Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Islam and Violence

Charles Moore in the Telegraph asked some hard questions about Islam

What strikes one again and again about the reaction of the public authorities, of commentators, of the media, is the terrible lethargy about studying what it is we are up against. We are dealing with an extreme interpretation of one of the great religions of the world.

We flap around, looking for moderates and giving them knighthoods, making placatory noises, putting bits of Islam on to the multi-faith menu in schools, banishing Bibles from hospital beds, trying to criminalise the expression of "religious hatred", blaming George Bush and Tony Blair. But if we do not know the way the faith in question works, its history, its quarrels, its laws and demands, we will not have the faintest chance of distinguishing the true moderate from the fellow-traveller or of bearing down on the fanaticism.

If you look at the Koran, you will find many glorifications of violence. In Sura No 8, for example, God is quoted as saying: "I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers!" This punishment comes to them for having "defied God and His apostle". It seems reasonable to ask Muslims what this sort of remark means in the modern world.

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The mayor of our bombed city has himself got involved with Muslim leaders who say some interesting things. Last year, Mr Livingstone extended a warm welcome in London to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a mainstream, world-famous spiritual leader based in Qatar.

Qaradawi has supported suicide bombing against Israelis, the treatment of all Jews as legitimate targets, the whipping of homosexuals and the killing of all Americans - civilian and military - in Iraq. Surely, Ken recognises an ideology here, and a faith of sorts? Yet he praised, rather than condemned, and so now, when the logical extension of such ideas hits King's Cross and the Edgware Road and kills dozens of his voters, he has to say that such deeds arise from no belief at all.

There seem to be two broad reasons why many Muslim leaders appear unable or unwilling to break absolutely with the teachings that give cover to violence. The first is that their religion is much more literal and much more political than modern Christianity. Its Prophet was a political and military leader.

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In addition, the religion is absolute in its attitude to particular bits of territory. It is forbidden, for example, that any other religion be practised in the Arabian peninsula, because that land is considered sacred to Islam. Therefore, it is hard for a "moderate" to oppose the second-class citizenship of Christians or Jews in Muslim lands, or to say that "infidels" fighting in Muslim countries should not be murdered - even when they are his fellow citizens in a Western country.

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The second reason is that the leaders are frightened. In private conversations with the moderates, one is always told that they are under "enormous pressure", that they risk losing control of their own people, and therefore they cannot say very fierce things against the extremists. One must accept that this pressure exists, which only goes to show how serious the problem is.


As a further comment on the reference to Christian atrocities past, first, how long does a religion have to be punished for past misguided policy, and perhaps more importantly, what does that have to do with Islam? Alright, sure, the Catholic Church may have committed atrocities in their determined attempts to stamp out heresy, however, that is not the current question. The question is, does Islam promote terrorism? Now, I am not an expert on Islam, and I am not going to say that it does, however, should one take a look at the behavior of its followers, there is something wrong somewhere, something that leads many to be willing to kill themselves in a bid to kill 'infidels' to little real purpose.

Look further at such examples as Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh who was murdered after making a film that criticised the treatment of women in Muslim culture. While all Muslims should not be castigated for that actions of a small number of them, that majority, particularly those in positions of influence, remain silent on the actions of the few.

Telegraph article via Small Dead Animals