How was Khomeini tolerant with Christians?

Mashari Althaydi
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It’s normal nowadays to read WhatsApp messages, Twitter posts or watch programs about old fatwas (religious edicts) for Salafist Sunni clerics calling on people to accuse others of heresy or infidelity or prohibiting something that’s today become one of the easiest things.

This is ordinary as all old legacies are full of such outdated issues. In the past, they were matters which involved bloodshed.
The jurisprudential dogmatic legacy in Islamic heritage blogs - we talk about Sunnis considering they are the majority of Muslims - is full of practices that are currently rejected and they base their talk on old books, but present them as if they’ve just discovered them and circulate them on social media and satellite television.


However, it’s unacceptable to limit the issue to Islam, Sunnis or Salafism - as actually each legacy suffers from a crisis in the current era.

In “modern” Shiite jurisprudence, Khomeini’s mouthpieces present themselves to the West as civilized and friendly people to Christian sentiment

Mshari Al Thaydi

To be more specific, they always give an example about Ashari Sufi Islam and say it is moderate Islam versus Wahhabi Salafist Islam. Although such a statement is not based on solid facts, let us review modern examples that examine this claim.

Observing controversy

In Egypt’s al-Azhar, the symbol of Ashari Islam, as it’s claimed, one can observe a lot of controversy about radicalism in al-Azhar’s educational curricula to the extent that Doctor Abdel Hay Azab, president of Al-Azhar University, once told Egyptian daily al-Watan that he seeks to purify al-Azhar’s educational curricula of radicalism.

In Morocco, there’s recently been a debate about philosophy textbooks for baccalaureate students as they included a text for Ashari scholar Ibn al-Salah saying that philosophy leads to infidelity. This angered the Moroccan Association of Teachers of Philosophy and it criticized the textbooks but the Moroccan ministry of education dismissed this criticism because it “judges intentions.”

In “modern” Shiite jurisprudence, Khomeini’s mouthpieces present themselves to the West as civilized and friendly people to Christian sentiment. These flirting statements are said to eastern Christians. According to Iraqi researcher Doctor Rasheed al-Khayoun in an article published in al-Ittihad newspaper, Khomeini himself talks about the people of the dhimma, i.e. Christians and Jews, in his book Tahrir al-Wasilah (Commentaries on the Liberation of the Intercession).

On dealing with Christians and Jews, Khomeini says: “They cannot modernize a temple or ring bells. It’s disliked to salute them. It’s said it’s prohibited to salute them and if they salute one by saying ‘peace,’ the response must be limited to ‘upon you,’ as it’s disliked to complete the salutation and say ‘peace be upon you.’ When meeting them, the salutation should be: ‘peace be upon he who followed the right path.’ They must be driven to the narrowest paths. Their construction must not be higher than Muslims’ buildings..etc.”

The point is that the comprehensive view is a moral value in addition to being a duty. May God protect everyone’s consciences.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on January 16, 2017.
Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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