Fresh from lying in front of the assembled at Peter King's hearings on Islamic terrorism, Muslim Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison was at it again the next day, when he appeared on TV in debate with atheist talk show host Bill Maher.
Maher accurately summarised the reasons why the King hearings are so important, skewering the much-peddled talking point that holding hearings about Islam alone, without focusing on other forms of "extremism", was unfair and would provoke further suspicion of Muslims:
I would say that the threat from radicalised Muslims is a unique and greater threat...It's been going on a thousand years, this problem between Islam and the West. We are dealing with a culture that is in its medieval era. It comes from a hate-filled holy book, the Qur'an, which is taken very literally by its people. They are trying to get nuclear weapons. I don't think Tim McVeigh would have ever tried to get a nuclear weapon because I think right-wing nuts, they think they love this country and they are not trying to destroy this country; they want to get it away from the people they see as hijacking it. That's different from Muslim extremists who want to destroy [America]. And also it's a culture of suicide bombing which is hard to deter [because we are facing] people who want to kill themselves.
Ellison responded with standard Islamic apologetic talking points, which I will discuss below:
1. Claiming that violent and hateful verses from the Qur'an are taken "out of context" to justify violence, which ignores centuries of traditional commentaries on the Qur'an by venerated Muslim scholars, who make clear that, all context considered, these verses mandate violence against and the subjugation of unbelievers. For example, there is verse 9:29, which reads: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya [non-Muslim poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”
The Qur'an commentary of Ibn Kathir (d.1373), which can be found in any good Muslim bookshop today, provides both historical and textual context for this verse to assert:
“This honorable Ayah [verse] was revealed with the order to fight the People of the Book; after the pagans were defeated, the people entered Allah's religion in large numbers, and the Arabian Peninsula was secured under the Muslims' control. Allah commanded His Messenger to fight the People of the Scriptures, Jews and Christians, on the ninth year of Hijrah, and he prepared his army to fight the Romans and called the people to Jihad announcing his intent and destination...
“Allah said, 'until they pay the Jizya', if they do not choose to embrace Islam, 'with willing submission', in defeat and subservience, 'and feel themselves subdued', disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah [protected religious minorities living under Muslim rule] or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated.”
There are many, many other commentators who interpret this verse in the same way, and they are all considered mainstream in the Muslim world. Keith Ellison thinks he understands the Qur'an better than them. Bill Maher doesn't buy it, and neither should you.
2. Quoting the following Qur'anic passage:
“whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” (5:32)
But not providing the "context" for this command by quoting it in full along with the immediately following passage:
For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth.
The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.” (5:32-33)
Thus, in its full context, we can see that this passage is actually a threat to the Jews not to oppose the Muslims or they will face crucifixion, mutilation or banishment.
3. Quoting the passage which says "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256) without mentioning that, in he words of the revered Muslim scholar Tabari (d.923): “Arab society was compelled to enter Islam because they were an unlettered community, having no book which they knew. Thus nothing other than Islam was accepted from them. The People of the Book are not to be compelled to enter Islam if they submit to paying the jizya [poll tax] or kharaj [land tax].”
In other words, the purpose of jihad outlined in Qur'anic verses such as 9:29, at least regarding Jews and Christians, is not to force them to accept Islam, but rather to force the Islamic legal system upon them, relegating them to second-class status and payment of the jizya if they refuse to convert. But if they do convert, they do so freely.
4. Maintaining that "If you listen to terrorist rhetoric, Bill, what they do is they cite politics...they cite political grievances. They don't really use too much religion."
I would advise anyone listening to this who finds this to be a compelling argument to immediately purchase a copy of The Al Qaeda Reader by Raymond Ibrahim, which uses never-before-translated writings from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri to demonstrate that al-Qaeda's political propaganda is intended purely for the consumption of the West, while its longer treatises distributed in Arabic in the Muslim world cite extensive quotations from the Qur'an and Islamic tradition to make a transcendental theological argument. For example, in a letter to a group of Saudi theologians that was never intended for Western consumption, bin Laden quotes numerous verses from the Qur'an and hadith to support the assertion that:
“Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission [i.e. conversion to Islam]; or payment of the jizya [non-Muslim poll tax], through physical though not spiritual submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword – for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live.”
Numerous other examples, including the case of the failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and of the 9/11 orchestrators themselves give the lie to the claim that Muslims don't use religious arguments to justify terrorism.
All of the above is easily verifiable. While Maher's criticism of Islam itself (i.e. not "radical Islam" or "Islamic extremism") is welcome, it is a shame that he was not informed enough to call out Keith Ellison on the deceptions that followed in the rest of the interview.