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In Stillwater, Oklahoma, What You Can Learn On Open Mosque Day
by Hugh Fitzgerald
“Open Mosque Day offers many first glimpse into Islam,” by David Bitton, CNHI News Oklahoma, April 15, 2018:
People of all faiths were welcomed with warm smiles and open arms last Sunday as the Islamic Center of Stillwater participated in a statewide Open Mosque Day.
In addition to being able to show off their new facility at 616 N. Washington St., the program was set up so speakers could educate guests about Islam and the Muslim faith in a comfortable setting.
Guests also had the opportunity to sample food and drink from around the world.
At these Open Mosque events, the free food — offering a sample of exotic foods from Moroccan tajines and couscous to Pakistani curries and Indonesian rijstaffel — is not only about food, but is a central instrument for breaking down any potential resistance of visitors, putting them in the right festive mood to accept the presentation of Islam that they will be offered, grateful to their attentive hosts who, in piling high their guests’ plates with exotic offerings, know exactly what they are doing, in reducing their guests’ mental defenses against taqiyya. The modus operandi is to envelop the visitors in an atmosphere of warmth, sincerity, friendship, comfort; the food and drink “from around the world” never fails to help.
After Natarianto Indrawan sang Adhan – the Muslim call to prayer – Habeeb Idress explained to the audience that Muslims pray five times a day.
“Prayer is a private dialogue between you and Allah,” Idress said.
The audience watched as rows of standing men knelt down, bowed and touched their foreheads to the ground over and over again.
So the evening begins with non-Muslim visitors hearing the Call to Prayer which, the imam reminds his visitors, “President Obama said was one of the the sweetest sounds in the world.” These guests feel privileged, being allowed to view Muslims at prayer. In fact, there is nothing particularly special about such viewing. All over Europe you can see Muslims praying in city streets and plazas; they are indifferent to the presence of Infidels, even seeming to flaunt their power as they take control of a public space. Now, in the mosque, the visitors watch as serried ranks of men prostrate themselves, facing Mecca-wards (the imam explains: “you see, no matter where in the world Muslims may be, they will always turn toward Mecca in prayer”). For many of the visitors, this may be an impressive display of communal faith. Others may find that as the worshippers touch their foreheads to the ground in near-unison, then straighten up, and then again prostrate themselves, repeating this many times, that they are reminded not of Christian or Jewish prayers but, disturbingly, of an act of collective political fealty, something out of goose-stepping Pyongyang, or reminiscent of a Nuremberg rally, where arms are raised simultaneously in salute.
“I’m very happy to see people from throughout the community attending,” Indrawan said. “This event could unite everyone without thinking where they are from or what their background is and can make Stillwater stronger.”
Hatim Hegab, public cultural coordinator for the Islamic Center of Stillwater, couldn’t agree more.
“We were trying to build bridges between the Islamic Center and the people in Stillwater,” he said.
How are these “bridges” being built between “the Islamic Center and the people in Stillwater”? How is Stillwater becoming “stronger”? Apparently, by events such as these, where nothing of major significance, we will discover, is either asked or answered about Islam, but in a cosy atmosphere of interfaith feelgood (leading some visitors to conclude that “we all worship the same God”), generous portions of taqiyya are served up. The visitors are welcomed by their Muslim hosts, who know exactly what they are doing, beginning with those “warm smiles and open arms” with which they greet their visitors. Who are these visitors? Most of them are innocents who, wanting to find out more about Islam, figure the best place to do it is at a mosque or Islamic Center that has opened its doors to “people of all faiths.” As for those who do know something about Islam, they may not want to endure what they correctly suspect will be an hour or two of propaganda. But they are the very people who should be there, out of a sense of duty, for they can do the most good, by insistently raising issues that the hosts would prefer not be discussed, questioning a presentation, rebutting the misstatements and lies, all in the politest possible way, and always referring to, and quoting from, Islamic texts and teachings. They can provide food for thought to other Infidels in attendance, who without their well-prepared participation might otherwise be taken in.
