Monday, 20 July 2009

Speaking Gibberish

Over at The Religion of Peace, they have a good refutation of the common Islamic apologetic claim that the Qur'an can only be properly understood in Arabic. So the argument goes, the Qur'an doesn't really say anything about fighting unbelievers, hating their guts or oppressing women. In the original Arabic it says something perfectly benign; it's just that it comes across badly in translation. TROP expose this "argument" for what it really is: "Obviously, the real reason for this illogical myth is that, for the first time, the information age is making the full history and texts of the Islamic religion available to a broader audience, and it is highly embarrassing to both Muslim scholars and their faithful flock. Pretending that different meanings exist in Arabic is a way of finding solace and saving face." Do be sure to read it all.

The TROP refutation deals with this apologetic claim from a logical point of view. A few years back, Ibn Warraq refuted the same myth from a more practical perspective, in his series on How To Debate A Muslim:

However, the majority of Muslims are not Arabs or Arabic speaking peoples. The non-Arabic speaking nations of Indonesia with a population of 197 million, Pakistan with 133 million, Iran with 62 million, Turkey with 62 million, India with a Muslim population of about 95 million, out- number by far the total number of native Arabic speakers in about thirty countries in the world estimated as 150 million. Many educated Muslims whose native tongue is not Arabic do learn it in order to read the Koran, but then again the vast majority do not understand Arabic, even though many do learn parts of the Koran by heart without understanding a word.

In other words, the majority of Muslims have to read the Koran in translation in order to understand it.

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