Tuesday, May 24, 2005

If flushing a Koran would save an American's life, would you do it?

I appreciate the responses to my question. As you can see from the comments to the post below, the consensus is that indeed a copy of the Koran could and should be sacrificed in order to save an American's life.

To those who may think that some of the responses are a bit harsh, I would say that we need to look to the perpetrators of the worldwide violence in the name of Islam to explain the damage to the reputation of Islam.

Let me say, too, that I realize my question could have been broader. Indeed, I could have asked: Would you deface or destroy a Bible to save another human being? In fact, Jess asked this very question.

The crux of the matter here is this: We are weighing two competing values -- the value of respecting a book believed to be holy by millions of people (in my question, the Koran) versus the value of saving a human life (in my example, an American life).

To the extent the Koran were to represent God's revelation, in my view, it would be the words and truth communicated rather than the paper and ink they are written on that have true value. Likewise, in my view, the Bible has lasting value because of what it says -- not because of the paper and ink that makes up any particular copy.

Interestingly, we have learned recently that some Muslims apparently regard the Koran itself as something worthy of worship. This is a foreign concept to the Judeo-Christian mind, where God alone is worthy of worship. To the Jew and the Christian, the Bible is God's revelation; it is not God.

So, for me, it is not hard to decide that I lean toward protecting human life over the respect for a religious symbol. To the extent that the Muslim world doesn't understand this, my retort is I likewise don't understand their point of view. Just how can people riot and kill other people made in the image of God because of the purported disrespect shown to a copy of the Koran? I realize that certainly a minority of Muslims participated in such an outrage, but where is the Muslim outrage at their conduct? Let's hope that this is just a public relations problem.

Before getting to my "official" answer, I must say that I find the Leftist response/non-response to the question interesting. Usually, leftists love and completely comprehend situational ethics vignettes, especially those that have been used to shake public school students' faith in absolute morality. But here ... there hasn't been a lot of response, even when I posed the question on their "home turf".

To his credit though, after much prodding, Scott did respond to my question, with a "I would probably consider it". But clearly, most of the Left wishes not to discuss this question. Why?

Maybe they would have been more comfortable if I asked if they would sacrifice a Bible to save a whale? Or a leftist? Or a Muslim? Maybe they were still trying to square the Muslim outrage over the Newsweek flap with the "Christian one" over "Piss Christ". Who knows?

At any rate, on to the answer ...

This may surprise some of you, but to me, the answer is the same no matter the scriptures involved or the person to be saved. The answer to the question, for me, is simple: Yes. I would do what it took to save the human life -- even putting the scriptures in a toilet. But I wouldn't call in Newsweek to watch.

Let me explain "why" and provide a bit of background. First, I should say that I have no respect at all for the views of those jihadis who argue that the Koran advocates Holy War and all manner of terrorism against "infidels". To the extent that they seek to destroy the West, we should seek each of them out and do the same. There is no dialogue with such people. Also, to the extent that the Koran itself advocates 9/11-type violence, it also is not worthy of respect, either. Yet, having said the foregoing, I do believe that the sensibilities of the majority of Muslims who do not advocate or support Holy War should be respected.

For me, though, the Newsweek incident and the resulting fallout takes me back to more fundamental questions about Islam and how we should respond to it in light of the answers to those questions. Some don't wish to consider these questions, but they are screaming to be asked ... and answered.

For instance, just how many Muslims do believe in Holy War? And does the Koran sanction it? Who is right about whether the Koran sanctions Holy War, any way? Am I the only person struck with the alleged usage of a religious symbol to supposedly prick the conscience of a terrorist?

Indeed, there is a debate among Muslims (albeit strangely a quiet one) about the answers to these very questions. That is, what does the Koran truly say? Who is truly following Allah -- the moderates or the jihadis? Here is how Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch describes the Islamic concept of "jihad":

Jihad is a central duty of every Muslim. Modern Muslim theologians have spoken of many things as jihads: defending the faith from critics, supporting its growth and defense financially, even migrating to non-Muslim lands for the purpose of spreading Islam. But violent jihad is a constant of Islamic history. Many passages of the Qur'an and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad are used by jihad warriors today to justify their actions and gain new recruits. No major Muslim group has ever repudiated the doctrines of armed jihad. The theology of jihad, which denies unbelievers equality of human rights and dignity, is available today for anyone with the will and means to bring it to life.
Spencer presents a sobering picture indeed. Yet, for me, my Christian worldview leads me to two seemingly contradictory conclusions regarding respecting the beliefs of Muslims.

First, I think Islam -- even peaceful Islam -- is wrong about many things. Fundamentally from my perspective, it is wrong about Jesus Christ. Islam teaches that Christ, like Mohammed, was a prophet. However, Christ taught that He was the Messiah, and that eternal life is found only through faith in Him. In other words, He was not a mere prophet; He was and is God in human flesh. Thus, Islam is self-contradictory. That is, Christ the "prophet" fatally undermined the teachings of the Koran in teaching a completely different way to heaven than Mohammed taught. Ah, details ...

Second, however, I believe that the sensibilities of peaceful Muslims, along with their right to believe what they wish about God, should be respected. Regardless of a person's views about God, Christ taught that each individual must be respected and allowed to make his or her own decisions in matters of faith. Witness the deference shown by the Apostle Paul to the Athenians in Acts 17, all the while making his case for Christ. As Pres. Bush eloquently said in his 2000 speech when he accepted the Republican nomination, "I am tolerant not in spite of my faith, but because of it."