In his Easter message last Saturday, Barack Obama asserted that the "common thread of humanity that connects us all – not just Christians and Jews, but Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs – is our shared commitment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves."

Even though he was registered as a Muslim in primary school in Indonesia and recounts in his first autobiography that he got in trouble there for making faces in Qur'an class, Obama apparently recalls little of the contents of the Qur'an. For if he did, he would know that it tells Muslims "take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors" (5:51), calls them "the most vile of created beings" (98:6), and calls the patriarch Abraham an "excellent example" for telling his unbelieving relatives: "There has arisen between us and you enmity and hatred forever unless you believe in Allah and Him alone" (60:4). It also says: "Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. Those who follow him are merciful to one another, and harsh to the unbelievers" (48:29).

Enjoining mercy to those who share one's religious beliefs and harshness to those who do not is hardly tantamount to loving one's neighbor as oneself, and this sharp dichotomy between believers and unbelievers is not just found in some random Qur'an passages to which no one pays attention. It runs all through Islamic scripture, doctrine and law. It is even an accepted principle in Islam that the life of a non-Muslim is worth less than that of a Muslim: a manual of Islamic law certified by Cairo's prestigious al-Azhar university (from which Obama addressed the Islamic world in June 2009) as "conforming to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community" declares: "The indemnity for the death or injury of a woman is one-half the indemnity paid for a man. The indemnity paid for a Jew or Christian is one-third the indemnity paid for a Muslim. The indemnity paid for a Zoroastrian is one-fifteenth that of a Muslim." ('Umdat al-Salik, o4.9)

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