An Inclusive Litany

7/25/02

Apparently prompted by newfound interest in Islam, the University of North Carolina is requiring incoming freshmen to read Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations, edited by Haverford religion professor Michael Sells and featuring about a third of the complete text along with a companion CD of recitations. Study questions include, "Now that you have read parts of the Koran, do you think more Americans should read all or parts of the book?" and "How does the sound [of a recitation] seem to you to create meanings and effects that are not present when you just read the text alone?"

But the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group, sued the university on behalf of three students in an effort to halt this required reading. The suit claims the program misrepresents the Koran and attempts to "impose a uniform[ly] favorable opinion of the religion of Islam" among students, violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, the lawsuit contends that the book the students would read omits suras (chapters) that call for the execution of non-believers, such as suras 9:5 ("Fight and slay the pagan wherever you find them") and 4:89 ("those who reject Islam must be killed"). The group contends that it would neither be legal nor desirable to teach the Bible in the same manner.

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