate blame for terror in the west with the west. Anyone else come across that?

      • BrianUlrich  January 20, 2015

        There is definitely a culture of “9-11 Truthers” in the United States who believe the 9-11 attacks were orchestrated by the Bush administration as an excuse for Middle Eastern wars. Many in the Middle East also assert Israel and the West started ISIS as an excuse to invade Iraq and defame Islam. (Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asserts this regularly on his Twitter account.) I’ve seen it about the Charlie Hebdo stabbings, but I don’t recall where.

    • Slydog1227  January 25, 2015

      North Mississippi here. And it is the same thing. I’m of a minority of about …maybe 10 people that I know personally. I’m probably the only really vocal one out of that bunch. I get prayed for a lot…..

  7. RonaldTaska  January 18, 2015

    Thanks for the post. Another example of Christian extremism is the KKK.

  8. Wilusa  January 18, 2015

    I’d seen a headline about Duke rescinding permission it had previously given for that Muslim call to prayer. I thought their rescinding the permission was regrettable, and I was sure you’d feel the same way. I hadn’t known they’d let themselves be pressured by wealthy donors – that’s shameful!

    On the other topic…”cultural sensitivity” is important, but it can go too far. And it should be considered all the time, not just as a response to terrorism. (I still don’t understand whether OUP really has a new policy, or exactly what they may be changing in children’s books.)

    But I’ve been having a hard time recently, understanding why some things are considered permissible. On a non-religious topic, I thought it was “the extreme of poor taste” to make a movie, comedy or not, about a plot to assassinate any real, living person.

    And I can’t help agreeing with the Pope that it’s wrong to deliberately mock and insult anyone’s religion. It’s my understanding that most if not all Muslims are grievously offended by any “portrait” of the Prophet Mohammed. (What I learned years ago – it may not be correct – was that the original purpose of that was to discourage people’s wrongly *worshipping* him.) So I can’t applaud “Charlie.”

  9. Jana  January 18, 2015

    I read about Duke University and came to a similar conclusion. As you know, I live among the Maya who were brutalized during the Inquisition and held as slaves for over 300 years and to this day are denied financial help unless they denounce their pagan God Cha’ac. The Oxford demands I did not know and yes it is censorship. Thank you for posting.

  10. prairieian  January 18, 2015

    Bart;

    I had not heard of the Duke situation, although I had heard of the OUP matter. I must say I find the Christian fundamentalist response, embodied by Franklin Graham, disappointing, albeit no surprise. The OUP response is bizarre.

    Observing that the situation with Islam is complicated is true and unhelpful. True because the geo-political aspects touch on all of us to greater or lesser degree. Unhelpful because much of the energy invested is internal within Islam itself, about which we have nothing much to offer. It is a civil war between various interpretations of the religion, and it has notions of world domination and the elimination of all faiths but its. This approach is unlikely to win it friends to state the obvious, even if this notion is scarcely mainstream.

    One problem that Islam has not resolved is the intersection of the faith with the public square. Western nations have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to separate church and state. The US famously made the separation a formal part of the consititution, but nevertheless the Christian church is central to US political life, One cannot imagine an American politician running on an atheist or even agnostic platform, notwithstanding the notional separation of church and state that is part of the consititution. In brief, separation is de jure, but certainly not de facto. The US is, as is common knowledge, quite out of step with the rest of the Western world on this. Indeed, for a European politician to make known his religious views is unusual. Tony Blair’s overt Christianity, for example, is considered odd and Blair is not positively regarded for this aspect of his persona.

    Where I take offence is the whole concept of someone with special knowledge dictating what I am to believe, and that if I resist they will take it upon themselves to inflict God’s wrath. Frankly, leave God to inflict his wrath on me without human assistance, thank you very much. The state of my soul is my business, no one elses.

    I am discouraged at the current state of affairs and live in hope that the fury of jihadist Islam burns itself out. It likely will, as such movements have in the past, but the meyhem imposed on all in the way is distressing to witness.

    • Rick
      Rick  January 22, 2015

      I hope you are correct – that it will burn itself out. However, a number of authorities point to the youthful demographic throughout the Middle East, their high unemployment, and the presence of many Wahhabist madrassas financed by the Saudi’s to suggest it will be an ongoing problem.

  11. Zoomama  January 18, 2015

    My concern with the Duke plan was not that “OMG, they’re allowing MUSLIMS to pray”, but that it’s amplified prayer in a public space. That differs somewhat from church bells. Yes, church bells are a call to prayer. But they are not in themselves a prayer. If Islam used music to call to pray, I would have no problem with that. What bothers me is the verbal call. It’s more equivalent to a preacher standing in the bell tower and calling, “Everyone who worships Jesus, come now and pray, and that should be all of you”.

