Pakistan has banned the latest issue of Newsweek magazine because of an article titled “Challenging the Quran,”
which features a scholar who contests the Islamic holy book’s purported origin and claims it counts “white raisins” as a heavenly reward, not dark-eyed virgins.
In a book sure to touch off a storm when it’s published this fall, the German scholar says faulty transcription of the original Quranic text has resulted in errors of interpretation. Using the pseudonym Christoph Luxenberg, he questions the Islamic rule that women must cover themselves and asserts the Quran originally was a Christian document.
“The article is insulting to the Quran,” Pakistani information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, told the Associated Press.
Customs authorities have been notified to seize copies of the magazine, said Ahmed, according to the AP. The offending article is on page 40 of Newsweek International’s July 28 edition.
“The decision was taken to prevent religious violence and control law and order situation,” he said.
Ahmed insisted Pakistan has freedom of expression, but said the government expected the media to be careful about the religious sensitivities of Muslims, Agence France-Presse reported.
Pakistan’s military regime is threatened by militant Sunni and Shiite sects. As WorldNetDaily has reported, the Asian nation has a law requiring the death penalty for anyone who blasphemes the Quran or Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.
A Newsweek spokesman told the AP his magazine stands by its story.
“This does happen in some places around the world with one of our 10 international editions,” he said.
The Newsweek article says Luxenberg’s book is “likely to be the most far-reaching scholarly commentary on the Quran’s early genesis, taking this infant discipline far into uncharted – and highly controversial – territory.”
Newsweek explained this is because Islamic orthodoxy considers the Quran to be the verbatim revelation of Allah, which has made critical study of the book off-limits in much of the Islamic world.
Luxenberg, according to Newsweek, is a professor of Semitic languages at one of Germany’s leading universities. He has chosen to remain anonymous because he fears a fatwa by enraged Islamic extremists.
The scholar bases his main claims on the assertion the Quran’s original language was not Arabic but a tongue closer to Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.
The copy of the Quran in circulation today is a mistranscription of the original text, he maintains, insisting Arabic did not become a written language until 150 years after Muhammad’s death.
The commandment for women to cover themselves is based on a misreading of the text, he contends, according to Newsweek. The verse calling women to “snap their scarves” over their bags becomes in Aramaic “snap their belts around their waists,” says Luxenberg.
An Aramaic reading of Sura 33, calling Muhammad “the seal of the prophets” – or the final and ultimate prophet of God – actually should read “witness of the prophets,” he claims.
The explosive implication is the Quran is merely a witness to the established Judeo-Christian texts.
He argues the original Quran actually was a Christian liturgical document before Arabs turned Muhammad’s teaching into a new religion long after his death.
Newsweek notes in 2001, a revisionist scholar was convicted by Egypt’s Constitutional Court of “apostasy” for regarding the Quran as a document written by humans.
The magazine is among many publications that have run feature stories over the past several decades on scholars who reject traditional interpretations of the Bible.