Thursday, 15 March 2012

Is there such a thing as Secular or atheist Muslims just like the Jews? Could Islam transcend practice and become an identity of a people, a tradition, and an experience?

One could answer a strict no on this question.
Yes one could argue that religion is religion and if you do not believe you are neither this nor the other, but I don’t think it is that easy to escape your ethnic and religious context even if you stop believing.
A person is born into the Jewish faith.
Judaism is inherited from the mother's side. Their belief is that God chose the Jewish people to be his people and therefore they can not escape being Jews even if some have become secularized and others have become atheists. If God exists he has treated the Jewish people very badly over the centuries and this can be the reason why some of them have lost their faith. Others have lost faith because they need evidence and as there is no evidence that will hold up scientifically they can not believe. This is the same for all religions remember religion is a belief.
Faithful Jews can not stop believing in God even if they feel badly treated because they don’t know why God does what he does. He just might be educating them or testing them in some way. God is their destiny no matter what.
Jesus (Isa) was also a Jew
It was only after his death, or after he vanished if we take the Muslim point of view, that they began to organize the religion called Christianity. They had a meeting and decided that this was something new and all who wanted to join should be welcome, not only Jews. Jesus talked equally to both men and women and some researchers argue that Mary Magdalene had a prominent role as one of Jesus disciples. Unfortunately this provoked the men who over time greatly dimmed her actuell role.
Around 600 years later Mohammed had his first revelations
. He reformed very much that was wrong at that time and in the society in which he lived. He tried to get people to think about the poor. He himself had experiences of being poor and of loosing his parents at an early age. He wanted to create harmony between the tribes. Harmony makes it easier to trade. He used a lot of Jewish texts and rituals to accomplish this. He wanted to raise the morale standards and unite the community in Mecca, which in addition to Judaism and Christianity also was greatly influenced by polytheism. The evil of polytheism has often been greatly exaggerated in Islam. Yes there were some promiscuity but there were also elements of asceticism and celibacy.
Jesus as God
If you believe that God came down to earth in the shape and form of Jesus and you believe the love that Jesus preached and that Jesus conquered death through the resurrection then that makes you a Christian and you can join the faith by being baptised. If you are born into the faith you are usually baptized as an infant and as a teenager you can strengthen your faith by becoming confirmed. There are many different forms of Christianity, there are Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Coptic and many others just like there are different forms of Islam in different parts of the world.
If you believe the love that Jesus preached and that he was a very important prophet born by the virgin Mary, and you don’t believe in the holy trinity because only God is God. And if you believe that Mohammed was Gods last prophet and that the Koran is Gods final words then you need to speak it out loud preforming a shahada and become a Muslim. If you are born into a Muslim family you learn from your family and as a teenager you can strengthen your faith by performing a shahada.
In Sweden we have been Christian Protestants since the 16th century. The king wanted to become the head over the church so he could have access over the church wealth and use it to pay his debts. The church and the stat have been walking hand in hand until their divorce on 1st of January 2000. The church has had a strong influence on the Swedes in all aspects of life over the centuries. Reading was important for Protestantism. Their idea was that everyone should be able to read God's words and by doing so every one should be able to believe and se the logic in the Christian faith. This is why illiteracy is nearly obliterated in Sweden. The thought seems to have back fired. According to a Gallup poll from 2009, Estonia is the least religious country in the world closely followed by Sweden where there are only 17 percent who said that religion is an important part of daily life. Attributed to this, you will find churches everywhere and worship services are celebrated with only a handful of participants. Despite the failure of religious practice, people in Sweden are very conscientious and honest and they will turn to the church in times of great sorrow and major disasters. Swedes celebrate Christmas because it's a family occasion and sometimes the only opportunity to meet the family and experience childhood memories. Some atheists even confirm themselves for traditional reasons. Easter is celebrated less frequently but is still considered a major holiday which employers have to pay extra for. In Sweden you start to study religion, and this means all the five major religions Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam and some natural religions when you are around 10 years old and up throughout high school. This education is compulsory and you can not deselect it.
Religion in a context
The various religions have different regions where they are prevalent. The communities have ages of very old traditions. This has shaped the various societies and their laws. The divine was obvious in both the Bible and the Koran and was seen as an absolute truths which could not be contradicted. As a Muslim, your faith in God is just as important as it is in Christianity, but society is also formed around you. Spending time within a religious culture helps to keep you on track. Reading has been important in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but if you can read one text it means that you can read other texts and with knowledge comes questions about old truths. Societies evolve and change. Being an atheist or an agnostic does not mean that you are evil or feel the need and want to live a promiscuous life. It is more about that you feel in your heart and what is the right believe for you. Sadly there are as much prejudices about atheists than there is about any other believes. People who believein in God feel that they have the right to tell you what will happen to you after you die, as if they know.
A belief is a belief
Can we be Christians or Muslims, and at the same time, secular, agnostic or even atheists? Faith-wise, we can not but on the other hand your faith is personal and something that is a matter between you and your God. Have you lost your faith well then you have. This does not mean you need to refrain from staying with your loved ones or that you may not participate in traditional ceremonies and it does not mean you should not dress in hijab if you have a cense of belonging and want to wear it. Often women want to wear the hijab just because it has become stigmatized. The interesting thing is that you often see young women in very tight clothes wearing hijab. Loose-fitting clothes have never been the topic off discussion and therefore they do not feel the need to wear them. The question is how much society around you forces you into the ranks. This is the hardest part and that is why many keep a good face, even if in their hearts they do not believe. The collective is more important than the individual in most Muslim and Christian societies. Religion is about being together and feeling a bond with family, friends and the surrounding society. Not all people are prepared to loos this and why should they. But we can not live in the past, we use medical developments that did not exist in Jesus and Muhamed time. We use technologi that did not exist in Jesus and Muhamed time. Why is it wrong to use results from gender research? There will probably come a time when Muslim and Christian society will have to face up to Muslim and Christian feminists and what they demand, because if they do not I think Islam and Christianaty will be in for a rocky future.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Is it ever right to kill another person?