    So I’ve had mixed feelings about it: total disgust with the Christians criticizing it because it’s Islam, yet my civil liberties sensitivities not feeling that people should be forcibly exposed to the religious beliefs of others.

    Duke shut it down before I worked out my conflicts, so I’m still conflicted.

    • Zoomama  January 19, 2015

      On the other hand, Duke is a private, not State, school, so allowing whatever forms of worship is not the equivalent of endorsement by the State.

    • Helmut  January 20, 2015

      The bells and church tower had also a secular function during the Middle Ages and even later as an alarm for fire and approaching enemies. I know of one instance where the church tower and its bells to this day are city property and not the property of the church. The elevated perch allowed for survailance and the bells functioned as an alert for the citizens.
      My comment is strictly informational and is not meant to endorse or justify a specific view or policy.

      • Rick
        Rick  January 22, 2015

        The towers were also the markers for town to town horse races ,,, hence the steeple chase!

  12. gmatthews
    gmatthews  January 19, 2015

    I’ve thought for a long time that Franklin Graham is a dangerous politically motivated fundamentalist. I always looked kindly on his father though. From 4 years old to 6th grade I attended a private Christian school in SC just south of Charlotte that was founded by a church that Billy Graham had some hand in forming when he was based out of Charlotte in the 60s. I never met the man, but I always thought he was trustworthy when I saw him on TV. People tell me I’m a good judge of character so I have to think I formed the correct opinion of him years ago. He met with and advised presidents of both parties and I can’t recall anything he ever said that might be divisive. You might could say it was a different world when he was active, but I don’t think that’s true. He was in his prime during the late 60s when we had free love and Vietnam was raging. If he had any “true colors” to show I’d think they’d have come out then. His son, on the other hand, is a different animal altogether. He’s obviously conservative and from what I’ve seen he seems more likely to self-immolate and walk over broken glass than to cross the street to shake hands with a “liberal”. What gets me about these fundamental extremists and their attitudes towards Muslims in general is that they are behaving EXACTLY like Muslim extremists and they’re oblivious to it.

    As to your publisher, I don’t find that surprising at all. Oxford Press is based in the UK which is the nanny state at its worst. You can’t even lift a finger there to defend yourself if someone breaks into your home because you might harm the poor burglar.

  13. barrios160679  January 19, 2015

    The only question, I guess, would be: “Est-ce que vous etez Charlie, Bart?”

    • Bart
      Bart  January 19, 2015

      I fully believe in the right for Charlie to satirize anything it sees fit in any way it chooses. I myself do not choose to do so. I do not think it is appropriate (for me or others — though others should be legally allowed to do so) to make fun of other people’s deeply cherished beliefs.

      • reillyjj  January 19, 2015

        Something that is inappropriate (making fun of religion in a satirical newspaper) and something that is evil (murdering 12 people in cold blood that were at work minding their own business) are extremely different issues. The disturbing part of this whole issue, to me, is that many are focused on the what the newspaper printed and not the murders. I think it’s easy to hop on the media bandwagon when one hasn’t been forced to stare evil in the eye throughout their lifetime.

        • nichael  January 20, 2015

          Just a couple comment:

          1] it goes without saying that these are two very different things, just as it goes without saying that no one –and most certainly no one here– has said anything, that in any way suggests anything different.

          2] I don’t know what you’ve been reading, but with regard your curious comment about a supposed “media bandwagon” I’d be interesting in seeing any real world newspaper, magazine, or broadcast report that have been focused on anything _other_ than the murders.

  14. Goat
    Goat  January 19, 2015

    What a loaded subject. A matter along these lines comes up in my Sunday School/Bible Study classes (small dicusson groups) with some regularity. So many seem to be convinced that the government is driving religion (meant in this context Christianity) out of the public square. Most of my contemporaries think there is some sort of recent conspiracy against Christianity in the United States. They seem to be, for the most part, ignorant of the fact that prayer in public schools has been held unconstitutional since 1962, yet freedom of religion is alive and well, for those who wish to practice religion in the United States. I sometimes respond to these objections that I view restrictions against prayer in school and in other government sponsored venues as a tremendous guarantee of my right to practice my religion (Christianity) in accordance with my own beliefs and in the manner that I deem to be appropriate. Sadly, I rarely hear anyone in a chruch setting agree with me. While I respect Franklin Graham, I would not want to live in a world in which I was compelled to feign unqualified agreement with his theology anymore than I would want to live in a world in which I was prohibitted from chosing whether to eat bacon. Good luck with this post. Hope your computer does not blow up.

