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The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

Having been a very strong advocate of religious tolerance and pluralism, it is with great reservation in my heart that I publish the Understanding Jihad Series, which compares violence and war in the Judeo-Christian tradition to the jihad of Islam.  Certainly, the intention is not to target one particular faith or religious group.  Quite the contrary, the goal is to prevent religious majoritarianism, whereby the dominant religious and cultural group is able to target weaker, poorly represented minority populations.  These articles are meant to prevent a certain level of religious smugness that has become quite prevalent today.  In the words of Prof. Philip Jenkins, “Jews and Christians…so ignore their own scriptures that they become self-righteous” towards Muslims and Islam.

The aggressive way that anti-Muslim propagandists have pushed the Islamophobic idea–that Muhammad/Islam/Quran/Sharia/Allah are so uniquely violent and warlike–has made it almost impossible for me not to write such articles.  The data makes my case overwhelming: a recent Pew Research poll found that almost half of U.S. adults think that the Islamic religion is more likely to encourage violence than other religions, a figure that has almost doubled since 2002.  A clear majority of conservative Republicans (66%), white Evangelicals (60%), and Tea Baggers (67%) believe Islam is more violent than other religions, with a plurality of whites (44%) and older folks (42-46%) also thinking this.  (Of note is that blacks, Hispanics, and liberal Democrats are significantly less bigoted towards Islam.)  The idea that Islam is more violent than other religions–held most strongly by old white conservatives–is a key pillar to the edifice of Islamophobia.  The need for the Understanding Jihad Series seems self-evident.

Any time Islam is mentioned on the internet, pseudo-experts ferociously start copying and pasting a litany of Islamic texts to whack Muslims over the head with.   This anti-Muslim sentiment, fueled by profound ignorance (of both their own scriptures and Islamic), is no longer limited to fringe elements and has found its way into the mainstream.  Pro-Israeli hawks, in particular, have tried to transform this bigotry of Islam from a merely theological tussle into state policy.  It is hoped that pointing to Judeo-Christian scriptural sources that are far more violent than what is quoted from Islamic sources will instill in the extremist Zionists and Messianic Christians a level of religious humility.

My fear in so doing, of course, is of offending well-meaning Jews and Christians.  Indeed, while it is true that there is a definite link between Zionism and Islamophobia, it is also true that some of the most effective defenders of Muslims are in fact Jews.  These include such notable personalities as Glenn Greenwald, Richard Silverstein, Jon Stewart, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Max Blumenthal, and–without naming names–even some writers of LoonWatch (gasp!).  To be absolutely clear, I do not think that Judaism and Christianity are violent religions.  What I am simply trying to prove is that just because certain Quranic verses seem violent, one cannot make sweeping statements of the religion based on this…no more so than showing certain violent Biblical verses would prove the inherent nature of Judaism or Christianity.  When people from the majority group realize that their own religious tradition also has “problematic” texts, they are usually more hesitant to rush to judgment about other faiths.

Although in the past I have compared Islam to Christianity–such as when I compared the traditional Islamic concept of “dhimmi” to the traditional Christian concept of “perpetual serf”–in the Understanding Jihad Series the comparison will more often be made with Judaism.  The reason for this is that it is much easier to compare Islam to Judaism because both are very similar in basic structure.  The Jewish Halacha is equivalent to the Islamic Sharia and the rabbinical tradition is analogous to the Islamic jurisprudential tradition.  The similarities between the two religions are actually quite uncanny. Therefore, it makes sense to invoke this comparison.

The reader should not think that I believe that a certain religion or another is violent.  Rather, there exist peaceful and violent interpretations of religion.  I reject the view held by religious orthodoxy that the human mind is simply an empty receptacle that unthinkingly “obeys” the divine plan.  Hundreds of years after their prophets have died, believers (of all faiths) are forced (by virtue of not having a divine interlocutor) to exert their own minds and ethics to give life to texts, to render 3D realities from 2D texts.  Such an elastic idea–that a religion is whatever its believers make it into–is certainly anathema to orthodox adherents who simply desire a step-by-step instruction manual to produce human automatons.  But the truth is that even these orthodox adherents necessarily inject into the religious texts their own backgrounds, beliefs, and biases.

