The Guardian touts the Qu’ran as a guide to life, and a way for Americans to understand why Palestinians are resilient

November 21, 2023 • 2:18 pm

If you’ve read the Qur’an, as I have, you’ll realize that it is hardly the book to absorb if you want a peaceful and loving way of life.  The verses written later, in particular, are bloodthirsty, oppressive, and misogynist, and those parts, as all Muslims know, take moral precedence over the nicer and earlier parts.

There used to be a fully annotated “Skeptic’s Annotated Qur’an” on the Internet, which singles out Qur’anic verses (using symbols like skulls or question marks) as being violent or promulgating injustice, cruelty, misogyny, intolerance (especially to those who don’t believe in Islam), and so on. I finally found that annotated version, and you can read it here. There’s also an annotated Bible, Book of Mormon, and even a Bhagavad Gita. The point of all this annotation was to show that the “good books” aren’t so good at all. Sure, you can cherry pick them to find stuff like “thou shalt not kill”, but by and large these book are divisive and, above all, promote both superstition and a suggestion that you lead your life according to dictates of a fictional god. And among these four (I’ve read all of them), I found the Qur’an is the most divisive, full of hatred, oppression, threats of hellfire, and words from god to kill nonbelievers and apostates.

The bad stuff in the Qur’an, mainly the surahs (chapters) written later, which are the ones pious Muslims take most seriously, has of course brought about a lot of death, hatred, and oppression. It is in the name of the Qur’an, as the word of God, that the butchery of October 7 took place.  Now Islam didn’t become toxic until the Qur’an began being read literally; before that one might have seen Christianity as the most toxic religion. But I think most people would agree with Hitchens’s point that, at this present moment, Islam is the most pernicious of all religions. In one of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s books, Heretic, she argues that Islam can only be made moderate if people stop taking the Qur’an literally.

Not, though, according to the Guardian, which has published an article so unbelievably misguided that it makes that paper, the worst of all MSM when it comes to Islam, look even worse than it has in the last few years, and that’s saying a lot.. For this article tells about (and apparently appproves of) young Americans reading the Qur’an and finding in it solace and peace. It also, so the piece goes, helps them understand how Palestinians can be so resilient (apparently in this war).

Click to read, and have a bottle of Pepto-Bismol handy

Here are some bits from the article:

After 9/11, the Qur’an became an instant bestseller, though at the time many Americans purchased it to confirm biases they held about Islam being an inherently violent religion. “The difference is that in this moment, people are not turning to the Qur’an to understand the October 7 attack by Hamas,” [Zareena] Grewal said. “They are turning to the Qur’an to understand the incredible resilience, faith, moral strength and character they see in Muslim Palestinians.”

That’s what made Nefertari Moonn, a 35-year-old from Tampa, Florida, pick up her husband’s Qur’an. Moonn considered herself spiritual, not religious, and described her husband as a non-practicing Muslim. “I wanted to see what it was that made people call out to Allah when they stared death in the face,” she said. “Seeing passage after passage resonated with me. I began to have such an emotional attachment to it.”

Because of this, Moonn also decided to take the shahada, becoming a Muslim revert (a term some Muslims prefer for joining the religion).

“I can’t explain it, but there’s a peace that comes with reading the Qur’an,” she said. “I feel light, like I came back to something that was always there and waiting for me to return.”

Misha Euceph, a Pakistani American writer and podcast host who studies progressive interpretations of the Qur’an, has held her own Qur’an Book Club Instagram series since 2020. She says certain themes in the text align with the values of young, left-leaning Americans.

Well, I feel sorry for young, left-leaning Americans. Could it be that because they’re more sympathetic with Hamas than are older Americans, they find what they want to find in the Qur’an, and ignore the bad stuff?  Not only that, but they apparently read modern values into the Qur’an (see below). It’s environmentalist! It’s feminist! It’s scientific!   Here’s how the young Americans read it:

“The Qur’an is full of nature metaphors and encourages you to be an environmentalist,” Euceph said. “The Qur’an also has this anti-consumerist attitude, the sense that we’re all stewards of the earth who shouldn’t establish an exploitative relationship with the world or fellow human beings.”