  15. Matilda
    Matilda  January 19, 2015

    Honestly, I’m sick of religion. They should all just go to their corners and shut up. The sane people in the world need to be free form their crap. I’m tired of them all foisting their dos and don’ts and hurt feelings on society at large. I’m sick of their offences and their defensiveness. It’s like a bunch of little children fighting over who’s right and who’s wrong. Ironic since they are all wrong. Spank the lot of them and send them to their rooms. I for one will never “assume the position” to satisfy their silly sensibilities. I don’t care who eats pork or who doesn’t and I resent them making stuff like that everyone’s problem. Thanks for the rant time, Bart.

  16. paulmiller  January 19, 2015

    I often have heard conservative Christians decry the mistreatment of their brethren in foreign lands which I have no doubt in some cases is true. However for them its okay if they do it here in the U.S to those they disagree with. Maybe while they’re cherry picking bible verses to suit their own agenda, they haven’t come across that whole love your enemies and do onto others thing…Perhaps they’re concerned that a different group of fundamentalists will set up American theocracy before they get the chance to create their Christian version of it first.

  17. Rick
    Rick  January 19, 2015

    “It’s wrong because it’s a different god,” Graham said …. oh really? Ok, I am the lay student here but I always thought that the Arabic Allah was the Hebrew El as in El Shaddai or God Almighty…. Some of what I have read in the (image of the) Koran seems to be pretty clearly talking about the God of Abraham. Now he (Graham) did go on to say “Using the bell tower that signifies worship of Jesus Christ, using (it) as a minaret is wrong.” So my question is … are there theological grounds ,perhaps in the trinity, for denying Allah is the same deity as YHWH/El/God the Father?
    By the way… if you thought what Franklin said in the article was a bit much… read the comments!

  18. reillyjj  January 19, 2015

    it’s outrageous that anyone can actually propose, much less implement the censoring of free press in our great country. I also find it sad that people are yielding to radical islamists by censoring themselves and/or refusing to recognize the violence amongst this group for what it is – radical Islamists terrorism. Their ideology drives them. Their fundamentalism motivates them. There hate is a projection onto those who do not adhere to their religious commitments and practices. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of extremists is much larger than many of us want to believe. If I’m wrong, more Muslims should be making their voices heard in emphatic condemnation of the beliefs and the believers perpetuating this international evil.

  19. GokuEn  January 19, 2015

    Prof. Ehrman, do you know if the Quran has been subjected to the same rigorous critical analysis that the Bible has? If so, do you know which scholars are the best to read on the topic?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 19, 2015

      I don’t know of any books written on the topic!

      • BrianUlrich  January 19, 2015

        There is a whole literature of historical Quranic studies. However, most scholars don’t see its text as complex in the way the Bible is. (There are exceptions.) The equivalent of critical Biblical studies in Islam would be hadith criticism. Jonathan Brown has two books for general readers. One, Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World, is a good introduction. More recent is is Misquoting Muhammad, which I have not read.

        Those who doubt the Quran dates from Muhammad’s day usually try to explain it as a hymn book or lectionary for a Christian sect. During the 1970’s, John Wansborough wrote two books arguing that the text dated from the 800’s, but I don’t know of anyone who agrees with that today.

    • Mhamed Errifi  January 19, 2015

      you are asking the wrong person about koran. Muslims did critical analysis on koran right from the start they did not wait 1770 years. here is good like

      http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Text/#

      • talitakum
        talitakum  January 21, 2015

        Sure. One of the article informs us that: “Newton and his buddy M. Rafiqul-Haqq published a list of grammatical errors in the Qur’ân in 1996..”
        What? Grammatical errors in the Q’ran? How could *Newton and his buddy* dare to think something like that? The answer comes at the of the article, where finally Newton and his buddy are refuted (?!) and we are informed that:
        “One can only presuppose that in the spirit of deception, such arrogant and authoritative charges are made possible through the suppression of facts and selective argumentation. And Allah knows best!”

        Of course Allah knows best. I agree that when you already have the best textual critic ever onboard, you don’t Ehrman!

    • Hon Wai  January 19, 2015

      GokuEn: See “The Quran in Its Historical Context (Routledge Studies in the Qur’an)”. The contributors to this book are leading scholars of Quranic studies and of early Islamic history.

  20. Joseph  January 19, 2015

    Perhaps humanity as a whole has not yet evolved enough to deal with religion. Certainly, that is true of sausage, isn’t it?

  21. dragonfly  January 19, 2015

    In the game of “my imaginary friend is better than your imaginary friend”, Franklin has pulled out all stops in trying to associate students praying, with terrorists.
    “Islam is not a religion of peace.” Yeah? Well what are you doing to promote peace, Franklin?

  22. Wilusa  January 19, 2015

    I may be naive, but I disagree with the person who seemingly doesn’t believe the U.S. would elect an agnostic or atheist President. If they were actually running on some sort of agnostic or atheist “platform” (whatever that might be), of course they’d be unelectable! But that would be true of a person championing *any* sort of “platform” excessively influenced by his or her views on religion.

  23. Matilda
    Matilda  January 19, 2015

    I’m back. I can’t help myself. It seems to me university is a place to learn not to pray. If you want to pray go to church/temple/ or your bedroom. As Christopher Hitchens would say, “Monotheists are supposed to pester their deity more times than that (every day), lest he be deaf.” Why does a place of learning have to be subjected to religious sensibilities? This should not be happening on a college campus.

  24. Jeff
    Jeff  January 19, 2015

    It will be tough for me to keep this short. Having read and reread no fewer than 26 books on Islam, studied the Koran and immersed myself in the principal a-Hadith, I could write a treatise on Islam.

    The multiculturalist mantra, repeated ad nauseum and believed by many, is that the peaceful religion of Islam has been hijacked by crazed mass murderers to justify their butchery. It is a classic example of the awesome power of well crafted rhetoric. At least one US demographic won’t buy it: The good people of Hoboken, NJ whose peaceful loving Muslim neighbors filled the streets and danced in wild celebration as flaming bodies plunged from the WTC.

    The people of Hoboken would not have been surprised if they had studied as I have. Horrified, yes, but not surprised. Their Muslim neighbors, along with “moderate” Muslims all over the world, were reacting precisely as their odious prophet taught them, by his word and example.

    Muslim immigrant populations will wear the mask of reason, tolerance, even amity only for as long as it takes them to accrue enough social, economic and political power to smash their naïve trusting hosts.

    Today’s global Islam is not a throng of peaceful, loving folks who want only to live in harmony with their neighbors. It is a smoothly transitioning continuum consisting of the following: those who commit mass murder for the glory of Allah, those who support said murder, those who merely approve of it and those who, while not admitting approval, sit back and watch, never dreaming of raising a hand or voice to resist it. The Muslims who have taken a stand, publicly, vociferously and unequivocally against it can be counted on one the fingers of one hand.

    BTW, Bart, Chapel bells make music, beautiful music that pleases the ear and soothes the soul. Have you ever heard a Muslim prayer call? It is a shrill, piercing, ululating wail blasted out through loudspeakers every three waking hours—every single day. It is a perfect synecdoche for the most savage and coercive ideology the world has ever known.

  25. clarenceclutterbuck  January 19, 2015

    Quote from gmatthews

    Oxford Press is based in the UK which is the nanny state at its worst. You can’t even lift a finger there to defend yourself if someone breaks into your home because you might harm the poor burglar.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Citizens in the UK are allowed by law to use reasonable force to repel an intruder in their home, but not to use excessive force and shoot them to death. Mass shootings are rare here, but when such incidents happen (three times since 1987 including the Hungerford massacre that year), gun laws are further tightened. In effect, the right here not to be shot dead outweighs the right to possess the means to vent one’s disenchantment at the vicissitudes of life by murdering one’s fellow citizens in mass shooting sprees. Not to mention the constant daily deaths from gun violence that pass unremarked in the U.S. by a desensitized populace .

    I’m quite happy with our outlook on these matters and don’t think they amount to the UK being an overprotective “nanny state”.

    • Jeff
      Jeff  January 20, 2015

      Clarence, I don’t agree with your position but I do respect it and I intend no sarcasm whatever by this question. In all seriousness, how DOES a person, particularly an elderly, frail or diminutive female one, repel a home invader if he/she is w/o a weapon with injurious and or deadly potential?

      • clarenceclutterbuck  January 26, 2015

        Ideally I think the answer is that elderly, frail and diminutive women should have the right to live in societies that don’t aggrandize violence and promote revenge fantasies, so that confrontations with home invaders are less frequent, and when they do happen are less likely to involve life threatening violence. Peacetime societies don’t have to wait for the kingdom of God to arrive before they beat weapons into ploughshares, as per Isaiah 2:4 (says he getting all theological), and in practice societies where citizens aren’t armed with deadly weapons have lower murder rates. According to good ol’ Wiki, the UK has 1.00 murders per 100,000 to the U.S’s 4.7, and we’re less theistic too, which probably says something deeply instructive about the relationship between theism and naughtiness aka sin.

