The attack typically rephrases the arguments in a tone somewhere between mocking and ominous, at once undermining the argument by ridiculing it and associating it with Anti-Semitism, particularly ridiculous as Geller is Jewish, and Islam is undeniably Anti-Semitic.
In a recent New York Times interview, the blogger Pamela Geller leveled many serious charges against Islam; she stated that Muslims curse Jews and Christians during their five-times-a-day prayer; that the only good Muslim is a secular Muslim; and most perniciously, she said that the Qur'an has never been properly translated, insinuating that it contains dark secrets about Muslims and their religious responsibilities.
There's a huge reach from, "it was never properly translated" to "it contains dark secrets." I feel the Torah has never been properly translated either. That doesn't mean it contains dark secrets. It means it's never been properly translated. I can say the same thing about many novels in languages which don't share much common linguistic ancestry with English.
Wafa Sultan, who was raised an Arab Muslim, has said the same thing. As Gerecht himself points out, plenty of Koran translations do show that Islam is hostile to non-Muslims. There are some PC Koran translations, but the most popular ones used by Muslims are non-PC. The diversity of translations used by Muslims shows there isn't necessarily an ideal translation. Because in some cases there isn't even full agreement on what the Koran means. Stating that there should be an ideal translation means that Muslims and non-Muslims who don't know Arabic should know what the Koran says and doesn't say.
But J.J. Goldberg makes it his thesis that Geller claimed that the Koran contains "dark secrets." Now I don't claim to read her mind, but this is the quote, Goldberg is working off.
Now I also believe that a true translation, an accurate translation of the Koran, is really not available in English, according to many of the Islamic scholars that I've spoken to. That's deeply troubling. And I don't think that many westernized Muslims know when they pray five times a day that they're cursing Christians and Jews five times a day. I don't think they know that.
I don't claim to be able to read Geller's mind, but her reference was most likely to, the opening of the Koran, "Show us the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast favored; not the (path) of those who earn thine anger nor of those who go astray."
This is generally thought to mean Jews as being the ones who earned Allah's anger, and Christians being the ones who have gone astray. Robert Spencer has gone into some detail on the subject here. The question here is less about literal translation and more about commonly understood references. Some translations of the Koran do add these words for clarification. Some maintain the original language.
While one need not point to this verse to find that the Koran is hostile to Jews and Christians. The centrality of it however is what makes it so vital in Muslim religious life.
Gerecht has the unenviable task of making sense of J.J. Goldberg's speculations about what Geller said (rather than Goldberg emailing and asking her) and I have the unenviable task of making sense of that whole mess. A mess that has less to do with the Koran, than it does with silencing straightforward criticism of Islam, to only allow criticism of Islamic extremism.
Late in the piece, Gerecht makes the arguable claim that Muslims don't think about Jews and Christians when they pray and don't need to hate Jews and Christians to be Muslims.
And about Muslim prayer: I certainly have no perfect way of knowing what Muslims think when they pray, but I really do think they know what they're doing. If westernized Muslims are facing the Almighty, they know what's in their hearts. Devout Muslims need not hate Jews and Christians to worship the Creator.
While Jews and Christians are not the focus of Muslim prayers, neither are they absent from them as bad examples, as has already been shown above. This is another strawman that substitutes one argument for another. Islam is based on Allah's rejection of Jews and Christians, and the Koranic claim that Jews and Christians rejected Mohammed. The separate existence of Jews and Christians is in Muslim eyes a testament to their heresy or unbelief. For if they truly believed, they would be Muslims.
Can devout Muslims not hate Jews or Christians? Only if we define devout differently than Mohammed, who Gerecht admits hated both.
But from a technical standpoint, devout Muslims need not hate Jews and Christians. They're just commanded not to befriend them, and to subjugate and kill them. But if they can do so with no more emotion than machines, perhaps Mohammed would still approve. This is hardly much of a defense though. It is no comfort that your murderers did not hate you personally, but were only acting on orders from their holy book.
Reuel Gerecht is correct that Muslims are more than just physical embodiments of the Koran, but nor can you casually talk about Muslims, without acknowledging that they strive to live by the Koran as an ideal. Muslims are human beings who feel the same things we do. But so were the followers of National Socialism or the guards in the watchtowers of Soviet Gulags. There were, for example, Nazis who killed Jews, but also saved some of them. That the same man who oversaw mass murder, might save a child, tells us that people are complex. But it is no denial of what Nazism is, or what Nazis did, or even what this man in particular did.
Human beings are indeed more than the sum of their parts. But they are still mostly defined by one part or another. By culture, nationality, creed and faith. We cannot ignore those by arguing that we are all the same. We are the same, but that just means that we all have good and evil inside us. That we strive to do what we think is good, by the lights of our ideals. And that to understand who we are, we must look at what those ideals say. A good Muslim is fundamentally different than a good Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu or atheist. Trial after trial of terrorists who quote devoutly from the Koran testify to that.
Being Muslim is a choice. Geller has argued that Muslims in the West should be fully informed of what that choice entails. There is no serious counterargument to be made in that regard. Nor can there be. To ignore that is to perpetuate terror. Because the unexamined Koran is a ticking time bomb. And it's a bomb that we're sitting on.