The true nature of Islam is on display in the murder trial of a Muslim man in New York who beheaded his wife? That’s the essentialist conclusion of an elected Republican official in Southern California: Lancaster councilwoman Sherry Marquez. Here’s how her local newspaper—the January 27, 2010 edition of the Antelope Valley Press—started a report on the story:
LANCASTER—Councilwoman Sherry Marquez is under fire from a Los Angeles Islamic organization and from the Antelope Valley Muslims for comments she posted on her personal Internet page concerning a Muslim man charged with beheading his wife in New York.
“This is what the Muslim religion is all about—the beheading, honor killings are just the beginning of what is to come in the U.S.A,” Marquez wrote on her Facebook page.
“We are told this is a small majority (sic) of Muslims in America but it is truly what they are all about,” she said.
Marquez’s hysterical and inflammatory remarks (unsurprisingly) opened a rift between energized conservative “Christians,” eager to ditto her prejudicial statements, and the roughly ten thousand Muslims living in northeast Los Angeles County (where Lancaster is located). And now the Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser and Lawrence Swaim, the Executive Directors, respectively, of the California Council of Churches and the Interfaith Freedom Foundation, have weighed in on the matter, co-writing a letter to the Antelope Valley Press that contained this paragraph (Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010 B5):
Recent Facebook postings by Councilwoman Sherry Marquez demonizing all Muslims are also a matter of concern. One hundred years ago, Europeans demonized all Jews, and it led to the Holocaust, history’s greatest crime, and sparked a war that left Europe in ruins. Americans will not go down the road of religious bigotry. We know very well that there are good and bad people in all groups, and that those who portray one group as completely bad are usually out for themselves.
I share Rick Schlosser and Lawrence Swaim’s analysis of the malignant role that demonization plays in history, but I don’t share their optimism that “Americans will not go down the road of religious bigotry.” Like Schlosser and Swaim, I hope the center holds, and that the majority of the people in our country will always keep their heads about them under stress, and make distinctions, but I think that the first stanza of William Butler Yeats’s great 1921 poem, “The Second Coming,” is a reminder of what we’re really up against, and the danger that reactionaries and fanatics pose to a sane and centrist polity:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
As an agnostic, I hope that moderate Muslims and Christians can make an effective counter alliance against the world’s fast multiplying sub-rational fundamentalists. I like this song by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens). It gives me some hope:
(sigh) There are so many Americans who are asleep at the wheel when it comes to Islam, you know, “the peaceful religion”. You can multiply the peaceful beheader’s action by a million and you still wouldn’t scratch the surface of how many other muslims have dutifully performed honor killings to satisfy the blood lust of Islam. I think the problem with people like Schlosser and Swaim, is they’re so eager to be perceived as “moderate” (yawn), they refuse to see the truth about Islam. I don’t care that there are some muslims who wouldn’t behead their wives for acting like normal, free people. The problem is that out of a billion or so of the followers of Mo, 200,000,000 of them beleive this is a perfectly justified way to conduct business. How many of them live in America? Well, even if it’s only 10,000-20,000, that’s a problem… because the number is growing. And that bothers me far more than a councilwoman in California that has the courage to point it out. BTW, it was the Nazis in europe who demonized the jews. Funny how the talking heads can lump all europeans together but when it comes to Muslims, well, the disingenuousness of it speaks for itself.
The future of Islam and Christianity do not belong to its fundamentalist fanatics—they belong (if humanity is to have any reasonable future at all) to the voices of moderation. If 20% of Muslim are, by your lights, raving maniacs (and I completely deny this), that still means that 80% of them can be reasoned with and worked with in human solidarity. Look, for example, at the streets of Iran this week, and the brave young people resisting their authoritarian mullahs. Those young people in the streets are well educated, intelligent students fighting for a moderate vision for their religion and country.
