Could this Quran curb extremism?

Daniel Burke writes: On a warm November night in Washington, a small group of American Muslims gathered at Georgetown University to celebrate “The Study Quran,” new English translation of Islam’s most sacred scripture.

By the next evening, several said, the need for the book became painfully apparent.

The Islamic State had struck again, this time slaughtering 130 men and women in Paris. The group quoted the Quran twice in its celebratory statement.

After the attacks, President Barack Obama renewed his call for Muslim scholars and clerics to “push back” against “twisted interpretations of Islam.” Some U.S. presidential candidates fed anti-Islamic flames, creating the most hostile environment since 9/11, American Muslims said.

“The whole program of ISIS is to turn Muslims against the West and the West against Muslims,” said Joseph Lumbard, one of the five scholars behind “The Study Quran.”

“They want the West not to understand Islam.”

Thus far, many English translations of the Quran have been ill-suited to foiling extremist ideology or introducing Americans to Islam. Even after 9/11, when interest surged and publishers rushed Qurans to the market, few of the 25 or so available in English are furnished with helpful footnotes or accessible prose.

Meanwhile, Christians or Jews may pick up a Quran and find their worst fears confirmed.

“I never advise a non-Muslim who wants to find out more about Islam to blindly grab the nearest copy of an English-language Quran they can find,” Mehdi Hasan, a journalist for Al Jazeera, said during the panel discussion at Georgetown.

Ten years in the making, “The Study Quran” is more than a rebuttal to terrorists, said Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Iranian-born intellectual and the book’s editor-in-chief. His aim was to produce an accurate, unbiased translation understandable to English-speaking Muslims, scholars and general readers.

The editors paid particular attention to passages that seem to condone bloodshed, explaining in extensive commentaries the context in which certain verses were revealed and written.

“The commentaries don’t try to delete or hide the verses that refer to violence. We have to be faithful to the text, ” said Nasr, a longtime professor at George Washington University. “But they can explain that war and violence were always understood as a painful part of the human condition.”

The scholar hopes his approach can convince readers that no part of the Quran sanctions the brutal acts of ISIS.

“The best way to counter extremism in modern Islam,” he said, “is a revival of classical Islam.” [Continue reading…]

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