Monday, April 2, 2018

For My LDS Readers: A Critique of Daniel Peterson's Ensign Article

The April 2018 Ensign has an article entitled "Understanding Islam" by Daniel C. Peterson. Peterson is a professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University, and a Muslim apologist. As such, the article is ostensibly to provide members of the Church with a basic understanding of some of the core tenants of Islam, as well as some history. But, rather than just explain Islam, Peterson slips into a role of advocating for it; or, at the least, encouraging us to welcome its practitioners with open arms. I am reminded of the warning in Ezekiel 33:6, which states:
But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.
I'm afraid Peterson may be held accountable for his article.

        Several things leaped out at me as I read his article. First, when describing the sources of Muslim doctrine and practice, he completely ignores the Hadith, which are collections of stories of Mohammad and his interpretation and application of the Koran. (Although Peterson later mentions the Hadith, it is in passing and deemphasizes its importance). This is, I believe, a significant omission because it is the Hadith which informs Muslims on what is a "good" Muslim; that is, what is acceptable and what is not. The Hadith stands in relation to the Koran in much the same way as the New Testament stands in relation to the Old Testament. 

        Second, Peterson downplays Islam's history of violence and territorial expansion. For instance, Peterson goes out of his way to describe Mohammad as "a middle-aged Arabian merchant," and, later in his life, "the lawgiver, judge, and political leader of an important Arabian town and, over time, of the Arabian Peninsula." No mention of Mohammad's life as a warlord. Peterson similarly ignores or downplays the violence inherent in the Muslim belief system, including terrorism. For instance, he begins a section noting that there are "[t]hree focal points of contemporary non-Muslim concern about Islam are religious violence; Islamic, or shari‘a, law; and Islam’s treatment of women." However, on each point, he concludes that Muslims vary considerably and not all adopt the mainstream (although he doesn't term it that way) views of Islam on each of those points. In fact, as to jihad, Peterson writes: "Some extremists have used the term jihad to refer exclusively to 'holy war,' but the word actually means 'practical work,' as opposed to 'mere' prayer and scripture study." He goes on to write:
Muslim jurists and thinkers have varied in their understanding of jihad. Standard legal sources argue, for instance, that acceptable military jihad must be defensive and that opponents must be forewarned and allowed opportunity to cease provocative actions. Some jurists and other Muslim thinkers today argue that jihad can designate any practical action intended to benefit the Islamic community or to improve the world more generally. Muhammad is said to have distinguished between the “greater jihad” and the “lesser jihad.” The latter, he said, is warfare. But the greater jihad is to combat injustice as well as one’s personal resistance to living righteously.
Then he adds that "Moreover, it’s important to note that the vast majority of the world’s Muslims have not joined the terrorists in their violence." While technically true, it ignores that the vast majority of the world's Muslims have expressed their support of the terrorist's aims. 

         In any event, there is a clear militancy to Islam expressed on the Koran.  For instance, addressing similar statements by another apologist, Robert Spencer has explained:
For example, he [Sohaib Sultan] claims that “when the Quran allows (and, sometimes, even encourages) Muslims to engage in just fighting and resistance, it is in order to deter those who wage wars without just cause and those who engage in religious persecution.” Here and throughout his article, however, his use of Quranic passages is selective and out of context. He doesn’t mention, for example, the exhortation to Muslims to fight not just until “persecution is no more,” but also until “religion is all for Allah” (8:39). He mentions only in passing, without quotation, the Quran’s call to Muslims to fight against the “People of the Book” (primarily Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians) until they “pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (9:29)— i.e., until they submit to Muslim hegemony.
         Third, Peterson attempts to allay readers fears of Islam by noting some positive comments by past Church leaders about Islam (but ignoring anything that might be taken as negative), writing: "We should also recall that our Church leaders have generally been strikingly positive in their appreciation of the founder of Islam." The unspoken implication is that such statements were inspired, and, therefore, the Lord must also be appreciative of Islam. The latter is, of course, laughable. Islam is a false religion, a caricature of Christianity. Islam almost completely eradicated Christianity--it certainly destroyed the primary centers of Christian thought in the First Millennium, which were all located in the Middle East--and its followers have killed and continue to kill Christians in grossly disproportionate numbers. In any event, it is questionable whether early Church leaders had a good understanding of Islam.

         And that brings me to my final point, which is that Islam is at war with Christianity all over the world, yet Peterson seems intent on lulling readers into a false sense of security. He is, because of his greater knowledge of Islam, the watchman, but he refuses to blow the trumpet. 

Related Post: "Is Allah = Satan?"

4 comments:

  1. Here is an earlier Ensign article about Islam - "Islam and Mormonism" by Hugh Nibley - published in 1972. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1972/03/islam-and-mormonism-a-comparison?lang=eng

    At its most fundamental level, Islam denies the mission of Christ. Islam teaches that Christ is not the Son of God, was not crucified for our sins, and was not resurrected. Instead, they believe that Jesus was a mere prophet, inferior to Mohammad.

    Islam is the Church of the Devil that was prophesied in the Bible, but don't take my word for this. Prayerfully start learning about Islam. LDS theology provides a unique perspective that will allow you to clearly understand things that are less than clear to most Christians. The Lord will direct you to resources to aid your studies and will reveal truths to you. The Lord will give you an unshakeable testimony, absolute knowledge, that Islam is the Church of the Devil, and that Allah is Satan.

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  2. Based on his article on Islam, a 'Daniel C. Peterson" description' of Hitler and his National Socialists might run something like this:

    Adolf Hitler was fourth in a family of six children. He grew into a patriotic man of insight, whose love extended beyond himself and his own family, to the whole Germanic people. Adolf was a non-smoking, vegetarian who promoted living a healthy lifestyle. He was a credible painter and admired Martin Luther.

    Like Joseph Smith, Adolf was forced to spend some time in jail, where he too, penned some of his most notable writing (Mein Kampf). Mein Kampf suggests a way of living peacefully together. While some critics have had concerns about Adolf's disagreements with the Jews, others (e.g. PLO, Hamas, and various Islamic leaders) have been supportive.

    Adolf became a statesman and an inspiring leader in his time. Like in the early years of the church, Adolf was able to set up a form of the cherished law of consecration (called national socialism) throughout much of Europe.

    Before it became fashionable to direct hate speech at Adolf, great Americans such as Henry Ford, Charles Lindberg and William Hearst have all expressed their admiration for him. Much like the LDS church, some of Adolf's supporters today, despair that "it is hard to get an honest history" written about Nazism.
    Overall, there seems no reason why Latter-Day Saints and Nazis cannot live side-by-side and cooperate together. Together, we can demonstrate that believing in something can be a powerful force for justifiably good ends.

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    Replies
    1. You do a very good imitation of Peterson. And apply illustrate his method of lulling members into a false sense of security. Thank you.

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