Bigotry cannot be monopolized

Religion has once again become an excuse for violence. The recent posting of the trailer of hate-filled, low-quality, anti Islamic movie on youtube and resultant violence in many countries around the Muslim world once again re-affirms my belief that stupidity, ignorance and bigotry are not the monopoly of the followers of any given faith.

The movie is undoubtedly deeply offensive to all descent people, not just the Muslims. Many people of other faiths, including secretary of state Hillary Clinton, have expressed their disgust in no uncertain words. All signs point to a Southern California Coptic Christian by the name of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula as the main player behind the filming, aided by a Christian activist, Steve Klein, who is an insurance agent, a Vietnam war veteran and an Islamophobe. Nakoula is an ex-con and according to AP, pleaded no contest in 2010 to federal bank fraud charges in California and was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution. The toxic product of their work stretches freedom of speech in the United States to its limits. Where do you draw the line between the right to free speech, and promoting hate and deeply insulting another person, let alone someone so deeply revered by 1.6 billion people on planet earth. One wonders if an American Muslim had made a similar denigrating movie on Prophet Jesus Christ or Moses, would the film have made it to Internet or other outlets.

The reaction in the Muslim world was rather predictable, given past experience involving similar assaults on the Islamic religion such as the burning of the Quran and the Danish cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad in a very negative light. However the response in Libya was unexpected in that it involved violent attack on the US consulate and the unfortunate death of the American ambassador and three other Americans. News media reports indicate that the killings were likely undertaken by Islamic extremists who may have used the cover of the anti-movie protest to undertake a pre-planned attack. The alleged group is linked to the rebels who were aided by NATO and United States to topple the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Hillary Clinton loudly wondered after the murder of ambassador Chris Stevens as to how a country that the NATO countries and we helped in getting rid of a dictator could turn on their helpers. An appropriate, strong response by Muslims was indeed needed to express the hurt Muslim feelings. That strong response however, does not equate violence. A proper response must center on more civic engagement, open dialogue, and education about the real teachings of their faith, rather than violence.

As for the faith-based promotion of hate and inciting violence, it is an unfortunate but a predictable tired act. The so-called followers on both sides are once again ignoring the teachings of the scriptures they respect and cherish so much. According to the Quran, killing of an innocent person is like killing of entire humanity. It preaches interacting with Jews and Christians in “the best of manners” (The Quran 29:46 and 16:125). It urges the followers to repel evil with what’s better (“And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best.” 41:34). Similarly, the Bible urges its followers to be kind and repel evil with goodness, and to not condemn others. Don’t judge others, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn others, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Matthew 7:1). “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12 and Luke 14:11).
Do the hate-mongerers involved in this filmmaking really represent the true teachings and the spirit of Christianity? Does the film have the “approved by Jesus” stamp? Similarly, the killers of the US ambassador will find it impossible to find a religious justification for their criminal act, in either the Quran or the Sunnah (sayings and actions) of the very prophet they are defending so vigorously.
The moderate silent majority can no longer afford to remain silent. They must convey to the world how they really feel about the ignorant people of all faiths.
“Not in our name please! You do not represent us!”

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Guestpost on JCC Banter

Do you know who is the prophet most often mentioned in the Quran by name?
Is it Abraham? Nope.
Oh, silly me, you might think, it must be Muhammad. Not even close.
And the correct answer is:
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Interview Author Ejaz Naqvi, MD

Book trailer, "The Quran: With or Against the Bible", author Ejaz Naqvi, MD

Be sure to click on the photo to view the book trailer for The Quran: With or Against the Bible?

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Paradise and Hell in the Quran, Bible

Along with the unity of God, the angels, the scriptures, and the prophets, belief in the Qiyamah (Day of Resurrection) and hereafter is an essential part of the faith, according to the teachings of the Quran and the Bible.

Paradise is often mentioned as “the garden,” and hell as “the blazing fire.” The vivid descriptions [in the Quran] are in stark contrast with the Old Testament, which is relatively quiet when it comes to the Day of Judgment and the hereafter, though the Jewish traditions point out that the oral Torah is much more descriptive on this subject. The New Testament descriptions of the hereafter and the last Day are somewhere in between those of the Quran and the Old Testament in their depth and detail.

All three Abrahamic faiths do believe in a final day when every person’s sins and good deeds will be weighed and a divine decision will be made whether to redeem that person. After that, the concept of hell and heaven varies somewhat in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

So, something to think about:

Is heaven an exclusive place for the followers of Prophets Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad? Does any group have an “automatic right” to enter heaven based on their faith alone? Is it even under our purview to debate it in the first place?

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The Quran and Science

Though very intriguing and tempting, a detailed discussion on the merits of the creation and intelligent design versus Darwin’s theory of evolution is beyond the scope of The Quran: With or Against the Bible?.

The Quran repeatedly asks readers and followers to reflect and ponder. It has references  to the creation of the universe, humans, the animal and plant kingdoms, as well as human  embryology; this information was unknown or poorly understood at the time of the revelation some fourteen centuries ago.

The universe, planetsMany of the concepts outlined in the Quran have been discovered in the last two hundred years. Muslim scholars, therefore, point out that these scientific discoveries alone are proof of the divine nature of the Quran. Some non-Muslim scholars counter by stating that the translations are at times “stretched” to fit current scientific knowledge. Many Muslims also object to these references, believing that the Quran does not need to be “authenticated” by science and it should be the other way round. Still others contend the references are too vague.

