The existence of states that impose certain forms of Islam on their citizens is one of the most significant problems with the Muslim religion today, the chair of Temple’s religion department said in a speech Wednesday.
In the speech, which was part of Islamic Awareness Week sponsored by Temple’s Muslim Student Association, Khalid Blankinship said that according to reports, the hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were not well informed about Islamic law.
This is apparent, he said, not just in that the terrorist acts themselves went against the teachings of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, but in mistakes those believed to be the hijackers made in their Arabic writings, a sign of improper religious education. Also, reports of what the hijackers did in the days leading up to the attacks, including drinking and solicitation of prostitutes, show that there was no strict adherence to Muslim teachings.
Blankinship said Osama bin Laden, who officials say was behind the attacks, preached doctrine that seem to be extensions of what Islamic law deems permissible.
Speaking about the plot’s mastermind, he said using bin Laden to criticize Islam as a whole would be analogous to using David Koresh or the Jonestown cult to criticize Christianity. That is, a religion cannot be judged solely on the basis of the actions of one follower, especially if that person does not conform to the religion’s laws.
Blankinship said that, contrary to popular belief, heaven and hell do exist for Muslims.
In order for the hijackers to believe they were acting in accordance with Muslim law, he said, they must have believed that any Muslims who were killed in the attacks were non-believers, because Muslim law dictates that a believer of Islam who kills anothers believer would go to hell.
He said committing suicide, in and of itself, would also lead to hell.
One of the most important problems with Islam today, Blankinship said, is the existence of states that impose certain forms of Islam on their citizens. Though, Islamic states have existed since the time of Mohammed — who Muslims believe to have been the messenger of God — during the seventh century.
The problem with Islamic statehood — or the statehood of any religion — arises when the state becomes too powerful as a religious vehicle and religious leaders become subservient. Then, he said, the religious leaders, and those who follow them, rise up against the state.
“Islamic statehood is problematic,” he said. “A state cannot determine who is a proper Muslim and who is not. Only religious leaders can.”
Blankinship also discussed misconceptions about how Islamic women are treated. The common misconception is that women are oppressed simply for being members of the religion, he said, but the reality is that the image of oppression comes from the protective extended families that most Islamic women are part of.
The impression of oppressive treatment of women is heightened in Western cultures because people in these countries are used to having full say over individualism, without having to abide by rules set by their parents or the culture itself.