Re: “Context needed in judging Koran’s attitude to unbelievers”, Have Your Say, March 8.
Eric Bahrt reckons I am incorrect in assuming that in Islam unbelievers can be killed, as the Koran permits such a penalty only for those who actually attack Muslims. Yet in Chapter 2 of the Koran we find, “Great is the penalty for those who don’t believe.” We have all seen the many horrific photographs of non-believers whose heads were cut off not because they attacked Muslims but simply because they didn’t believe in the Koran! Another example: Sharia law directs that atheists be punished by beheading; there is no mention of trying to attack or convert Muslims. Protest against this “justice” in the Muslim world is minimal, and for a good reason. Muslims are required to believe in the literal words of the Koran (“Islam” can be translated as submission). Chapter 5 has this: “Don’t ask questions which if made plain to you may cause you trouble.” The threat implied here is that scepticism can lead to loss of faith, which leads to loss of your head.
Muslims who interpret the Koran in more modern ways, to condemn Islamist atrocities, induce questions over whether they can be considered Muslims. As long as the vast majority of Islamic clerics forbid it, liberal interpretation of the Koran results in being condemned as a non-believer whose opinions are not of any interest to “real” believers.
Bahrt makes parallels with Christianity by citing lunatic evangelicals who take the Bible at its word (Earth was created 6,000 years ago!) and commit horrendous crimes in the name of God. But to mention these morons in the context of Islam strikes me as a “tu quoque” argument – attacking hypocrisy in your opponent in order to mitigate or create understanding for atrocities in name of Allah. This would be a fallacy without peer: acts have to be judged on their own merit.