Can you name the book which has the Islamic world in an uproar, and caused the United States government to deny any involvement with it? The book banned in the world's most populous democracy? No, not Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, a cause celebre among the literati. The book in question is published by evangelical Christian Arabs, and the American media couldn't care less about it.
Islam considers apostasy a crime punishable by death. It is very easy indeed to convert to Islam, but once the requisite phrases have been uttered, exit is not permitted. While Muslims are free to proselytize in most of the world, most Islamic countries refuse to allow Christian evangelists, or evangelists for any other faith for that matter, to operate freely. Severe criminal penalties exist in some states like Saudi Arabia, for inducing a Muslim to leave the faith.
There has never been an adequate translation of the Bible into classical Arabic. Such translations as exist are subject to ridicule by those trained in the poetry of the Quran, which is the standard used to define classical Arabic.
Nevertheless, there are Christian evangelists who wish to bring their religion and the teachings of Christ to Muslims. In 1999, two pseudonymous Arab Christian authors produced a book, The True Furqan (Furqan is another word for Quran), written in classical Arabic, intended as a tool to evangelize Arabs in particular, and Muslims in general. It is written in the style of the Quran, as a series of poetic verses, and contains Arabic verses and an English translation, side by side. But it brings the message of Christianity's Good News.
One of the authors commented
The Qur'an of the seventh century was formulated over 23 years by Islam's prophet, Muhammad. "The True Furqan took only seven years," Al—Mahdy said, adding that the new book also relays its message with eloquent English alongside the classical Arabic.
In answering the Qur'anic challenge, The True Furqan is written in both prose and poetry like the Qur'an, with the same style of articulation. It is divided into surahs or chapters, just like the Qur'an, dealing with 77 theological themes, such as Peace, The Messiah, The Triune God, The Crucifixion, Women, Fasting, and Prayer, which challenge the Qur'an's teachings and present the gospel. Each surah begins, "In the Name of the Father, the Word, the Holy Spirit, the One and Only True God," an echo of the Koran's "In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful."
"The style, language and power is exactly like the Qur'an," said Al—Mahdy. "But whereas the Qur'an has 100 linguistic and grammatical mistakes, The True Furqan will have none."
The True Furqan was regarded as an affront by many Muslims. Go to the Amazon.com website page for the book, and read the extremely disparate 62 reader reviews posted there by supporters and detractors. Only four copies remain on sale at Amazon.
However, the entire book has been posted to the web, and can be read here, perhaps accounting for the poor trade (only 4 copies available) on Amazon.
The controversy has reached a new level this year, when the government of India banned the book in its entirety from India. Here is the official notice, as published in the India Times:
Custom Non—Tariff Notification
No: 78/ NT (07—Sep—05) Govt prohibits import of book titled 'The True Furqan', subtitled 'The 21st Century Quran' published by USA—based publisher
The Central Government, for the maintenance of security of India, absolutely prohibits import of the book entitled "The True Furqan", subtitled "The 21st Century Quran" published in the United States of America by Omega, 2000 and Wine Press, including any extract there from, any reprint or translation thereof or any document reproducing any matter contained therein.
Note that reproduction of any portion of the book is prohibited. This comprehensive ban can only be explained as an effort to appease India's large Muslim population. It is certainly not in character for a nation which justifiably takes pride in its democratic political tradition.
The United States government has been drawn into the controversy as well. Accusations that the True Furqan is an American or Israeli plot to subvert Islam have been launched all over the world. The Department of State has issued an official disclaimer:
A New American Quran?
Evangelical Christian group writes book challenging the Quran
During 2004 and 2005, allegations in several countries claimed that the United States was trying to impose a "new American Quran" on Muslims.
These claims are false. A small, private evangelical Christian group in the United States has written a book called The True Furqan, which seeks to convert Muslims to Christianity, but this group has no connection with the U.S. government. Furqan is another term for Quran.
Shaykh Ikrimah Sabri, the preacher of Jerusalem's Al—Aqsa Mosque and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, inaccurately claimed the United States is "forcing Muslims to renounce the Quran and adopt the book Al Furqan al—Haqq (The True Quran)," according to a July 2, 2004 Internet report by the Palestinian Information Center.
Mustafa Bakri, editor of Egypt's sensationalist, anti—U.S. Al—Usbu newspaper, made other false claims in the newspaper's December 6, 2004 edition:
The first edition of The True Quran was published secretly in the United States and Israel.
The True Quran was drafted with direct Israeli participation and with direct instructions from U.S. President George Bush.
Twelve more books will be published as part of The True Quran series.
Bakri has a long history of making disinformation claims. Abbas al Janabi, who served as the personal secretary to Saddam's son Uday from the mid 1980s until 1998, said in 2003 that Bakri had long been on Saddam's payroll and was "very loyal to Saddam."
The True Furqan was published openly, not secretly, in the United States in 1999. It is available on the Internet.
The True Furqan was not published in Israel, according to its translator, Dr. Anis Shorrosh.
The True Furqan was written in Arabic and translated into English by evangelical Christian Arabs who have no connection with the U.S. government. The book contains both the Arabic and English texts.
The True Furqan is a private attempt by evangelical Christian Arabs to convert Muslims to Christianity. Its translator, Dr. Anis Shorrosh, describes it as "a tool to evangelize Muslims."
Dr. Shorrosh says the book is similar to the Quran "in style and substance ... but contains the gospel message."
According to Dr. Shorrosh, there was no Israeli involvement in the preparation of the book.
According to Dr. Shorrosh, The True Furqan is a stand—alone book, not part of a 12—book series.
Recently, Harvard and Georgetown Universities accepted forty million dollars from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud to encourage understanding between the Muslim world and the West:
"Bridging the understanding between East and West is important for peace and tolerance," Alwaleed said in a statement released by Harvard.
Written in a style and format familiar to devotees of the Quran, the True Furqan presents Christian theology in a way that it can be understood and digested by Muslims. Somehow, I suspect that it will not be on any reading lists at Harvard and Georgetown, and will not be cited in any publications circulating in Saudi Arabia, source of the forty million dollar bounty.
Understanding and tolerance between Islam and other religions is allowed to flow only on one direction, duplicating the pattern of religious conversion enforced by law in many Islamic nations. If Harvard and Georgetown make the True Furqan a non—book the way India has, it will speak volumes about the level of academic independence and integrity of the two universities.
Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.