Monday, February 28, 2005

Islam & the Ten Commandments

I don't really know what side to take with the issue of the 10 Commandments in public places. Although I understand the premise of separation of church and state, sometimes I feel that secularism is being pushed down the throats of people who do believe in religion - thus denying them their freedom of expression too.

I found this really interesting piece by the Council of American-Islamic Relations on how the commandments are not just a Christian/Judaic belief but important to Muslims too:

[Arsalan Iftikhar, is national legal director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group. He may be reached at]

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether a monument engraved with the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas state Capitol "is an impermissible establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment."Reaction from religious groups is mixed - Jewish and Christian groups seem divided and Muslims are largely absent from the debate. Muslim silence on the issue should not be misconstrued as ambivalence toward the Ten Commandments. In fact, the Quran, Islam's revealed text, contains injunctions similar to all ten commandments.

A few examples:
Commandment: Thou shall have no other gods before Me.
Quran: Know therefore that there is no god but God. (47:19)
Do not associate another deity with God. (17:22)

Commandment: Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image.
Quran: No visions can encompass Him, but He encompasses all visions. (6:103)

Commandment: Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Quran: Glorify the name of your Lord morning and evening. (76:25)
Remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him exclusively. (73:8)
Do not use God's name in your oaths as an excuse to prevent you from dealing justly. (2:224)

Commandment: Honor thy father and thy mother.
Quran: You shall be kind to your parents. If one or both of them live to their old age in your lifetime, you shall not say to them any word of contempt nor repel them, and you shall address them in kind words. You shall lower to them the wing of humility and pray: "O Lord! Bestow on them Your blessings just as they cherished me when I was a little child." (17:23-24)

Commandment: Thou shall not kill.
Quran: And do not take any human being's life - [the life] that God has willed to be sacred - other than in [the pursuit of] justice." (17:33)

Commandment: Thou shall not commit adultery.
Quran: You shall not commit adultery. Surely it is a shameful deed and an evil way (opening the door to other evils). (17:32)

Commandment: Thou shall not bear false witness.
Quran: And (know that the true servants of God are) those who do not bear witness to falsehood. (25:72)

Commandment: Thou shall not covet.
Quran: Do not covet the bounties that God has bestowed more abundantly on some of you than on others. (4:32)

Such remarkable similarities are not surprising, because Muslims believe that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all originate from the same God. God's laws are universal, but their adoption is a matter of choice. The Quranic order that there be "no compulsion in religion" (2:256) reverberates in James Madison's, "The religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man.

"Opposition to the public display of the Ten Commandments should not imply disavowal of their validity, just as support for their display should not be an excuse for religious exclusivity.I love all Ten Commandments, for their values are my values as a Muslim. I also respect the Constitution and its support for religious pluralism. Just as I want my government to not establish a particular religion, I also desire that they not prohibit its free exercise. It is a delicate balancing act. Getting that balance right is what makes American freedom unique and enviable.