You really need to get a grip and not impatiently run to extremes. You yawn at moderation because it is complex and rational, but it is in times where passions run high that you need sober adults in the room. You don’t need hair-trigger hysterics like Sherry Marquez leaping to the most ridiculous reductio ad absurdums about whole classes of people at a moment’s notice. Moderation, I should add, used to be a Western civilizational virtue (“moderation in all things”). To give your intellect over to your passions and prejudices, and to fail to make distinctions or exercise nuance in your thought, is the sign of an immature and sub-rational mind. It’s not the kind of behavior that we should be praising or encouraging in politicians or people (Christian or Muslim).
We need to stand together in solidarity against violence, irrationalism, and religious fanaticism from whatever quarter it comes. These are the enemies of humanity’s future, not your run of the mill walking around Muslim or Christian.
It’s not me you need to preach to about moderation and live and let live philosophies. By bringing up the streets of Iran, you prove my point. Iran, a country governed by Sharia law where hangings and beheadings are carried out routinely on “Main Street”, and non-muslims are persecuted and murdered. Do you know how many Christian churches have been burned down in muslim countries like Iran. Do you know how many times Christian church doors have been kicked in and the people hacked and shot to death in muslim countries by muslims? No, your eyes are closed. And when a Christian church is burned down, guess what, they’re not allowed to rebuild…Sharia Law again. It’s a very methodical way of dealing with the “Christian problem” in muslim countries – no wonder they burn them down. Why is it that this happens in every muslim dominated country. Are they all just misinterpretating muhammed and the koran? What is it you don’t get about millions of muslims rioting in the streets and killing people because of some cartoon of muhammed. Why is it that people with beliefs like you, Schlosser, and Swaim, can’t wait to criticize the speech of people like me, congressman woman Marquez, and Mayor Parris but have viritually nothing to say about the countless murders and terrorist acts performed by the adherents of the so-called “religion of peace”. Santi, as far as Islam is concerned, there is no future for Christianity or any other belief system that is at odds with Islam (which is every other system). If you gave truth serum to the muslims you call moderate, they would tell you this. They’re just leaving it up to people like Bin Laden which there’s no shortage of in the ranks of Islam. It is no secret that the guiding document of the muslim brotherhood in taking over America is for muslims to act peaceful but use our laws to advance islam and sharia here and to keep colonizing this country via immigration until they ultimately control it politically then militantly. The proof of what I say is readily evident everywhere you look but you refuse to believe your own eyes. Funny thing is, Islam teaches its believers to hate people like you who believe in no God, per se, more than people like me (so-called people of the Book) and when the time comes for them to come for you, it’ll be people like me standing in their way. Go figure.
As for the Nazis, have you ever read Goldhagen’s book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners?:
Islamic fundamentalism is a serious, serious problem in the world. No doubt. And I condemn all violence against Christians in Muslim countries. But I don’t think that Islam is inherently more brutalizing to the human psyche than any other religion. It is fundamentalist zealotry, fanaticism, and psychological isolation attached to the large monotheistic traditions that turn them toxic. Moderate Muslims, Jews, and Christians are everywhere, and in the majority within the United States, and wherever religion is expressed moderately we should be praising it for its moderation, not holding it under suspicion. In places where fundamentalists dominate it is, of course, bad all around. You don’t want to be gay in Christian Uganda, or Christian in Pakistan, or an atheist in John Calvin’s Geneva in the 16th century, obviously. It is fundamentalism that we need to collectively fight, not moderates who don’t run their religious views into reductio ad absurdums.
When I think, for example, of famous converts to Islam in the West like Kareem Abdul Jabar, Malcolm X, Mohammad Ali, and Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), I don’t see Islam brutalizing them. Islam seems to have markedly mellowed Malcolm X, for example. And the others all strike me as gentle souls.
And I just don’t think that learning that somebody is Muslim helps you size up your American neighbor. It seems to me as useless a discovery as learning the color of your neighbor. You need more information about people than their racial or religious designations. You need to get to know them as people. I truly believe that if Christians in our country reached out and made friends with Muslims in their community that a lot of healing would take place. Once you get to know people, it’s hard to hate them or demonize them, and then we could make common cause and work together for a better human future—one that is more moderate and rational. I don’t believe for one second that Christians are better people than Muslims, or vice versa. We all need to talk more.