Similar debate exists for biblical references to science and nature. There are some similarities between the accounts of these scientific matters in the Quran and the Bible, as well as some stark differences. These objections and skepticism notwithstanding, topics on Science are reviewed one at a time in the book, including, but not limited to:

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • The Universe as Smoke (Nebula)
  • The Universe Expanding
  • The Collapse of the Universe like a Scroll
  • Earth As Round
  • Time Being Relative
  • Earth Like an Egg
  • Earth’s Protective Atmosphere and Ozone Layer
  • Sun As Light, Moon As Reflected Light
  • The Celestial Bodies Moving in Orbits
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R-E-S-P-E-C-T for all faiths

I have made a humble attempt to group various themes presented by the Quran and compared them with passages on similar themes in the Bible to highlight the often unrealized commonality of these scriptures. The Quran: With or Against the Bible? only scratches the surface of the themes covered in the Quran and the Bible, but hopefully it serves to stimulate an interest in studying the Quran and the Bible further. I have made a conscious effort to provide candid answers to many of the questions people may have always wanted to ask but couldn’t find in one concise format.

Though Muslims around the world often recite the Quran in Arabic, I have emphasized that for non-Arabic-speaking people, the Quran needs to be read in the native language also, in order to understand the intended message. It must be added that for a truer appreciation of the message and beauty of the Quran, one must study the Quran in its original Arabic language. In much the same way, the Old Testament loses its luster when translated from Hebrew to English (or any other language). Unfortunately, there are no copies of the original Aramaic Gospel available anywhere currently.

Reading the Arabic text of the Quran without understanding it at all would seem to defeat the purpose of the revelations. Thus reading the scriptures in one’s native language is a practical (but inferior) alternative to the study in the original language of the revelations.

The Quran and the Bible do not believe in being politically correct, hence we will find many passages in the scriptures that modern societies may not find to their liking. If one believes in the divine source of the scriptures and that the ultimate authority belongs to God, then it becomes easy to accept that the divine laws don’t always correspond to man-made laws or opinions: they don’t have to. It is not to imply, however, that one should ignore the law of the land. The scriptures do not encourage people to “take the law into their hands” if there is a discrepancy between the divine laws and the law of the land.

A case in point might be the issue of polygamy. In most Western countries, it is illegal to have multiple wives. Even when allowed by the scriptures, the law of the land must be followed. Conversely, at an individual level, even when the local laws allow certain actions, for example gambling and prostitution, the scriptures continue to prohibit their followers from engaging in such activities.

This book was written for the “common person” with an open and investigative mind, with the objective of addressing the need to gain a basic understanding of the scriptures, and thus I have tried to use plain English to discuss passages from the Quran and the
Bible. At times, I might have tried to oversimplify matters. In order to maintain the brevity of the book, yet address the major themes, I have addressed some topics relatively superficially without going into deep theological debates. The Quran: With or Against the Bible? should not be treated as an exegesis, because it is not one.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the book, I have stayed focused on the similarities of the message in the scriptures, rather than the differences. It is up to the individual whether one wants to promote the similarities to find common ground or latch onto the diff erences that continue to widen the gulf between the followers of the world’s most read scriptures. Even when we have reasons for disagreements, can we agree to disagree respectfully? In doing so the followers of the Abrahamic faiths, I believe, will only be acting in accordance with the scriptures they trust and respect.

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Ejaz Naqvi: Religious text investigator

What I present in “The Quran With or Against the Bible?” is the outcome of an investigative analysis of a set of topics from the Holy Quran, the Islamic Holy Scripture, which I conducted over the last two decades. As an investigator, I put myself in the position of a critical analyst, rather than that of a religious scholar or expert, or a devoutly religious person.

The purpose of my investigation and critical analysis was to compare the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Holy Bible; in doing so, I investigated parallel teachings wherever I could. The aim of this work is to impress upon the reader the remarkable similarities in the paths of guidance that the two Scriptures have bestowed upon their followers. I also acknowledge that, at times, significant differences exist. My focus, however, will be to highlight the teachings of the Holy Quran and focus on the similarities with those of the Holy Bible.

I have taken utmost care to be respectful to people of all faiths and especially toward the Scriptures as well as the noble figures, including the prophets. I have often mentioned them by their common names only, though I have fully intended to follow in my mind the Islamic tradition of adding “Peace be upon him” (PBUH) when mentioning their names. I am aware that not all readers will agree with my discussions, my analytical techniques, or the results there from. Such disagreements are natural and even welcome as long as they are built on mutual respect and objectivity.

I look forward to your questions and comments in the weeks and months to come as you read my blog and/or book.

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The Quran: With or Against the Bible? by Ejaz Naqvi, MD

Most readers of the available literature on religion and specially the scriptures would agree that they tend to be tilted, and many times clearly biased towards one religion or scripture. Moreover they tend to glorify one, while demonizing the others’ religion or Scriptures.

No other book in the recent past has generated so much attention as the Holy Quran. The geo-political events in the last decade have provided the fuel to the fire. Up until just twenty-five years ago, very few in the Unites States knew much about Islam, Muslims, and the Holy Quran. They were known primarily through the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The globalization of the economy and the advent of the Internet changed that to some extent. Then came the unfortunate events involving the New York World Trade Center towers, which impacted American lives, politics, and interfaith relations like never before. But even now Islam, Muslims, and their Holy Scripture, the Quran, remain poorly understood. This seems to be mainly a result of a lack of knowledge and a lack of communication. A bottomless informational abyss exists between those with knowledge and those who are seeking it. Unfortunately, there has been some exploitation of the situation and spread of misinformation as well, which may be worse than having no information. There is a clear need for better understanding among people of various faiths. In this book, the Quran: with or Against the Bible? I provide a fresh look at the scriptures by providing a non-polemical and an objective thematic review of the Quran and the Bible. The findings will surprise you. Many provocative questions are asked throughout the book.

Is there one universal way to worship God? Are rituals more important than the spiritual connection one needs to make with God during prayers and various other forms of worship? Does God accept or prefer one form of worship over others? If so, is that belief supported by the Scripture?

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