12 April 2008

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)

Is this a blatant attempt to attract site traffic, not really, I swear! I am reading this book and the title happens to be the same as the title to this post. Therefore, it could just be a plain old book review or it could be something else! You will have to read and see...

I am writing this in part as context to the recent Geert Wilders and Fitna controversy and the now defunct attempt to ban access to certain sites that were making the film available. The quick turnaround on this might bring the most cynical parts of us out that the whole banning thing was nothing more than a charade and lip service to appease some vocal dissent. Or it could have just been early electioneering in an attempt to ward off any future criticism of being a do nothing government!

However, the book does the same thing that Wilders has done; focus on particular passages or Suras of the Qur'an that highlight extremism or violence and place this into the context of history and historical occurrences from the origin of Islam through to the present day. Why is this interesting you might ask; this is interesting because I bought this book at the Kinokuniya Book Store in Plaza Senayan in Jakarta in Indonesia. The obvious question is that if the government is so sensitive to this issue and needs to protect the masses from material that is likely to disrupt social order and harmony on a global scale then how is it that I can buy this book in Indonesia?

The book compares passages from the Qur'an and the Bible as a means of highlighting the violence in Islam and the peace in Christianity. Undoubtedly, many would beg to differ on those characterizations. The book is not designed to be a tool to preach to the converted but rather a tool designed to sway those swing voters who are still out in terms of what they know and understand of religions.

One such comparison is this one:

Jesus (from Matthew 5:44) "Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you."

is contrasted with,

Muhammad (from Qur'an 8:60) "Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, who ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know."

Then the book uses other Suras to highlight Islam as a misogynist religion that not only devalues women but explicitly notes that women were created to be inferior to men and subservient to them...

"Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other" (Qur'an 4:34);

"Your women are a tilth for you to cultivate so go to your tilth as ye will" (Qur'an 2:223);

"Get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her" (Qur'an 2:282);

Allah thus directs you as regards your children's inheritance: to the male, a portion equal to that of two females" (Qur'an 4:11); and

"Good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish than and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them" (Qur'an 4:34).

So, what's the point of this post; it is many-fold:

First, is it possible to have constructive, reasonable, and measured debate where religion is involved and views seem so diametrically opposed?

Second, why in light of the recent controversy surrounding Fitna can books such as this one be found in Indonesian book stores? I am not advocating censorship or a round of book burning, rather to the contrary I am asking where is the consistency here?

Finally, has the drive to political correctness made us more tolerant or has it just served to push the simmering tensions under the carpet as people are forced to be politically correct in public but mutter there less than political correct views in private and among friends.

By the way there is also a "Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible" but when I asked the Kinokuniya staff member if they had a copy or whether I could order one she thought I was trying to be funny...oh well! The pictures above are as big as I could make them...


M said...

Maybe because it has less publication. But I question the same to Joan Osbourne song;

"what if god is one of us..just a stranger on the bus, trying to make its way home.."

which was so popular in the 90s. But i would argue it's merely because the border between state and religion in Indonesia is not clear enough. and perhaps it's better that way. or perhaps because people in FPI should speak more english and read english books. so they wont seem to have double standard. i am waiting for u to write more nice stuff about my country.


Patung said...

I once bought one of Spencer's books through Amazon - "The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion" - it sailed through Indonesian customs. On the whole though I'm not a fan of Spencer, he's too one-sided. He has a website, jihadwatch.org, the posts about Indonesia are useless, written by people who have no idea about the place.

Rob Baiton said...


More positive Indonesian posts will follow shortly! Besides I am not purely focusing on the negative about Indonesia, as for me some of this is as much about the bizarre and crazy...

In any event relationships between religions and attempts to block sites is worthy of a blog entry even if it is construed by some to be portraying Indonesia in a bad light :)


Indeed, one-sided but the point is not so much that he is one-sided but rather where is the one-sided response!

But perhaps more importantly to me is that the book is written in a way that it would be easy enought to be read as simple truth. So, as I pointed out those that might be easily convinced or swayed would be so by this piece of work!

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