Can the different religions give me a valid answer on this topic?
The Qur’an links together murder and committing adultery with breaking the first commandment. The first commandment is the most important in all religions descending from Abraham. This is probably why I find blasphemy among the crimes that deserves death and, or eternal damnation, a very good way of obtaining blind and unquestioned obedience. All these three religions address the issue of taking someone’s life and condemn these crimes and those who commit them to the wrath and curse of God, but then they contradict themselves in some way. This leads me to believe that these different religions canon are man made and that the heavenly Qur’an is still held in heaven. Hinduism and Buddhism address the topic in a slightly different way. But still, even here it’s up for interpretations
Note that I do not doubt that the heavenly Qur’an was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. And yes, you may accuse me of blasphemy if you feel the need, but please remember, if I am guilty it is between me and The Almighty and I alone will risk the eternal damnation.
we go Old Testament and Torah
The book of Genesis forbids murder and the reason for this is that we are created in the image of God. But all killings are not defined as murder. Murder is only defined as murder when it is premeditated and intentional. To kill a murderer is allowed: "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.” (Genesis 9:6) , There are numerous references to a death penalty in the old testament of the Bible, which in large parts are the same as the Torah. This is oddly enough the reason why countries calling themselves Christian, like the USA, have not abolished the use of capital punishment. Jewish law interprets the same texts with a different outcome. Death is a harsh penalty indicating the seriousness of the crime. Some Jewish philosophers stress that the point of having capital punishment is to remind the community of the severe nature of certain acts. This is why the death penalty is more of a principle than a practice in Jewish law. Killing in war is permitted. God allowed the Israelites to engage in warfare and he even gave them instructions about waging war according the Deuteronomy 20:1-20. If Christians want to go strictly Old testament adultery is also a crime that deserves the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22-24). So if the republicans wins…well, you never know.
Jesus and the Qur’an
One would think that Christians would pay more attention to the New Testament and Christ himself. In the New Testament you can read: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse... Repay no one evil for evil... do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I Will repay," says the Lord." (Rom. 12:14) In Mat 6:15 Forgiveness is essential. "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." The most beautiful words describing why, thou shall not kill and why you should try to save lives, is found in the Qur’an. It says that to kill any human being is as if that person has killed all of humankind. And in reverse, when someone saves the life of any human being, it is as if that person has saved all of humanity (5:32)
Exception, exception, exception.
If you look at the exception found in the Qur’an they are found in the dispensation of justice as a punishment for murder or in confronting those who spread violent mischief in the land, meaning treason. In this exception you will find why the Syrian people are suffering so hard now. The rulers in a country will always lean on this exception to crush an uprising against them. They interpret the uprisings as treason and as such it is punishable by death and because of this they justify the killings of civilians. The act of Murder could according to the Qur’an be punished by death but the family of the victim can show compassion and this is considered the best choice.
It is not quite clear if Buddhism allow capital punishment or not. Chapter 10 of the Dhammapada states that “everyone fears punishment; everyone fears death, just as you do. Therefore do not kill or cause to kill. Everyone fears punishment; everyone loves life, as you do. Therefore do not kill or cause to kill.” Chapter 26 is the final chapter of the Dhammapada and it reads: "Him I call a brahmin who has put aside weapons and renounced violence toward all creatures. He neither kills nor helps others to kill. Buddhist allow lethal self-defense. This is based on the prevention of greater suffering. To prevent suffering some violence can be tolerated. One should always strive for the benefit of others according to Buddhism. It is not uncommon that Buddhist governors refuse to sign a death sentence due to his believes.
In Hinduism you can find teachings that both forbid and permit the death penalty. One form of Hinduism preaches ahimsa, non-violence
. This is what Mahatma Gandhi preached and practiced. Hindus believe that the soul can’t be killed. Death is limited to the physical body. When you die the soul is reborn into another body.
My conclusion
To me there can not be any exceptions, you can not kill, ever, it does not lie in our hands. All exceptions to this must be man made because man has vast difficulties understanding and excepting that revenge is wrong and that it is not in mans hand to hand out the death penalty. All exceptions to this create problems. Why, because exceptions will be abused. Man is not almighty and we are known to do wrong. Mahatma Gandhi said "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" This is pinpoints how wrong vengeance is. Leave vengeance to a higher power it is not our job. We do not have the right to kill but we do have the right to remove a murderer from the society and hold him in solitary confinement but we can not kill. You should save lives not take lives, it is always worthwhile and remember what goes around comes around.