– The Problem Isn’t Islam … It’s ALL Religious Fundamentalism (Washington’s Blog, Aug 24, 2014):
While the Koran Calls for Violence, The Bible Is Even Worse … Calling for Genocide
Christians and Jews rightly point out that the Koran is a violent text which calls on Muslims to attack “unbelievers”.
But they fail to see that the Bible is at least as violent.
NPR noted in 2010:
Religion historian Philip Jenkins decided to compare the brutality quotient of the Quran and the Bible.
“Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible,” Jenkins says.
Jenkins is a professor at Penn State University and author of two books dealing with the issue: the recently published Jesus Wars, and Dark Passages , which has not been published but is already drawing controversy.
Violence in the Quran, he and others say, is largely a defense against attack.
“By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane,” he says. “Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide.”
It is called herem, and it means total annihilation. Consider the Book of 1 Samuel, when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: “And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them,” God says through the prophet Samuel. “But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”
When Saul failed to do that, God took away his kingdom.
“In other words,” Jenkins says, “Saul has committed a dreadful sin by failing to complete genocide. And that passage echoes through Christian history. It is often used, for example, in American stories of the confrontation with Indians — not just is it legitimate to kill Indians, but you are violating God’s law if you do not.”
Jenkins notes that the history of Christianity is strewn with herem. During the Crusades in the Middle Ages, the Catholic popes declared the Muslims Amalekites. In the great religious wars in the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries, Protestants and Catholics each believed the other side were the Amalekites and should be utterly destroyed.
El-Ansary, who teaches Islamic studies at the University of South Carolina, says the Quran explicitly condemns religious aggression and the killing of civilians. And it makes the distinction between jihad — legal warfare with the proper rules of engagement — and irjaf, or terrorism.
“All of those types of incidences — [Sept. 11], Maj. Nidal Hasan and so forth — those are all examples of irjaf, not jihad,” he says. According to the Quran, he says, those who practice irjaf “are going to hell.”
In the end, the scholars can agree on one thing: The DNA of early Judaism, Christianity and Islam code for a lot of violence. Whether they can evolve out of it is another thing altogether.
Indeed, the Nazis, the Norwegian mass murderer and many others have committed terrorism in the name of Christianity. Adolph Hitler professed to be a Christian, and churches in Nazi Germany mainly supported the Nazis.
There are peaceful, contemplative Muslim sects – think the poet Rumi and the whirling Sufis – and violent sects, just as there are contemplative Christian orders and violent Christian sects.
In the Old Testament, the Jews were always smiting one tribe or another into oblivion. Some Jews still commit terrorism. For example, Israel admits that an Israeli terrorist cell operating in Egypt planted bombs in several buildings, including U.S. diplomatic facilities, then left behind “evidence” implicating the Arabs as the culprits (one of the bombs detonated prematurely, allowing the Egyptians to identify the bombers, and several of the Israelis later confessed) (and see this and this).
As NPR notes, murder of outsiders is called for in both the Koran and the Bible. So the question isn’t whether you’re on one “team” or the other … it’s whether you’re mature enough to evolve past the violent thousands-year-old worldview and act peacefully.
Most Muslims condemn Islamic terrorism, just as most Christians condemn terrorism by fundamentalist Christians and most Jews condemn terrorism by fundamentalist Jews.
As Christian writer and psychiatrist M. Scott Peck – who served as the United States Army’s Assistant Chief Psychiatry and Neurology Consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army, and held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel – explained, there are different stages of spiritual maturity. Fundamentalism – whether it be Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Hindu fundamentalism – is an immature stage of development.
Indeed, a Christian fundamentalist who kills others in the name of religion is much more similar to a Muslim – or Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist – fundamentalist who kills others in the name of his religion than to a Christian who peacefully fights for justice and truth, helps the poor, or serves to bring hope to the downtrodden.