By Shakil Saghir
After a long and hard debate, I finally decided to attend Kamal Saleem’s Sept. 25 talk at the Midland Center for the Arts. My purpose of attending the talk was to take notes and ask questions during a Q&A session. Because there was no Q&A, I decided to raise my concerns here.
He started his talk with a few sentences of peace and right after that started to describe the importance of Sept. 11 for Muslims, linking it to the Battle of Vienna and revenge, which was news for me — a born Muslim. That was the beginning of his, what I believe, hate speech.
His next claim was “God of the Quran does not love his people”; whereas, at least 11 of 99 attributes (names) of Allah have a meaning of love, compassion, mercy, or peace including Al-Wadood, The Loving. His love is mentioned in the Quran many times including: “And He is oft-forgiving, the Loving (85:14)”. Saleem claimed that Allah wants Muslims to die for Him and says this is the primary reason for the terrorism/ suicide bombing in the world, ignoring the underlying geopolitical reasons and terrorism by non-Muslims, including Christians (remember the Crusades). According to a 2008 Pew poll, only 5 percent of Pakistanis justified suicide bombing, even though Pakistan is the country most affected by the menace. As a Muslim, I was taught that suicide is prohibited in any circumstance, no exception. The Quran specifically says: “O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful (4:29)”. The concept of suicide bombing was alien to Muslims; for example, in Pakistan, the first suicide attack occurred only in the mid- ’90s and none were recorded in Afghanistan until 2002. However, the history of suicide bombing goes back to 1 AD (see, “Dying to Win” by Robert Pape). The Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka (LTTE), a Marxist organization, invented the suicide vests and killed many, including Rajiv Gandhi, then Indian Prime Minister.
Saleem also kept calling Muslims as Moslems, which was weird. As a former believer of the religion he should know the correct pronunciation.
According to Kamal, most of the terrorism and killings in history have been perpetrated by Muslims, which is a fallacy. Ironically, even ignoring earlier historical events such as the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the genocide of native North and South Americans and of other native people, most of the killings in the last 100 years have been carried out by non-Muslims (e.g., WWI, WWII, USSR [Stalin], China [Mao], Congo [Leopold II of Belgium], British India ; Cambodia [Pol Pot], North Korea [Kim Il Sung], Ethiopia [Menghistu], Korea, Vietnam, Sri Lanka [LTTE], Gulf, Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, to name a few). A detailed, but not exhaustive, list can be found athttp://www.scaruffi.com/politics/dictat.html. The FBI database indicates that attacks by Islamic extremists on U.S. soil comprised only 6 percent during 1980-2005.
He also spent significant time on the concept of Taqiyya and linked it to stealth jihad by saying Muslims are allowed to lie by their religion. Growing up as a Muslim, I only heard this term in reference to Shia religion; however, I never encountered a situation confirming this even with my Shia friends with whom I grew up. The term Taqiyya is a false concept not belonging to the authentic teachings of Islam — I did not find a single entry in Hadith (Sahih Bukhari, the most authentic compilation) or the Quran which can relate to this concept. (I even searched with words: lie, lying, Taqiyya, etc. at http://www.searchtruth.com/). One of the Hadith that I found during my search was “The signs of a hypocrite are three: Whenever he speaks he tells a lie; whenever he is entrusted he proves dishonest; whenever he promises he breaks his promise (Book #51, Hadith #12).”
During the Google search, however, I saw “Lying is not permitted except in three cases: (1) a man’s speaking to his wife to make her happy; (2) lying at times of war; (3) and lying in order to reconcile between people. Even though I could not find any Hadith to back this up, if we consider this to be true, it is not different from the teachings of Judaism (e.g., Talmud, Baba Kamma 113a) or Christianity (e.g., 1 Samuel 16 incident), for detail see http://www.loonwatch.com/2010/08/silencing-spencer-taqiyya-and-kitman-are-part-of-judeo-christian-belief/.
Jihad was described as a Holy War (the term itself has come from the Crusades) by Kamal and was explained as the 6th pillar of Islam, obligatory for every Muslim. Jihad is never considered as one of the pillars of Islam by Sunni Muslims, and fighting is only permitted in self defense after exhausting every other option.
And even then, Muslims must follow strict rules of combat including prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees, and livestock. The notion that Islam spread through the sword was emphasized by the speaker — one question I had for him was how did it spread to Indonesia, Malaysia and many other parts of the world where no Muslim soldier ever put his feet? Compulsion in religion is in fact forbidden in the Quran: “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error (2:256)” and “And neither I am going to worship that which you have worshipped, nor will you worship the One whom I worship. For you is your faith, and for me, my faith (109:4-6).”
Unfortunately he was not open to Q&A. Contrary to Saleem’s assertion that all the verses of love and peace in the Quran came when Muslims were weak (prior to their immigration to Madina) and were abrogated thereafter (after the establishment of Islamic state in Madina), the former verse was revealed in Madina (two years after the immigration) prohibiting Muslims to forcefully converting anyone to Islam, including their own children.
Of course his talk could not be complete without bringing up the fear of Sharia in the U.S. Scholars agree that Muslims living in non-Muslim countries have to comply with laws and regulations of the country where they have been living — this is what I was taught and therefore, I don’t see an issue of Sharia laws taking over our Constitution.
