Skip to comments.Low profile for German Koran challenger
Posted on 11/11/2004 1:18:36 PM PST by Nachum
PARIS (Reuters) - When a Muslim radical murdered the Dutch director Theo van Gogh for a film criticising Islam, Christoph Luxenberg saw his name ripple through Internet forums 1,000 times and immediately knew why.
"The safety of experts on Islam is topical again," he said -- in a surprisingly detached tone for the author of a critique of the Koran who fears it could one day spark similar anger.
Van Gogh, murdered last week for a film slamming Muslim treatment of women, set out to be provocative. But such is the apprehension among critics of Islam that even an obscure German professor of ancient Semitic languages keeps a very low profile.
"Christoph Luxenberg" is a pseudonym. The professor hides his work from his own students -- even those who recommend it to him, not knowing he is its author. He gives interviews by phone and offers little hint of who he really is or where he lives.
This has served Luxenberg well over the past four years, when his book "The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran" was only available in dense academic German. But he doesn't know what to expect when an English translation appears next year.
"I fear a strong reaction in the Islamic world," he told Reuters late on Wednesday by telephone. "My Muslim friends tell me that many people will jump on this book."
The fate of Islamic reformers in the Arab world is sobering.
In the 1990s in Egypt, the writer Faraq Foda was gunned down for criticising fundamentalists and Cairo University professor Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid was forced to divorce his wife and flee abroad for examining the Koran in its historical context.
Luxenberg thinks the academic nature of his work sets him apart from Salman Rushdie, the British writer threatened with death in 1989 by fundamentalists insulted by his novel "The Satanic Verses", which toys with the idea that the Koran is not infallibly divine.
But although he originally thought he could publish under his own name, Muslim friends warned him not to. He said van Gogh's murder "confirms how right they were".
NO VIRGINS, NO VEILS?
Luxenberg's book is a linguistic analysis of the Koran that appears arcane -- but could be explosive underneath.
He argues that many words that are hard to understand in the Arabic text actually came from Aramaic, a related tongue widely spoken in the Middle East when the Muslim holy book was written.
His work recalls that of German Biblical scholars of the 19th century, who changed Christians' understanding of their scriptures by uncovering their multi-layered history.
Luxenberg's analysis is strictly linguistic, not theological, but it inevitably ends up questioning some traditions and dogmas that Muslims hold central to their faith.
For example, he says the Koranic passage promising men "virgins" in heaven -- often cited as a supposed incentive for male suicide bombers -- really used a word for "white raisins".
The passage traditionally taken as an instruction to women to wear headscarves actually tells them to wear a belt or an apron around their loins, Luxenberg argues.
SHAKING CENTRAL DOGMAS
Even more seriously, he shakes a central dogma by saying Mohammad's title as "seal of the prophets", meaning last of the men chosen by God to proclaim his word on earth, actually only means that he confirms what the prophets said.
His thesis that the Koran had Aramaic forerunners, possibly Christian writings, also challenges the tradition that the Koran was dictated in Arabic to Mohammad by the Angel Gabriel and consists of the actual and unchangeable words of God.
"If you challenge that, quite a few things fall apart, so the Muslims don't want to accept this," Luxenberg said, adding that liberal Muslims had encouraged him to continue his work.
"My work does not question the Koran, only the traditional exegesis of the Koran -- what men have read into it."
...hmmm...now where have I heard something about white raisins, lately?
The islamo-nuts will find him and kill him too.
There is not talking with there murderers...
I don't think so...
And I am waiting for the book...
72 virgins? no no, you misunderstood, you get 72 white raisins, I am sorry that they are hot as hell!
I've always said that the reason why their will be no reforms in Islam is because of their belief that the Koran is straight from God and therefore ANY challenge to its "teachings" is sacrilegious. In other words, fanaticism as far as the eyes can see...
"His work recalls that of German Biblical scholars of the 19th century, who changed Christians' understanding of their scriptures by uncovering their multi-layered history."
I hope it doesn't. The 19th century Higher Criticism movement among German scholars was as intellectually bogus as they come. It's been exposed; there are no "multiple layers".
She flashed through my mind as I read it as well.
The Nabataeans were an Arabic people who lived on the eastern borders of the Jews. They spoke Aramaic and they were allies of the Romans.
Their religion was apparently a mixture of Arab paganism with tinges of Judaism and Christian influences as well.
If the Koran shows as heavy an Aramaic influence as this guy suggests, it makes it pretty likely that the Koran is just cobbled-together fragments of eclectic Nabataean religious texts.
Just as many Jewish texts are written in a blend of Aramaic and Hebrew using Aramaic script, the Koran could be a blend of Arabic and Aramaic in Arabic script.
This would explain the thousands of words and phrases in the Koran that are obscure and that have provoked endless commentary.
It would also explain why the Koran is so disorganized and shuffled. It is the least coherent, in terms of narrative structure, of any major Near Eastern text.
Islam is today's repository of totalitarianism. Communism is pretty much dead as an ideology. Socialism is alive and well, but currently isn't engaged in totalitarianism.
Only Islam is currently executing people for publishing ideas.
The absolute prohibition of criticism by Islam has deprived it of any vibrancy.
But of course there is a good reason Islam prohibits criticism. The Prophet must have known Islam could not withstand careful examination.
"Here is the truth...but it must never be examined in the light of day...it must be spread by the sword...and once accepted, a person can leave it only under penalty of death."
Yeah, Mohammed had much confidence in the natural durability of his truth. What kind of truth is it that is afraid of the light of day?
Uh...you mean...they know that you're the author?
On the Net: Answering Islam, A Christian-Muslim Dialog and Apologetic.
See my tagline for link to The Life of Muhammad. A biography of the 'prophet' published in 1913.
I pray that Daniel Pipes has a bodyguard.
Terrorist in Hell: "I blew myself up for what, 72 raisins? Aaarrgghhh!"
You must have been reading the Koran. Althought maybe it has something to do with either Ketchup or with naturepathic home remedies. Of course in the good old days they just got drunk. (wink, wink, Mrs. Kerry)
Thanks for posting this. We have to dissiminate the information about the Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran especially next year when an English translation appears.
Here is an academic book review:
Christoph Luxenberg (ps.) Die syro-aramaeische Lesart des Koran; Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Qur'ansprache.
Sorry, I can not spell dissiminate =>disseminate