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Islam vs. Islam

"In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful ..." So begins the first sentence in the Quran, Islam's holy book and that phrase is repeated 114 times therein. While many people can and do argue at length from subtle and obscure text and doctrines, I think if something starts the first verse of scripture and is repeated more than a hundred times in that scripture, often starting chapters, it's pretty safe to say it represents the theme of the faith. Especially since the rest of the scripture has dozens of commands to help the destitute, respect Christians and Jews as "people of the Book", and in general to conduct oneself in a humble and righteous manner, which is to say, helping others and doing good.

That kind of Islam I could applaud, frankly, and I have seen it in many places.

But far too often we hear and see a different Islam, one that cheers violence against people simply for different beliefs. Nowhere in the Quran is it acceptable to kidnap someone, then cut the head off your captive on television in the name of Allah. Nowhere in the Quran is it said that Allah is pleased when men take over a civilian airliner and fly it into a building full of innocent people. I'm not saying this is not Islam, because sadly it is, but it demonstrates that Islam is at war - against itself.

I try hard not to label a faith I don't believe as "wrong", because it's too simplistic, and by doing so I could be guilty of hypocrisy and arrogance myself. After all, as a Christian I have to accept the crimes committed by the Church and Christians in power. I am not a Roman Catholic, but even so as a Christian I have to accept that the Church abused non-Christians with the Crusades and the Inquisition. I was never for segregation or slavery, but the Church was silent or complicit for many years in both cases. Without even addressing questions of dogma, the Church has proven itself as fallible as Mankind. Therefore, a reasonable man must be careful before pointing a finger at a religion and calling it "false" just because it is not in line with his own beliefs.

Rather, a faith may be fairly measured, I believe, by looking at its accomplishments. For example, while I find the Mormon doctrine absurd (find an early edition of the Book of Mormon sometime, especially one from the 19th century, and have a good laugh at the things printed there which have been removed by subsequent, ahem, 'revelations', like justification for Racism and Polygamy) I am struck by the strong emphasis by Mormons on honesty, integrity, abstinence from strong drink or recreational drugs and tobacco, and thrift. This is interesting to me, because Islam also emphasizes moral,upright living, with strong prohibitions against intoxication and promiscuity. And frankly, speaking just for myself I don't believe Muhammed was a true prophet of the Lord any more than I believe Joseph Smith received a set of gold plates from God and a special set of magic glasses so he could interpret them, but that does not at all diminish my respect for Muslims and Mormons who practice their faith in piety and peace. Some Muslims and most Mormons are people of integrity and great character. The big difference, though, is that Mormons have not condoned anyone's murder for different religious beliefs for over a century now, much less cut their heads off and posted the video on the Internet.

There are many other belief systems that I think are a bit off the mark, but which pose no threat. Scientology, for example, that religion based loosely on the writings of a man with a tenuous grasp on Reality. It would be generous to simply mention that Scientologists are a bit unusual in their beliefs and practices, but then again there's no reason a person cannot be a Scientologist and very fine human being at the same time. So there is a great difference between the doctrine and the validity of a faith. Come to that, I recall learning that in 1054 AD, the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church each excomunicated the other church entire, and so it may be argued with some evidence that the Christian Church invalidated iself some 956 years ago. Not that I believe so, but the claim can be made on more than empty air.

So, how then to measure a faith? Individuals may or may not represent the greater group, and no dogma has endured without error for long. It seems to me, then, that we may consider the fruit of the faith, whether on the whole it has been good or bad for people. Discounting the virtue or pain of putting up with the doctrines and public face of religions, in general it seems to me obvious that Christianity and Buddhism have clearly done far more good than harm. Countless schools, hospitals, orphanages and relief groups have been founded and based on the teachings and example of Christ and Buddha. And not just for their own people. When the 2004 tsunami devastated Sumatra, Indonesia, and Thailand, Christian charities wwere among the first to bring medicine, clothing, temporary shelter and food. And a year later, when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast of the United States, a number of Buddhist relief groups responded quickly in the same way.

Anyone remember the last time a Muslim relief organization showed up to help non-Muslims?

But there's more. Christians have produced literature, for example, and I don't mean just religious-themed books. Lewis, Tolkien, and Rowling stand out for great stories in their own right. Christians have been responsible for major advances in Science and Medicine, and not just in the day of Isaac Newton. Islam, on the other hand, boasts no Scientific or Medical accomplishment in the past ten centuries that can be called truly great - none at all. It may, in fact, even be fair to suggest that Islam opposes the spirit of inquiry and experiment that brings such discovery and innovation to the world in the first place. There is a great difference between the Buddhist or Christian who is inspired by his faith, and the Muslim who is chained by the proscriptions of the inflexible and paranoid leaders of Sharia.


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Comments (20)

As I understand the history... (Below threshold)
James H:

As I understand the history, Muslims were responsible for early advances in mathematics and astronomy, though I could be mistaken on those points.