One can see why I do not think that simply showing a Biblical verse here or there would prove that Judaism or Christianity are violent faiths. There is a long journey from what is on the page to what is understood and put into practice.  And once this reality is comprehended, it is hoped that Jews and Christians will gain a larger perspective when they approach Muslims and their religion.

It should be noted of course that not all Islamophobes are Jewish or Christian.  Many are ex-Muslims who feel that their former religious affiliation gives them a free pass to be bigoted.  This is hardly surprising, given that historically the worst oppressors of the Jewish minority in the Western world were actually ex-Jews converted to Christianity.  Though they think of themselves as truly special, there is nothing unique about apostates from a religion; they have existed throughout history, and it was not uncommon for their zeal for their new religion to convert into wholesale bigotry for what they left behind.

When I argued that Moses was more violent than Muhammad, one critic pointed out that atheists would condemn both.  Yet, one only needs to glance at anti-Muslim websites to see that these atheistic Islamophobes try to (and need to) prove that Muhammad/Islam/Quran/Sharia/Allah are uniquely violent.  Short of proving this uniqueness, their agenda fails.  Thus, it hardly matters to the effectiveness of my article whether or not one believes in Jewish or Christian prophets.  If we use the exact same standards applied to Islam to all religions and find them to be as violent or more violent than Islam, then what exactly is their point?  This question is what my articles force onto them, to which the “I am not a believer” excuse hardly suffices.

There will definitely be those militant atheists who genuinely can’t tolerate any religious faith.  These are the equal opportunity haters.  But because they do not single out Islam, I am less bothered by them.  Although many of their rantings are childish, they are not as destructive because they do not specifically target vulnerable minority populations.

Having thus expressed my general discomfort in writing these articles, I hope my readers can take into account context and intent.  If, for example, a white supremacist site compiled a list of all criminals that are black, this would be a clear case of bigotry.  An effective and appropriate way to counter this list would be to produce an even longer list of white criminals.  Even though the action is the same (producing lists of criminals of a particular race), it is the context and intent that are all important.  It is in a similar fashion that I am producing a “counter-list” of Biblical verses to counter the popular list of Quranic quotes that Islamophobes like to share.  LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series will categorically answer the question that an alarmingly high number of Americans answered incorrectly: is Islam more likely than other religions to encourage violence?

I would nonetheless strongly caution overzealous Muslim readers from using these articles to stir hatred against Jews and Christians, noting that Islam has no shortage of “problematic” texts.

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  • Nur Alia

    Jack…

    In responding to one of my posts, you said this.

    “…When is the last time a Christian terrorist group blew up a disco or a train or subway station in the name of Christianity? No, seriously, I’d like to know…”

    Notice how you narrowed the targets of the evil doers. Does narrowing your placement of targets make Christianity less prone to violence than Islam, or is it selective history.

    So, lets do what you did in responce.

    When was the last time a Muslim terrorist group bombed a women’s center in America? Or…people or groups that affiliate themselves with Christianity lynch people because of thier skin colour, or send ideological agents into a church to shoot a man point blank because of his legal service to a community…in America.

    Or…How many Muslims belong to the Lord’s Resitance Army, who have terrorized ‘in the name of Christianity’ for years…including rape of thousands of African women inclusing Muslims (of course, these CHRISTIANS belive that they are doing the will of God)

    So…do we really want to continue this.

    Oh…and that group, Lord’s Resistance Army, or the Klu Klux Klan, ‘soverign citizen’s’ groups, and people like Franklan Graham want to overturn democracy, and install thier own version of government…these are the equivilant of the Taliben…all of them justify thier ‘righteous duty’ in Christianity.

  • DefenderofIslam

    Also ban stupid names, muslims may be offended by them such as the “allah”.

  • Cynic

    According to this idiot, jihad of the pen probably means stabbing those kafirs with a pen as hard as you can…repeatedly. Sorry, that’s pretty much the only ‘bad thing’ you could do with a pen I could think of.

  • Mosizzle

    Yet another moron…

    *ignore*

  • Khushboo

    This is addressed to those who believe that only religious groups bring violence: not true! Some people use religion to justify their actions (i.e. terrorists like KKK and Al Qaeda). Some are motivated by power and greed, not religion (i.e. North Korean dictator). Some have political agenda (i.e. Far right nutters who are indirectly responsible for hate crimes here in the U.S.). So NO, it’s not always violence b/c of religions!

