The following article is a rebuttal to Darrell Pack’s few outrageous assumptions in the weekly Blitz while presenting a critique of the book American Muslim Agenda. However, he is right about many things he has written and is appreciated. The essence remains the same, but the applicability changes; for example, traveling is the same, once it was understood to be on a camel, now it is a car or the plane. The same article is also published in Jihad Watch both have refused to publish the rebuttal.
Mr. Pack writes, “He has become the final and perfect interpreter of Islam.” Hell no, I am offering my understanding of Islam, and by no means, it is the final or perfect interpretation of Islam. The essence remains the same, but the applicability changes; for example, traveling is the same, once it was understood to be on a camel, now it is a car or the plane.
When I was searching for a religion to choose, I developed certain criteria as a checklist – respect for all humans, equality of humans, respect for other faiths, inclusive attitude, and Pluralism. Unitarian Universalist, Bahai, and Buddhism were a good fit for me, then Reformed Judaism, Hinduism sans-rituals, Sikhism sans-rituals, Christianity, and other religions were all appealing to me. I chose Islam as it was the religion, I had criticized the most.
Let me be clear; Just as Hindus, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, and others do not fully represent the teachings of their respective religions, Muslim practices do not represent Islam either. Again, it is not all the practitioners, but the ones who do wrong.
The radicalized ones among these faiths are Islamists, Hindutva, radicalized Zionists, and Neocons, and they do not represent the values of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, or Christianity. They all abuse their respective religions to satisfy their base instincts. None of these religions advocate killing others, but these groups do. These groups operate with a limited mental capacity and want to annihilate others rather than respect the otherness of the other and learn to live with fellow humans.
As a young man, I had concluded that Islam was not for me as practiced by some Muslims. In 1998, when my father in law, a Muslim scholar pointed to me that Islam was the only religion acceptable to God and other verses that were equally discriminative, I said to myself one last time that Islam was not for me.
Within a few days, I accidentally came across a verse from Bhagavad Gita, which challenged me. The meaning I got from it was, finding the truth is your responsibility. I decided to find the truth by rejecting the dished-out versions of Islam and found out that the Quran was deliberately mistranslated to create ill-will towards Muslims and then by a Muslim translator to create ill-will towards Jews and Christians. Now, it is all in the open. To top it off, I read Karen Armstrong’s book, Muhammad, which led me to choose Islam as my religion.
Robert Spencer, Tarek Fatah, Pamela Geller, and others still hang on to the mistranslations. Tarek Fatah and I had a duel on that, and embarrassingly he had to shut up. There are over 50 translations now, and three are deviant, whereas a few are good, and most others are ok. I stick to the interpretation by Muhammad Asad and Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar for verses about women.
I will never claim Islam to be superior to any religion, or any religion to be superior to the others. It would be sheer arrogance, and arrogance is the mother of every conflict. All religions serve their purpose to bring harmony and peace to an individual. Islam fits my requirements of Pluralism and inclusiveness.
After I chose to become a Muslim, I listened to the criticism of Islam, the Quran, and the Prophet, as I could relate with their take. I now welcome it and find answers, instead of repelling. I am a confident Muslim who can respond to most criticism with grace, instead of giving unsatisfactory answers that God said so, or it is the sunnah.
Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of Islam. Criticism will not make Islam disappear; the Quran is not going to vanish, nor the Prophet is going anywhere. By opening ourselves to criticism, we will learn a lot more about our faith than we will ever know. Criticism is indeed a catalyst in expanding one’s knowledge. There is a full chapter on the topic in the Book American Muslim Agenda.
Mr. Pack misinterprets my writings and says, “The essence of Islam is totally in keeping with liberal Western values.” No, sir, it is in keeping with universal human values of Islam.
He further adds, “If it is good for Islamic public relations among Westerners, then it is true. If it does not play well with his target audience, it is not authentic. Such an approach is not legitimate historiography.” Again, the same assumption, I don’t have westerners as my target audience; it is for everyone who misunderstands the Quran, including Muslims. Prophet Muhammad was clear in his last sermon; I am leaving this book for you to read and understand it. He did not assign responsibly to Al-Azhar or some Shaikh to explain Islam to me. I am expected to read and understand it in the context of creating peaceful societies.
The Quran says, God is the creator of the universe, Muhammad is a mercy to the world (Aalameen), and as a follower, I will do my best to be kind and just to my fellow humans. I am sharing what I have learned. Over the ages, Islam has gathered layers of cultural dust, and I am one of the millions trying to clean it.
I don’t have a problem with anyone questioning Islam, the Quran, and the Prophet. Most of the questions you may have are answered in the book, American Muslim Agenda. If you have further questions, I will do my best to share the wisdom of Islam.
The next generation of American Muslims will know that Islam is committed to creating cohesive societies where every human feels secure with his/her ethnicity, culture, race, and religion.
If it is not common sense, then it is not Islam.
Mike Ghouse is the author of the book American Muslim Agenda, and it is available at Amazon, Kindle, Google, Barnes and Noble, and other book stores. More about Mike at www.TheGhouseDiary.com