Islam is indeed at war with itself, a point Martin Schram raised in a column in 2005. Not just a war of politics -- Sunni vs. Shia -- but also a war of modernity vs. medievalism, of war vs. peace.

Ordinarily, I would be content to let Muslims work out their issues on their own. However, those aware of that kind of rift in Islam have a habit of citing enemies -- the Jews, the Americans and so forth -- as a way to unify Muslims politically rather than allow the religion to confront itself. Also, in a nuclear age, I'd rather not see a Muslim replay of the Reformation that swept Europe.

DJ, I see you're stealing m... (Below threshold)

DJ, I see you're stealing my "Mormons have silly beliefs, but tend to be exceptionally fine people despite that" riff. I was thinking of trotting that out again in the next day or two, but you stole a beat on me... again...

James, you nailed it in the latter. I'd have no problems with letting Muslims fighting things out on their own. But as you noted, they have a horrifying tendency to resolve their disagreements in blood -- usually involving a LOT of "infidels."

As a rather proud infidel, I'm not so eager to volunteer to be one of their sacrifices. And I'm not about to stand by and watch them slaughter my fellow infidels.


Jay Tea:I'm trying... (Below threshold)
James H:

Jay Tea:

I'm trying to envision the geopolitical games of Martin Luther's time with nuclear weapons on the table. It's not pretty.

"Nowhere in the Quran is it... (Below threshold)

"Nowhere in the Quran is it acceptable to kidnap someone, then cut the head off your captive on television in the name of Allah. Nowhere in the Quran is it said that Allah is pleased when men take over a civilian airliner and fly it into a building full of innocent people"

There's alot of violence in the Quran and the problem is abrogation and how jihad is defined.. You really need to read up on the Quran instead of making up shit.

Here's a good start:

Jay Tea:P.S. Murf... (Below threshold)
James H:

Jay Tea:

P.S. Murfreesboro. I plan to harass you on that point for a while, as I think I'm asking a fair question.

Guest, you are nothing but ... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Guest, you are nothing but a booorish troll. For one thing, I have a Quran right there on my bookshelf. For another, you didn't bother to support your opinion with even one quote from the Quran, which makes you even more stupid than the average troll.

James H, consider my initial statement in the closing paragraph - "Islam, on the other hand, boasts no Scientific or Medical accomplishment in the past ten centuries that can be called truly great". I might be off by a century or so, but I defy to name anything from, say, the time of Gutenberg that includes a significant Muslim accomplishment in science or medicine.

JamesH, it's a fair cop. An... (Below threshold)

JamesH, it's a fair cop. And I'm giving it some thought... here at the day job, where I'm not supposed to be blogging.


Last 10 centuries ... that ... (Below threshold)
James H:

Last 10 centuries ... that would be about 1000 CE onward, no?

How about Omar Khayyám, mathematician, astronomer, and poet. 1048 CE through 1131 CE.

Or ahma ibn Majid, navigator?

That's a broad brush, DJ. Wikipedia has a long, long list of Arab scholars, scientists, philosophers, and so on.

Selective, aren't you James... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Selective, aren't you James?

So, the best Islam can brag is a couple guys from, what, the days when running water meant living near a river?

Jay Tea:A day job ... (Below threshold)
James H:

Jay Tea:

A day job at this hour? I think that phrase "day job" does not mean what you think it means.

Also, check your email for an interesting NYT article I'm sending your way. It's about a labor union and it's worth a thought.

DJ, you made a sweeping sta... (Below threshold)
James H:

DJ, you made a sweeping statement, and I've just begun to refute it. And if I put more than two links in a comment, Wizbang thinks I'm a spammer.

From a political standpoint, I Kemal Attaturk and Anwar Sadat are both interesting, transformative figures.

Let's see ... Caleb Gattegno, who studied how people learn. Eman Ghoneim looks like a fairly recent Muslim scientist as well ...

James, back when he was at ... (Below threshold)

James, back when he was at least semi-sane, Charles Johnson used to sing the praises of that great contribution to modern science courtesy of Islam, the vibrating prayer rug.

And I call it "the day job" cuz it pays the bills. Sometimes it's a morning job, sometimes it's a day job, sometimes it runs through the evenings. The price of being a wage slave...


From the Wiki on Atatürk: <... (Below threshold)

From the Wiki on Atatürk:

His successful military campaigns led to the liberation of the country and to the establishment of modern Turkey. During his presidency, Atatürk embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms. An admirer of the Age of Enlightenment, he sought to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern and secular nation-state. The principles of Atatürk's reforms, upon which modern Turkey was established, are referred to as Kemalism.
He may have been Muslim, but he didn't make it the centerpiece of his reforms at all.

For what it's worth. (Shrug.)