  26. FrankJay71  January 20, 2015

    For a while I’d been meaning to ask if you were familiar with Christoph Luxenberg’s “The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran?” From what I understand he asserts that Islam is inspired by Syriac Christianity specifically. Recently I read Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity, which spends about a chapter discussing Luxembergs assertions. He points out the similarities of some of the Quraranic texts with Syriac apocrypha. One example that comes to mind, is from the infancy gospel of Thomas, i think, where Jesus gives life to some clay birds. Obviously, unless one accepts that Muhammad received the Quran by divine revelation, he must have had some connection or knowledge of both Christianity and Judaism. I’m currious about the connection, and would like to know if you think Luxenberg is reliable.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 20, 2015

      No, I’m afraid I don’t know it.

      • BrianUlrich  January 21, 2015

        The Cambridge Companion to the Quran has a chapter dedicated to these interpretations.

    • Jeff
      Jeff  January 20, 2015

      Hey, FrankJay. Quite true. The Koran and the a-Hadith are loaded with Christian and quasi-Christian references. There is even an explicit reference to the virgin birth of Jesus (but not his divinity). Virtually all such references can be traced, by their theology, to various heretical groups that had fled orthodox persecution and populated the Arabian Peninsula. Mohammed certainly must have come in contact with many of them in his business travels as a merchant and caravan master.

  27. brcworks  January 20, 2015

    The whole Duke thing is very complex. I completely disagree with Franklin Graham; I think he and his ilk are bigots and, frankly, quite stupid. I also agree with the constitutional idea that public institutions should not support any religion, but since Duke is a private university, I think their first decision was the correct one. Having said that, I have to counter with the idea that changing that decision is perfectly acceptable. If Frankin Graham made a racist statement and the NAACP threatened a boycott of any institution that hired him, that’s not censorship, that’s capitalism. Likewise, if enough of Duke’s donors are bigots and, frankly, quite stupid, then Duke has an obligation to reflect their views or stop taking their money.

  28. David  January 24, 2015

    Here is an English translation of the Muslim call to prayer (Adhan) used in the Sunni tradition (the numbers following each phrase indicate the number of repititions during the call):

    “Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest. x4
    I bear witness that there is no God but Allah. x2
    I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. x2
    Hasten to worship (salat). x2
    Hasten to success. x2
    Prayer is better than sleep. x2
    Allah is greatest. x2
    There is no God but Allah.” x1

    There is nothing overtly offensive in those words, assuming that they are meant only for the believers to adhere to. As for the esthetics, that is a call for each individual to make. It’s not my cup of tea, but I suppose many are comforted and energized by the sound. I’m an atheist and pretty much disagree with any such publicly broadcasted creedal displays regardless of religious sentiment, but on their own time and dime and personal space, I could care less. If one was faith minded as a Christian, Jew, Hindu, etc, I can see how the words of the Adhan might be construed as particularly offensive, especially when announced publicly for all to hear.

    That said, Duke does have an alumni base to worry about, as do all universities and it calls the shots as it pleases, because it is a private institution. Muslims have a right to worship and speak as they will according to the First Amendment, but others have the right to counter their speech with their own, to include refusing continued support of Duke. Remember that the First Amendment applies to all, not just a few, select religious people. And while you can say what you want, you cannot compel others to broadcast or listen to your views.

  29. walstrom  January 29, 2015

    Arguments for fairness only persuade fair-minded folk. The effectiveness of Martin Luther King’s passive resistance movement arguably lay in economic boycotts.
    Sauce for the goose.
    The mindset of beset, bothered and bewildered Christians is, at core, to be taken seriously without regard to the sobriety or probity of their message, so it seems.
    Variously, the U.S. uses economic sanctions to curb unruly rogue states.
    What other recourse did Jesus have but roughing up the money-changers? And the beat goes on. . .
    Perhaps what ultra-conservatives object to most strenuously is the ‘Banquo’s ghost’ of the double-standard of ‘Liberal press” quick to condemn all Jews for the hi jinx of Israel, but loathe to whisper “Islam” when Isis runs riot.
    Franklin Graham isn’t a patch on his old man. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad one.

  30. SidDhartha1953  March 24, 2016

    Did OUP ever come to its senses on pork-free publishing?

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