Will prosecuting the Koran lead to liberalism's apocalypse?

Saturday, March 11, 2006
A post at No Dhimmitude has me chuckling. It seems there is a grassroots movement underway in Germany that is pressuring the police to lay charges against the Koran (see here and here):
By Kent Olsen, correspondent to Jyllands-Posten:

A broad alliance of grass-roots movements have gone to the prosecutors of several states to hinder the dissemination of the Quran. According to the indictment, the Quran is not just a religious and historic book, but also a political book, which is incompatible with the [German] constitution...

The real target in this action, it seems to me, must eventually be not so much Islam, as the present liberal order that would set itself up as the arbiter of what is or is not acceptable speech or writing. Liberalism, having decayed into a wholly victimary politics in which "progressive" forces appoint themselves the judges of what groups or individuals may claim a victim status, which one is not permitted to publicly criticize (if one is to share in the world of our liberal institutions), has reverted to a primitive system of demonization.

What is left of public debate is largely ritualized denunciations and contests over victim status. Lacking more sophisticated forms of discrimination that would appeal to universal truths - by explaining not indulging the human reliance on sacrificial or victimary forms - our contemporary liberalism leaves itself unable to even begin figuring out the problem that the rise of Islam in Europe presently poses for traditional liberal values, like free speech.

The victimary liberal knows of course that Muslims are mostly members in good standing of the the third world, and are thus assumed to be true patriots in the post-colonial movement to reveal the evils of western imperialism. With occasional exceptions, they are to be accorded victim status. So what is the liberal to make of the fact that anyone who has spent a little time with the Koran will have difficulty denying that this holy book aggressively and regularly curses various orders of unbeliever?

While Muslims warn us that we cannot understand the Koran unless we read it (preferably in Arabic) with a full and proper knowledge of the context in which it was progressively revealed, it would be naive to think that most intellectually honest persons with a knowledge of Islamic history would doubt that the Koran is a book that tends to promote an imperialistic faith, one that would deny or erode such things as secular/sacred and religious/political distinctions, in its fight for a unity of believers, submitting to the final word of the one god, in the dream of an Umma that will one day comprise all of humanity. The Koran, in short, demands of us a rather limited or particular version of multiculturalism. In the words of its present accusers:
The [present] indictment is against the 200 verses of 114 suras (ED:chapters) of the Quran that are not compatible with the [German] constitution, including demagoguery, incitement to murder, murder and mutilation, war, acceptance of thievery against infidels, meaning all non-Moslems. Verses are also pointed out where the equal rights of men and women are not upheld and where people of different faiths are oppressed.

Example: “The unbelievers among the People of the Book (Jews and Christians): They are the vilest of all creatures.” (Sura 98:6)

According to the indictment that paragraph violates Article 4 of the Constitution and Paragraph 166 of the Penal Code.

But this attempt to ban the Koran should only go to show that the liberal dream of a humanity united in some multicultural harmony (a "multiculturalism" which is actually conceived as a unity - "we are the world" - in opposition to some patriarchal oppressor of old who has been cast out of politically-correct society, the oppressor often being figured as a white imperialist or a rabid, often Jewish, free marketeer) is unrealistic in its denial of some basic facts about human differences, especially those having to do with our relationships to historically-specific understandings of the sacred.

The problems and conflicts that inevitably ensue from human rivalries over the sacred cannot be mediated by those who would wave magic multiculti wands at words and books, either banning or promoting forms of speech, and assuming that reality will fall in line with judicial and professorial pronouncements. Muslims in Germany are not going to stop reading the Koran even if - though this is impossible to imagine - it is banned. Knowing this, liberals will have to find some basis to defend the Koran's presence among us, e.g. denying that victims can victimize, in what will become - as westerners learn more about the Koran - increasingly byzantine locutions that will increasingly be reviled.

No, the only way to deal with conflicts among people holding significantly different religious-political value systems is to define and deal with problem people, either by openly and honestly excluding them from one's society (recognizing and respecting them as one's other, not as some victimary obstacle eventually to be overcome) or by demanding all present behave according to some common understanding of civility, rights and freedoms.

True diversity can only be defended and encouraged by allegiance to the original human unity from which all diversity flows. But such respect for that which is universally human depends on people having full intellectual and political freedom to develop their understanding of fundamental or originary truths. Contemporary liberalism denies the universal truth in the name of the victim of the former white imperialists who defended - i would say with both honesty and hypocrisy - their colonial projects in the name of universal values. To the victimary liberal, belief in universal values is just a hegemonic conceit.

