December 17, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 830

Saudi Journalist and Childhood Friend of Osama bin Laden Criticizes Muslims for Misreading Koranic Verses

December 17, 2004
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 830

Dr. Khaled Batarfi, managing editor of the Saudi Arabian daily Al-Madina and a childhood friend of Osama bin Laden, [1] recently wrote an article in Al-Madina critical of Muslims for using Koranic verses to justify hating Jews and Christians. The following is the article, translated and published in the Saudi daily Arab News: [2]

'The Problem Lies with Those Who Misinterpret History in Order to Serve Self-Interests'

"Some of my Jewish readers have doubts. They suspect that Arabs and Muslims hate them, blaming them for Israel's misdeeds and past mistakes such as trying to kill God's prophets and messengers (peace be upon them). They say that Muslims still remember with bitterness how the Jews in Madinah tried to kill the Prophet (pbuh), broke their pact and betrayed him by siding with his enemies.

"Many Christians suspect similar feelings for other historical reasons: Crusades in the Middle Ages, colonialism in the 18th and 19th centuries, recent wars on Muslims and suppression of Muslim minorities.

"The Jews and the Christians are both right and wrong. There are no simple answers to these complex questions but let me try to explain. History is a great teacher but it is important that we use - and not abuse - its lessons. Students of history can be divided into three groups: Those who learn from the 'rights' and build on them, those who ignore the lessons of the 'wrongs' and repeat them, and those who get obsessed and live and die for them. It is much safer not to read history at all than to misread it.

"Misreading may be intentional or it may occur out of ignorance. With the latter it is much easier to deal. You may retrain, improve education and provide explanations.

"The problem lies with those who misinterpret history in order to serve self-interests and support predetermined convictions. They act like smart lawyers who laboriously look up laws and precedents supporting their cases while ignoring everything that contradicts them. Then they interpret what they have found in a way that suits their arguments. No guilt is felt because rivals do the same. It is a game where you are only punished if you fail to win your argument. Fanatics, paranoid individuals and seekers of fame, status and special interests may be the worst offenders - but they are not alone. Almost all of us practice selective reading and intentional misreading for various reasons. Collective passionate stands and thoughts, such as rallying around the flag or supporting patriotic and religious causes, make normally fair and balanced individuals perform 'pick and choose' reading without the slightest intellectual guilt. They, too, assume the other side is doing the same."

The Koran Does Not Condemn All Christians and Jews

"Muslim fanatics are as guilty as any of such practices. Not only so they misinterpret the facts of history, they intentionally misrepresent the holy books - the Koran, the Torah, and the Bible. Take for example our position toward the 'people of the book' - i.e. Christians and Jews. Allah clearly differentiates between enemies and friends. He says in Sura Almumtehinah, Verses 7-9:

"7. It may be that Allah will grant love (and friendship) between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies. For Allah has power (over all things); and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

"8. Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just.

"9. Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) faith, and drive you out, of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.)

"Still, many choose to ignore these commands, find circumstantial verses or parts of verses about certain past events, and apply them to the present. For example, Allah says in Sura Albaqrah, Verses 191-193:

"191. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.

"192. But if they cease, Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful.

"193. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.

Fanatics would take the first half of the first sentence of the first verse, and ignore the rest. They would concentrate on the slay part and omit all the peace-seeking, mercy and forgiving commands. Allah strongly prohibits this practice as he says in the same sura: 84. Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life? And on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty.

"I don't need to pass any more judgment on partisans, ours and others. Allah says it all."

[1] Telegraph (UK), November 9, 2002.

[2] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), November 28, 2004.

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