It appears to be rather simple: an attempt by assorted Muslim clerics in 2004 to try to stop the use of ‘takfir.’ Takfir is the practice of one Muslim declaring another to be in fact, not a Muslim at all. The most common example are Sunni fanatics declaring Shia to be non-Muslims.
The Amman Message was intended to stop Muslims infighting. It does not seem to have been terribly successful, as Islamic State and other groups continue to use it extensively.
That is all it is. It is has zero relevance outside the Muslim world. It names eight schools of Islam that it considers valid (including Shi’ism)‚ says that fatwas are not be issued outside this realm, and that takfir is completely banned.
There is no mention of Christians or Jews or any other religion or lack thereof. Indeed, some of those who signed it are notorious — including Sheikh Qaradawi. Hell be frozen over long before Qaradawi would dream of ‘outreach’ beyond the Muslim world.
Since I find it hard to believe that someone like Qaradawi would be broad-minded enough to even accept Shi’ism, I conclude that it was issued at least partly because terrorism was making Islam as a whole look bad.
Why a non-Muslim would find is a source of inspiration at Christmas is unclear to me. Here are some excepts:
The process that led to the Amman Message was as though the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Moderator of the General Asembly of the Church of Scotland and the other leaders of the main Protestant Communities had come together to define Christianity as a similarly tolerant and compassionate faith, in the face of threats from those calling for a violent crusade against not only heretics and non-believers but also those who disagreed with their selective and idiosyncratic interpretation of the Gospels, including the supposed Revelation of St John.
First off, whilst Christians have their disagreements, it has been some time since this resulted in significant violence. Dragging in the (misunderstood) Crusades is a classic example of moral equivalence.
Next, he author spends zero time discussing takfir itself — he does not even define it. Finally, he seems to be oblivious to the context: stopping Muslim-on-Muslim violence. He likely lacks the background to understand the huge red flag that goes up upon seeing Qaradawi’s name as signer of the document.
The rest of article is given over to singing the praises of Islam and how it has been ‘misunderstood’ by terror groups. I have seen countless example of that so I will just quote briefly:
It contains the nearest the Muslim world has to a definition of contemporary Islam, as opposed to the odd collections of 19th and 20th Century make-believe peddled by Islamic State, Al Qaeda and others who have “lost their way” and compete in their use of social media to recruit disaffected teenagers and malcontents to join them.
…[T]he leaders and spokesmen of Al Qaeda or Islamic State are commonly self-taught, with little or no formal scholastic education. Osama bin Laden studied economics and business adminstration. Abu Hamza studied engineering. And so on. Hence also the bizarre legal codes of the Islamic State Caliphate.
Islamic State’s theology is not bizarre at all, as most readers know. It closely parallels the Wahabbism practised in Saudi Arabia. The major difference: The Saudi’s won their war in the 1920’s and 1930’s and cultural knowledge of their violence at the time is very slight.
Another example: Islamic State’s different treatment of Christians (convert, leave or pay jiyza) and Yazidis (who are treated as losers in a tribal war) is based on the Koran: Christians are ‘People of the Book’ and Yazidis are not.
To continue with the piece in question:
I am, however,a great fan of John Donne, not just his erotic poetry but his later sermons and “religious” writings – at a time when Christians were busy persecuting each other in the name of the God of Love. One of my favourites begins “Kind pity chokes my spleen” and contains:
“To stand inquiring right, is not to stray;
To sleep, or run wrong, is. On a huge hill,
Cragged and steep, Truth stands, and he that will
Reach her, about must and about must go,
And what the hill’s suddenness resists, win so.”
A very similar set of messages can be found in the Koran saying, in effect, that those who claim to know the will (not just word) of God with absolute certainty and its meaning for you – are false prophets. You have to study for yourself. I therefore leave you to ponder working out how and why the voices of calm and reason are drowned out in the cacophony of the on-line world, with its lawyer-enforced, short-term, secular business models.
When it comes to calling on God in support of a “justified war”, I personally find little difference between the teachings of St Augustine of Hippo and the messages about self defence found in the Koran. Neither justifies what is happening in the Middle East today – other than those relating to secular self-defence against men of violence.
Full out dhimmi. Finally:
My own summary of the careful and measured tones of the Amman Message is simple: ‘anyone who presumes to know the will of God and encourages others to persecute and kill in his name — is a heretic.’
As I have argued above, I take a much more cynical (and better-informed) point of view of the Amman Message.