These open-mosque events follow a predictable pattern. First, there is the warm welcome to “our Christian and Jewish friends who’ve come to our Open-Mosque event, with your open minds and open hearts — you can see that ‘openness’ is the theme of this gathering (laughter) — to learn about our faith, Islam.” Then there will be the usual misleading remarks about the word “Islam”: “As some of you may know, the very word ‘Islam’ is related to ‘salaam,’ peace, as in our greeting ‘salaam aleikum,’ peace be with you. The root of the word Islam, silm, refers to ‘making peace, being in a mutually peaceful environment, greetings, finding peace’ — that’s what Islam, the authentic Islam, as Pope Francis has rightly said, is all about. It has nothing to do with violence. But of course we’re not denying that there are madmen and extremists who call themselves Muslims; we’ve all heard the same terrible stories. Yes, there are such crazies in every religion. I don’t need to remind anyone in Oklahoma about Timothy McVeigh. But keep in mind that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and we keep hearing about the one-one-hundredth of 1% who belong to ISIS and al-Qaeda. Isn’t it time we heard about all the others? Tonight we’re going to talk about the 99.99% of the world’s Muslims who simply lead their peaceful lives, raising their families, giving back to their communities, no different from anyone else.”
The speaker continues: “Another thing you might not know is that we’ve been here since the time of Columbus — some of his crew members were Muslims, that’s a fact we tend to forget, and many others came over as slaves from Africa. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams all mentioned Muslims — they called them “Mohammedans’” — as having the same right to practice their religion as anyone else. Thomas Jefferson studied the Qur’an, and apparently held it in high respect; he held the first Iftar dinner in the White House in 1805. That’s another fact most people don’t know. We are as American as anyone else. We’re lawyers, and doctors, teachers and small businessmen, we’re policemen and firemen, serving our communities, and we’re soldiers serving our country.”
And then: “But now let me turn to the faith itself. Let’s begin with the basics: the Five Pillars of Islam.” At this point, the Muslim hosts might even hand out sheets listing those Five Pillars, giving both their Arabic and English names, making it easier for their non-Muslim guests to follow along as their hosts discuss each one: “There is Shahada (the Profession of Faith), Salat (the five daily prayers), Zakat (the obligatory charity), Sawm (the fasting during Ramadan), and Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca which a Muslim, if he can afford it, should undertake at least once in his life).” Each is discussed briefly, in turn. Who could object to any of this? Well, you could, and I could, if we know what is not being discussed about the Five Pillars. Others will be impressed by the religious fervor of Muslims, and be in no mood to disagree with their hosts, who insist that “We Muslims have a different style of prayer, as you will see. We don’t sit or stand, but prostrate ourselves, facing toward Mecca. And we take our duty of prayer five times a day very seriously, beginning before sunrise and ending after sunset. But we all pray to the same God.” Murmurs among the guests. They’re impressed.
The Muslim hosts may refer inter-faithfully to supposed similarities: “Just as you have Lent, we have Ramadan,” and “we Muslims engage in charity, the same way that Christians and Jews do. Except for us it is obligatory.” Now you should ask your first disturbing question, which is about the recipients of that obligatory Zakat. You should state that you have read, at Muslim sites, that Zakat can be given only to fellow Muslims, or to those non-Muslims who are on their way to converting to Islam and for whom the receipt of such Zakat may further “soften their hearts” toward conversion. If the Muslim hosts deny this, and claim that Zakat is meant for everyone, refer them to the many online Muslim sites — as here — where you obtained that information. Make sure your fellow guests hear you when you repeat, loudly, the link to one of those websites (as “www.quora.com”). This will worry your hosts, who were not prepared for this. Infidel guests, in their view, are supposed to behave themselves, to accept what they are told, not to impolitely contradict their hosts. Who knows more about Islam, anyway — Muslims, or Unbelievers?
Then you should follow up by declaring that you have just one other question. “Isn’t it true,” you ask, that “in saying their five daily prayers, Muslims actually curse the Kuffars — Christians and Jews?” Impassive faces of your guests, attempting to hide their fury. A rustle of interest among your fellow non-Muslims, wondering just who you are. Ideally, you will nave written out in advance on a notecard, so that you may read verbatim, the following from Robert Spencer: “In the course of praying the requisite five prayers a day, an observant Muslim will recite the Fatihah, the first surah of the Qur’an and the most common prayer in Islam, seventeen times. The final two verses of the Fatihah ask Allah: ‘Show us the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast favoured; not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.’ The traditional Islamic understanding of this is that the ‘straight path’ is Islam — cf. Islamic apologist John Esposito’s book Islam: The Straight Path. The path of those who have earned Allah’s anger are the Jews, and those who have gone astray are the Christians.” This will lead to confusion and ill-concealed distress, on the part of your hosts, and likely they will deny that “those who earn anger” means Jews or that “those who have gone astray” means Christians.
