Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

“The tongue of malice is wet with falsehood; the mouth of malice spits lies.”


—An “ancient” proverb composed in 1988

On religion and deception

This is the kind of article that makes me wish my Arabic were fluent enough to allow me to translate the Qur’an for myself. According to Google, the internet offers nearly a million pages offering such translations, but since they all differ, it is fair to ask how authoritative any one of them can be.

Who is this 'Glen Reinsford'?

Who is this ‘Glen Reinsford’?
[ Image Source ]

Unfortunately, given the controversies surrounding Islam (largely thanks to sites like this one), it has become difficult to find a translation that is demonstrably unbiased: Those advocating and those opposing Islam each accuse one another of intentionally distorting their translations to promote their respective agendas, and the two sides do not appear to agree to recognize any third party’s version as genuinely impartial; there is no accepted middle ground here.

I have twice read what seemed to me a fairly objective translation, the result of a collaboration between a Muslim and a Christian; as I recall, it made no effort, on the one hand, to gloss over any passages that might tend to offend believers in rival faiths, nor, on the other, to amplify them. This leads me to regard it as perhaps closer to the mark than translations made by someone with an obvious thesis to support, and despite its faults (it lacked all poetry and often seemed disjointed, as the Arabic original most certainly does not), it is therefore a reasonable choice as a baseline for comparison.

Herein lies the fundamental incredibility of this article: It appears consistently to seek the most discreditable possible interpretation of every passage to which it refers. To take one characteristic example, this page quotes Sura 3, verse 54, to the effect that “Allah is the best of schemers,” with an addendum to suggest that the form of “scheme” that applies here refers to “deception.” I remember this sura rather differently, however: In the translation with which I’m most familiar, “planners” is found in lieu of “schemers,” with the context suggesting that the “planning” in question is associated with the act of laying the plans on which the creation of the world was predicated; surely, it suggests, he who planned the world is the world’s arch-planner.

Meanwhile, troubling questions exist about TheReligionOfPeace.com itself.

The site’s principal is named in various documents as Glen Reinsford. There is, however, a perplexing dearth of information available on anyone of this name, except in one source: Reverend Jim Sutter’s ChasingEvil.org, which suggests a possible reason for the data vacuum: that “Glen Reinsford” is a pseudonym taken by a Peter Oliver of Marietta, Georgia. A screenshot supplied by ChasingEvil and purporting to come from a WhoIs search appears atop this review by way of documentation. Note, however, that I cannot regard this as authoritative either, for there appears to be nothing readily found that would either corroborate or refute its assertions.

One conclusion does emerge from all this, though: If someone wants to lie, he will do so, and he will do so without reference to his religious scriptures. This is a matter of morality, not of doctrine; and, as we see, there is no shortage of mendacity among the followers of any faith. Even as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be lying in saying that Iran’s nuclear development has no ulterior military intent, so either Glen Reinsford/Peter Oliver or Rev. Jim Sutter (both apparently Christians) is apparently lying here. And I doubt either of them scanned the Bible for loopholes before doing so.

Update

I wrote the foregoing nearly four years ago. Since that time, the chasingevil page has vanished without a trace, and there is no means of verifying its claims. I therefore infer that the claims are not reliable. Glen Reinsford, operator of thereligionofpeace.com, is apparently using a pseudonym, but there is nothing wrong in that, and to the best of my knowledge his actual name remains a secret.

However, in those four years I have also taken the time to read the Qur'an in fundamentally similar translations that are used by Muslims in worship, and although there is still no such thing as a universal consensus, they have far more in common than otherwise. These translations may therefore be considered more authoritative than the numerous splinter-versions endorsed by Islamophobes. Not perhaps The Truth, since like any ideology, Islam is open to interpretation even in the presence of an accepted translation, but certainly a better approximation of truth than is otherwise available.

Now it may be said that since I took the Shahada on 2 May 2014 and therefore am a Muslim, I am biased. But this is to overlook that I studied before I converted, and what I learned in these studies was sufficient to convince me that far more truth lives in Islam than in the claims of its detractors.

I am now in a position to recommend a translation: The Noble Qur'an, offering the original Arabic side-by-side with an English translation, verse by verse, with explanatory footnotes, is the most widely accepted version used by Muslims in both the Middle East and the West. My command of Arabic remains rudimentary, but I have found that I now understand enough of it to verify that the translation offered, while not the only possible interpretation, certainly is not a deception.

What does that translation say? Does it ordain a religion of peace, or one of war? Are Muslims instructed to love and respect people of other faiths, or to hate and attack them? Is Islam spread by force or choice? Since I became a Muslim after answering these questions to my own satisfaction, you may assume that the answers are not what thereligionofpeace.com and its ilk say they are; but I don't ask you to do this. One of the prime merits of Islam is that it contains no hierarchy set up to tell Muslims what part of the Qur'an to read when, and how to “correctly” interpret them; such questions are left between the believer and Allah, and the believer must think for himself.

This, therefore, is what I would have you do. Read the Qur'an for yourself, see what it really contains, and answer my questions in the preceding paragraph of your own knowledge. If you would avoid being deceived about what a book says, don’t take anyone else’s understanding for your own — read it.

Originally published as an adverse review of a thereligionofpeace.com article suggesting that the Qur’an calls on Muslims to lie.

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