Interview with Mouhanad Khorchide
”God Is Not A Dictator”
Professor Khorchide, what was your reaction to the recent controversial Mohammed film on YouTube?
Mouhanad Khorchide: I thought it was tedious and tasteless. I didn’t recognise the Prophet Mohammed as he was portrayed in the film so I didn’t feel it was directed at me as a Muslim.
Many Muslims find it difficult to adopt this attitude, what is your advice to them?
Khorchide: Ignore it, don’t allow yourselves to be provoked. The film is a trap laid specifically to provoke, and Muslims repeatedly fall into this trap.
Why do Muslims react in this way to insults aimed at the Prophet? After all, unlike Jesus he doesn’t have divine status.
Khorchide: The problem lies elsewhere. On such occasions, Muslims vent their pent-up anger. The video itself isn’t the cause of the agitation, just the trigger. The Islamic collective memory is still etched by crusades, the colonial era and what is perceived as an unjust Middle East policy, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
You have just written a new book in which you describe the Koran as a love letter from God to humanity. How did you arrive at this interpretation? The Koran would normally be described as a powerful book – and in the West also as a dangerous one.
Khorchide: The question is: which image of God are we talking about? Many Muslims assume that their God wants to be glorified, that he despatches orders and makes sure these orders are obeyed. Those who obey are rewarded, and those who don’t are punished. But this is a perception of God similar to that of a tribal leader who cannot be challenged. This is why many Muslims view the Koran as a rulebook.
And you don’t?
Khorchide: I have a different reading of the Koran. God is not an archaic tribal leader, he’s not a dictator. Of the book’s 114 suras, why do 113 of them begin with the phrase “In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful”? There has to be a reason for this. The Koranic God presents himself as a loving God. That’s why the relationship between God and man is a bond of love similar to the one between a mother and child. I would like Muslims to emancipate themselves from the image of an archaic God that’s being connoted in many mosques, in religious education or during courses of theological instruction.