Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Same Quran

I noticed a revealing (and distressing) quote today in the midst of all the coverage regarding the proposed Islamic cultural center site a couple blocks from the New York World Trade Center properties. "All Muslims read the same Quran," this 45-year-old New York resident stated. According to the Oregonian reporter who interviewed her for today's Sunday edition, the woman cannot believe that while some Muslims interpreted the words of their chief religious text in ways that led them to plow passenger jets into the World Trade Center, others might read the Quran and receive a message of peace.

All Muslims read the same Quran.

All Christians read the same Bible. Have done since it was first consolidated into a (mostly) uniform religious text in the first centuries after the time of Jesus.

How would this lady respond to:

* the violence of the Crusades?

* killings of Protestants and Catholics--by each other--in the decades following the start of the Protestant Reformation?

* religiously sanctioned defenses of chattel slavery?

The people who committed these atrocities read the same Bible as the founders of the pacifist Quakers, the abolitionists who decried slavery... and a young Lutheran man, Matt Sky, who has been carrying out a lone vigil for the past 10 days outside the proposed Islamic center site, holding a sign that proclaims "Support Freedom of Religion."

Humans are flawed, and all books, religious or otherwise, are filtered through human brains. One can hope that through careful attention to spiritual guidance, a religious person might gain the most accurate insight possible into his or her religion's text. But there is no escaping the fact that throughout the centuries, people have read the same exact words and come up with wildly, drastically different interpretations--sometimes with tragic results.

This isn't an Islamic problem. This is a human problem. To suggest otherwise is simply, painfully, ludicrous -- and it demonstrates a lack of historical understanding that cripples our ability to move forward as a nation.

Quotations taken from "Vigil brings a message of tolerance of mosque," The Sunday Oregonian (September 5, 2010), page A9.

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