Unless, of course, those relationships involve slavery, which the Qur’an condones (though criticizes), nonbelievers (who must be killed), and especially women, who are explicitly given far fewer rights than are men. Here’s more approbation by Ms. Euceph:

In the Qur’an, men and women are equals in the eyes of God, and Rice and other TikTok converts say their interpretations of the text back up their feminist principles. It also engages with scientific explanations for creation, with verses in the Qur’an covering the big bang and other theories.

“Usually, we’re so used to the religious community combating science,” Rice said. “Now I’m seeing a religion embrace science and use its holy texts to back it up.”

As for how the Qur’an urges Islam to treat women, have a look at this page of “the top ten rules in the Qur’an that oppress women“.  Or these questions:

Have these women read and understood such passages of the Qur’an as 2:282 (devaluing women’s testimony), 4:11 (devaluing women’s inheritance rights), 4:24 (allowing for polygamy and sex slavery), 4:34 (allowing for the beating of disobedient women), and 65:4 (allowing for the marriage and divorce of prepubescent girls)? Almost certainly not.

Most Muslim societies do indeed oppress women, treating them poorly or denying them opportunity, and much of this is based on the Qur’an or the hadith, the reported sayings of Muhammad handed down for centuries. The hadith, for example, have also been used to justify female genital mutilation (FGM), which is largely (but not exclusively) confined to Muslim societies, and is given a religious justification by clerics. (I must add that some Muslim clerics explicitly decry FGM.)  If you want to get your moral compass from Islam, you must of course be familiar with the hadith and the Qur’an, because both are god-inspired words of Muhammad.

Oh yes, and the Qur’an promotes science! See the statements above about how the Qu’ran backs up the Big Bang and other theories. That’s hogwash, of course. The Big Bang is no more backed up by the Qur’an than it is by the Bible: it posits a creation event by Allah.  Likewise the Qur’an, like the Bible, is unscientific in that it posits an instantaneous creation of flora and fauna, including humans. If you want to see the ridiculous lengths that Muslims go to when trying to comport their science and their faith, read the pages on Islam in my book Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible.  (Just check the index under “Islam”). (Of course literalist Christians face the same problem, and have done similar contortions to reconcile Christianity and evolution.)

All this cherry-picking could be avoided, of course, if people turned to secular humanism instead of religion to either confect a morality or to examine the beliefs they already have. What is going on with young people and the Qur’an appear to be this: “progressive” young people are sympathetic to the Muslims of Palestine, perhaps because they’re underdogs and figure that their “resilence” must be due to their faith, which of course comes directly from the Qur’an. So they read it, ignore the horrible bits, and find solace in the good bits. Grewal explicitly notes this:

Grewal, the Yale professor, believes that people often begin reading texts hoping to back up the worldview they already have. “Just as racist people are looking for verses to confirm their racial biases, people on the left are looking to this book to confirm progressive messages,” she said. “Every scripture is complex and invites multiple readings,” and TikTokers “are coming to the text looking for what they hope to find”.

This is pure confirmation bias, and is no way to lead an examined life.  And I’m not sure what multiple reading you can find for stuff like a woman’s testimony being worth only half of a man’s:

Sura 2:282 says: “And let two men from among you bear witness to all such documents [contracts of loans without interest]. But if two men be not available, there should be one man and two women to bear witness so that if one of the women forgets (anything), the other may remind her.”

There are a lot more places where you’d be hard pressed to read something bad as  actually being good, but I’ll just urge you to look into the Qur’an itself.  By making the Qur’an seem like a very good guide to life, the Guardian is fomenting division, hatred, superstition, and misogyny.  It would be hard to find an article as misguided as this one.


32 thoughts on “The Guardian touts the Qu’ran as a guide to life, and a way for Americans to understand why Palestinians are resilient

  1. I’m no fan of the Guardian and generally agree with you, but you need to make it clear that the Guardian article you’ve cited is in the Books section of the newspaper. So this is not presented as News, it’s an article about people’s opinions about books (however subjective the choice of opinions and books).