Having discarded universal truth for the cult of victimhood (a cult which denies the intellectual means - i.e. a universal anthropolgy of the sacred - by which it might itself be explained and placed in history), the reigning liberal hegemony cannot honestly deal with a claim that the Koran promotes hate, nor should it try. It should simply give way to people who know that a national community cannot be all things to all people, but must distinguish itself from other nations according to some historically specific or particular understandings of its relationship to the sacred.

The paradox is that universal truths can only be pursued by allegiance to particular traditions for exploring them. Let Muslims - privately, or in the public sphere of Muslim lands - pursue their traditions, and westerners theirs, without the multiculti conceit that the two can be synthesized in some public ecumenicalism.

The only basis for inter-faith dialogue is a shared committment to intellectual freedom and to the particular (likely secular) anthropological discipline that best realizes this freedom. Religions are, among other things, anthropological hypotheses that can then be judged by the degree of human self-understanding and hence freedom they allow.


Eric Blair said...

Umm..there are no 'Muslim lands'. There are only Lands where there are Muslims. (or whatever else).

Do not start spouting that 'cuius regio, eius religio' crap.

The simple fact is that either Islam must change, or the rest of the world must change.

CF said...

European democracy is still quite young and when we look at their concept of free speech we must realize that what we had considered like systems are truly not.

Fallaci risks jail for criticizing Islam; Irving gets a three year sentence for denying the Holocaust,it is illegal to criticize EU officials,a man who published a poem elsewhere in Europe is wanted by Greece for blasphemy. And yet Germans want to ban the Koran, imams can incite violence in the UK,and the most mild Mohammed cartoons result in tearful apologies. Puzzling.

David Thomson said...

There are three reasons why Europe is likely doomed.

1.) demographics: I see no evidence whatsoever to indicate that the indigenous Europeans are going to start having families of four to six children each. They currently think twice before even bringing one or two children into the world.

2.) socialist economics: the Europeans have surrendered to the siren call of the welfare state. This precludes the possibility of economically assimilating the crazed Muslim males. The general unemployment rates will unfortunately remain above 10%.

3.) political correctness: the very concept of free speech is utterly alien to Europe’s intellectual class. They have no real idea what we are talking about. The continent needs a vigorous debate---and that ain’t gonna happen!

Pastorius said...

Hi True Peers,
This is a very thoughtful post. And, I must say, while I was at first happy to hear about the German action to prosecute the Koran, Dag made me think again.

You are correct in saying the following:

"... this attempt to ban the Koran should only go to show that the liberal dream of a humanity united in some multicultural harmony is unrealistic in its denial of some basic facts about human differences ..."

And, having given this issue more thought, I believe that an adherence to absolute free speech is what we need. The truth will set us free, or as I always say, You gotta love your enemies when they tell you the truth.

But, the thing is, eventually, if a large moderate Muslim contingent does not make itself heard, if a large moderate Muslim contingenet does not join us in the fight against Islamofascism, if a large moderate Muslim contingent does not assert itself, and reform Islam as we know it,

then we are going to be forced to do some very illiberal things in order to rid ourselves of the fascists in our midst.

One of the ideas that I have been playing with is this:

Sharia is itself a Constitution for an Islamic state.

Therefore, anyone advocating for the establishment of Sharia law within a Western state is advocating for the overthrow of that state.

They are also advocating for the abolishment of a generally-accepted set of Human Rights.

As such, anyone advocating for the establishment of Sharia law within a Western state is a treasonous criminal and should be thrown in jail.

I am not sure if I am, in this reasoning, attacking free speech, or if I am upholding the rights of the state to protect itself.

What do you think?

David Thomson said...

“Therefore, anyone advocating for the establishment of Sharia law within a Western state is advocating for the overthrow of that state.”

I completely agree with Sidney Hook’s thesis that totalitarian ideologies like Communism and Islamic fascism should be treated differently from those that are premised upon freedom. There is no reason to allow these people to teach on a college campus---or be employed in the government. They are indeed enemies of a civilized society. In it is fair very to asset that these folks have declared war on the rest of us.

terrye said...

I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church and I can remember hearing people debate whether or not Catholics would ever see the Kingdom of Heaven.

Yes, there are some really strange things in the Koran, but then again the Bible tells us not to suffer a witch to live.

