Luxenberg and the Quran

Via ParaPundit, I found a sympathetic but scholarly review of Luxenberg’s book. A much better reading than the mumbo jumbo of the Newsweek article.

Al-Muhajabah tackles the allegation that Muslims don’t engage in textual or critical analysis of the Quran and Brian Ulrich compares the media approach to the world to Civilization III.

Going Home

I am going to drive to Jersey tomorrow (thursday) for the break. I’ll be there for 2 weeks. If any readers in the NY/NJ area are interested in meeting for drinks or something, please let me know.

I am Speechless

Via Unqualified Offerings, here is an excerpt from the Washington Post.

Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: “If you want your family released, turn yourself in.” [Emphasis mine] Such tactics are justified, he said, because, “It’s an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info.” They would have been released in due course, he added later.

The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered.

No comment.

UPDATE: CalPundit, Atrios, Mark Kleiman, Intel Dump, Matt Yglesias, To the Barricades, The Talent Show, and Fables of the Reconstruction have posted on the topic as well.

UPDATE II: I posted the following in Tacitus’ comments (who thinks that the general’s family were “never hostages” and “no moral or legal oppobrium attaches”).

Tacitus is right; this tactic does seem to work in Iraq. I know that it also works in criminal cases in a number of countries. And we all know what kind of scumbags some criminals can be. So we should go ahead and promote this policy against criminals here in the US. If a criminal has disappeared and cannot be found by law enforcement, we take his family into custody until he gives himself up. If the scumbag then doesn’t confess, we threaten him about his family.

I can assure you that this will have a chilling effect on crime.

Also, read Aziz Poonawalla’s post.

Grading Today

I will be busy grading final projects today. I hope to finish in one day today rather than the two it usually takes. Grading can be such a pain.

UPDATE (7/29 6:25pm): Finally it’s finished.

Far and Wide

It seems like visitors to this weblog come from far and wide. Here are the countries represented:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Zimbabwe.

That is 62 countries.

UPDATE: Abdullah tells me that I forgot Syria.

Movies I Watched

I watched Seabiscuit and Bad Boys II this weekend.

Frankly, I could have done without Bad Boys II. It is full of action and like a lot of the action movies it has no plot at all. Plus there is nothing great about the action either. It also uses formulaic humor to get a few laughs.

Seabiscuit was more interesting. The use of a narrator to link the depression and Seabiscuit worked to an extent. As the Talking Dog says

[it] is an unsurprisingly entertaining ‘feel good’ affair—- perhaps “Rocky” for racehorses?

No Comments

This post is for the visitor who viewed 16 pages on my weblog last night. Why couldn’t (s)he find anything to comment on?

Please, visitors, comment on my posts. Tell me what you think. Tell me I am wrong (or right) and why. Expound on your views related to the topic of a post.

Quran and Textual Analysis

Via Ideofact, I see that Tacitus has linked to an article in Newsweek about Christoph Luxenberg (a pseudonym) who claims that some of the words in the Quran should be considered to be in Syriac rather than Arabic.

In a note of encouragement to his fellow hijackers, September 11 ringleader Muhammad Atta cheered their impending “marriage in Paradise” to the 72 wide-eyed virgins the Qur’an promises to the departed faithful. Palestinian newspapers have been known to describe the death of a suicide bomber as a “wedding to the black-eyed in eternal Paradise.” But if a German expert on Middle Eastern languages is correct, these hopes of sexual reward in the afterlife are based on a terrible misunderstanding.

Arguing that today’s version of the Qur’an has been mistranscribed from the original text, scholar Christoph Luxenberg says that what are described as “houris” with “swelling breasts” refer to nothing more than “white raisins” and “juicy fruits.”

Amber will be very happy to hear this, since she always gets mad about men getting virgins while she would have to make do with only me.

All kidding aside, I was surprised about this article. This is after all old news, work that was published years ago even in the popular press (as I mentioned in a previous post). Then I read the following line:

Luxenberg —- a pseudonym —- is one of a small but growing group of scholars, most of them working in non-Muslim countries, studying the language and history of the Qur’an. When his new book is published this fall, it’s likely to be the most far-reaching scholarly commentary on the Qur’an’s early genesis, taking this infant discipline far into uncharted —- and highly controversial —- territory.

