You can be absolutely sure: whenever the mainstream media raises the question of whether or not Islam is a Religion of Peace, it will answer that it is, and claim that Muslims are victims of unjust suspicion. But this CNN piece is particularly grotesque: after Muslims murder twelve people for transgressing Islam’s blasphemy laws, and four more for being Jewish, CNN gives us “Muslims cannot get a break.” Can Infidels get a break? Or will there just be more and more jihad, and then more and more denial, half-truth and obfuscation from the mainstream media?
“After Paris attacks, 7 questions being asked about Islam,” by Daniel Burke, CNN, January 11, 2015:
All are sites that suffered attacks committed by Muslim extremists in recent months. Expand the time frame, and the list lengthens.
Even as the vast majority of Muslims condemn terrorism, the frequency and cruelty of the assaults have led many people to ask sharp questions about Islam.
Here are some that seem to be on a lot of minds.
1. Does Islam encourage violence?
Many Muslims bristle at mere hint of this idea, noting that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, most of whom live peaceful and productive lives.
Here is another example of the perennial confusion: Burke asks the question, “Does Islam encourage violence?,” and then starts talking about Muslims. The fact that some Muslims live peaceful and productive lives does absolutely nothing to answer the question of whether Islam encourages violence. The only way to answer that is to examine the texts and teachings of Islam. Burke is arguing that most Muslims aren’t violent, therefore Islam doesn’t encourage violence. But human beings have all kinds of motives and influences. The Catholic Church, for example, forbids contraception. Yet surveys show that most Catholics contracept. Would Burke then argue that because most Catholics contracept, therefore the Catholic Church encourages contraception?
Here’s how Muslim human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar responded on CNN after the attack that killed 12 in Paris on Wednesday.
CNN is not the only news outlet raising this question, by the way. The New York Times explored the link between Islam and violence in a front-page article on Thursday.
I’ll get to that one soon.
Iftikhar and other Muslims note that almost every faith, from Christianity to Judaism to Hinduism to Buddhism, has produced acts of terrorism.
People of all faiths have committed acts of terrorism. But here again, what exactly do these faiths teach about violence against unbelievers?
Think about it this way: If you were a Jew during the Inquisition in Spain, would you think that Christianity is inherently violent?
Probably. But why is Christian history not full of Spanish Inquisitions? Could it be because such things had no basis in Christian texts and teachings?
Scholars say there is rarely a direct link between religious beliefs and violent behavior. Instead, terrorism is generally caused by a complex web of factors. (More on that later.)
Actually, Islamic jihadists regularly cite Qur’anic texts and Muhammad’s example to justify violence and supremacism.
But there’s no escaping this fact: The number of attacks committed by self-proclaimed Muslims has risen sharply in recent years.
Those attacks have led some critics to argue that Islam is inherently violent. To make their case they point to the so-called “Sword Verse” in the Quran as Exhibit A.
Here’s what the verse says:
“Then, when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way.”
Raymond Ibrahim, an author and frequent critic of Islam, argues that, based largely on that verse, “Islam’s learned officials, sheikhs, muftis, and imams throughout the ages have all reached consensus — binding on the entire Muslim community — that Islam is to be at perpetual war with the non-Muslim world until the former subsumes the latter.”
Burke gives the impression that this whole idea is based on that one Qur’an verse, when in fact there are plenty of other verses that enjoin violence. He also gives the impression that Raymond Ibrahim is the one who came up with this idea, apparently without the slightest effort to determine what “Islam’s learned officials, sheikhs, muftis, and imams throughout the ages” actually say about warfare against unbelievers.
Many Muslims scoff at that argument, noting that the vast majority of Muslims are clearly not warring with other religions. But this verse has been exploited by extremist groups like ISIS, who say that Muslims have a sacred duty to “kill the disbelievers.“
Again: the fact that the vast majority of Muslims aren’t warring against unbelievers has no bearing on whether or not Islam teaches them to do so.