Here in the US the government fought a brief war against the Mormons in Utah, we all know how that ended..Utah is a state.

But as much as I might disagree with the belief system in Islam, persecuting a religious faith is counter productive to say the least.

The courts are secular...religion exists in the realm of the sacred.

truepeers said...

Eric, yes I think I largely agree with you on this one. I would not want to say in any definitive sense that, for example, Pakistan and Egypt are Muslim lands, keeping in mind that they were once predominantly Christian lands and may yet one day be again. In any case, there should be much more freedom for the Christians still there today to practice their faith.

I do think Islam has to change, if it cannot make the rest of the world change, which I doubt it can. But this change will be different according to place. In Europe, Islam will either win out or accommodate itself to the historical Judeo-Christian particularism of Europe, which leads to fairly clear divisions between church and state, among other things. But in places like Egypt and Pakistan the local intellectuals will have more space (if less creative pressure to accommodate) to explore the Koran and develop more particularly Islamic solutions to the western call for the expansion of values conducive to participation in a global economy and civilization.

On a practical level we have to work with the fact that there are lands in which Islam presently rules. Future forms of “democracy” in these lands will likely have an Islamic flavor. I do not expect or hope the same for Germany.

I would accent again my essential point, that universal truths can only be pursued from within a particular, historical tradition, and not some vague ecumenicalism that seeks syntheses of the different faith traditions. What the different traditions minimally share is not sufficiently concrete for anyone to construct a model of faith with which to guide his life. One must make the somewhat arbitrary leap to belief in particular historical models of faith, if one is to have a strong faith, something i think is generally conducive to participation in a global market society.

truepeers said...


I agree with DT's response to your question on Sharia. It is not compatible with western constitutions and those who advocate for it should be denied public or educational podiums, roundly criticized, but only jailed if they promote violence in the cause, which of course is a hard line to draw given the historical nature of the promotion of Islam.

BTW, have you seen Daniel Pipes' updating on the question of what the Pope really thinks about the Koran? see here

MeaninglessHotAir said...

What you are calling "Liberalism" is the direct intellectual descendent of Puritanism. I can see the process of conversion right in my own lifetime with the people around me. More later.

Pastorius said...

I am lost a bit here. In your response to me you say that if people call for violence in advocating for Sharia, then we should arrest them.

But, you say we should not prosecute the Koran.

But, what does the Koran do, if not advocate for the establishment of Sharia through the means of violence?

Could you clarify?

Pastorius said...


You said:

"I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church and I can remember hearing people debate whether or not Catholics would ever see the Kingdom of Heaven.

Yes, there are some really strange things in the Koran, but then again the Bible tells us not to suffer a witch to live."

Are you saying that the wackiness of Christianity is equal to the wackiness of Islam?

I find it interesting that no one else challenged you on your seeming non sequiter. Maybe, I just don't understand what you are saying.

terrye said...


No I am saying that if people decide to start looking at the Holy Scriptures and choosing parts of it that are not compatable with modern democratic and western life, there will be no shortage of examples.

And of course I am not saying there is no difference between Christianity and Sharia, but there are over 1 billion Muslims in the world and unless we intend to kill them all, wipe all evidence of their religion from history, destroy all Korans and pretend there was never any such person as Mohammed then I suggest we find another way to deal with their religion than trying to criminalize it.

truepeers said...

Pastorius, I'm having trouble posting and will have to go out soon, so i can maybe think over the conundrum you've posed me. I tried to post this response to Terrye earlier:

The courts are secular...religion exists in the realm of the sacred.

-Terrye, keep in mind that our (essentially Christian) understanding of the difference between secular and sacred is not shared by many Muslims, yet. Given our sense of a secular space it is easier for us to live with Muslims (at least when they are a minority) than it is for Muslims to live with Christians or Jews who they would reduce to Dhimmis if not violently persecute.

terrye said...


Yes, I understand to them it is all the same.

And pastorus, I was referring to truepeers' post in which he said that there was a move in Germany to block the dissemination of the Koran based on specific passages. I was just saying that if the Bible were approached that way there would also be passages not compatable with modern liberal life.

That does not mean I am a supporter of Sharia.

terrye said...

As for moderate Muslims, I think they are there, but often times we refuse to see them.

One thing the whole incident with Dubai ports showed me is that we also have our prejudices.

Rick Ballard said...