At that point, reading again from a notecard, and before your hosts can get a word in edgewise, you can quote Spencer on what the Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir, as well as other Islamic authorities, have understood those verses of the Fatihah to mean:
The renowned Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir explains that “the two paths He described here are both misguided,” and that those “two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians.”
Ibn Kathir’s understanding of this passage is not a lone “extremist” interpretation. In fact, most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray. This is the view of Tabari, Zamakhshari, the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, the Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, and Ibn Arabi, as well as Ibn Kathir.
At this point, your hosts will be thoroughly alarmed at this display of knowledge. They can’t admit that you are right, so will have to content themselves with suggesting that you don’t really understand the complexity of Qur’anic interpretation. “And besides, do you really think that 1.6 billion Muslims get up every day, and seventeen times a day — why seventeen, anyway? — they curse Christians and Jews? You are quoting this Spencer fellow, who I regret to say is infamous for trying to cause trouble among our three abrahamic faiths. I’m not surprised he’s your source. Don’t take my word for it. Just look online at what the Southern Poverty Law Center has to say about Spencer.” That ad hominem attack still won’t constitute an adequate response to what Ibn Kathir and those other Qur’anic commentators claimed about the reference, in the Fatihah, to Christians and Jews. They can’t be dismissed, even if it is Spencer who quotes them. Many of your fellow guests will have been impressed with your intervention.
Of course this didn’t happen. None of the visitors on Open Mosque Day in Stillwater raised such matters. But wherever mosques, or Islamic centers, open wide their doors, it could, and should, happen. It takes only one, or ideally two well-prepared visitors, unbowed, to undo the smooth unrolling of the planned script. Imagine if, among the visitors to the Islamic Center in Stilllwater, there had been even one who knew that the five daily prayers included the cursing of the kuffars, and had quoted the paragraphs by Spencer given above. Among the non-Muslim visitors hearing this exchange, some would have begun to wonder if, just possibly, they should look into the matter for themselves. If they do so, googling on their smartphones “Robert Spencer,” “prayer,” and “seventeen times,” they will find still other Muslim commentators whom Spencer quoted in support of his view. That should definitely unsettle both guests and, for different reasons, their Muslim hosts.
The newspaper account of the Open Mosque held in Stillwater makes no mention of any discussion of Jihad. The meaning, significance, and 1400-year history of Jihad, the very topics that should matter most to non-Muslims, were apparently not brought up by either guests or hosts. The visitors were likely too eager to get along, or too ignorant, or both, to raise the matter with their Muslim hosts. Why bring up inconvenient subjects when it’s so much easier to stick to feelgood pieties and to accept what you are told?
But if someone did ask about Jihad — “What exactly is Jihad?” — at a mosque or Islamic Center in Stillwater or anywhere else, that person would of course be told by the discussion leader that “Jihad’s main meaning has nothing to do with violence, which I know many non-Muslims may not realize. But it’s true. It’s only the extremists, al-Qaeda and ISIS on one side, and of course the Islamophobes on the other, who want you to think that Jihad is all about war. Pope Francis himself has said that ‘authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence.’ The real Jihad is the struggle to master one’s own self. It’s what is called the Jihad al-nafs, that is much more important than the Jihad al-saif, the Jihad of the Sword, which gets so much attention. There are stories about what the Prophet Muhammad did and said, called the hadith, and one of them tells the story of how the Prophet returned home from fighting, declaring that he had come back from the ‘Lesser Jihad’ to the ‘Greater Jihad’ of life at home, and the need to master himself.” Will the original questioner, or any of the visitors, know enough to point out that that oft-quoted story comes from a single, weak hadith? Certainly not.
