“Scholar: Religion not driving violence,” from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, with thanks to all who sent this in:
Islam is neither more violent nor more peaceful than other religions, a Middle East scholar said here Monday.
This is an extremely common view, but repetition doesn’t make it so. It would be interestng to see Berkey address passages of the Qur’an such as 9:5 and 9:29, which — contrary to popular belief — have no equivalent in any other religious tradition, as well as the material from the Hadith and the legal superstructure that has grown up around the notion of jihad warfare in Islam.
The wave of violence in the Muslim world is being driven by political, social and economic problems, not by religion, Jonathan P. Berkey, a professor of history at Davidson College, told the audience at a program co-sponsored by the Council for America’s First Freedom and the World Affairs Council of Greater Richmond.
“Religious ideology is really a kind of ex post facto justification for the violence,” Berkey said.
“The problem is not that Muslims are hopelessly committed to wage jihad as holy war against the rest of us,” he said. “The fundamental problem has to do with the failure of the secular ideology of government which has dominated the Muslim world since the first world war.”
Then why did Muslims wage war before they suffered under secular ideologies? Why did the old Islamic empires wage jihad, before anyone had ever heard of a secular ideology? Why are the chief promoters of jihad today Saudi Arabia and Iran — hardly states where Muslims are suffering under failed secular ideologies?
Berkey said American policy in the Middle East is partly responsible for the frustrations that have led to the violence.
“As a historian, I cannot think of a single instance in the last 50 years in which the American government has consistently . . . supported democratic forces in the Arab world,” he said….
As a historian, you should be ready to explain why the history of jihad is much older than 50 years, and tell us what that fact does to your idea that America is responsible for this.
While Berkey said he does not see the current violence as a clash of civilizations, he said he is concerned that the current “us against them” rhetoric will develop a life of its own.
“We are going to make this a clash of civilizations, this unrelenting jihad, this brutal crusade, whether we think of it in religious or secular terms,” he said, “something that we, our children and our grandchildren are going to have to live with for generations to come.”
We are going to make this into a clash of civilizations? As Tonto once said, “What mean ‘we?'” I suppose we are responsible for rhetoric like this?
The Mideast and most of the Islamic world have been ruled since the last century by secular regimes, regimes that in many ways were Western in form and in cultural orientation, Berkey said. He noted that Saddam’s Ba’ath Party was founded by a Syrian Christian.
10 to 1 Berkey did not note that that Syrian Christian, Michel Aflaq, ultimately became a Muslim, saying that Arab nationalism is Islam.