Kamal also kept quoting verses from the Quran (e.g., 5:51, 5:80) out of context and generalizing from them; whereas, those verses were revealed on specific occasions mentioning specific groups of people. He mentioned that slavery is not prohibited in the Quran (it isn’t in the Bible either), which is true; however, he forgot to mention how many times the Quran mentions the importance of freeing slaves; only one of many verses in the Quran should suffice as an answer: “…Righteous are those who believe in God, the last day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets; and they give the money, cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the traveling alien, the beggars, and to free the slaves; and they observe the prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat); and they keep their word whenever they make a promise; and they steadfastly persevere in the face of persecution, hardship, and war. These are the truthful; these are the righteous. (2:177).”
Even the POWs were treated with respect by Muslims and subsequently released (e.g., see POWs of the battle of Badr) — a thing never practiced at that time; POWs were either killed or enslaved. This verse also answers his assertion that when Muslims sign a peace treaty it is only valid for 10 years and it has to be broken within that period
I believe he wanted to mention the peace treaty of Hudaybiyya, which was signed between the Muslims of Madina and the polytheists of Mecca for a stipulated period of 10 years but which was broken by the Meccans two years later. He misquoted many other verses which are popular with Islamophobes. Explanations of a few can be read at the following site as I cannot go in detail of all here: http://www.load-islam.com/.
Another topic was the presumed ambitions of Muslims to dominate the world and convert everyone to Islam which can easily be rejected as Muslims ruled India for over 500 years and remained a minority. Similarly, large populations of Christians live in Lebanon (40 percent), Palestine pre-1948 (30 percent) and Egypt (10 percent), to name a few countries. Jews and Christians (always called people of the books in the Quran and never nonbelievers or infidels) and Muslims lived together in peace for millennium; even when Jews were persecuted in Europe, they were safe in Muslim countries. The issues that we currently see are the result of geopolitics (colonization, occupation [Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq], denying freedom by supporting dictators and preventing the liberation [Kashmir, Chechnya]), not religion. More information can be gleaned at: http://www.al-bab.com/arab/background/jews.htm.
Saleem mentioned killing of Jews of Bani Quraiza in Madina after the Battle of Trenches without giving any details. They were guilty of treason by helping Meccans in the battle when they had an agreement to support Muslims and their fate was determined using Jewish laws (Deuteronomy 20:10-18) by one of their former leaders upon their agreeing to his adjudication (read Martin Lings’ book, “Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources.” This is the common punishment of treason even today (Section 110 of Article III states, “…such person or persons shall be adjudged guilty of treason against the United States, and shall suffer death …” and this is exactly what happen to Anwar Al-Awlaki recently).
His portrayal of the status of women in Islam was also completely wrong. In order to understand the issue of the treatment of women in Muslim countries, we should separate the religion and the culture. The maltreatment of women by Muslims can always be traced to the cultural practices and never to the teachings of the religion itself. The Quran clearly states that men and women are equal in creation and in the afterlife, but not identical. Both of them are created from a single soul. One person does not come before the other, one is not superior to the other, and one is not the derivative of the other. A woman is not created for the purpose of serving a man. Rather, they are both created for the mutual benefit of each other (Quran 4:1, 30:21).
And before I end, I would like to write summary of my research on Kamal Saleem. He was born in 1957 and according to his claim, he was recruited by the PLO in Beirut, Lebanon when he was 7 years old, that would be 1964 or 1965. This cannot be true as the PLO was founded on May 28, 1964 in the West Bank and had its first armed wing in Southern Lebanon in 1969 and was not deployed to Beirut until the mid 1970s. His claim that he was a member of both the PLO (a socialist organization with Christians as members [e.g., Hanan Ashravi, George Habash]) and the Muslim Brotherhood (an arch rival of the PLO) and that he met Yasir Arafat, Moammar Gadhafi, Hafiz Al-Asad and Saddam Husain is ridiculous.
To further this, I include excerpts from one of the posts I found online which is supposedly from one of his nephews, Mohammad Itani. The real name of Kamal Saleem is Khodor Al Shami. He was a Sufi with Sheikh Rajab who never believed in militancy and the Brotherhood was not in existence in Lebanon during his time there. His Dad, Kamal Shami, was a blacksmith in downtown Beirut. Many of his close friends were Christians and he could not ask his son to kill Christians, as Kamal Saleem claims, while being friends with them. Additionally, Kamal Saleem’s older brother, Mahmound Shami, married a Christian, Madlin Khoury; this gives the lie to his claim that his mother and father taught him to hate and kill non-Muslims. He used to work with his brother and never handled a gun. Before his coming to the U.S., he worked in the Persian Gulf where he was introduced a man who helped him come to the U.S. As to his time in Afghanistan, he was actually living in the U.S. and had regular phone contact with his family. It is all about fame and fortune.
This sounds right, since just before ending his talk he started selling his and similar books, videos and CDs including interpretations of the Quran for Christians (Snake oil salesmanship!). I hope the audience will choose to go to the original sources and not fall into his trap and see the world through his eyes.
Shakil Shagir is a Midland resident.