Archive for Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Moderate’ Muslim converts

April 2, 2008


Pope Benedict XVI last week baptized a man into the Catholic Church. The man, Magdi Allam, had converted from another faith. There is nothing unusual about that. People convert from non-faith to faith, or from one religion to another, or within faiths to different denominations all the time. However, this conversion was different.

Allam, who has taken a new name, Magdi Cristiano Allam, was a Muslim, and not just your average, everyday Muslim. He was a prized "moderate" Muslim, upon whom many in Italy and the West have pinned their hopes for a new generation of similarly moderate Muslims who would renounce terrorism and violence and lead Islam into a bright new promised land of tolerance, inclusion and religious pluralism.

From the reaction in the Muslim world to Allam's conversion, there apparently remains a very long way to go before moderation is achieved. The Children of Israel wandered 40 years in the wilderness before they arrived in the Promised Land. The journey to the promised land of Islamic moderation may take a lot longer - if the wanderers get there at all.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Allam's conversion had produced "fury in Muslim lands," which is becoming increasingly easy to do. The baptismal ceremony was televised, its pictures flashed around the world, prompting some to worry that the Vatican was engaging in a ritual of triumphalism. Allam is giving his critics plenty of fuel for their fires. He says his conversion has "liberated" him from "darkness" and allowed him to see Islam more clearly. "I realized that Islam is not compatible with core values such as respect for life and freedom of choice," he said in an interview.

As if to underscore his point, three bodyguards provided by the Italian government stood nearby. When someone converts to Islam in the West, there is no need for security.

The Vatican issued a statement that said that Allam's views "remain his personal opinion without in any way becoming the official expression of the position of the pope or the Holy See."

Maybe not, but they are increasingly the expressions of many other converts from Islam and one wonders why we aren't listening to what these converts have to say about their old faith, instead of to those still in the faith who, it could be fairly concluded, might have an agenda that is not in the best interests of the West.

The director of the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan, Aref Ali Nayed, denounced Allam's conversion and the ceremony surrounding it as a "triumphalist tool for scoring points." Most religions celebrate in some way the conversion of people to their faith and Islam is no exception.

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., but with chapters in many states, recently sent out a press release touting the election of the second Muslim to the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Andre Carson, a Democrat like his Muslim colleague, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, won a special election in Indiana's 7th District. Raised a Baptist and attending inner-city Catholic schools, Carson converted to Islam after reading, among other things, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X." When his grandmother, Rep. Julia Carson, died in December, Nation of Islam firebrand Louis Farrakhan delivered a eulogy at her funeral.

The CAIR press release read like triumphalism to me. And why is CAIR encouraging other Muslims to run for office in state, local and federal races? Does CAIR have an agenda that could lead to triumphs of a different sort?

When someone converts to Islam, the religion the person left behind doesn't issue threats or express fury. Only when someone converts from Islam to something else, or to unbelief, is there rage and proclamations that the convert is deserving of death.

In Christianity and Judaism, among other faiths, people enjoy freedom of conscience. In Islam, they are mostly intimidated to stay in that faith. That's what the converts from Islam tell us in increasing numbers. We should be listening more to what they are saying instead of investing too much faith in "moderate" Islam. Faith in moderate Islam may be the biggest counterfeit faith of all.

Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


Brent Garner 10 years ago

Is Islam tolerant? Consider. How many times is Christianity lampooned in the US and world media? Do Christians riot in the streets? Do they issue "fatwas" calling for the death of those who lampooned Christianity? No. They do not. But what happened when a Danish cartoonist lampooned Mohammed? Mass riots planet wide, demands for the cartoonists death, etc. Tolerant? Not hardly.

