The Religion of Peace

There’s a website called The Religion of Peace, which documents how Islam is not really a religion of peace, despite what too many apologists say. The basic concept of the site is sound: highlight violence caused in the name of Islam, and show that mainstream Muslim groups don’t do enough to admonish Islamists. I’ve written a novel that does the same to Christianity.

But what is not sound is the formation of an anti-Muslim nationalism, to use Orwell’s term. The people on The Religion of Peace display the exact same characteristics that anti-Russian Trotskyists did back when they were more than a tiny fringe: they downplay moderation, portray fundamentalism as an exclusively Muslim problem, and pretend Muslims don’t suffer from anything.

Exhibit 1: the site links to a news story, “Relaxed sheik gets rock star treatment.” The sheikh in question said uncovered women were meat for cats. But the rock star treatment was only within the sheikh’s own congregation. Most Muslim organizations in Australia immediately disowned him; even his own mosque suspended him from preaching for three months.

Exhibit 2: the site not only believes the most tenuous attacks on the latest Lancet study of Iraqi civilian casualties, but even has a counter, “Civilian lives saved by military intervention.” How am I supposed to take seriously a website that ignores serious epidemiology in order to support an invasion that only strengthened Islamism?

Exhibit 3: the site features a counter, “Islamic Terrorists Have Carried Out More Than x Deadly Terror Attacks Since 9/11″ (right now, x = 6264). But as both looking at the list of attacks and reading what liberal Muslims say will confirm, most of these attacks are on other Muslims. The purpose underlying the counter isn’t to highlight that the Middle East has lots of violence, but to scare Westerners into hating all Muslims, even though the number of Muslim terrorist attacks on first-world countries is scant.

It’s not surprising that in unstable regions of the world, there will be endemic terrorist attacks. In Sri Lanka, a country with 20 million people, the war between the Buddhist Sinhala government and the Hindu Tamil Tigers has killed more than 50,000 people in a little over 20 years. The LTTE doesn’t support Hindutva, but then again many Muslim terrorists aren’t Islamists, either, and many more are Islamists but have primarily nationalist rather than religious aspirations.

The website reminds me of some libertarian anti-communist rhetoric. Not content with merely showing that communism has caused mass murder, they proceed to support McCarthyism, contend that every mass murder in the last 100 years can be traced to Marxist influence, and downplay the evils of fascism and religious fundamentalism.

Look, Islamism is bad. So is bombing random countries and occupying them incompetently. There’s something totalitarian about turning opposition to one totalitarian movement into rationalization of warmongering so long as the victims are on the other side.

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5 Responses to The Religion of Peace

  1. unitedcats says:

    Gee, I hope Bush isn’t picking countries at random to bomb and incompletely occupy. ;) Good post yeah, sad that people spend so much time trying to prove that “other” people/faiths/ethnicities are “evil” while ignoring the extremists among their own ranks.

    Doug

  2. C. Schuyler says:

    You’ve pointed to much that ‘s worthy of criticism about the site; but I don’t see that you’ve shaken their premise that modern Islam specifically, not just the tenets of some subgroup of Muslims called Islamists, is a violent ideology, more violent, say, than modern Christianity, or Buddhism, or what have you.

    The site documents quite handily that a holy war on unbelievers (not just some metaphorical spiritual struggle) is part of the Koran. Since ALL orthodox Muslims believe that the Koran is an inerrant communication from God, not a stumbling human effort to interpret God’s intentions, this (as well as other repellant doctrines with the Koran’s stamp of approval on them) is problematic for any effort to foster Enlightenment principles in the Muslim world.

    I hasten to ad: I do not think for a moment that a recognition of this unfortunate fact justifies Israeli or American mistreatment of Muslims. People don’t lose their human rights because they have an unusually unpleasant religion. And it is unfortunate that a critique of Islam is so often attached to apologies for anti-Muslim oppression. But the critique shouldn’t be thrown out because of some of the uses to which it’s put.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    The site documents quite handily that a holy war on unbelievers (not just some metaphorical spiritual struggle) is part of the Koran.