    If the Guardian ran a headline as inaccurate as yours (The Guardian Touts the Qu’ran as a Guide to Life), I daresay you’d be miffed and rightly so.

  2. A week or so ago TikTok had a ton of those point-of-view videos reacting to Osama Bin Laden’s Letter to America.

    It seemed to me outright propaganda. So this piece seems a reaction of another sort.

    But one could easily look the TikToks up to see.

    The clever guy who did the pretend card game show with Hamas covered it.

  3. I read the Penguin books translation of the Quran, which apparently makes me a bad person because the translator, N.J. Dawood, was Jewish.

    I don’t remember a huge amount about it except that the original author seemed to have a very limited knowledge of popular bits of the Bible (for example, the story of Noah and the flood) which he trotted out repetitiously. Let’s just say that I didn’t find it convincing as a work of divine inspiration.

    About the only thing Islam has going for it is that it provides elderly people with an exercise regime that they repeat five times a day. But touching their toes would come with less baggage…

    1. Oh, Jez; it’s good to have a laugh before getting off to bed and that last paragraph of yours has certainly given me that.

      Sixty years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to read the Koran, having found the Bible somewhat tedious once I’d got past the poetry of Genesis. Like you, I found it unconvincing, even laughable, as “inspirational literature” and gave up the effort after twenty pages or so as it paled into insignificance beside Kidnapped, or The Coral Island, and certainly Arthur Mee’s Encyclopaedia.

      So, I can only wonder at the reading skills and levels of concentration of these young TikTokers – perhaps for them, the Koran is a step or two up from the back of cereal packets.

      As for the resilience of the Palestinians, I suppose that being told from birth that your god is great, and his inerrant word is all you need for living a good life, and that your religion is superior to all others would give you a strong sense that you can get through all the rubbish life throws at us. For me, I read resilience as shading into arrogance though.

      1. Glad to have given you a laugh, Ross. Your mention of the Arthur Mee Encyclopaedia takes me back – my parents had a set and I have very fond memories of the gorgeous colour plate illustrations of the planets etc. I remember there were illustrations of the canals on Mars showing areas of vegetation and a piece suggesting we could make possibly make contact with the Martians by writing a message in huge letters in the sand of the Sahara desert.

  4. Quranic support for Zionism:'an

    “Allah Is a Zionist: The Quranic argument for Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel,” by Sheik Abdul Hadi Palazzi:

    The historian Michael Wolffsohn writes:

    “Paradoxically, it is even possible to cite the Quran as an historical-political atlas in support of the Jewish-Zionist cause. It is beyond question that the prophet Mohammed placed himself firmly in the Judaic tradition, that is in the tradition of the Hebrew Bible. And according to the Bible, God promised the Holy Land to the Jews.

    A reading of the Quran thus brings no surprises. Sura 10,94 reads: “We had prepared a permanent home [in Canaan] for the Children of Israel.” This text is by no means the only proof. Whether it is permissible to[sic] desirable to argue on religious grounds is an entirely different matter.

    In the 14th Sura, Abraham (the progenitor of the Jews and thus also of Muslims) gives voice to a significant revelation to Mecca. In the verses 14-15 the Lord of the Jews confirms the right of the People of Israel (whose faith, as so often, was wavering) to the Promised Land: “We will wipe out the evildoers and give you the land as your dwelling. … And they [the Jews] called on Allah for aid and the rebels were undone.” The invocation of violence here is certainly a matter for controversy, but the right of the Jews to the land is clearly expressed in the 14th Sura, which also says that this right can be forfeited in the case of sacrilegious acts which sever the link to Allah/God. This is entirely consistent with the tradition of the Jewish prophets.

