Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Double Standard

An interesting letter to the editor:

Sir, I applaud the BBC’s news treatment of the Danish cartoons (report, Feb 4). On its website, however, the cultural cringe is evident and double standards obtain. In its history of Islam we read: “One night in 610 he (Muhammad) was meditating in a cave on the mountain when he was visited by the angel Jibreel who ordered him to “recite” . . . words which he came to understand were the words of God.” This is written as fact, no “it is said” or “Muhammad reported”. Whenever Muhammad’s name is mentioned the BBC adds “Peace be upon him”, as if the corporation itself were Muslim.

How different, and how much more accurate, when we turn to Christianity. Here, Jesus’ birth “is believed by Christians to be the fulfilment of prophesies in the Jewish Old Testament”; Jesus “claimed that he spoke with the authority of God”; accounts of his resurrection appearances were “put about by his believers”.

Chief Executive, BBC
Broadcast, 1996-99
Middle Barton, Oxon

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, who adds:

Christianity has been reshaped and challenged by scholarly revisionism with respect to the books that became the Bible. We know far more now than we used to about how the Gospels were written, what influenced them, their cultural context, their political objectives, and so on. There is much less scholarship, especially in Islamic countries, about the origins of the Koran. We need more scholarship. And for that, we need less fear, and ... freedom.

So far are we from that state of things that not only is there no equivalent in the Islamic world to the textual criticism that has opened up new understanding of the Bible, but "Western scholars discussing Islam and the Koran have to publish under pseudonyms to ensure their physical safety."

The books that are banned speak volumes. Do cartoon depictions of the Prophet embarrass Islam more than this?:

Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses received a fatwa because it appeared to mock Muhammad. The Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz was stabbed because one of his books was thought to be irreligious. And when the Arab scholar Suliman Bashear argued that Islam developed as a religion gradually rather than emerging fully formed from the mouth of the Prophet, he was injured after being thrown from a second-story window by his students at the University of Nablus in the West Bank. Even many broad-minded liberal Muslims become upset when the historical veracity and authenticity of the Koran is questioned.

[Clicking the stopwatch stem to time how long it takes for someone to comment, "But Chimpie's conservative Christian base is just as bad"]