Bernard Lewis, professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University has his critics – among them Noam Chomsky and the late Edward Said. Nevertheless, Lewis is considered the best of scholars on Islam. With distortion of Islam in mind, in his book Islam the Religion and the People (2008) he and his collaborator, Buntzie Churchill, write,
At no time did the classical [Muslim] jurists offer any approval or legitimacy to what we nowadays call terrorism. Nor indeed is there any evidence of the use of terrorism as it is practiced nowadays. (p. 151)
The emergence of the now widespread terrorism practice of suicide bombing is a development of the 20th century. It has no antecedents in Islamic history, and no justification in terms of Islamic theology, law, or tradition. It is a pity that those who practice this form of terrorism are not better acquainted with their own religion, and with the culture that grew up under the auspices of that religion. (Not on page 53 as Wikipedia claims – a mistake repeated elsewhere on the internet. I don't know where it is.)
The fanatical warrior offering his victims the choice of the Koran or the sword is not only untrue, it is impossible – unless we are to assumea race of left-handed swordsmen. The left hand, by muslim tradition, is reserved for unclean purposes. No Muslime could conceivale brandin he Korn in his left hand. The alleged choce – conversion or deat – is also, with rare and atypical exceptions, untrue. (p. 146)
Generally speaking, however, Muslim toleration of unbelievers and misbelievers was far better than anything available in Christendom until the rise of secularism in the 17th century. (p. 146)
Islam as a religion and as a culture should not not be blamed for the tribal customs of some of the peoples who adopted it. A good example is the genital mutilation of young females, widely practiced in Africa and, to a lesser extent, in some other places, but without any foundation whatsosoever in Islamic scripture, tradition, or law. Another example is the practice of honor killing. (p.118)
Copyright © 2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.