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AseanAffairs Magazine
March - April 2010

The United States is facing daunting prospects in the Asia-Pacific region, a huge market for US goods, while China’s influence is growing as it makes rapid trade inroads in the region. The implications for the US and its need to redefine its ties with Asean are explored in our exclusive interviews with Ernest Z. Bower, Senior Adviser & Director - Southeast Asia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Founding Partner, Brooks Bower Asia LLC and former President of the US-Asean Business Council, and Demetrios Marantis, Deputy United States Trade Representative for Asia.

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Fikre Tolossa, Ph. D.


When God promised Abraham that He will give Him Isaac, Abraham laughed remembering that he and his wife were too old to have a child. He was satisfied that He had already fathered Ishmael by Hagar, his Egyptian maid-servant. So he said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before Thee!” (Gen. 17:18) “But God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My COVENANT with HIM for an everlasting COVENANT for his descendants after him.

And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and will make him a great nation.

But My COVENANT I WILL ESTABLISH WITH ISAAC, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.’” (Gen. 17:19- 21)


Despite these words in the Bible, it is incredible how God would turn around in the Koran and tell us that it was Ishmael that He wanted Abraham to sacrifice. What a contradiction! Or shall we say that it was to please Mohammed, the descendant of Ishmael, that the God of the Bible states in the Koran that it was Ishmael that Abraham was about to sacrifice? By the same token, since Jesus is the descendant of Isaac biologically, is God saying in the Bible that He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to make Isaac important, and thus make Jesus feel happy? And by so doing, isn’t He lying to both Mohammed and Jesus? Is God really a liar?

Now let us move to the next contradiction

The story of Joseph presented in the Bible and the Koran is not exactly the same. The Bible narrates that Jacob loved Joseph more than any one of his children, including Benjamin, whose mother, Rachel, was the same as Joseph’s. Joseph has two dreams which he reveals first to his brothers, and then to his father. According to the two dreams his father and eleven brothers would come to bow down before him someday. His father rebukes him because of the content of the dreams. One day Jacob sends Joseph to his brothers to a place where they are herding their cattle to find out about their welfare. His brothers are enraged when they see the dreamer. They take off his multi-colored tunic which his father had made him, to kill him. Reuben, the oldest son of Jacob saves his life by beseeching them to throw him into a pit, instead of killing him. Later Judah makes them change their mind to sell Joseph to some Ishmaelites. So they pull their brother out of the pit and sell him to the Midianites for twenty shekels of silver. The Midianites, in their turn, sell him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard. Potiphar’s wife tries to entice Joseph to go to bed with her. Joseph, in fear of God, runs away from her dropping his garment in her hand. She screams, runs after him, and in the presence of people, she accuses Joseph of attempting to rape her. The garment being evidence against him, his incensed master throws him in jail instantly where he interprets dreams. (Gen. 37 & 39). This is according to the Bible. However, according to the Koran, their is a difference in the narration. First and foremost, Joseph reveals his dreams to his father and not to his brothers, as the Bible indicates. His father doesn’t rebuke him either in the Koran, as he does in the Bible. Instead, he speaks to him kindly: “My son”, replies his father, “say nothing of this dream to your brothers, lest they should plot against you: Satan is the sworn enemy of man. You shall be chosen by your Lord. He will teach you to interpret visions and will perfect His favor to you and to the house of Jacob, as he perfected it to your forefathers Abraham and Isaac before you. Your Lord is all-knowing and wise.”

In the Bible, Joseph’s brothers hate only Joseph. In the Koran they hate Joseph together with his brother Benjamin with whom he shares a mother.

In the Bible, none of the brothers foresees Joseph being thrown into the pit or the fact that a caravan will pass by to buy Joseph. In the Koran, one the brothers predicts this: “One of them said: ‘Do not kill Joseph. If you must get rid of him, cast him into a dark pit. Some caravan will take him up.’ ” (The Holy Koran, Joseph)

In the Bible, it is Jacob who sends Joseph to his brothers where they were herding cattle, to find out their welfare. There, they get enraged at the spur of the minute and decide to kill him spontaneously. In the Koran, his brothers premeditate to kill him, and press on their father maliciously to let Joseph go with them to the place where they graze the herd. The father’s reply in Koran is non-existent in the Bible: “It would much grieve me to let him go with you; for I fear lest the wolf should eat him when you are off your guard.” (i.b.i.d)

The Bible, as stated above, says that Joseph’s brothers took him out of the pit and sold him for 20 shekels of silver. The version of this in the Koran is not quite the same. It goes like this: “And a caravan passed by, who sent their waterman to the pit. And when he had let down his pail, he cried: ‘Rejoice! A boy!’ {The waterman tells his friends to rejoice because they found something for free in the pit. It is like finding some treasure in a pit.} They took Joseph and concealed him among their goods. But Allah knew what they did. They sold him for a trifling price, for a few pieces of silver. They cared nothing for him. The Egyptian who bought him said to his wife, ‘use him kindly. He may prove useful to us, or we may adopt him as our son.’” (i.b.i.d.)

According to the Bible, Joseph drops his garment in the hand of the wife of his master as he tries to flee from her. However, according to the Koran, the woman tears off the shirt rom his back. As she runs after him to catch him, they meet her husband at the entrance of the house.

“She cried, ‘Shall not the man who sought to violate your wife be thrown into prison or sternly punished?’ Joseph said: ‘It was she who sought to seduce me.’

‘If his shirt is torn from the front,’ said one of the people, ‘she is speaking the truth and he is lying. If it is torn from behind, then he is speaking the truth, and she is lying.’”

‘“And when her husband saw Joseph’s shirt rent from behind, he said to her: ‘This is one of your tricks. Your cunning is great indeed! Joseph, say no more about this. Woman, ask pardon for your sin. You have done wrong.’” (i.b.i.d.)


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