Speakout 10 years ago

Cal Thomas, the bigot of American News, again writes an article blasting not just Islam, but Muslims in general. Does He have an agenda? Don't ask about CAIR, we should look at this writer in depth.CAIR wants Muslims to be elected so that the sway of people against Islam and Muslims can stop. There is no hidden agenda and no sinister plot afoot. Don't Evangelical Christians want more of their people in congress? No Muslim while President of the United States said "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, it is just a gd piece of paper." Most Muslims I know, believe in the Constitution and many I know have died defending it. It is the most inportant document in the history of politics.Every country in the world has its traditions and policy. Some people of other countries believe that those who convert to religions other than Islam are heretics. Islam does NOT teach that. Basically it says that those who "loose the path wrong their own souls." There is no retribution noted in the Qur'an to kill those who convert to other religions. I know many in the USA who have converted to Islam and a few who have converted to other religions, but never has any of the converts been threatened with death. This is a cultural aspect of other people, not of "moderate Muslims" and is not supported theologically. The long and short of it is that Cal should do his homework before writing articles like this. His goal is to inflame the public against Islam and Muslims. Muslims have been in America for two hundred years and have died in battles for our Independence, the Civil War and every other war and conflict since the beginning just like Christians and Jews and Non-believers.

Flap Doodle 10 years ago

".."Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, it is just a gd piece of paper.""Ah, capitolhilblue's big lie getting repeated once again.'s what Doug Thompson has to say about his journalism: ". . . I wrote stories based on emails from sources I never met. I would meet self-proclaimed "important people" in out-of-the way bars, taking what they told me at face value. Washington is a breeding ground for phonies and wannabes. Too often I printed what they told me because I was so full of myself that I was sure it was true and did not require further verification. "

aginglady 10 years ago

"The journey to the promised land of Islamic moderation may take a lot longer - if the wanderers get there at all."_Did they conduct polls of how long it took people to accept that the world is round? Like on that other article that said polls were available for thoughts in America before we became solo.

kugrad 10 years ago

Hard to miss the intolerant overtones of this article. On its merits, the argument presented is extremely poor. Windbag Thomas starts by reporting how the conversion of a Muslim to Catholocism was televised worldwide. He then goes to the heart of his argument, which is that Islam also celebrates conversions, so they should not react strongly to a worldwide media campaign, including broadcast to primarily Muslim nations.Here it is: "The director of the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan, Aref Ali Nayed, denounced Allam's conversion and the ceremony surrounding it as a "triumphalist tool for scoring points." Most religions celebrate in some way the conversion of people to their faith and Islam is no exception." So, then Thomas, who wears his feelings of Christian superiority on his sleeve in his regular column, attacks this criticism by pointing out that the group CAIR (which can hardly be said to represent Islam in the same way the Pope represents the Roman Catholic Church) released a ........are you ready??? release (wow!) about a Congressmen being elected who was Muslim (note the press release is not even a celebration of conversion, but of election to public office in a democracy). So, Thomas is equating a press release (on another topic) with worldwide media attention and a celebration with the Pope himself! Clearly, these two examples represent quite different things. Thomas's entire argument is based on misrepresentation and illogical conclusions. What a terrible author. The article reeks of anti-Muslim sentiment which I hope does not reflect the opinion of most Americans.

Speakout 10 years ago

Passion Annex, here is a translation of the chapter and verse you quote. Read the whole verse and see what you think::217. They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: "Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members." Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you Turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein. So what is your beef about 2:217? Are you taking things out of context? Where does it say to kill those who lose their faith? What are you talking about? DO you know that fighting in the prohibited month is a sin but do you know what that month is? It is Ramadan. There are several "holy days" in Islam and fighting during them is prohibited unless it is fighting against oppression.It simply says that those who do not believe in One God will lose in the end and that is the basis of Islam.Prove your points, if you can...

