To John Ashcroft,
Attorney General of the USA
Dr. Ahmad Shafaat
Dear Mr. Ashcroft,
Peace be unto you!
You have been recently quoted to compare
Islam and Christianity in the following words: "Islam is a religion
in which God requires you to send your son to die for him.
Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you".
This dramatic statement, Mr. Attorney General, is theologically
shallow and politically opportunistic and short-sighted.
If your statement refers to the Islamic
concept of martyrdom, then it forgets that a similar concept exists
in Christianity and the Christian Bible. Early Christian literature
is full of accounts of men and women of faith who gave their lives
rather than submit to what they considered powers of darkness. The
New Testament Book of Revelation is full of glorification of
martyrs. In this regard it follows the earlier Jewish Books of
Maccabees. Some of Jesus' sayings in the gospels likewise encourage
martyrdom. For example in the Gospel of Mark, when John and James
want to have the most honored positions in Jesus' kingdom, he tells
them that they first need to be baptized with the baptism with which
he was to be baptized, which is understood to mean that they should
undergo martyrdom like he himself was about to (8:35-40). In general
he tells his people to deny themselves, take up their cross, and
follow him (8:34). The perceived execution of Jesus himself was
originally viewed as a martyrdom before tradition made him a son of
God and his death a cosmic event for the salvation of the world.
Mr. Ashcroft, you and your children will
one day die and according to the Christian concept of God, this
death will be caused by God, albeit because of your inherited sin.
The concept of martyrdom is simply that sometimes we have to be
prepared to die on our own accord. The USA glorifies those of its
citizens who knowingly go in harmís way and then die in defending
its interests and security. If dying for the interests of oneís
country is something good, then why should one deride dying
willingly for higher moral and spiritual values?
If you are thinking specifically about
the hijackers who attacked the WTC and the Pentagon, then your own
Administration has repeatedly dissociated that action from Islam.
Your own earlier statements also point to the same dissociation
between Islam and the events of September 11. It is unfortunate that
you have now chosen to connect Islam with those events. Or, perhaps
you have one way of talking to America at large and a completely
different way to talk to your Christian constituency. This seems
like political opportunism. If so, this is a short-sighted strategy.
For, in todayís America, politicians who identify themselves with
narrow prejudices of one group within one religious community will
not see longevity in their career.