America and the Qur’an

Since as far as I can tell from the information online, the national reaction to Rep King’s hearings on Islamic extremism hasn’t stopped them[1], I think it’s worth having another post about it.

I’m slightly alarmed that although most of the responses online point out the inherent logical flaws in the decision to hold the hearings, discussions of the hearings seems to have revived the ridiculous myth that it is somehow impossible to be a Muslim and an American.

(I’m also slightly alarmed that this blog shows up on the first page of google results.  Seriously, it hasn’t been around for even a month yet, and I haven’t gotten around to putting any legitimate credentials on it.  The internet is a strange, strange place.)

The basic claim of this myth is that any believing Muslim wants to hurt or kill all non-Muslims, which would include the majority of the American population.  This myth further stipulates that the basis for this hatred of America comes from the Qur’an.  Thus, in this view, secular or cultural Muslims might be allowed to have a role in American society, but obviously any practicing Muslim is just a ticking time bomb out to DESTROY US ALL!

Okay, so I’m being slightly hyperbolic, but the idea that all practicing Muslims hate all Americas does seem to be the basis of this myth and a core belief of the people who purport it.

Two important but silly points: firstly, making sweeping generalities is never a good idea from a rhetorical standpoint, as they are the only arguments that can be defeated by anecdotal evidence.  Thus, as I personally know many practicing Muslims who love America and Americans, this myth must be nonsense.

Secondly, there is absolutely nothing about hating America in the Qur’an.  And it would be seriously strange if there were, as the Qur’an predates America by a millennium.

And now for the actually intellectual part of my argument: from the evidence of the Qur’an and early Muslim writing, there is no problem with Muslims living in non-Muslim countries.  Various authors argue in favor of missionary work for those living in non-Muslim countries, but even this is not universally accepted.

As an illustration, during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him), when the early community of believers were at war with the Meccan authority, the Prophet (s’lm) sent a small group of believers to live under the Christian king of Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia).  From the reports in early Muslim histories, there was no implication that this group of believers went to Abyssinia in order to convert her people – instead, the Christian king was rescuing them from the persecution of the Meccans.

For the modern world, a similar arrangement exists.  Muslims who live in the US, or in any non-Muslim country, shouldn’t be expected to abandon or recount their beliefs and practices, but as Americans, we’re lucky enough to live in a country which defends the individual’s right to religious expression.  But at the same time, it’s not the case that Islam requires Muslims to fight against the government, or to undercut its authority.

Again, there’s also the anecdotal evidence of the million or more Muslims who live as Americans, but I think it’s important to stress that it’s not that these Muslims are all practicing their faith wrong or ignoring core aspects of their beliefs in order to live in the US.  Instead, it’s simply the case that there’s nothing un-Islamic about being an American, any more than there is anything un-Christian or un-Jewish about it.

[1] Incidentally, if anyone can work out if there will be further hearings and who will speak, please let me know!  So far, nothing online is being helpful.

About askanislamicist

I'm an academic who specializes in early Islamic history and the history of religious interactions, who, in her free time, enjoys shouting into the internet.
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