Thank you for bringing up that icon of muslim piety and, yes, peaceful follower of the “religion of peaceful peace”. Not that this will do any good because of your refusal to see the facts and process them rationally. The ironic thing about moderates is they’re so zealous at trying to be mild. It seems that it’s all that matters to them; that they’re perceived as miiiillllld. Anyway, the following is a quote from Wikipedia regarding his holy wisdomness, Mr. Islam, who you hold up to me as a “gentle soul”: “On February 21, 1989, Yusuf Islam addressed students at Kingston University in London about his conversion to Islam and was asked about the controversy in the Muslim world and the fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie’s execution. He replied, “He must be killed. The Qur’an makes it clear – if someone defames the prophet, then he must die.” Now, do you still want to hold Yusuf up as a muslim I should be comfortable with? Oh, I’m sure if I just reached out to him in friendship, he would instantly bedome “moderate”. That’s another thing the apologists and defenders of Islam always say; if only WE would just reach out to them, if WE would just try to understand them, if WE would just be more tolerant. It’s always WE that have to explain ourselves to them. Sorry, but from now on it’s them who have to prove themselves to me and that proof isn’t going to come easy. I saw a youtube video of the people in the World Trade Center Towers, jumping from those buildings because it was either that or burn to death inside. They were holding hands and jumping 70 stories at 150 mph to their deaths, one by one, and two by two. Sometimes four at a time. And I thought back and remembered the news videos of muslims all over the world laughing and cheering when it was happening and I felt sick all over again. I tell you this now, I stand against islam and all its evil, and you know Santi, a time is coming when there’ll be no middle ground on this. No moderate views. Your going to have to decide, your either for the forces of darkness aka islam, or your on the side of freedom and light and you won’t be able to hide behind the mask of moderateness. Think about it.
Pay back for WTC hasn’t even begun yet but it’s coming. That’s all I have to say about it.
20 years ago Yusuf Islam was apparently in the possession of a fundamentalist syllogism that held his mind. It illustrates the dangers of religious fundamentalism, and it infuriates me to learn that he said that. I appreciate you bringing that to my attention. But I would also ask: Does he feel the same way 20 years out? People change. I want to know if he has changed. He went silent with his music for a very long time, and only in the past few years did he pick up his guitar again. It’s very possible that he has renounced in himself his hate and fundamentalism and the religious restrictions he placed on his own creativity. 9/11 may have sobered him, and changed his orientation. His recent songs suggest to me that he has found his way to a gentle and nonfundamentalist religious path, but I’d like to know more. If you know of his recent views, please share them.
And I don’t blame Mohammad for the Twin Towers—I blame Osama bin Laden. I also don’t blame Jesus for 16th century Geneva—I blame John Calvin.
I have no doubt that, should a major crisis between the West and the Islamic world erupt this year over Iran, or if a major terrorist incident occurs in the United States, that people of your persuasion will beat the drums for a clearing of the center—and you will have your counterparts in the Islamic world as well. “When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.”
I will continue to hold the center. I will not make the generalizations that you are against a whole group of American citizens—and I don’t want the American government treating the next terrorist incident as more than the actions of whatever deranged fanatics happen to be responsible. In other words, I don’t want to see a local cause for an event (fundamentalism) turned into a broader civilizational conflict (Islam v. the West). That would be an enormous tragedy for humanity (not to make that distinction in how we respond). Our enemy is not Islam, but whoever perpetrates violence and promotes fundamentalist forms of fanaticism.
I’d like to know (if you can articulate it) why you refuse to make this crucial distinction. It seems like you want a broader conflict—a showdown—with Islam qua Islam. Why would you want that in a world with nuclear weapons? It seems crazy to me. Do you mean to poison the planet for the actions of a few crazy people possessed of fundamentalist memes and syllogisms? And in a general war, would you want Islam eradicated from the face of the earth in the way that Nazism was at the end of WWII? Why? I just don’t get it. Islam has been around for 1400 years, and helped preserve (for example) Aristotle for Thomas Aquinas and the West. And it has had, like Christianity and Judaism, periods of moderation and fanaticism. And so I see no reason why the great monotheisms can’t have a peaceful and moderate coexistence moving into the future. To echo Sophocles, the only sin is pride.