  • Allah

    “It is incumbent on all Muslims to wage jihad against the non-believers” Directly from your own Islamic doctrine. What is it about jihad that you looney tunes do not understand???!! Jihad of the sword? Jihad of the pen? Jihad of the spoken word? The violence and murder against Kafirs vis-a-vis jihad? Take your pick, jihad means to do bad things to Kafirs “whenever and wherever you may find them.” What is the matter? Are all of you Muslims “truthophobic?” Or are all of you Muslims just soooooo tired from playing the victim card and spending all of your waking hours spewing your Islamic bullshit propaganda?

  • Mosizzle

    “Unfortunately that led to the displacement (and killing) of even a greater amount of people than the creation of Israel.”

    Well, *duh*, transferring 11 million people is going to more violent and difficult than transferring 500,000-700,000 people.

  • Ugarit

    Here are a couple of things that peace loving Jesus allegedly said in the New Testament:

    “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me.” — http://goo.gl/37lf0

    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” — http://goo.gl/SqR9w

    I believe both were used by the crusaders

  • Mosizzle

    “It’s also interesting the same could be said of Pakistan’s creation”

    Hahaha. I absolutely love it when people bring out this statement. Are you really so stupid and blind? Did the Pakistanis come from the outside and steal Indian land? No, moron, the Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs were all living in British India and Pakistan was created in the NorthWest for the Indian Muslims to go. It was just a movement of population within the country itself that was arranged WITH the consent of both sides. Israel and Palestine is a whole different story. Only the Jews accepted the plan, and most of them had only populated the land recently whereas in India, both sides accepted the plan, and Muslims had been there for 500 years. Also, many Muslims disagreed with Jinnah’s proposal and stayed. Today there are about as many Muslims on the Indian side as there are on the Pakistan side.

    The Pakistanis didn’t steal Indian land, they were Indians!

    BMD also made the same argument and I discussed it here:
    http://www.loonwatch.com/2011/01/allen-west-says-keith-ellison-is-the-antithesis-of-american-values/#comment-52850

    Lol.

  • Cynic

    Well, the inquisition only targeted Christians. Christians weren’t concerned if Jews or Muslims were secret Jews or Muslims, only if Christians were.

    Oh man, how I lol’d at that. You do know the condition for Muslims and Jews was convert or leave right? And in many cases, convert or be burned at the stake. Hazard a guess at where the terms crypto-Jew, and crypto-Muslim originated.

  • JustBob

    It’s also interesting the same could be said of Pakistan’s creation. Unfortunately that led to the displacement (and killing) of even a greater amount of people than the creation of Israel. To me, that Pakistan is Indian land is a fact rarely mentioned. Wouldn’t you agree?

  • Mosizzle

    And let’s not forget the ongoing removal of Arabs from their land:

    http://www.loonwatch.com/2011/02/the-real-ramifications-of-christian-end-times-lunacy/

  • JustBob

    The UN estimated in 1949 that there were 726,000 Palestinian refugees. Many of these were expelled

    Ok, I just need a quote showing hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees were expelled by the Israelis.

    Historians Benny Morris says the vast majority of Palestinians never saw a Jew as they voluntarily left their homes and towns to flee the upcoming war between the fledgling state of Israel and the combined might of several Arab nations.

  • Mosizzle

    “I would like to see evidence that Israel has expelled or killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs.”

    The UN estimated in 1949 that there were 726,000 Palestinian refugees. Many of these were expelled, and many fled because of the violence and war between the Arab states and Israel. All of this is due to the fact that Israel was created. Had the state not been created, these refugees would still be in their own houses. It is understandable that the 4.7 million descendants of these refugees would still be very angry about what happened to them. Modern historians have different ideas about the cause of the Exodus. By the way, even Pro-Israel sources give a number of 400,000+

    “Anyways, if you grant Palestinians license to hate Jews for these reasons…”

    No one is giving a license to hate. Hate is wrong but we must understand why the Palestinians don’t like them. Similarly, the Middle Eastern Jews should not be hateful but if they do hate Arabs it is understandable. However, the majority of Israelis are not from the Middle East, so why do so many Israelis hate Arabs?

