The Islamic faith has come under a good amount of criticism for the various attacks suffered by thousands of people at the hands of Muslims. These include gun attacks at Charlie Hebdo, bombing of trains in Madrid, most recently the bombings in Brussels, and most notoriously, in New York with 9/11. These are just a small sample of the list of attacks that have been done by Muslims against ‘infidels’ and an infidel country/culture.
Many lambast Islam as a religion of war. That, however, is overlooking a crucial detail that is not limited to Islam. We do not need to look back to the Crusades for religious violence from non-Muslims.
In 2004, up to 500 Muslims were killed by Christian Taroks in Yelwa, Nigeria (Johnston, 2004; PBS, 2004); many survived the attack, but fled their homes. The victims were killed by firearms and machetes. The Central African Republic (CAR) has killings and forced conversions (with torture if necessary) by Christians against Muslims. Men, women and children were targeted. In 2011, Christian Anders Breivik killed 77 people in his form of protest against the Islamization of Europe (Beaumont, 2011). In Jos, the Christian population watched as one of their citizens killed a Muslim passer-by, who then proceeded to eat him; the Christian did the kill-and-eat act twice in two weeks (Thornhill & Pleasance, 2014).
Many of the attacks are retaliatory in nature against a slight, or conflict from earlier (BBC, 2014; Chicago Tribune, 2004; Johnston, 2004). Each side can point to when members of their side were attacked beforehand; the cannibal killed the Muslim as some other Muslims murdered the Christian’s wife and child. Muslims and Christians murdering each other in various parts of the world is nothing new. The murdering is not limited to cross-religious lines, as in the past and currently there are some Muslims that kill Muslims (e.g. Sunni vs. Shia) and Christians that kill Christians (e.g. Catholics vs. Protestants).
The issue is not wholly religious as religion forms a cultural base from which further actions are directed. Where religion can be seen as a flammable gas that gets ignited, combusting those already violent and those who would otherwise be peaceful; the spark that ignites and creates a blast is blowback and blowback is a retaliation. Blowback comes from interfering in another region’s political structure (e.g. Iran, Libya, Egypt), occupying holy lands and interfering with economic structures (e.g. Saudi Arabia), and from killing civilians (e.g. Iraq and Yemen).
The single biggest terrorist attack was 9/11 and it was rallying cry. A national fervor was stoked, Republicans and Democrats were united as Americans and the West (and many others) mourned the loss of the Twin Towers and the near 3000 murdered. However, nearly 210,000 civilians (a conservative estimate) have been killed in Iraq alone, since 9/11 in the War on Terror (Brown University, 2015); other estimates have it at half a million, and even higher (Gordts, 2013). How many people would feel a call to service when they and their neighbors are experiencing seventy 9/11s? Osama bin Laden was an ally (though was only out of necessity) of the United States during the Cold War, but he focused upon America as an enemy for what he saw as American aggression in Muslim land including assisting Israel demolish houses in Palestine, and the deaths from starvation of one million children because of boycotts and sanctions, as he said in an interview in 1999 (Miller, 2007).
This brings us to the true killers: collectivism (i.e. group think) and initiation of force. Religion forms the irrational base which makes the collectivism and violence unquestionable. If ‘God said so,’ how could any human question it? It is no longer pragmatic actions about resources, but a metaphysical good-versus-evil.
The Old Testament (and New Testament through Jesus’ admonition he was not there to change the law one iota) has numerous law violations that are deemed punishable by death; there are also numerous examples of God-ordained conquering and razing of cities (kill all, except save virgin girls for slavery), such as Midian and Jericho. Additionally, the New Testament (Romans 1:19-32) has a list of sins (many of which would be part of a different culture) and that those who do them are worthy of death. The Koran has numerous examples of calling for war against nonbelievers (non-Muslims), as stated in The Women 4:101; The Repentance 9:123; Muhammad 14:4; The Victory 48:29.
Whether one’s Holy Book is the Bible or Koran (or Torah), holding the books as non-metaphor leads to an unquestionable collectivism that blends dehumanization of the other.
Not all cultures are equal in rightness or wrongness. Individuals within a culture or faith are the ones who actually act, but we may review the belief structure from which they act as an organizing system that provides justification for how individuals act. Dealing in aggregates, in modern times there are not as many killed for Christianity as there is in Islam. There may be a few Christians who still call for the stoning of homosexuals and other ways of returning to biblical law, but the trend is the other direction and marriage equality is being accepted by an increasing number of Christians. According to PEW Research (2013), Islam still has the majority of countries who want sharia as the law of the land, including the death penalty for apostasy. While Christianity of the West has evolved for the most part through the Enlightenment, Islam has not; Islam has remained fast for the most part in its interpretation of sacred texts. Islamists (those who want to use force to proselytize) blend modern technology and weaponry, with a medieval mentality. M. Zuhdi Jasser and Irshad Manji (a non-burka wearing openly gay woman) are examples of Muslims seeking to blend Human Rights within Islam (Gatestone Institute, 2015; Kalman, 2004); like Christianity has evolved, they seek for Islam.
Christianity needed to evolve or die with the advance of science (which providing better answers for the physical world, prompted moral review of biblical claims); Islamists say ‘submit or die’.
It is not Islam that is the issue, though it is the biggest and clearest example of the issue: a system that provides group think, praises the initiation of force and has a base that is supposedly beyond the scope of human reason. You cannot argue reason with unreason. Islam is not the only example of group think. Christianity is not beyond collectivism and violence. Secular groups are not beyond collectivism and violence (Timothy McVeigh was an agnostic). Even Buddhists in Burma have taken to killing Muslims – Buddhists, even monks, killing people and burning property (Associated Press, 2014). Collectivism, and its group think can affect anyone. As studies from Milgram and Zimbardo have shown, almost anyone can fall under the control of collectivism and authority.
There is a confluence of three issues – group think, initiation of force, religion; all issues being addressed would be best, but one issue being addressed would stop the violence. That issue is the initiation of force. If the initiation of force was stopped, then even if in error, the group could remain in its religion, even if foolishly. Defensive violence is proper, and most of the violence inflicted by Islamists today is defensive politically, and religion gets tied with it to make it more righteous and unquestionable. Returning to the PEW Research statistics, the very places that have the most desire for Sharia law are the places that have had the most violence against their people – by the US and others. Embargos and regime changes are the first push of a pendulum that causes a pushback; over and over again to 9/11, the War on Terror and the equivalent of seventy 9/11s suffered by the people of the Middle East. During elections in America, there is a controversy if a candidate receives foreign campaign contributions; American foreign policy affects the people of other countries that is far beyond campaign contributions (Al-Shingeeti, 2014; Brown University, 2015; Gordts, 2013).
If you want the violence to stop, then stop giving the other reasons to attack; if you are attacked, then use violence in defense. If you are in a war, make it official, and do not draw it out, continue regime changes or build what the people do not want: defeat your enemy as quickly and thoroughly as possible, then leave and do not ‘pile on’ punishments. Additionally, picking sides in another country’s civil war earns oneself an enemy for the time, and potentially two in the future; the helped one, once with power, may change. Finally, do not support other countries to prop up those militant regimes; those embattled need to resolve their own issues, otherwise, the helped one will not be seen as legitimate. What is best: war being averted and instead of soldiers crossing borders, products and ideas being shared. It was not through a long and protracted bombing campaign that brought down
the Berlin wall, it was the people wanting change.
“When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.” – Frederic Bastiat
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Miller, J. (2007, January 29). Greetings, America. My Name is Osama bin Laden. http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a1813/esq0299-feb-laden/
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