Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Cleaning up the homicidal suras

by Bülent Özdağlar

In 2007 a praiseworthy attempt was made to clean up the more macabre parts of the Koran with the  publication of the so-called Reformist Translation [into English] by a group of scholars led by Edip Yuksel, a Turkish-Kurdish philosophy professor who lives in the USA. He has an Islamist past and perhaps present, which I have not investigated.

I here present a comparison of Professor Yuksel’s new translation with a stodgier, more traditional translation of the Koran. I selected the most bloodthirsty suras I could find[1] and found that Professor Yuksel and his team have toned them down quite a bit, making them less sectarian and less offensive.

He does that by means of several methods:

  1. He uses bland, non-committal English words instead of certain key, heavy-duty Arabic terms that are encrusted in the English of the traditional translation, like Allah, fitna and mushrik.
  2. He makes it less sectarian by selecting euphemisms that do not have a principally religious meaning, and generally makes it less truculent.
  3. He introduces headings -- that he hastily explains away as "subtitles to make the reading easier for those whose attention might be compromised by fast-paced modern life” -- but nonetheless place the suras in question in a context that makes them more acceptable to moderate Moslems and infidels.
  4. He adds endnotes to each sura (or “chapter”, as he demurely calls them) that add additional layers of insulating context and contain, among other things,  helpful references to the  Bible.  

I am not competent to judge the accuracy of this new translation, but from the standpoint of the Koran's compatibility with Western culture it certainly represents an improvement over the old versions. Yuksel makes the controversial tome more salonfähig, to use the German term, or presentable. Nonetheless the underlying memes of combat and slaughter persist.

The new-fangled Koran is available online -- if you're interested -- and can be downloaded for free in pdf format. The book is prefaced by numerous generally favorable reviews from noted critics of Mohammedanism like Daniel Pipes and Irshad Manji.

Needless to say, the  new-fangled version will have the late Osama bin Laden spinning in his watery grave. 

The following episode of this thrilling blog will feature a blow by blow comparison. Sit tight. 



[1]  Taken from Article 10 (pages 19 and following) of Sam Solomon’s Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding – also available online.

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