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  • JustBob

    Obviously, the fact Israel has expulsed and killed hundreds of thousands has nothing to do with the man’s actions.

    I would like to see evidence that Israel has expelled or killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs.

    Anyways, if you grant Palestinians license to hate Jews for these reasons, shouldn’t you allow Middle Eastern Jews to hate Arabs after they were pressured or forced to leave their homes in the Muslim world?

  • JustBob

    killing men, women, children, be they Muslims, Jews, and even their fellow local Christians. But it’s OK, because they were ‘Dhimmis’ (/sarc).

    There were no Christians in Jerusalem at the time of the 1st Crusade, Masa. That may have been one of the reasons a minority of Crusaders hijacked the crusading movement and began killing Jerusalem’s inhabitants.

    I condemn the act of killing innocents as I condemn all killings of civilians by ancient military forces.

    And let’s not forget the Inquisition, ah yes, the Prime example of religious tolerance and love. Tell that to the Morenos and Moriscos.

    Well, the inquisition only targeted Christians. Christians weren’t concerned if Jews or Muslims were secret Jews or Muslims, only if Christians were.

  • Dawood

    Nadir, please have a look at my comment linked above by NassirH, and the other comments previous to it when I delve into the tafsir of that particular verse in question.

  • Nadir

    Danios:  Your talent for being a presumptuous tool never disappoints.  That wasn’t an “argument” – if you can set your contempt for all things not praising you aside for a second and read my post, you’ll see some honest questions there that I’m asking for an honest yes or no answer to.  But first, to answer your questions:

    “(1) Have you conceded this particular layer of the onion, namely that Moses was far more violent and warlike than Muhammad?

    Do you concede defeat on this point? Yes or no?”

    A: No.  I can’t concede defeat on something I agreed with all along.  But it’s of no consequence to me.  To my knowledge, there aren’t any Christian or Jews citing the actions of Moses as justification to kill me and attack my homeland.  If there were, I’d be be more concerned about Moses and the Old Testament than I am.  

    (2) Alternately, you can try refuting my articles on “Dhimmitude.” Can you? 

    A: I didn’t read your articles on dhimmitude, but will go look at them as time allows.  Dhimmitude is not something I consider to be specific to Islam, so I tend to discount it as an anti-Islam argument.  

    Now can you answer the questions that I asked?

    Q: When radical Muslims like OBL say the Quran permits them to attack the west (civilian and military targets) because the west has committed aggression against the Uma, are they not correct?  After all, the west has committed aggression against Muslims in Muslim lands. 

    Q: Does the Uma have borders?  If so, what are they?  If not, does that mean that what you call “Islamaphobes” can be considered الظالمين and the Quran permits Muslims to literally fight/kill them?

  • http://thebandofstrangers.blogspot.com/ Jack Cope

    /\/\/\/\/\

    And that includes not letting nuts like Choudary have primetime TV interviews and attention in the media… yes, Muslims need to do a lot, but bloody hell help us!

  • Mosizzle

    John, thanks for understanding the difference between the extremists, the rest of the Muslims and their religion. And I agree that Muslims should do everything possible to contain the extremists and the West must not do anything that gives them more power, authority or recruits.

  • John Trinci

    Masa
    “But the thing is, not every Christian – or even Christianity itself – is held responsible for these atrocities. Why is it then, that Islam and all Muslims should be held accountable for the actions of a few?”

    You’re right – they shouldn’t. Islam must bring its nutters into line same as Christians. If a group belonging to a church started doing evil things like beating up Pakistani’s and supporting their actions with verses from the old testament, they should be thrown out of the Church one, and; two persuaded that there actions are wrong and repent (i.e. give themselves up to the authorities and go to jail)- then let them back in.

  • Mosizzle

    I see. Well, in general, I think people want to dominate and spread their idea because they genuinely think it’s a good idea. Whether it’s communism or religion, people spread it because they really do think that it’s good for the people they are conquering. If violence has to be used, then so be it because in the end the conquered people will thank them (or so they think).

  • Farlowe

    Mosizzle I totally agree. I wasnt just commenting on religions.

  • Mosizzle

    Farlowe, non-religious groups aren’t guaranteed to be peaceful either. Just look at China, the USSR, North Korea etc. The need to expand and dominate is still there without religion. Maybe it’s just human nature :(

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