So it’s actually about publicity for his book then.

Regarding his claims, I can’t really make much sense out of the ones given in the Newsweek article since they all seem to have been picked based on an agenda rather than scholarly textual analysis (no houris in heaven, no hijab/covering for women, Muhammad as witness to the prophets rather than last prophet, Quran as teaching rather than revelation). I am not competent to judge his claim about Aramaic being the language of the Arabs at the time. I would need a lot more information about his analysis to come to any conclusions. Unfortunately Luxenberg’s book is only available in German (I don’t think I can ask my Dad to use his German skills on this book.)

Via ParaPundit, I saw this comment in the Forward which states some of my own objections as well:

Moreover, inasmuch as h.oura’u is an attested Arabic word that really does denote a fair-eyed woman, it is not clear what makes the pseudonymous Mr. Luxenberg so sure that the h.uru of the Koran are white raisins. Perhaps the many alimentary images in Sura 56 —- the pure spring waters and the fruit and the “flesh of fowls” —- have convinced him that the word h.uru should also refer to food. But since there are “immortal youths” who bring this food to the saints in heaven, why not fair-eyed women? In principle, the justification for emending an ancient text, or for interpreting it in a brand-new way, should be a basic problem with the traditional interpretation that calls for an innovative approach. In this case, it is hard to see what that is.

ParaPundit quotes this from the Forward article:

That Western scholars discussing Islam and the Koran have to publish under pseudonyms to ensure their physical safety is, of course, a sad commentary not only on the intolerance of the Islamic world, but —- even after the American action in Afghanistan —- on the West’s weak posture in the face of this.

Now I have heard about Luxenberg and Ibn Warraq (who I don’t necessarily consider a scholar) using pseudonyms. Most of the other scholars working on the Quran do use real names. Regarding Luxenberg, I would be interested in finding out how he publishes in scholarly journals or presents his work in conferences etc. (I am completely ignorant of humanities/social sciences in this respect. May be Brian Ulrich can correct me here. I have also no idea where to look for his articles.)

On the other hand, quite a few Muslims need a large dose of tolerance for views they disagree with. Pakistan government has banned the latest issue of Newsweek because of this article.

Government has banned the latest edition of US weekly magazine Newsweek because it carries material likely to incite Muslim religious sentiments, information minister said today. Shaikh Rashid told AFP that all copies of the weekly’s July 28 edition would be confiscated. “We have ordered the customs authorities to seize all copies of the Newsweek issue as it contains material which can incite religious sentiments,” Rashid said, adding that the objectionable article on page 40 was about the Holy Quran. He said there was freedom of expression in Pakistan but the government expected the media to be careful about the religious sensitivities of the Muslim people.

In addition, a number of my Muslim friends will say that Luxenberg is obviously wrong. They will give me reasons based on their faith. My reply is simple: True, but only for Muslims. Why should someone who does not believe in Islam accept these arguments? Faith-based reasoning does not work on someone who does not share that belief. We need to analyze Luxenberg’s claim not on the basis of our faith but by using textual analysis, history and rational thought.

Huffington Vs Huffington

Now that could be an interesting race for California Governor: Arianna Huffington running against her ex-husband Michael Huffington. Any guess as to how many people will vote for the wrong Huffington?

The rule-busting California gubernatorial recall election took a turn for the bizarre Friday as author-columnist Arianna Huffington appeared ready to kick off an independent run to replace Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, and her ex-husband, former Rep. Michael Huffington, prepared to run as a Republican.

And who has more name recognition than Gary Condit?

Meanwhile, supporters of former Democratic Rep. Gary Condit say the congressman —- whose life is the subject of a documentary called “Public Service: The Private Campaign of Gary Condit,” to premiere Aug. 8 in Sacramento —- is being urged to consider a run as a Democrat.

This recall might turn out to be loads of fun!

Via the Talking Dog.

Restaurant Recommendations

We are planning to go to Washington DC next weekend. Can anyone recommend any good restaurants? I am looking for walk-in places where we don’t have to make reservations in advance or wear nice clothes but that have great food.

For lunch, the restaurant should be close to the Mall, but the dinner restaurant can be anywhere in the metro area.

Do I have any DC readers?