The premier non-Muslim apologist for Islam speaks at Florida Southern College. “Lecturer Dispels Myths About Islam: Christians fail to notice their own complicity in global violence, professor says,” by Cary McMullen in the Ledger, with thanks to Kamala:
LAKELAND — John Esposito said he gets asked the same questions repeatedly these days, one of them being, “Why is Islam such a violent religion?” In a lecture, “Violence in the Islamic Tradition,” at Florida Southern College on Friday, he posed a question in response: “Why is it we have so much of a problem distinguishing between what a majority of Muslims do and what extremists do?”
Hmmm. Good one, Professor. Could it be because the “extremists” cite chapter and verse of the Qur’an and Sunnah to support their actions, and the majority of Muslims have never yet come up with an adequate Islamic refutation of that “extremism”?
After that, Esposito led his hapless hearers into a forest of tu-quoque:
Esposito, professor of religion and international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University in Washington, delivered the Warren W. Willis Lecture in Religion at the college to an audience of about 150. The author of more than 30 books on Islam and a consultant to the U.S. State Department, Esposito stressed in his lecture that Islam, like other religions, including Christianity, has been misused to justify political and economic goals.
“There are transcendent and dark sides to religion. Religion is about a transcendent reality but also helping those who follow it to transcend themselves and their baser instincts. It also is used, abused and misused to justify all kinds of things,” he said.
As an example, Esposito pointed to a quote by former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski that the 20th century was the bloodiest in human history. He asked, “Who was it that engaged in and perpetuated the violence? Not Muslims, but America and Europe. It was not waged in the name of religion, but it was fought by religious people and legitimated by religious chaplains.”
Christians fail to notice their own complicity in such violence while reacting with shock to violence inflicted by Muslims and wrongly seeking to characterize Islam as a whole as a violent religion, he said.
The persistence of this canard puzzles me. After all, if Christianity were the bloodiest, most violent religion on the planet, would that somehow mean that Islam is not violent?
Even Pope Benedict fell into this trap, he said, in a recent speech in which he quoted a medieval emperor who castigated Islam as a religion that was spread by coercion. After the death of Muhammad, subsequent Muslim rulers did forge an empire by use of war, but this was for reasons of political and economic gain, Esposito said.
“It was legitimated as spreading Islam. They got religious leaders to legitimate what they were doing,” he said.
Esposito affirmed in his book Islam: The Straight Path that non-Muslims were offered the triple choice of conversion, subjugation, or war: “As Islam penetrated new areas, people were offered three options: (1) conversion, that is, full membership in the Muslim community, with its rights and duties; (2) acceptance of Muslim rule as “˜protected” people and payment of a poll tax; (3) battle or the sword if neither the first nor the second option was accepted” (p. 35). This was a religious imperative, and if it was developed to justify political expansion, it certainly took on a life of its own and became the impetus for future expansion.
An Islamic term that is often used in connection with violence is jihad, but the word usually means to strive or struggle to be a good Muslim, Esposito said. It is also used to refer to the defense of oneself or one’s religion.
“Usually”? When, where, and by whom? Esposito probably knows that Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdullah Azzam, cofounder of Al-Qaeda, and others have argued that the idea that jihad is a spiritual struggle is based on a weak hadith, and thus should be rejected by Muslims. Unfortunately, moderates have never shown this argument to be false. There is also, as he undoubtedly knows, an elaborate legal edifice of laws governing offensive jihad to spread the religion, in accord with Muhammad’s dictates (cf. Sahih Muslim 4294).
“That’s defensive warfare, but, like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. . . . The struggle is, when is it just, when is it defensive, when is it offensive?
“For mainstream Muslims, it’s a very central term. It’s understood in a nonviolent way, but it is used by terrorists,” he said.
Yes, but unfortunately, the terrorists have the texts on their side, and that’s why that “mainstream” is eroding and becoming radicalized. But I expect Esposito did not explain that.