Religion and Intelligent People

October 28, 2015

Nasir Khan, October 28, 2015

“I find the whole business of religion profoundly interesting. But it does mystify me that otherwise intelligent people take it seriously.”

― English author Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
Human intelligence is also profoundly interesting. It can search for the deepest ‘mysteries’ surrounding our lives and guide us along the paths of knowledge and wisdom. But when it comes to Religion, something incredible happens with it. It gives up any pretensions to independent inquiry and starts repeating what goes against all rational thinking. We may call it the miracle of Religion.

By the way, by intelligence, I mean intelligent people, not some bodiless phantoms floating in the air! Intelligence is a necessary condition for the wisdom to arise, but something more is needed. Analytical philosophers point to critical thinking.

But why to bother about questioning and critical thinking that go against all the established norms and patterns of thought that have been traditionally handed down to us? Perhaps that explains something for some of us; however, many intelligent religionists have their own universe.

Book Review: Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms (Khan)

October 17, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is a recent  review by Jacob J. Prahlow of my book Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms: A Historical Survey.

This book can be downloaded by clicking on the following link.

— Nasir Khan, Editor


Book Review: Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms (Khan)

History is contested. Though far from a novel statement, we often need to be reminded that the past is not as clean and easy as our history textbooks make it out to be. This is especially true in matters of religious history and conflict, where seemingly everyone wants to contribute their two cents to hot button issues. Occasionally, however, someone will produce a historical narrative that—while outside the mainstream—remains valuable enough to warrant consideration. Nasir Khan’s Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms may be one such book.

In Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms: A Historical Survey (Oslo: Solum Forlag, 2006), Khan traces the history of Christianity and its interactions with Islam, admittedly writing from the perspective of a Muslim historian and political analyst. Weighing in at nearly five hundred pages, Khan’s tome-like work stands as one of the most thorough treatments of Islamic-Christian in recent decades. After three chapters on early Christianity and the pre-Islamic world, Khan devotes two sections to the rise of Islam and early doctrinal differences between Christianity and Islam and two chapters on political influence and spread of Islam. Next come two chapters on the Crusades, a section on Islamic interaction with the Mongol empire, and three chapters on “shifting perceptions” of Islam and then rise of Enlightenment perspectives. Perceptions of Islam closes with two chapters on late-nineteenth and twentieth century interactions between Islam and Christianity.

There is much of value in this volume. In the first place, it is well written and easy to follow, something that cannot be said of every attempt at a historical survey. Khan does an especially admirable job providing a Muslim perspective on the history of Christianity, world history, and Muslim-Christian relations. Books that provide other ways of engaging history—even if they are ultimately disagreeable—are integral to properly engaging the complexities of the past. In this vein, Khan provides a good sense of Muslim interpretations of important events—the Crusades in particular—and how these events continue to shape Muslim perceptions of the West. Finally, he offers some solid reading in the general history of Middle East. Overall, there is much that students of history will find useful in Khan’s presentation.

However, much here also stands in need to critique. Two primary issues loom large throughout this volume: the assumption of modernity and its harshest critiques of Christianity without reciprocity toward Islam and a fundamentally faulty understanding of early Christianity. In the first place, Khan takes a thoroughly modernist approach to history—Marxist it seems, both in term of approach and the laudatory citation of Marx and Lenin. This historiography relies heavily upon considerably older scholarship, especially when it comes to discussing the ills of Christianity. Khan’s primary authorities when considering the history of Christianity are Voltaire, Thomas Paine, and Gibbon. Further, he relies on ‘First Quest’ Historical Jesus scholars—Wrede and Renan primarily—when talking about the historical Jesus. This would be problematic in itself, but Khan also almost entirely avoids similarly dated and perspectival criticisms of Islam. This approach to scholarship is simply not acceptable for something published as recently as 2006. Second, Khan’s chapters on early Christianity are filled with numerous inaccuracies, the most troubling of which is a flawed understanding of the Trinity. For a writer who consistently criticizes Christians for not coming to a proper understanding of Islam,[1] this is disappointing.

