Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Saudi translation of Quran to a narrower interpretation.

Culture: This is not surprising and has not been challenged enough. Transcript of the "A question of Leadership" Panaroma show.

John Ware: The $1m gift from the Saudis to the East London Mosque is but a drop in the ocean compared to the billions they've spent spreading their narrow form of Islam around the world. Some of the Saudi millions have been spent on new translations of the Qur'an which are less tolerant of other faiths. Take a look at this popular English version of the Qur'an not translated by the Saudis. It translates this verse as saying: "Those who follow the Jewish (scriptures)¿ and the Christians.. any who believe in Allah¿and work righteousness.." can go to paradise. Now look at this more recent version of the Qur'an, by Saudi appointed translators. The same verse suggests Jews and Christians would only go to paradise if they "believed in Allah ¿and worked righteousness.." Other recent Saudi translations of the Qur'an make the change to the past tense even more starkly. One of the leading British experts on the Qur'an is Professor Neal Robinson. He says this difference in translation may seem subtle, but today casts non Muslims in a completely different light. Professor Neal Robinson, University Louvain, Belgium: The recent Saudi translation gives the impression that only Jews and Christians before the rise of Islam could be admitted to Paradise not Jews and Christians today who believe in God, look to the coming day of judgement and do goods works. John Ware: What do you think of this? Professor Neal Robinson: I think this is a regrettable narrowing. They've not changed the interpretation of the Qur'an, this was the prevalent view in the middle ages; just as mediaeval Christians believed that outside the church there was no salvation." John Ware: Muslims regard the Qur'an as infallible - because they believe the texts are the divine revelations from God. Over the last 20 years, the Saudis have flooded the world with harsher interpretations of the Qur'an, cut price and often free. What message has this missionary zeal reinforced to Muslims about other faiths? Professor Neal Robinson: That a Muslim cannot be a genuine friend of a non-Muslim. Professor Neal Robinson: Their whole ideology is one of Arab and Islamic supremacy and they have little room for other more liberal Arab interpretations of Islam and no room at all for West. The West is just dismissed as decadent and secular. They have no understanding of the way in which modern secular societies have carefully separated the domains of religion and state and kept certain areas of public life free of religious influence."

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