    Sura 17 tells how one night the Mohammed, accompanied by of the Archangel Gabriel, flew through the air from “the holy temple of Mecca to the distant temple of Jerusalem” (verse 2). The latter had, of course, been destroyed by the Roman army under Titus in the year 70. Verse 105 of Sura 17 reads: “We said to the Children of Israel: ‘Dwell upon the Land, and when the promise of life to come is fulfilled, we will go with you to the judgment.’” These verses from the Quran are bad news for anti-Zionist fundamentalists.

    Sura 26,58 also refers to Canaan, which the Jews inherited by Allah’s will. The passage mentions gardens, springs and wonderful dwellings, all of which the Children of Israel inherited. Does this not remind us of the “Land of milk and honey” of the Old Testament?

    The Islamic fundamentalists of the Hisbollah ought to first study the Quran before swearing to “liberate” Palestine from the Jews. They might thus avoid the embarrassment of violating the spirit of the same Quran upon which they base their appeal.”

    (Wolffsohn, Michael. /Whose Holy Land? The Roots of the Conflict Between Jews and Arabs./ Cham: Springer, 2021. pp. 24-5)

  5. The ditty linked below gets to the nub of the matter. The author of the ditty, when he had come under criticism, said,

    “I agree that the Koran says what you claim it says. Islam is one of the world’s great religions, and I don’t believe that billions could have followed it if it weren’t, at its core, beautiful and life-engendering.”

    I disagree, it is witness to the better angels of our nature that men can find good in the Koran.

    the ditty (which I am amazed can still be found on Youtube):

  6. I might have been reading the Guardian in my 20’s and come across that article about Islam and been open to believing that pile of crap.

  7. I am so tired of all the ways that MSM keeps on deferring to religion, highlighting the supposedly virtuous things one can learn from these divisive, frequently hateful, and generally absurd “faiths”. Perhaps it is because believers typically are the most rigid, least tolerant, thinnest-skinned people on the planet?

    Also, the way “Islamophobia” is tossed around, generally intended to accuse someone of discriminating against Muslims (whether or not discrimination is actually occurring). But then why not just call it discrimination, why call it “phobia”? A phobia is an excessive and possibly irrational fear, and that has nothing necessarily to do with discrimination. Calling it a “phobia” is just a way of broadening the accusation to include people who are not being discriminatory but happen to hold views that the accuser doesn’t like.

    Frankly, phobia of Islam is not at all irrational, given that in our present age it is the belief system mostly likely to be the cause of violent and deadly actions.

  8. I swear by almighty ceiling cat that I am losing what little remains of my mind.
    These past few weeks I seem to have entered a parallel universe where evil is good, wrong is right and lies are truth. At least the Guardian is remaining true to form though.

    1. Evil & good are religious inventions – they do not exist other than as ideas. There are things that please or displease, give pain or pleasure, & things that are neutral. But those things may not be the same for everyone or every creature. Nature is at war with itself.

        1. See “Where next Columbus?” by Crass –
          Do you watch at a distance from the side you have chosen?
          Whose answers serve you best? Who’ll save you from confusion?
          Who will leave you an exit and a comfortable cover?
          Who will take you so near their edge, but never drop you over?
          Who do you watch? Who do you watch?

      1. I am not sure about being religious inventions … certainly religious interpretations. If we read Genesis somewhat literally, particularly Gen 2.17 and Gen 3.22, it argues we should not think in terms of good and evil. But I agree with you 100 % that they do not exist outside of ideas.

  9. “Islam is one of the world’s great religions”. How can a mass delusional belief system based mainly upon the utterances of a 7th century con artist be considered as ‘great’? It beggars belief that in the 21st century people can still be cowed into accepting its ‘teachings’ and not see them for what they really were – and still are – an attempt to try and create a worldwide fascistic state ruled by despots.

    1. My feeling, EF, is that the answer to your first question is the Mafia “Make him an offer he can’t refuse.” tactic. Mohammed’s spiel obviously fired up his foot soldiers, especially the promise of all those virgins waiting for them in paradise, to carry all those battles. Then the offer to the conquered peoples of convert or die multiplied over all the generations since has solidified the belief that their god is great, their religion is the best one, and the Koran is all that’s needed for living. All that, despite Allah never mentioning 21st century benefits, including the use of planes, pick-up trucks and AK47s to spread The Word and enforce its dictates, that they happily take to despite their wish to have everyone follow 7th century beliefs and modes of conduct.