Overall, Khan’s work stands as something of a mixed bag. The most valuable use of Perspectives of Islam may be that it offers a good indication of “where we’re at” in terms of Muslim-Christian dialogue. Whereas many interfaith-minded authors seem to put the best face possible on any given situation, Khan gives what appears to be his honest opinion, no holds barred. In that sense, this book may serve as a valuable source for where Christians and Muslims need to seek further clarification and understanding. This book comes recommended for those thinking about Muslim-Christian dialogue, and those who already possess a solid foundation in the history of Christianity. For other readers, Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms should only serve as piecemeal source or an example of Muslim perspectives on the history of Christianity.

All opinions in this review belong solely to the reviewer.

[1] For one example of this, see page 329.

Rational thinking

October 1, 2015

Nasir Khan, October 1, 2015

“It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”
– English mathematician and philosopher, W. K. Clifford (1845-1879), who had a short life of 33 years.

W.K. Clifford has offered us a profound insight in this succinct remark. It opens up new vistas for us in our struggles to seek knowledge and truth. If we follow it, then many myths that exist all around us in our political, social and cultural stereotypes would come tumbling down and instead we would have a rational and humane path in front of us.

In reality, myths and sugar-coated lies still control us. Luckily, despite all the impediments and social taboos, a limited number of people see what is at stake and are brave enough to stand for rational thinking. Because of rational thinking, rational social practice is born and gets stronger. Thus, the dialectical connection between thinking and social practice as an interactive process becomes the motive-force of Social Change.


The British rulers created the tragedy in Palestine

September 29, 2015

Nasir Khan,  September 29, 2015

By saying this, does Michal Biran mean Corbyn will not be a tool in the hands of the Zionists of Israel and he will not defend the crimes of Israel against the people of Palestine? If Corbyn does so, then, of course, he will be on the side of humanity and justice. That should worry the war criminals in Israel, no doubt.

However, the fact remains these criminals have many powerful countries and powerful people who are on their side, to give them their unconditional support for whatever they do or have done in Palestine and with the Palestinians.

Let us repeat here once again that the British colonial power that created the tragedy in Palestine, first, by acceding to the demands of the Zionists by issuing the Balfour Declration (1917) and then, in 1948, abdicating all their responsibilities as a ‘mandatory power’ they had towards the Arab population of Palestine when the Zionist terrorists created the colonial-settler state of Israel.

The British rulers, both the Conservatives and the Labourites, have been the defenders and staunch allies of Israel. The Arab people of Palestine were left at the mercy of the Zionists. The world knows what they have been busy doing with them since then.


Jeremy Corbyn Will Be A ‘Disaster’ For Israel, Warns MP From Israeli Labor Party Michael Biran

Posted: 29/09/2015 10:40 BST Updated: 29/09/2015 10:59 BST
 Jeremy Corbyn will be a “disaster” for Israel unless he changes his views on the Middle East, a member of the Israeli parliament warned last night.

Michal Biran, part of Israel’s Labor Party, urged activists at a fringe meeting at the UK Labour Party’s conference to try and change Mr Corbyn’s stance and rhetoric on the Middle East.

Throughout Mr Corbyn’s leadership election campaign the Islington North MP was forced to clarify why he had attended events run by holocaust deniers and why he had described anti-Israeli terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”.

There has been no suggestion that Mr Corbyn himself is anti-Semitic, but his association with such people has seen concerns raised of his sense of judgement.

Continues >>

Why Sadiq Khan made false charges of anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn

September 20, 2015

Nasir Khan, Sep. 20, 2015

Zionists appear in different shapes and brands. Apart from some hard-cooked right-wing supremacists there are also some people who find Zionism a useful tool for their own political objectives. They may have only a verbal commitment in support of the apartheid state, but nothing more than that.

Consequently, such friends of Zionists will support the policies of the Zionist state of Israel with a view to bolster their own political fortunes because they know fully well that the Zionists have the power not only in Israel but also in UK and US. Therefore, when seen in this light, it is not difficult to see what Mr Sadiq Khan says and why he say it.