Isn't this groundwork for moving the 'oppressed' to the 'opressor' category? In that great whorehouse which constitutes 'leftist thought' a status change appears to be getting underway. Perhaps a little akin to the lefties change of heart regarding Israel. After all, Israel wa punished for not hewing quite closely enough to the Soviet ideal beginning in the early '60's. The Soviets sold them out in the blink of an eye when the opportunity arose to create dependent client states in the ME - which is precisely when the Pali bums, which no Arab nation wanted anything to do with, were accorded their still extant status as "victim".

I'd say that putting a "hateful" tag on the Koran is a signal that mistreating Muslims is now the "progressive" thing to do. Lefty ideology has been a brain dead farce for over thirty years but there are still rules to their game and it appears to me that this is just an exercise of one of those rules.

It will be loads of fun watching them try and hold the Palis up as victims on one hand while casting Islam as the oppressor on the other. They can do it with ease because logic exited leftist thought ages ago. The only thing that counts today is feelling.

terrye said...


Yes, people forget that once upon a time Israel was not considered a "fascist" state. That came later.

Now that they are getting a taste of their own medicine the folks in Europe have decided that Koran is a bad thing, unless someone is using it as justification to kill Jews or Americans.

all very complicated.

Pastorius said...

I agree that if the Bible were approached the same way these Germans are approaching the Koran it too could be prosecuted for hate speech.

In fact, I think that has been attempted recently with regard to what the Bible has to say about homosexuals, if I am not mistaken.

And, as TruePeers cites, Dag also has an interesting article on this subject, wherein he notes that the Bhagavad Gita is also full of violence.

But, Dag notes, for whatever reason, we don't see Christians and Hindus doing the things we see Muslims doing.

There has to be some foundational difference which is qualifiable. I honestly can not define it. I guess I can say that in the Bible there is no Dar al Harb vs. Dar al-Christianity distinction, and Christians are encouraged to love those who do not know God, instead of slaying them wherever they find them.

But, the thing is, the violent verses of the Bible are in the Old Testament, and for the most part we do not see Jews being violent in the name of their religion either.

So, what is the qualifiable difference?

TruePeers? Bueller? Anyone?

truepeers said...

you say that if people call for violence in advocating for Sharia, then we should arrest them.

But, you say we should not prosecute the Koran.

But, what does the Koran do, if not advocate for the establishment of Sharia through the means of violence?

-Well, I suppose lots of books (perhaps also video games, movies, etc.) advocate violence, some even advocate the violent overthrow of governments and states, and we don't often try to ban them. Why not?

-Well, the easy answer, alluded to in the reports i linked - because it was an argument previously used in Germany - is that the Koran is a historical document that we can presumably value as such and learn from in all kinds of ways without taking up its call to violence in the here and now.

-But of course there are some people, if only a few at present, who are actively taking the Koran's violent message to heart in the western here and now. This fact has to be balanced with the realization that many take value from the Koran (and other works) without acting violently. One could even argue that reading the Koran does more to release than encourage violent tensions - though i don't know how you'd try to prove it. If what i say in this paragraph is true, then it more clearly shifts the responsibility for violence to those who perform it rather than to the book which does not lead to violence in most of its readers.

If, however, you could show that a certain book led its readers, in most cases, into violence, or to active support for it, then i think it would indeed be the book on which we would have to pin responsibility, and try to ban it. Of course in this situation it would be a mistake to put too much effort into hunting down the book. It would have to be the book's believers that we would target and try to defeat, not the book which they would circulate among themselves regardless of our law. If however we found the book, we could arrest its owner.

In the modern world, this is not likely to happen because we have too many means to mediate and defer our potential violence. If it did happen, it would be a sign that we had returned to some more primitive order in which my arguments wouldn't matter much and it would be a fight to the finish between warring camps.

truepeers said...

Pastorious, the difference between the Old Testament and the Koran is that the former is a historical account of how the faith of the Jews was tested by God in various difficult situations. The violence is rather more descriptive than proscriptive. It has been a couple of thousand years since Jews proselytized and they never went at it with the fervour of Muslims or Christians. Jews only claim for themselves the land of Israel and associate their book not with a project to convert all humanity but rather to define one particular people or nation.

Christians have a universalizing project, but as you note it is carried out, or at least it's supposed to be, under the banner of God is love. It is only Muslims who (may) have both a vision of an aggressively demanding God *and* a mission to convert all of humanity to his cause, whatever the means.

truepeers said...