One of the drawbacks I see ... (Below threshold)

One of the drawbacks I see in the Islamic faith is the lack of any kind of unifying voice. As the article states, Islam vs Islam.
Though Christianity has many families - Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, etc., they are unified in a basic message to which they all subscribe - love of God and freedom to say yes or no to that God.
Christians are to attempt to convert non-believers not by force, but by love. Now, as we are all fallible humans, this is not always the practice used, but it is the tenet of the faith, nonetheless.

But far too often ... (Below threshold)
But far too often we hear and see a different Islam, one that cheers violence against people simply for different beliefs. Nowhere in the Quran is it acceptable to kidnap someone, then cut the head off your captive on television in the name of Allah. Nowhere in the Quran is it said that Allah is pleased when men take over a civilian airliner and fly it into a building full of innocent people. I'm not saying this is not Islam, because sadly it is, but it demonstrates that Islam is at war - against itself.

The Quran does have sections that do advocate cutting the heads off non believers.

Just like the Jewish Christian Bible in the Old Testament talks about killing for Homosexuals, adultery, incest and bestiality. However overtime and in later parts of the Bible like the New Testament Christians are taught less violent ways to deal with the issue.

Jewish Scholars have also provided teachings on this.

One of the issue with Islam is that often times no one wants to really addresses the Surahs that deal seem to advocate violence against non believers. This results in others being able to fully exploit these verses for their own benefit.

Islam needs to take the first step and admit it has an issue before it can address it.

9: For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him. 10: And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 11: And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. 12: And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them. 13: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. 14: And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you. 15: And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast. 16: And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
Leviticus 20

Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain Surah 47:4

And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.... If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them.... And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah's purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not.... O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty stedfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred stedfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence.... It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. Had it not been for an ordinance of Allah which had gone before, an awful doom had come upon you on account of what ye took. Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 8:39,57,59-60,65,67-69, cf. 33:26).
O ye who believe! Be not as those who disbelieved and said of their brethren who went abroad in the land or were fighting in the field: If they had been (here) with us they would not have died or been killed.... And what though ye be slain in Allah's way or die therein? Surely pardon from Allah and mercy are better than all that they amass. What though ye be slain or die, when unto Allah ye are gathered?.... So those who...fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow--a reward from Allah (Surah 3:156-158,195
Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can (Surah 2:216-217,).
First of all, let's remembe... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

First of all, let's remember that Leviticus was written in roughly the 15th Century BC, more than 2100 years before the Koran.

A legitimate faith or religion deals with humanity's relationship to God, how he is approached and worshiped, and how his influence may lead us to him.

There have been criminal religious cults like the Thuggees or the Assassins or the People's Temple, but they only represented a tiny fraction of the religion they purportedly arose from, and were evidently out of the mainstream. But true religions never advocate criminal acts and violence toward non-believers.

Only islam does so. This is not a true religion, but a pagan barbarian death cult. There are certainly many millions of peaceful, "moderate" muslims, but it is they who are not in accord with the clerical interpretation of their scriptures, not the so-called "extremists."

It is high time we stopped according this abomination any equality of respect with mainstream religions from Judaism to Christianity to Buddhism to Hinduism to Shintoism. Even Wiccans deserve more respect, as they do not advocate harm to others.

I think a big problem is th... (Below threshold)

I think a big problem is that many Muslims are still taught to emulate their prophet - one who waged much war and destruction. Consider that and the Christian faith which teaches its adherants to emulate their prophet who never killed anyone.

"In fact, as for those who ... (Below threshold)

"In fact, as for those who reject Faith; it is the same, whether you warn them or you
don't, they will not believe.[6] Allah has sealed their hearts and their hearing, their
eyes are covered, and there is a grievous punishment for them. [7] 2:[6-7]"

from Page 2 of the Quran ...

seems so peaceful to me ...

I no long have my copy of t... (Below threshold)
Dodo David:

I no long have my copy of the Qur'an, but I do remember some of the things that my college Islam professor (a Muslim from Arabia) said in his lectures.

Fact #1: The word Islam does not mean peace. Instead, it means submission.

Fact #2: Muhammad built himself an army during his exile in Medina, and he used it to take control of Mecca and the rest of Arabia.

Here is a statement from Wikipedia's article about Muhammad:

"Many bedouins submitted to Muhammad in order to be safe against his attacks and to benefit from the booties of the wars."

Need I say more?

DJ DrummondI could... (Below threshold)

DJ Drummond

I could post alot of quotes but refrained from making lengthy post going into wider discussion. The link is there.

If you find the violent verses to have been taken out of context or abrogated then congratulations. I wish you and all those "moderate" muslims best of luck spreading that knowledge to the more fundametalist and radical quranimals.

Somehow they're having some trouble when it comes to convincing those Sharia loving regimes that stone people for adultry and allow only 3-4 religions or even none.

Anyway this "troll" wishes you all the best with the difficult journey of spreading the peaceful tolerant Islam to all muslims.






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