International lawyer Karim Khan argues peace at core of Islam

Dec. 1, 2017, 1:24 a.m.

International lawyer and prosecutor Karim Khan QC argued that human rights are at the core of Islam in a Thursday talk on campus sponsored by the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice.

Khan, a Muslim himself, opened his talk at the Stanford Humanities by highlighting the peace and universal tolerance that Islam teaches. Islam, he said, means peace; the standard Muslim greeting means, “upon you, peace.” He stressed that this “you” refers not just to Muslims but to all of humanity.”

In fact, Khan believes that tolerance is at the core of Islam, citing the Ashtiname of Muhammad as a “shining example” of Islamic human rights from 628 CE. The Ashtiname of Muhammad is a covenant written by the prophet Muhammad guaranteeing the protection of Christians.

“We are with them,” the text reads. “I, my servants, my followers defend them … No compulsion is to be on them. Their judges are not to be removed, nor their monks from their monasteries.”

Furthermore, the text calls on Muslims to defend the Christians, saying that “no one is to force them to travel or fight” and that “the Muslims will fight for them.”

When asked about Robert Spencer, the controversial conservative writer and self-proclaimed Islamophobe who spoke on campus Nov.14, Khan said that many of the Islamic verses Spencer cited were taken out of context.

“The case put forward by [Spencer] is born of a lack of information and maybe a smidgen of prejudice,” he said.

However, he stressed that Spencer is free to make his own decisions.

“If Mr. Robert Spencer and others [such as] … President Trump view the whole religion, the whole philosophy … [as] a real and present threat [that] is oppressive, that’s them to make that determination,” he said.

He said he simply does his best at presenting what he believes in and what is supported by evidence, stating he would not interfere with the audiences’ assessment of his work.

Violence taken in the name of Islam, whether by Al-Qaeda or the “not-Islamic” Daesh, is done by “so-called Muslims,” he argued. Religions, he argued, are judged by their “teachings” rather than by the actions of their followers.

“Otherwise, I would reject every religion,” he said, citing atrocities committed in the name of various faiths such as the Spanish Inquisition, led by Christians.

He said he would even reject Islam because of Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist attacks.

To Khan, violence shows that the Islamic world has been “hijacked for largely political purposes” because politicians often radicalize their messages to win support. But despite the “nonsense high-flouting theologians” may espouse, he said, citing Islamic text, “to murder one individual is to murder humanity … and to [be kind to] one individual … is to save [it].”

Ultimately, Khan argued that all religions are similar in that they are rooted in justice and have room for improvement.He lamented that many countries that call themselves “Islamic this and Islamic that” are less Islamic than Christian-majority countries in terms of adhering to the ideals of tolerance in the Quran.

“Whether we are Muslim, … Christian, or Jew or Hindu, what side [do each one of us] want to be on?” he said. “Enlightenment and kindness and peace or…violence and division and hate? I think it’s clear.”
Contact Justin Daniels at justinmd ‘at’

Justin Daniels '20 is a writer for campus life studying French, Italian and History from Baltimore, Maryland. He has an adorable golden retriever named Makenzie and a lovely sister. He loves getting lost in the stacks of Green and spending time with friends, preferably speaking French.

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