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

Wow, for the most part, I actually agree with Marion for once.---------"The CAIR press release read like triumphalism to me. And why is CAIR encouraging other Muslims to run for office in state, local and federal races? Does CAIR have an agenda that could lead to triumphs of a different sort?"------Uh, guess what Cal, there are Americans who are Muslims. I guess that's mind-blower for you. As Americans, especially in Minnesota, Muslims deserve representation in their government. Hey, it's America. I guess you would prefer an exclusionary America (much like Islamist countries). We need to keep Christians in power so we can triumph over the evil-doers and snakes in the grass that are Muslims, right?

kugrad 10 years ago

Possessionannex, Two wrongs don't make a right. Never did, never will. Yes, Thomas's article reeks of anti-muslim sentiment. You'd have to be functionally illiterate to miss it. No, I do not approve of extremists calling for the death of others. However, I don't think that is a fair characterization of Muslims in general, nor do I buy Thomas's implication that moderate Muslims are a rare breed. Similarly, I don't think right-wing wackjob knee-jerk neocon facists represent the majority of Christians.

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

I don't know about that, possession. Although he does seem to be against CAIR, he also seems to think that having Muslims in elected office is either some sort of sinister plot or somehow bad for Christian America and America in general. He is quite obviously anti-Muslim and in favor of Islamic repression in this country, which implies anti-CAIR.But if you have other information on CAIR, I would simply love to be filled in.

Speakout 10 years ago

Well the problem here is Muslim law versus Islamic Law. Yes, I believe there are some Muslims who believe that apostasy is punishable by death and they are or have convinced their governments of such punishment or the government has taken that stance. But as an avid reader of the Qur'an and one who has studied for over 40 years, I will tell you that no such phrase or verse exists that even suggests it. Not all of the laws in Muslim countries are derived or based upon the Qur'an. They are based upon other sources of non-Islamic origin.That also goes for "killing infidels". Every Muslim has the right to live without oppression and that is the rule for declaring and waging war. Read the whole book, if you don't have one, go to the Mosque here in town and ask for one. There is so much misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Islam that it is amazing.AND, knowing scholarship, one writer misreads something and others use his article or book to prove their point and we have a string of misinformation. What about that? I have read several articles and their premise was totally wrong, their source the Qur'an, no it was so-in-so book on Islam. There is one major source in Islam and all Muslims should follow it, some don't and that is why you have countries that you listed doing such things. Adultry is punishable by 100 lashes (I know that is terribly outdated) IF you have 4 witnesses who will attest to the act. That is Qur'anic Law. But some countries put the person to death, that is THEIR law, not Islamic.The Qur'an is easy to read and understand. Even ancient bedoins understood it. It isn't oppressive or ruthless, it is fair and pragmatic. Read it your self.

kugrad 10 years ago

possessionannex write: " Apostasy is punishable by death in Afghanistan, Comoros, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. It is also illegal in Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Maldives, Oman, and Qatar." That's what happens when religious fundamentalists get control of the State and the laws. Whether the rank and file agree with this is hard to say, just as many Catholics don't agree with the Pope on many issues despite his ultimate authority under their religion. My point was that Thomas has presented a really weak argument in his article. I am hopeful that many Muslims are not as extreme as those in the examples you post. If we were to apply the same scrutiny to other religions, we would certainly find similar examples, albiet minus the power of the state to enforce the extreme beliefs. That being said, was it Keynes? who observed that, "When facism comes to the USA, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross?"

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

Wow, possession, CAIR got some funding from the Saudis. And the Saudis are our enemies, right?I must say, ol' Cal seems to be tying elected Muslim officials to the efforts of this group. Thus, by reasoning:CAIR=badCAIR tries to push for more Muslim representationThereforeAll elected Muslim officials=BADThe flaw here is that regardless of whether or not CAIR pushes for elected Muslim officials, this is America. If a constituency, such as that in Minnesota, is overwhelmingly Muslim, then, sorry bud, that's just the way our democracy works. Cal seems to be pushing for repression of the Muslim voice in this country. To me, this seems only to contribute to the rift between folks like Cal and the Muslim community. In sum, it is only contributing to the problem.Typical Islamophobia.

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