“Hostile readers of the Quran use a literary approach that is the equivalent of a blunt instrument. They make no attempt to understand the text as a whole; instead, they take individual verses out of context, give them the most extreme interpretation possible and implicitly claim that over 1 billion Muslims around the world robotically adhere to these extremist views without exception. This is, in effect, a conspiracy theory that has virally multiplied in significant sectors of modern Euro-American society. It is irrational, it is paranoid, and it is out of touch with the realities of the lives of most Muslims around the world today. It ignores the existence of multiple traditions of interpreting the Quran in very different fashions. Unfortunately, a small minority of extremists, who quote the Quran in support of terrorist violence, have been magnified by the media into a spectre that is now haunting Europe (and the United States) more intensely than Marxism ever did. In part because of these contemporary anxieties, it is difficult for most Europeans and Americans to read the Quran.”
How to Read the Qur’an: A New Guide, with Select Translations by Carl W Ernst, published by Edinburgh University Press 2012
Carl W. Ernst is the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also the director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations.