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Friday, 10 August 2012

Islam Has Different Meanings for the Same Words

This is a problem of semantics.

There is a basic problem of constant miscommunication between the West and the Muslim world.

Practically every major word or concept in their communication has a different meaning for us and them.

In reply to the article by Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke, “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood” in Foreign Affairs, Jonathan D. Halevi writes:
Leiken and Brooke were deeply impressed by the support given by the Muslim Brotherhood for "democracy," but they failed to understand that for the Muslim Brotherhood and the West, the word has two completely different meanings. As far as the Muslim Brotherhood is concerned, Islamic rule expresses "true democracy," and that is the only kind to which they are committed.

The Muslim Brotherhood poses a serious threat to the West. It hides behind ambiguous terminology, which makes the organization appear moderate and enables it to operate freely in its host countries, thereby establishing a convenient base from which to disseminate radical Islamic ideology among the growing Muslim communities. [Emphasis addded]
Since in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood won the presidential elections with 52% of the vote, combined with other Islamists - the ultraconservative Salafist Al-Nour party - won 70% of the seats in the Parliament's Lower House, and won 58.33% of the seats in the Parliament's Upper House (80% adding together Al-Nour, which came second with a quarter of all seats), that must also be the majority of Egyptian Muslims' idea of democracy.

That Muslims must intend for "democracy" something completely different, it's also obvious from the results of opinion polls in Muslim countries, results which otherwise would be impossible to comprehend.

In an opinion poll among Muslims, in Egypt, just to take an example, 59% of respondents said democracy is preferable to any other kind of government; but 82% supported stoning for adulterers, 77% were in favour of chopping off hands of thieves, and 84% backed death penalty for apostates, i.e. Muslims who leave Islam. Their idea of democracy must be different from ours.

Similarly, concepts like "innocent", "terrorism", even "murder" are different.

This kind of Western misunderstanding is particularly acute in the case of the crucial concept of "peace".

When Muslims say that Islam is a religion of peace, they don't even need to lie to Western media who are, like most Western people, ignorant of Islam - ignorance which allows The New York Times to write without blushing: "[The Muslim Brotherhood] virtually invented political Islam" -, fact which Muslims in the West exploit to their advantage.

They can play on the different meaning of "peace", because what they actually mean is the Muslim concept of peace, which is somewhat similar to the pax Romana, the peace that followed Rome's conquest of almost all the known world.

So, Muslims can say on Western TVs that Islam is a religion of peace because that is the final goal of Islam, but is a peace that will follow a constant war against the infidels and will be achieved after the whole world will be submitted to Islam: so in fact the final goal of Islam is peace, but their peace is not certainly what Westerners think of when they hear this word.

Another example of this miscommunication is the concept of "charity". When Muslim people like the UK's Baroness Warsi, co-Chairman of the British Conservative Party, appear on the TV saying that charity is a duty for all Muslims, as I watched her say some time ago, they "forget" to add that in Islam the meaning of "charity" is not the same as ours: charity is a duty only to other Muslims.

The Pakistani Christians, during that country's 2010 devastating floods, were victims of systematic discrimination in the distribution of aid - essential to survival - ironically donated by the historically Christian West.

By not explaining the difference in meaning, Warsi contributed to the misunderstanding and created in her audience a non-realistic view of Muslim ethical virtues.

This is indeed a problem common to all contrasting doctrines. Each theory redefines the concepts used in other theories. "Time" and "space" in Newtonian physics are not the same as "time" and "space" in Einstein's relativity.

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