As I said previously, the only way to contain, though it would be impossible to end altogether, the taqiyya, the misstatements, the lies inflicted on unwary visitors at these Open-Mosque events is for someone to show up — it could be you, answering the call — sufficiently acquainted with both the Qur’an and Hadith to challenge statements that are made, able to raise subjects that are being ignored, and to provide textual support — mainly Qur’anic verses, but with a handful of hadith as well, written out on notecards, ready to be read aloud — for everything he says. This should cause those Muslim hosts no end of trouble. You might even preface your own questions and comments by discussing taqiyya itself as the “religiously-sanctioned dissimulation or denial, of both Islamic belief and practice” in order to protect both the faith and the Believers. Just imagine the effect if you read off a half-dozen quotes, from Muslim scholars, about taqiyya, had at the ready as well Muhammad’s statement in Sahih Bukhari 52.269 that “war is deceit,” and could quote in full the remark by the commentator Ibn Kathir, who wrote that “those believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers…are allowed to show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly.” Ibn Kathir further quotes Muhammad’s companion, Abu Ad-Darda, who said “we smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them.” Overwhelmed by such authorities, there is nothing that your Muslim hosts can reply. They can only offer some feeble response such as “taqiyya is a Shi’a doctrine; we are Sunnis,” or try to dismiss you with “Islamophobes are always bringing up taqiyya, but you should know that it is not something that has been observed for the last thousand years.”
By this time, you will have disturbed your Open-Mosque hosts, as they ponder how to respond to you and your troublesome knowledge. They may try to ignore you, by not calling on you any further. But this will be noticed by your fellow Unbelievers and interpreted, correctly, as a sign that you are too well-informed for these Muslims to handle. Your worrisome display of knowledge, which you are careful to courteously dispense, will disrupt at the very start this Open-Mosque event. This kind of disruption, of course, need not be limited to Open-Mosque and Ask-A-Muslim-Anything events. I once phoned into a radio show that had Tariq Ramadan as its suave guest, and asked him about the “taqiyya” he was practicing (I forget exactly what it was he had just lied about). His response was to feign outrage at my ignorance: didn’t I know taqiyya was practiced only by Shi’a Muslims, and that he was a Sunni? I replied that the doctrine originated among the Shi’a but was then adopted by the Sunnis, and among Muslims has never fallen into desuetude. He had no answer save a scornful “you just don’t know what you are talking about” and he went on quickly to something else, but listeners could sense he had been rattled. It made my day.
You should know, before you attend any Open-Mosque event, that 109 verses in the Qur’an are about Jihad warfare, and be able to quote, from notecards, a dozen or so, including the “Verse of the Sword” (9:5), and 9:29, as well as several of the “terror” verses, including 3:151, 8:12 and 8:60. Read out a few: Allah says he will “cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve” (3:151). He tells his prophet: “[Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.” (8:12) “And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows.” (8:60)
You should quote, too, Muhammad’s famous claim that “I have been made victorious through terror” and give the source, which will impress other guests and scare your Muslim hosts, in that most authoritative collection of hadith, Sahih Bukhari, at 4.52.220. How can all these verses and these remarks by Muhammad, be explained away, or ignored?
Now let’s return to the Stillwater hosts:
Hegab said that since roughly 60 percent of practicing Muslims in the immediate area are Oklahoma State University students, the event was “a good opportunity to meet people and make friends.”
Hegab was hopeful guests walked away with their questions answered and a better understanding of Islam.
If you know very little, or nothing, about Islam, you will not know what questions to ask, nor what answers to challenge. You won’t know the true meaning of the word “Islam.” You won’t know about the limits on who can receive Zakat, or about the cursing of kuffars in the five daily prayers. You won’t know about all the verses that command Believers to wage Jihad in the Qur’an. You won’t know about the verses that tell Muslims to “strike terror” in the hearts of the Unbelievers. You won’t know that in the Qur’an Muslims are described as the “best of peoples,” while Infidels are “the most vile of creatures.” Before attending one of these events, try to prepare yourself as best you can. You could start by googling “Jihad,” “Jizyah,” “taqiyya,” “dhimmi” and go from there, reading the Qur’an, online, with exegetical commentaries. The more you know, the more difficult it will be to lead you astray.
Back at the Stillwater Mosque:
The event has been going on approximately 15 years, according to Hegab.
The community is encouraged to come by and ask questions, Hegab said.
OSU students Matt Durkee, 22, Ethan Williams, 19, and Cooper Kegley, 18, who attend First Presbyterian Church of Stillwater, said they were impressed with what they saw last Sunday.