The distinction resides only in your mind. Islam has declared war on the west. The problem is, we don’t believe it yet. You say, and I quote “Our enemy is not Islam, but whoever perpetrates violence and promotes fundamentalist forms of fanaticism.” Helllooo! Who in the heck do you think is promoting fundamentalist forms of fanaticism?! ISLAM!!! Are you paying attention? Remember Major Hassan who screamed Allahu Akbar as he put a gun to the wounded soldiers’s heads at Fort Hood and blew their brains out. He is just one of many. Islam has been doing this to the west since they invaded Spain in the 700’s, long before any Crusade (since the 1st Crusade wasn’t until the mid-900’s). At least the european people of that time got it together, stood up and drove them out. They must have had a different view of how Aristotle should be preserved. Also, at heart, muslims are not American’s. Ask any one of them (especially the men of the species) if they would rather have sharia law or our Constitution as the law of the land and if they’re honest they’ll tell you; Sharia. You asked if I would like to see Islam eradicated from the face of the earth. I say I would like the belief system of Islam eradicated from the mind of man because like Nazism, it’s a tryrannical belief system that seeks to enlsave people. Islam has never had a period of moderation,just weakness in the face of the military power of the west that is now professed by pseudo-intellectual islamic apologists as moderation. Thanks but no thanks.
I notice this about the Salmon Rushdie incident at Wikipedia as well (and which you seem to have ignored):
“In the years since these comments, he has repeatedly denied ever calling for the death of Rushdie or supporting the fatwa.”
And with regard to Yusuf Islam and 9/11:
“Immediately following the 11 September 2001, attacks on the United States, he said:
I wish to express my heartfelt horror at the indiscriminate terrorist attacks committed against innocent people of the United States yesterday. While it is still not clear who carried out the attack, it must be stated that no right-thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action. The Qur’an equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity. We pray for the families of all those who lost their lives in this unthinkable act of violence as well as all those injured; I hope to reflect the feelings of all Muslims and people around the world whose sympathies go out to the victims of this sorrowful moment.
He appeared on videotape on a VH1 pre-show for the October 2001 Concert for New York City, condemning the attacks and singing his song “Peace Train” for the first time in public in more than 20 years, as an a cappella version. He also donated a portion of his box-set royalties to the Fund for victims’ families, and the rest to orphans in underdeveloped countries.”
Surely you jest. You couldn’t have read the same Wikipedia article I did. The following was copied from Wikipedia and pasted here as follows: “Yusuf has not retracted any statements he made about the fatwa and Rushdie, but has said the comments he made on Hypotheticals television program were “in hindsight … in bad taste”, but “part of a well-known British national trait … dry humour on my part.” Baaaloney. He meant every word and the only reason he backpedaled was because it was hurting his wallet. The article also said that two months later Yusuf Islam appeared on a British television program, BBC’s Hypotheticals, where he basically reiterated what he said earlier. Guess what, you can’t see the video of that program now because Mr. Islam has pulled it off the internet stating copyright protection. I wonder why? And also this: The New York Times also reports this statement from the program: [If Rushdie turned up at my doorstep looking for help] I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like. I’d try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is. Look, Santi, Cat Stevens Islam doesn’t need me to make him look bad to normal people, i.e., non-muslims. He’s fully capable of doing that himself. Many people who heard him say what he did now say his denials were an attempt to rewrite history and whitewash his image. BTW: The followers of islam around the world cheered when the towers went down, and the only people they may have had sympathy for were their martyrs who flew the planes into them. I mean, what world are you living in?? I’m sorry to say this but you are truly deceiving yourself. These fallacious attempts on your part to whitewash islam just don’t hold water, there’s too much evidence to the contrary. This is also a quote from the article: “Salman Rushdie himself, in a letter to the editor of The Daily Telegraph, complained of what he believed was Yusuf’s attempts to “rewrite his past,” and calls his claims of innocence “rubbish.” Sorry dude. I feel bad for you because you seem to be trying so hard to defend the indefensible. Believe me, muslims consider people who defend them like you; useful idiots. I know you’re not an idiot and probably want everything to be just fine and wonderful peacefulness in the world but you can’t blind yourself to the truth in order to achieve it.
