By Syed Soharwardy, For The Calgary Herald
I would like to respond to Rob Breakenridge's opinion column about me in the Calgary Herald on Sept. 14, (Imam Learned from Past Mistakes -- or has he?)
First of all, some of the things Rob wrote made no sense to me. How can reading the Qur'an be an obstacle? Why was going to the human rights commission to resolve a dispute considered a mistake?
The debate over how to interpret the Qur'an and how a first time reader walks away with a concise understanding of its meaning is not a trivial science. Let me share with you how I understood the Bible the first time I read verses like these (in the Bible):
"You must destroy all the peoples the Lord your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you." (Deuteronomy, 7:16).
"But the Lord your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into a great confusion until they are destroyed." (Deuteronomy, 7:23).
"'But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them -- bring them here and kill them in front of me.'" (Luke, 19:27)
"While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'" (Acts, 7:59)
I attended evening Bible College at a Church in New Jersey and discussed these verses with a very learned Pastor. I met Bishops, Rabbis and Pastors in Canada and asked them to explain some of the very violent verses from the Bible -- which they did. I believe that the Bible is not a book of violence but when a hatemonger reads verses like these, surely he/she thinks that the Bible is motivating him/her to commit violence. The KKK, the Grand Inquisitors, witch burners and the Crusaders were inspired, in part, by wrong interpretations of the Bible. Even some slave traders (mis) used the Bible to rationalize their behaviour.
Why does Rob think that the followers of the Qur'an must be homogeneous, and that they should all be very peaceful? Muslims are not a small population, and 1.6 billion Muslims are just as human as Christians. Why should it be a surprise that Muslims have their own KKK and Crusaders
(Taliban, al-Qaeda, etc.?) So when Rob, or a first time reader, reads the Qur'an and needs help understanding it, he/she should seek out an imam or a scholar of Islam, just as I did when I was confused about the Bible.
I have requested before, and I will again request that all those who think the Qur'an teaches violence or that Islam is an intolerant religion, please attend our free classes at the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre in northeast Calgary.
You can ask any question. We will provide you with the interpretation of the Qur'an based upon the practices of 14 centuries of traditional Islam. The Qur'an is a book of divine guidance which all are free to accept or not, but please do not misinform people. Taking verses of the Qur'an or the Bible out of context is not a wise thing to do.
I am not sure why Rob views my complaint with the Human Rights Commission against the Western Standard as a mistake. Human Rights Commissions are the federal or provincial government's institutions for dispute resolution. I had a dispute with the Western Standard and I used the legal system that the Canadian / Alberta government established for this purpose. I did exactly what some Jews, homosexuals and other Canadians have done before me, went to HRC for the resolution of what I saw as an incident of hate and violation.
It would have been a mistake if, instead of going to HRC, I had taken the path of violence as some Muslims did in Denmark and the Netherlands. I took the path of peaceful negotiation and resolution. Why was this a mistake? Although I now believe the HRC is not a suitable venue for resolving free speech issues, at that time I filed the complaint I felt it was the right thing to do. Violence was never and will never be an option for me.
Once again I invite Rob and all those who have reservations about Islam to come and have a dialogue with me. We Canadians love to talk, but not to hate or misinform people. I am human and I do make mistakes but reading the Qur'an is the best thing I can do. Resolving issues through a peaceful process is very much the Canadian way and I am proud to be a Canadian.
Syed Soharwardy is founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and Muslims Against Terrorism.
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