Mainstream Muslim leaders, however, say that both Islamic critics and extremists rip the “sword verse” from its historical context.
“This verse cannot be taken as a carte blanche execution order on all non-Muslims,” Yasir Qadhi, a conservative Muslim-American cleric, explained in a lecture in Memphis last month.
The Quranic passage applies only to pagans in Islam’s Arabian birthplace, he said.
“There’s no sugar-coating it, it’s a threat,” said Qadhi, who has a large following in the United States. “It was meant to scare people, and that’s why paganism disappeared from the Arabian Peninsula.”…
Actually there is a significant tradition in Islam that holds that the Verse of the Sword and other violent verses take precedence over more peaceful verses, and are the ones that are valid for all time, while the peaceful verses are those that have only limited application. Muhammad’s first biographer, the eighth-century Muslim Ibn Ishaq, explains the progression of Qur’anic revelation about warfare. First, he explains, Allah allowed Muslims to wage defensive warfare. But that was not Allah’s last word on the circumstances in which Muslims should fight. Ibn Ishaq explains offensive jihad by invoking a Qur’anic verse: “Then God sent down to him: ‘Fight them so that there be no more seduction,’ i.e. until no believer is seduced from his religion. ‘And the religion is God’s’, i.e. Until God alone is worshipped.” The Qur’an verse Ibn Ishaq quotes here (2:193; cf. also 8:39) commands much more than defensive warfare: Muslims must fight until “the religion is God’s” — that is, until Allah alone is worshipped.
The great medieval scholar Ibn Qayyim (1292-1350) also outlines the stages of the Muhammad’s prophetic career: “For thirteen years after the beginning of his Messengership, he called people to God through preaching, without fighting or Jizyah, and was commanded to restrain himself and to practice patience and forbearance. Then he was commanded to migrate, and later permission was given to fight. Then he was commanded to fight those who fought him, and to restrain himself from those who did not make war with him. Later he was commanded to fight the polytheists until God’s religion was fully established.”
In other words, he initially could fight only defensively — only “those who fought him” — but later he could fight the polytheists until Islam was “fully established.” He could fight them even if they didn’t fight him first, and solely because they were not Muslim.
Nor do all contemporary Islamic thinkers believe that that command is a relic of history. According to a 20th century Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, “at first ‘the fighting’ was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory.” He also distinguishes two groups Muslims must fight: “(1) against them who start ‘the fighting’ against you (Muslims) . . . (2) and against all those who worship others along with Allah . . . as mentioned in Surat Al-Baqarah (II), Al-Imran (III) and At-Taubah (IX) . . . and other Surahs (Chapters of the Qur’an).” (The Roman numerals after the names of the chapters of the Qur’an are the numbers of the suras: Sheikh ‘Abdullah is referring to Qur’anic verses such as 2:216, 3:157-158, 9:5, and 9:29.)
3. How do many Muslims feel right now?
In a word: frustrated.
This email from a longtime, Muslim-American source pretty well sums up the sentiment:
“Muslims cannot get a break. Every (expletive) day there must be an event to suggest Islam is inherently violent. Such acts destroy years of goodwill and work about Islam.”
Compounding these feelings of frustration, many Muslims say, is the implication that all Muslims shoulder the blame for terroristic attacks, or aren’t doing enough to denounce them.
Both are wrong. All Muslims don’t bear the blame for terroristic attacks; only those who commit them do. And Muslim denunciations of terror attacks are plentiful; what there are absolutely none of are Muslim efforts to teach other Muslims why they should reject the “extremist” understanding of Islam on Islamic grounds.
Daniel Haqiqatjou, of the website Muslim Matters, wrote one of the wittiest responses to this idea on Friday, sarcastically suggesting that what Muslims really need is an “iCondemn app.”
On a more serious note, recent surveys show that large majorities of Muslims around the world are increasingly concerned about Islamic extremism.
Large numbers of Muslims around the world also want Sharia, the imposition of which is also the goal of jihad activity.