What did these three young men see? A few smiling Muslims ready with the standard lines of every Muslim apologist, about what “Islam” means, the real meaning of “Jihad,” the Five Pillars, dismissal of the “extremists” who “misunderstand” Islam and, possibly, discussion of 2:256 (“There is no compulsion in religion”) and then of 5:32, which in carefully abridged form, appears to denounce killing, but if read in full, and along with 5:33, explains when, and gruesomely how, killing is permissible. These are the two favorite Qur’anic verses of the apologists. As to 2:256, you can ask how that verse squares with the punishment, which can even be death, for apostates from Islam. Isn’t the threat of death considered “compulsion”? And isn’t the treatment of dhimmis sufficiently onerous to cause — that is, “compel” — some of them to convert to Islam? As to 5:32, you need only read out the whole verse, followed by 5:33, to reveal its true meaning. That should enrage your hosts, but they will have to maintain a forced impassivity.
They [the three young men] were invited to attend by their pastor, Leah Hrachovec, who was one of the guest speakers.
“I’m surprised how normal it was,” said Durkee, aerospace engineering master’s student.
Williams said he had always been curious about Islam and Kegley, [sic] who are both aviation majors, noted the similarities.
“We are really not that different,” Kegley said. “We both pray to God.”
Nathan Schoenfeld, 20, an entrepreneurship major, also stopped by to see the mosque.
“Islam is not well known in Arkansas,” Schoenfeld said about the state where he grew up. “It is really just different people with different religions praying to the same God.”
So it comes down to this level of sublime idiocy. 1400 years of Jihad warfare against all non-Muslims, warfare that is solidly based on the Islamic texts — Qur’an and hadith — along with inculcated contempt and hatred for the Unbelievers — is reduced to this: “We are really not that different. We both pray to God,” and still more idiotic, we are “really just different people with different religions praying to the same God.” Karen Armstrong would be pleased. Stillwaters, alas, do not run deep.
Stephanie Wheatley was a 19-year-old political science major at OSU when America was attacked on 9/11.
She remembers hearing people saying negative things about Islam and Muslims and called her father to vent.
“What are you going to do about it?” she remembers him asking.
She went on to get her doctorate and has taught religious studies at OSU.
“Jesus’ most famous sermon in the gospel is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew,” Wheatley said. “Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called children of God.’ I don’t think that is just blessed are the Christian peace makers or the Jewish peace makers or the Muslim peace makers. Blessed are the peace makers, without provocation, for they will be called the children of God. I think if we can focus on that, we’ve done something.”
Which Muslim peace makers are these? Possibly Stephanie Wheatley will understand things better after she studies what Muhammad taught, and how he lived his life. She could begin with his most famous sayings, which she may usefully compare with the sermons of Jesus. She won’t find praise of “peace makers” anywhere in Islam. The Qur’an is a manual of war. Muslims are commanded in 109 verses of the Qur’an to wage Jihad. All praise goes to those who fight in the way of Allah against the Infidels; the highest praise, and greatest reward in the afterlife, goes to those who die while fighting the Infidels. They are told to kill the Unbelievers, wherever they find them. In several verses, they are told to “strike terror” in the hearts of the Infidels. They must wage war until the entire world belongs to Allah. Muhammad famously said that “war is deceit,” and claimed that “I have been made victorious through terror.” These are not Christian sentiments. 1.6 billion Muslims are taught that the man who uttered them, the Prophet Muhammad, is the “Perfect Man” (al-insan al-kamil) and the Model of Conduct (uswa hasana). This “Model of Conduct” who consummated his marriage to Aisha when she was nine years old, who was glad to hear when his loyal followers had murdered those — Asma bin Marwan, Abu Afak, Ka’b bin al-Ashraf — who had mocked him, who participated himself in killing 600-900 bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, was nothing like Jesus, either in his teachings or in his life.
These Open-Mosque events, like the one in Stillwater, Oklahoma, are being held all over the place. They depend, for their success, on the ignorance and naivety of visitors, people whose visit to a mosque leads them to conclude only that “we all worship the same God.” It does not take much, but it does take something, to prepare oneself to become a warrior for truth, to attend these endless exercises in taqiyya, and to undermine the nonsense and lies, sowing confusion among the Muslim hosts, merely by offering a handful of pointed questions to which you already know, and are ready in detail to provide, the answers. Given the civilizational stakes, it’s a task worth taking on.