    It’s part of Judaism and Christianity, too. The Old Testament is filled with commandments to slay people of the wrong ethnic group, namely Amalek. It brims with glorifications of God’s commandment to slaughter everyone and spare no one. The New Testament tacks a missionary credo to that, and contains references to Jesus’s saying he has come to deliver justice by the sword.

    Since ALL orthodox Muslims believe that the Koran is an inerrant communication from God, not a stumbling human effort to interpret God’s intentions, this (as well as other repellant doctrines with the Koran’s stamp of approval on them) is problematic for any effort to foster Enlightenment principles in the Muslim world.

    All orthodox Protestant denominations believe or believed at one point in Biblical inerrancy. One of the driving forces behind the Reformation was the belief that the Catholic Church had corrupted the Bible via Papal edicts, and that as such true Christians ought to derive their worldview exclusively from the Bible. In fact, the Lutherans and Calvinists were the first to condemn Copernicus, beating the Catholic Church to that by almost a whole century.

    That the Enlightenment then developed in predominantly Protestant states plus France, the Catholic state where the Church was weakest, says a lot about the validity of the above quoted argument.

    But the critique shouldn’t be thrown out because of some of the uses to which it’s put.

    I’m glad you agree with me here. I have nothing against criticizing Islam. But saying it’s inherently worse than Christianity is no different both factually and psychologically from saying that communism is inherently worse than fascism (or vice versa).

  4. C. Schuyler says:

    Yes, there’s holy war in the Old Testament. Early Christians, however, had a strong ambivalence about warfare (perhaps because Jesus said and did a lot more of the turning the other cheek kind than the sword-wielding kind). Doing penance after battle was common, for example, among soldiers and generals in the late Roman Empire. Probably because of this ambivalence, a specifically Christian concept of holy war doesn’t develop until relatively late, and only in certain localities, not in others. First perhaps would be among the Christian warriors slowly seizing territory back from the Muslims in Spain. (You might also see an example of it in the campaigns of the 10th century Byzantine emperor John Tzimisces). But anywhere you choose to see its beginnings, Christian holy war is a late and patchy bloomer, compared to holy war in Islam. The expansion of Islam outside of Arabia began with holy war (ratified by its holy book) just a decade after Muhammad’s death, and provided the motive force for aggressive campaigns that created a Muslim empire from Spain to India. And today (we are talking about modern Muslims and modern Christians, after all), Christian holy war is a preoccupation of very few who call themselves Christian. The idea has quite a bit more traction in the Muslim world.

    As for inerrancy, Christian conceptions differ in an important respect from the orthodox Muslim view. In Muslim belief, the Koran is not something that a man wrote under God’s inspiration or with God’s guidance. It is instead a direct communication from God himself, for which Muhammad was simply a passive mouthpiece. This belief makes the establishment of a historical and critical approach to holy writ, such as has appeared throughout the Christian world, far more difficult.

    As to your reference to Copernicus: the Renaissance and Enlightenment, despite much resistance, actually happened and to a large extent swept the competition aside in both Catholic and Protestant Europe. There was no comparable set of developments in the Muslim world. Confronting Islam today, which has not, like Christianity or Judaism, been housebroken by the Enlightenment, is in a very important sense confronting a pre-modern ideology.

    Maybe I didn’t make my points sufficiently clear. I was making assertions both about Islam in the Middle Ages and Islam today. Islam started out as a significantly more militant (in the full, military sense of the word) ideology than Christianity. But in addition to that fact, it hasn’t yielded to modern ideologies (like a belief in the rule of secular law, or full religious rights for minorities) to anything like the extent Christianity has. So, looking at the two faiths today, I (a pretty devout atheist) see no reason not to find one preferable to the other–that is, if one dislikes militarism, the mistreatment of religious minorities, the mistreatment of women, and so on. If you dislike those things, yes, Islam today is worse than Christianity today, both (I think) for reasons intrinsic to Islam and because of differences in the way the two faiths have confronted modernity (for the latter, pleny of extrinsic causes may have intervened as well).

  5. indcoup says:

    the problem is that many people in the West associate Islam and terrorism.
    9/11 made them angry and they viewed Islam with an incorrect bias. Images from the middle east and places like Pakistan have also been less than favorable. So it is essential for Muslims to show that Islam IS about peace.

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