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A history of conflict

The story of Abdul Rahman, released into exile in Rome from an Afghan prison where he was facing death as an apostate for converting from Islam to Christianity, is about a conflict as old as Islam at the heart of the Muslim world.

This conflict has tormented countless Muslims, silenced dissent, and incrementally turned what once was a lively Islamic culture into a gulag.

The Koran, as the sacred revelation to Mohammed intended for pagan Arabs, bore a message that had also been revealed to others at earlier times in different places. The quintessence of the message is revealed in the story of Moses and his people in Egypt, and their flight to freedom from captivity.

“The origin of freedom lies in breathing,” wrote Elias Canetti (1905-94), the Bulgarian-born Jewish writer and winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize for Literature. The Koran tells of God fashioning man out of mud and breathing His spirit into him. This divine breath as the soul of men and women is destined to be free, and eventually return to its source. But that return journey of the divine spirit in human beings is filled with peril as was the flight of Moses and his people from captivity to freedom.

The reason, as told in the Koran, is simple. When God told the assembled angels to acknowledge the merit of man shaped from mud, yet carrying inside of him His spirit, they did, except for Satan. His disobedience set him apart as the evil seducer of men, willfully turned against God by trampling upon freedom divinely gifted to humans.

The Koran was an invitation to pagan Arabs to find freedom through submission to God—Lord of the Day of Reckoning—by abandoning false gods made of wood or stone, or conceived through tyrannical ideas. In delivering this message Mohammed was ridiculed, threatened with death, forced into exile, and attacked by armies.

Mohammed and his followers eventually triumphed over pagan Arabs to fashion a society in keeping with the Koran’s ethics of freedom and responsibility. Soon after Mohammed’s demise, the oldest conflict between freedom and tyranny surfaced among Muslims.

The Koran as the message of freedom—for instance, “there is no compulsion in religion”—was twisted into an ideology of power by some of Mohammed’s successors as rulers of an expanding realm.

Then blood was shed. The earliest victims of usurpers in Arab-Muslim history were members of Mohammed’s family.

Tyranny became the norm and the first among Muslim intellectuals—religious scholars or the ulema—devised the legal system, sharia, to legitimize and regulate the authority of those who murdered their way to power.

The Muslim collective mind-set has been shaped by this history. Muslims seeking freedom are often denounced as heretics and apostates by religious scholars in terms of the sharia, and punished by rulers.

It is amazing to note how lib-left multiculturalists in Canada are willing to placate Muslim fundamentalists by supporting their demand for importing sharia in return for votes.

The silence of the vast majority of Muslims over Abdul Rahman’s plight indicates how Islamic history imprisons them in a pre-modern psychology, which views freedom suspiciously as indulgence in corrupt practices, or worse, apostasy.

The passage to freedom is through a valley of tears, and Muslims cannot set forth in sufficient numbers without first admitting their complicity in the making of their own captivity.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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