THE WAR WE ARE IN December 9, 2003 by Joe Sobran As the United States gets more deeply embroiled in the Middle Eastern conflict between Jews and Muslims, Americans would do well to acquaint themselves with the rival religions of Judaism and Islam. Much of what follows is drawn from a small book called INSIDE ISLAM: A GUIDE FOR CATHOLICS, by Daniel Ali and Robert Spencer, which in turn draws on the Koran and other Islamic sources. Mr. Ali himself is a scholarly Iraqi Kurd who converted from Islam to Catholicism. To a Christian, especially a Catholic schooled in the Thomist tradition, the most startling thing about Islam is its conception of Allah. According to Muslim teaching, Allah is not only all-powerful, but free even to contradict himself and the laws of logic; man, on the other hand, has no free will. If he wished, Allah could reverse his own moral commands and bless murder and adultery, though he chooses not to. (He could also mandate same-sex marriage if he chose. His omnipotence is comparable only to that of an American court; and to the Western Christian he appears nearly as arbitrary.) Islam accepts parts of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, but it radically changes their significance. It reveres Jesus as a great prophet (and Mary as his virgin mother), but denies his divinity. Indeed it regards the Trinity as a blasphemous doctrine; belief in it is a form of polytheism, worthy of damnation. Allah is not "the Father," and he has no son. Muhammad himself was only a man and a prophet, claiming no divine nature for himself. The Koran denies that Jesus was crucified or actually died. If Christians are damned, so are Jews, whom the Koran calls "sons of pigs and monkeys." Muhammad himself, a warrior as well as a prophet, ordered the assassination of numerous Jewish leaders and rejoiced at the killing of a Jewish woman who had mocked him in indecent verses. Only Muslims can be saved. Another small book, JEWISH HISTORY, JEWISH RELIGION, by the late Israel Shahak, illuminates the influence of Talmudic Judaism on the state of Israel. According to Shahak, the Talmud and associated traditional teachings "inculcate an attitude of scorn and hatred toward gentiles," especially Christians. One ancient prayer beseeches, "[May] all the Christians perish instantly." The Talmudic literature is more concerned with ritual and practice than with theology as Christians understand it. Still, it's imbued with what Shahak calls "a very deep hatred towards Christianity." "According to the Talmud," he writes, "Jesus was executed by a proper rabbinical court for idolatry, inciting other Jews to idolatry, and contempt for rabbinical authority." Other Jewish sources accuse him of sorcery and assert that he was damned to hell, where he suffers in boiling excrement; also that he was a "bastard," his mother having "played the harlot" with Roman soldiers and conceived him, uncleanly, during menstruation. Beyond such graphic specifics, Shahak quotes many Talmudic passages forbidding Jews to save the lives of gentiles (except under unusual circumstances), forbidding the sale of land to gentiles, forbidding the drinking of wine handled by gentiles, forbidding Jews to praise gentiles, forbidding gentiles to testify in rabbinical courts, and so on. The pious Jew is directed to spit (ideally, three times) when passing a gentile cemetery, or when seeing a crucifix. In Judaism, adultery is among the gravest of sins. Adultery by a married Jewish woman is a capital offense for both parties. But a Jewish man may copulate with any gentile woman, married or not, with impunity, since gentiles are presumed "utterly promiscuous," like beasts. Thus "the concept of adultery does not apply to intercourse between a Jewish man and a gentile woman." And murder? "A gentile murderer who happens to be under Jewish jurisdiction must be executed whether the victim was Jewish or not. However, if the victim was gentile and the murderer converts to Judaism, he is not punished." Neither the state of Israel nor most Arab states adhere rigorously to Judaic and Islamic law. But these examples are enough to suggest how alien their cultures are to Christian and Western modes of thinking. They conceive the world in entirely different ways, and it's the most naive folly to imagine that we pragmatic Americans can settle their metaphysical enmities by imposing the machinery of what we call "democracy." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Read this column on-line at "http://www.sobran.com/columns/2003/031209.shtml". Copyright (c) 2003 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate, www.griffnews.com. 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