This story illustrates what it means to live in the West and enjoy the fruits of a free and open society.
A German professor named Sven Kalisch, who is a convert to Islam, decided to apply his scholarly skills to an investigation into the origins of Mohammedanism. For well over a hundred years the same kind of scholarship has routinely been applied to the origins of Christianity and Judaism, but Islam is late to the table, and the professor was making up for lost time.
His research led him to conclude that Mohammed in all likelihood never existed. Despite his discovery, Prof. Kalisch remains a Muslim. The big question now is: what are his co-religionists going to do with him? I wouldn’t want to rate a life insurance policy for him at this point, and he’d do well to invest in some kevlar-related fashion items.
But the even bigger question is: what are his academic colleagues and the German government going to do with him? Are they going to throw him over the palisade into the forest and let him deal with the wolves on his own? Will he lose his job? Will he be prosecuted for defaming a religion — his own religion?
According to The Wall Street Journal:
Professor Hired for Outreach to Muslims Delivers a Jolt
Islamic Theologian’s Theory: It’s Likely the Prophet Muhammad Never Existed
MÜNSTER, Germany — Muhammad Sven Kalisch, a Muslim convert and Germany’s first professor of Islamic theology, fasts during the Muslim holy month, doesn’t like to shake hands with Muslim women and has spent years studying Islamic scripture. Islam, he says, guides his life.
So it came as something of a surprise when Prof. Kalisch announced the fruit of his theological research. His conclusion: The Prophet Muhammad probably never existed.
Muslims, not surprisingly, are outraged. Even Danish cartoonists who triggered global protests a couple of years ago didn’t portray the Prophet as fictional. German police, worried about a violent backlash, told the professor to move his religious-studies center to more-secure premises.
“We had no idea he would have ideas like this,” says Thomas Bauer, a fellow academic at Münster University who sat on a committee that appointed Prof. Kalisch. “I’m a more orthodox Muslim than he is, and I’m not a Muslim.”
And this in a religion where a lapse from orthodoxy often costs the offender his life.
Prof. Kalisch has proved a disappointment to those who originally hailed him in his new position:
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When Prof. Kalisch took up his theology chair four years ago, he was seen as proof that modern Western scholarship and Islamic ways can mingle — and counter the influence of radical preachers in Germany. He was put in charge of a new program at Münster, one of Germany’s oldest and most respected universities, to train teachers in state schools to teach Muslim pupils about their faith.
Muslim leaders cheered and joined an advisory board at his Center for Religious Studies. Politicians hailed the appointment as a sign of Germany’s readiness to absorb some three million Muslims into mainstream society. But, says Andreas Pinkwart, a minister responsible for higher education in this north German region, “the results are disappointing.”
Here’s my favorite part. Despite his conversion, the professor remains a Westerner through and through: a scholarly enquiry to determine the truth was more important to him than reinforcing the basis of his own faith.
Prof. Kalisch, who insists he’s still a Muslim, says he knew he would get in trouble but wanted to subject Islam to the same scrutiny as Christianity and Judaism. German scholars of the 19th century, he notes, were among the first to raise questions about the historical accuracy of the Bible.
Not even the infidels are willing to be as extreme:
“Of course Muhammad existed,” says Tilman Nagel, a scholar in Göttingen and author of a new book, “Muhammad: Life and Legend.” The Prophet differed from the flawless figure of Islamic tradition, Prof. Nagel says, but “it is quite astonishing to say that thousands and thousands of pages about him were all forged” and there was no such person.
But Prof. Nagel is a man of the West as well, and defends his colleague’s right to promote his blasphemous conclusions:
All the same, Prof. Nagel has signed a petition in support of Prof. Kalisch, who has faced blistering criticism from Muslim groups and some secular German academics. “We are in Europe,” Prof. Nagel says. “Education is about thinking, not just learning by heart.”
Prof. Kalisch has now been pronounced an apostate, which generally precedes a death sentence:
Prof. Kalisch’s religious studies center recently removed a sign and erased its address from its Web site. The professor, a burly 42-year-old, says he has received no specific threats but has been denounced as apostate, a capital offense in some readings of Islam.
“Maybe people are speculating that some idiot will come and cut off my head,” he said during an interview in his study.
A few minutes later, an assistant arrived in a panic to say a suspicious-looking digital clock had been found lying in the hallway. Police, called to the scene, declared the clock harmless.
And, to heap outrage upon outrage:
He has doubts, too, about the Quran. “God doesn’t write books,” Prof. Kalisch says.
The professor says he’s more determined than ever to keep probing his faith. He is finishing a book to explain his thoughts. It’s in English instead of German because he wants to make a bigger impact. “I’m convinced that what I’m doing is necessary. There must be a free discussion of Islam,” he says.
My advice to Prof. Kalisch: write fast.
Hat tip: Abu Elvis.