If by some miracle the Palestinians had such a big power as the Zionists wield, then I am sure he would gladly have supported them instead! In other words, when there are no principles and no political conscience, then such people can resort to any means to gain their objectives.


Labour’s ‘Mayor’ savages Corbyn: Party star Khan damns leader over anti-Semitism

  • Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have been sensationally accused of risking inciting terrorist and anti-Semitic attacks in capital by Sadiq Khan
  • Khan, who is Muslim, suggested that Corbyn’s refusal to sing the National Anthem at St Paul’s Cathedral showed he was unfit to be Prime Minister
  • And he denounced the Labour leadership duo’s links to terror groups
  • Khan was recently revealed as the Labour candidate for London Mayor

Continues >>

The Israeli Prize for Tony Blair

September 17, 2015

Nasir Khan, Sept. 17, 2015

Mr Tony Blair, the former prime minister of UK, and a political ally of the former US president, G. W. Bush, also called his ‘poodle’ or ‘lap-dog’, had worked closely with the Washington boss in unleashing the war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 and the people of Iraq. In any case, what he did was in step with US policy – to impose its complete hegemony over the whole of the Middle East for its geo-political objectives. Domestically, the war was to further the economic interests of the military-industrial complex of the United States and its allies. In other words, making unbelievable profits by this war. The US strategy in starting this war was heavily influenced by the political role of the Israeli rulers for the whole region.

In the present instance, Mr Blair is given a monetary reward for the services he rendered to Israel. That is understandable. In a thieves’ kitchen partners show solidarity!  The Zionists know his pivotal role in the destruction of Iraq and the Iraqis, and thus bringing the whole of the Middle East under the US and Zionist hegemony. That is something the Zionists can never forget; the present award is simply a token of recognition of his services.

Later on, Mr Bush also made  him a ‘peace envoy’ to the Palestine-Israel ‘conflict’! Wasn’t he well suited for the job? Yes, he was. If in any doubt, ask any Zionist anywhere or any neocons! As a result, in this new role he did what he could do to damage the struggle of the captive and marginalized people of Palestine. No wonder, the Zionists have thought it fit to give such prize to him for his work.

Former prime minister Tony Blair has won a prestigious million-dollar (£697,000) Israeli prize for his leadership on the world stage.

Ignorance in action

September 13, 2015

Nasir Khan, September 13, 2015

“Nothing is more terrible than to see ignorance in action.”

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832 AD)
To see ignorance in action, as Goethe says, also means that we should also be able to see the difference between ignorance and knowledge. Not an easy task for many of us! In fact, things get much fuddled when ignorance wrapped up in social and political dogmas is presented to us as accumulated wisdom.

The economic and political forces in society have power; they have also a large apparatus at their disposal to present what they do is for the common good. Their tasks are made easy with the help of intellectuals who are mostly organically linked to the ruling elite and the existing political structure. Because of their organic relationship with the existing power structure, they become the vocal spokespersons for the ruling class and its entrenched class interests.

Next in line is the priestly class to do the rest; it finds the sanction of the heavenly powers to sustain what exists! As a result, most of us remain prisoners of ignorance without noticing it. This remains so despite the struggles of a tiny minority that swims against the current.

Jonathan Cook: The ways Israeli war crimes buy good will

September 13, 2015

Jonathan Cook Blog, 10 September 2015

I recently interviewed Jeff Halper about his excellent new book, War Against the People, which examines the way Israel has crafted an indispensable role for itself doing what Halper calls “niche-filling” in the “war on terror”.

Put in the simplest terms, Halper’s argument is that Israel develops, refines and tests things – weapons, missile interception systems, surveillance, crowd control, biometric data collection, new interpretations of international law – using the Palestinians as guinea pigs. The occupied territories are test beds, demonstrating how well such “innovations” work in the field. That knowledge and experience can then be sold on to other international players, including, of course, the biggest: the United States.