      1. Exactly RF. One can perhaps understand the naivety of people in the 7-10th centuries who wouldn’t have had the scientific knowledge and wisdom that we currently possess. But we’re now in the 21st century with vastly more information gained over the last 500 years, not least on how life had likely started from catalytic RNA type molecules eventually leading to DNA and the rest of evolution’s flowering. And yet many still desire to be observant to religious mythology of hundreds of years ago! And there are even some who still believe that the Earth is flat! The huge scale of human ignorance is so depressing.

  10. Well, I feel sorry for young, left-leaning Americans. Could it be that because they’re more sympathetic with Hamas than are older Americans, they find what they want to find in the Qur’an, and ignore the bad stuff?

    Maybe they don’t “ignore the bad stuff”, maybe they think that the killing Jews etc is the good stuff?

  11. I subscribe to the Guardian and normally love there commitment to exposing the world’s flavors of horrors and oppressions so I had the same reaction to that book review. Rosemary, your response about whales really cracked me up, and it’s normally hard to do that with me! I guess our resilience in this crazy era requires a sense of the absurd!

  12. When I was in college, I had a discussion with a Muslim student that was in one of my classes and with whom I almost became friends. I explained why I was an atheist, and he agreed that all my reasons made sense. But then he said, without explanation, “but you are wrong.” That was it. Since then, I’ve challenged anybody to find an inspiring, uplifting piece from the Quran, and nobody has ever taken me up on it. I tried reading it myself, and it is simply too boring and meaningless to waste too much time. I’ve read the bible as well, and it’s mostly nonsense as well. Even when religious people send “quotes” from their holy books, I find them sophomoric, superficial, meaningless and small-minded – so why do some people think they are so meaningful?

    And then I read the constitution of Iran, and the platform (2016, I think) of Palestine. Both suggest or clearly state that the goal is to basically convert everybody in the world to Islam, by any means necessary. I had the strong impression that the authors believed that it is inevitable that everybody in the world will eventually become Muslim and they feel it is their duty to help bring that about.

    I can’t help but hope that reason will take over and people will see these “holy books” for what they are – mythical nonsense. Of course, that won’t happen this generation, and so we’re likely to see more nonsensical death and misery in the Middle East and elsewhere. I certainly hope that young, left- or right-leaning people are objective enough to recognize that here we are, 2000 years later (for Christianity) and we’re still fighting like cave people for religious reasons, so clearly religion is not the answer.

    1. You’re preaching to the wrong choir, Jim. We are already abandoning our religions in the West. (At this point someone is surely going to raise worries about a Christian theocracy. OK, fine.) But enlightened atheism won’t save us from religious war. Islam is going to bring the war to us. You need to go to Tehran and tell them their religion is toxic and dangerous and they should abandon it. Follow our good example. They, not we, are the ones trying to force it on the whole world, as you point out.

      If Islam wants to convert everyone by force or death, whether atheist, Christian, Jew, or HIndu, what difference does it make if Christians hold to their religion? Much as it might be a good idea, no one is going to lead a Christian crusade against Islam. Rather, the Saracens are at our gates, maybe even inside them.

  13. Remember a few years back when someone put up prank posters that said “Islam is right about women” and nothing else. Progressives back then were highly offended, though nobody seemed to know why they should be offended, they couldn’t explain what was wrong with the statement, they just seemingly had a vague sense that they ought to be offended, that it was the progressive thing to do presumably. I wonder now how they feel. Maybe they’ve come to agree with the prank posters.

    *sigh* Honestly, things like this have made me exasperated. I hope Trump wins 2024 and makes himself tsar of USA for life, because I see no salvaging of your once great nation, and the worst part is that you’re dragging along the rest of the civilized world down this hell. My country has already been through a communist regime. We’re spend over 3 decades just barely trying to climb back to normality and a stable economy. We don’t need this insanity all over again.

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