Rick, i think there is much to your analysis, though i imagine there may be some "conservatives" not just lefties in the present German campaign.

racrecir said...

This is a confusing thread. At first I thought that the primary actor here was the left. Upon closer inspection, I see that this is a right-wing action to both challenge Islam and subvert the liberal order, I think. I hope the author adds an update clarifying the actors and their roles because the language employed here is formulaic and imprecise. I recall a poster at RedState mistakenly defaulted attribution of the Danish cartoons to the left and I initially sensed that here. Some commenters here also appear to be under an uncertain impression. Some clarification is required. Thanks.

terrye said...


Yes, there is a difference, but I am not sure it is just a relgious one.

I read some time ago that honor killing predates Islam.

truepeers said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
truepeers said...


My initial thought is to dismiss your question. It sounds as if you can't think for yourself but need the whole world reduced to comic book characterizations. I'm not going to do that for you. But while i can't speak for other people here, i'll tell you this: i consider myself a centrist - not simply politically, but also in terms of my intellectual interest in the anthropology of the sacred, of our dependence on centrality as a fundamental fact of human ontology.

I also think that a certain kind of conservatism is today the best defender of the centre, of humanity as the being centred on centres. But there is no reason to think this has always or will always be so. The political (as opposed to intellectual) positions we hold are nothing if we think we can hold them in face of changing time and context.

Whether or not I'm challenging Islam depends, i suppose, on Muslims' present understanding of both Islam and my position. I certainly don't take it as a given that i will always be challenging Islam, or parts thereof, but in certain contexts no doubt that is what i would be doing.

As for the liberal order, it too once had good reasons in its defense. Times change however, and all ideas are discounted in the marketplace till the point where they seize to have value. Today, those who call themselves liberals have no ideas i am interested in, or so it seems to this shopper. I think they - self-describing leftists and liberals - have largely become ritualistic nincompoops, devoid of real thinking, who are a danger both to themselves and the people around them. How's that for centralist comix?

BTW, the Danish cartoons were propagated neither by centrists nor rightists. THey appeared in an obscure journal and were then propagated by Islamists, who took them around the world, fabricating some more nasty ones of their own for shock value, fueling the fire, and thus proving their own hypocrisy in claiming it is blasphemy to figure Mohammed.

truepeers said...

BTW Racrecir: are you the kind of person who needs to know who are the victims and who the victimizers in any given situation in order to "think" politically? If so, you are the kind of person I am criticizing in this post. In other words, i am criticizing mythological "thinking", and trying to support some kind of scientific alternative to it, an alternative that does not reduce the human world into terms of victims and victimizers, gods and humans, but rather stops short of htat reduction in most cases in order to see the fundmental paradox or uncertainty underpinning our political divides.

hutchrun said...

There is precedence in India:

Here are a few samples taken from a writ petition called the famous 'CALCUTTA QURAN PETITION' filed by three valiant sons of India, namely Sri Chand Mal Chopra, Advocate of Calcutta High Court, Sri Hamangshu Kumar Chakraborthy and Sri Sital Singh in 1985:

'Surah 2 Ayat 193: 'Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme'

Surah 2/123: 'Believers! Make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Let them find harshness in you'

Surah 8 Ayat 12: 'I shall cast terror into the hearts of infidels. Strike off their reads and maim them in every limb'.'

In the above writ petition, the petitioners listed 149 verses from the Quran by way of example to highlight the fact that these verses show a pronounced tendency to incite violence, disturb public tranquillity, promote on grounds of religion, feelings of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different religious communities and insult other religious beliefs of other communities.


Court Justice Z S Lohat, Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi gave a landmark verdict discharging Rajkumar Arya and Indra Sain Sharma on 31 July, 1986. I give below the operative portion from his judgement:

'It is found that the Ayats are reproduced in the same form as are translated in the said 'Quran Majeed'. In my opinion the writer by writing the above words has expressed his opinion or suggestion and at the most it can be branded as a fair criticism of what is contained in the holy book of Mohammedans'.. With due regard to the holy book of 'Quran Majeed', a close perusal of the Ayats shows that the same are harmful and teach hatred and are likely to create differences between Mohammedans on one hand and the remaining communities on the other. In view of the above discussion, I am therefore of the view that there is no prima facie case against the accused as offences alleged against the accused do not fall prima facie within the four corners of Sections 153-A/295-A of the Indian Penal Code and hence both of the accused are discharged'.