Craig Murray, a former British ambassador (one who went rogue, from the British government’s point of view) has a very interesting post about the latest efforts of David Cameron’s government to justify the extra-judicial murder of two Britons in Syria over the summer by claiming that such actions accord with international law. The US began doing similar things in the Middle East to its citizens, also using drones, a few years earlier.

Continues >>

Differing views on revelation in Christianity and Islam

September 2, 2015

Nasir Khan, September 2, 2015

My Facebook friend Professor Mushtaq Khan Kayani has asked in a comment if any ‘Muslim religious scholar can explain that Allah in the Quran says “We sent Injeel to Issa” (Jesus). But Jesus, in his short life never mentioned or acknowledged receiving the Injeel, neither the Injeel has been mentioned in any Christian literature. Is the Quran`s claim merely a bluff?’

Even though I have no pretensions to be a Muslim religious scholar, I had come across such a question while writing my book Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms. A Historical Survey (Solum Publishers, Oslo, 2006). Therefore, I will offer my following comment, knowing to do so on Facebook is more like stirring a hornets’ nest, which even the angels may think prudent to avoid!

In the Islamic theological tradition, the Qur’an is regarded as the word of God. That means it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. However, there are controversies on the issue whether the revelation contained exact words from God for which all the Prophet did was to report what he had been told to him or he was inspired by such a revelation where he used his own language to express what was put in his heart. Most Muslim believers accept the former position.

Now we move on to the question of revelation in Islam and Christianity. According to the Islamic tradition all messages and guidance from God were revealed through the prophets and all such revelations formed the holy books. In that sense, what the Jewish prophets received was the divine revelations and so was the case with Jesus. The revelations he received were contained in the Injeel.
But in the Christian tradition, God is said to have inspired and spoken to Jesus; however, any such communication from God did not form a revealed book. In fact, the Christian Bible we have is mostly a record of the events of the life and the mission of Jesus. If God revealed himself then his revelation was Jesus, his Son, not some book.

In short, for Christians, Jesus is the revelation of God in a human form while for Muslims the Qur’an is the revealed word of God in a book form. To avoid any confusion, we need to pay attention to this essential difference about the revelation in the theological traditions and beliefs of Muslims and Christians. The Qur’an is the word of God for Muslims but Jesus is the word of God for Christians.

The message of Jesus was good for the oppressed and the weak people

September 1, 2015

Nasir Khan, September 1, 2015

The message of Jesus of Nazareth (c. 7-2 BC – c. 30-33 AD) was viewed as a challenge to the Roman Empire and a threat to the Jewish religious establishment. He was a great teacher and revolutionary of those times. Even though our knowledge of this unique person is limited due to the lack of original sources but according to a critical analysis of the contents of the Christian Bible we see him to have been on the side of the poor, the sick and the marginalised people. For his activities he was branded as a criminal, a subversive rebel and then eradicated.

Even after the lapse of two thousand years, his message of hope and the possibility of creating a just and righteous world order (the Kingdom of Heaven) is still alive.

In my view that message will never die, no matter how difficult the problems confronting the human race. There will always be some courageous people to pick up the message and carry on the struggle against the exploitation of humans by humans, against oppression, ignorance, injustice and poverty.

The appeal of the message lies in the universality of human values for a worthy life. History has seen the oppressive religious rulers of the Middle Ages, the autocratic monarchs of the bygone ages, the great dictators of the twentieth century and the fall of great empires. The present global imperial world order headed by the US military-industrial complex will also come to an end in the future. But the message of hope and justice will live on.

Incidentally, I am not discussing any theological beliefs or views around Jesus on whose name a world-religion arose and now has over 2-billion followers. We know how the vast array of his followers in the world see him. However, many ignore the revolutionary content of his message.

It is important for us see the universal and revolutionary content of his message. Human values existed long before him and they still do. Moreover, history bears the testimony that some of the most gruesome crimes have been committed in his name and the name of Christianity. For all that, he bears no responsibility. Instead, I point to the positive side of his message for humanity in general.


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