The egregious Karen Armstrong, whose ahistorical, apologetic whitewashes of militant Islam I discuss in Islam Unveiled, sets up straw man after straw man and knocks them all down in this Chicago Tribune puff piece (thanks to Susan):
Among the biggest misconceptions Westerners have about Islam, she added, is that most Muslims are Arabs, that Muslims are inherently violent and that Muslims have long hated and feared the West.
“Arabs comprise only about 20 percent of the Muslim world,” Armstrong said. “It isn’t this ‘impulsive religion’ that is compelling people to do it (violence). This is the result of a troubled region where things have been allowed to fester on and on and on. The Middle East has been in turmoil for (at least) the last 50 years, and Islam, as well as Judaism, has gotten dragged into this unholy mess, sucked into this whirlwind.”
Most Muslims aren’t Arabs? Duly noted. Anyone with any knowledge of the subject knows that. Muslims are inherently violent? Of course not. But note that Armstrong doesn’t deal here or in other writings (at least the ones I’ve seen) with the texts that radical Muslims use to justify violence against unbelievers. In Islam: A Short History she says the theology of violent jihad was set aside “in practice” “” i.e., not in theory. It still remained part of Islamic thought, and has obviously been taken up again by a great many Muslims in the modern age.
The notion that Islam “imposes itself by force and violence and has always been against Christianity — that is not true at all,” she declared.
Right. It’s true: forced conversions are forbidden in Islam, although this law has often been broken. But theorists of jihad throughout Islamic history and today have taught that jihad must be fought to establish the hegemony of Sharia “” under which Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims will have second-class status as dhimmis. But no mention of any of this from Ms. Armstrong.
On one point, however, Armstrong might not be so tractable: Her disappointment at the language employed by President Bush in the wake of the attacks against the World Trade Center and his chronic use of the words “good” and “evil.”
Such labeling “is buying into the same ideology as Osama bin Laden,” Armstrong cautioned. “He also divides the world into two camps, into good and evil. You don’t want to encourage this kind of polarized thinking. To say that anyone we don’t like is ‘evil’ means we never have to examine our own behavior.
I’m all for being self-critical where self-criticism is called for. But objectively, wasn’t 9/11 evil? And wasn’t it evil apart from anything the American government, which was not in the WTC that day, may have done or not done? Evidently, Karen Armstrong doesn’t think so, but I am unwilling to play these relativist games: the fact is that the mujahedin believe in good and evil too, and they are only going to be emboldened by the sympathy of people like Ms. Armstrong.