From: The Dispatcher.
Apr 24, 2008 By Chuck Flagg
Muslims believe the Qur'an was dictated to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel during the month of Ramadan beginning in 610 to about 632. It contains laws for society, as well as descriptions of heaven and hell and warnings on the end of the world. It also includes stories of figures found in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, but Muslims believe the Qur'an supersedes those holy writings.
Most of us have heard something about Islam, the world's second-largest religion; and most of us have heard about the contents of The Qur'an (sometimes spelled "Koran"), Islam's holy scripture. But few of us have any personal knowledge of either. Thus, a recent ABC News report intrigued me. It was an interview with Nader Talebzadeh, a filmmaker in Iran. His film, "The Messiah," depicts the life of Jesus of Nazareth from an Islamic perspective.
I had heard that Muslims venerate many figures from both the Old and New Testaments, considering them "prophets." According to Talebzadeh, "The Muslim reverence is very high for Jesus and Mary." Muslims believe Jesus was born of a virgin, but that he was not crucified. "Through the Gospel of Barnabas," they understand that it was "the person who betrayed Jesus (Judas Iscariot) who was crucified."
The film-maker insists that the New Testament is "one of the biggest censorships in history." "The Messiah" is an effort to set the record straight about Jesus: "Jesus talked about the Prophet Muhammad" many times, and Muslims read about many sermons and miracles that don't appear in the Christian scriptures.
But how accurate is this movie? How accurate are most Hollywood films about Jesus or Christianity? Misconceptions and false impressions about Islam can lead to unpleasant situations. Ignorance is the precursor to fear, stereotyping and prejudice. We see the results of this chain of causality frequently. For example, how many letters to the editor of this very newspaper have protested the plan to build a mosque in San Martin?
Apparently, some of our neighbors have forgotten what they learned in Government or Civics class. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, stating that "Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise of religion." Supreme Court decisions have extended this prohibition to state and local governments. What gives us the right to prohibit a mosque in South Valley? The teachings of Muhammad? The evil actions of a few self-professed Muslims? President George W. Bush, the architect of our current War on Terror, has stated many times that "Islam is Peace."
Brent Walters, a religious studies professor at San Jose State University, recently stated on KGO Radio's Ronn Owens show that there is nothing in the Qur'an which Jews and Christians would find objectionable." Is this true?
My invitation to readers of The Dispatch, Times and Free Lance is to stop accepting secondhand information given by others concerning the Qur'an. Get a copy of the book and read it yourself. Various editions are available at the public library or online at amazon.com. Once you've read it, send me an e-mail at email@example.com giving me your impressions of what you actually read for yourself, not what someone told you it says.
When I've finished reading my own copy and have received some responses, I will devote a future column to the views you've shared with me. Whether this experience changes your opinion of the youngest of the three Abrahamic, monotheistic religions or not, we should all learn much from this experiment.