Letter: Islamic texts cannot be judged out of context

Islamic texts cannot be judged out of context

To the editor:

Martin Silver is not an expert on Islam or the Quran (letter, July 27.) He copied a couple quotes from the latter without context or understanding. There are 1.7 billion Muslims in the world. If they were as violent as Mr. Silver wants us to believe, there would be a whole lot more death and destruction than there currently is.

First, Mr. Silver quotes: "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore, strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them." The full quote is: "[Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, 'I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip. That is because they opposed Allah and His Messenger. And whoever opposes Allah and His Messenger — indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.'" And the historic context is that the Muslims at Medina were being attacked. Allah is encouraging his followers and promising them divine help in the Battle of Badr.

The Book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible is far more violent, with God encouraging all manner of atrocities. No one expects that Jews today would be guided by the admonishments to slaughter all the men in places they capture in war.

Second, Mr. Silver quotes: "Believers, make war [jihad] on the infidels who dwell around you." The historic context is that after the Battle of Tabuk; Muslims were exhorted to conquer the unbelievers in their midsts to consolidate their society and not leave it vulnerable to future attacks.

As with all religious texts, these are only the most literal expositions, and there are plenty of interpretations which are far more nuanced, spiritual, and metaphorical.

Jeffrey Turner, Pittsfield


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