Finally, Here are a few quotes on Islam by Winston churchill…God I wish we had leaders like him in our country today instead of the spineless jellyfish we do have:
Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.
A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.
No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.
You may be right about Yusuf Islam. I don’t know. I don’t want to defend him if, in fact, he is an emotional authoritarian. I simply don’t get that from him, but I’m going to look into it some more.
But your larger point is wrong. You’re troping Islam for communism and making liberals like me the new “useful idiots” for the latest ideology that you think is seeking global domination. But your understanding of Islam is ahistorical and your generalizations about contemporary Muslims—especially Muslim Americans—are grotesque.
Further, you said: “You asked if I would like to see Islam eradicated from the face of the earth. I say I would like the belief system of Islam eradicated from the mind of man because like Nazism, it’s a tryrannical belief system that seeks to enslave people.”
And how would you eradicate it, exactly? What is your final solution to the Muslim “problem”?
Ah, the “L” word. No wonder the vociferous defense of the indefensible. You know as well as I do, Santi, that if it were Christians that were committing the atrocities that muslims are committing all over the world, you and your fellow liberals would not only be condemning them but also railing against Christianity and its teachings as the motivation for the atrocities. This is because the left in this country and in Europe, have allied themselves with extremist islam (I just say its Islam) against the west. Why? Because they hate the west as much as Islam does and the old saying; the enemy of my enemy is my friend, holds true. You have proved it yourself during our dialogue. You’re more upset at me and Congresswoman Marquez for speaking out against the obvious shortcomings of Islam, and Mayor Parris for lifting up Christianity, than you are with the followers of Islam such as Imams all over the world and leaders of Islamic countries who constantly scream for the destruction of Israel, America, and the west in general because we try to defend ourselves against the barbarity of Islam. Imams who regularly issue
Fatwas against anyone who speaks against them. The followers of Islam who come out of the bushes and cut off the heads of little girls while on their way to school. As far as troping for anything, you’ve still got it all wrong. I’ll tell it exactly as it is. I don’t need metaphors. Islam is a mixture of Nazism, Communism, and Fascism, on steroids. But what can you expect from an organization that got its marching orders from a man who was not only a murderer but a child rapist, and all around bad guy. As for your troping of me when you ask what my “final solution to the Muslim problem” would be, is to do what I’m doing. Keep enlightening people to the facts of Islam and its real intention in the world and confronting people like you who continue to put sheeps clothing on the virulent anti-human movement of Islam. Truth is the final solution. Of course, if I could wave a wand and make it happen I would immediately end all immigration of muslims to this country since islam is in direct opposition to the Constitution and an enemy thereof.
I have to say that I smiled at your charicatures of me as a liberal. They’re as cartoonish to my actual views as the ones that you project onto the average American Muslim. For just one example of me siding with Christians against Muslims on an issue, see here:
And for me criticizing Islamic anti-Semitism and my support of Israel (which is strong), see here:
I also do not tend to associate myself with the enthusiasms of the Left (capital L) in this country. Politically, I am a centrist. My liberalism is with a small “l”.
As for the West, it is precisely because I love the Western cultural tradition that I am a liberal. I recognize the value of Judaism, Christianity, and Greco-Roman paganism to Western culture, and want what is best from these traditions preserved. I’ve spent my adult life studying and teaching the literatures from these traditions. I’m not going to the back of the bus on my love for Western culture because Christian fundamentalists like yourself imagine that I don’t understand it properly. You don’t own the Western cultural tradition (just as jihadists do not properly own the Islamic civilizational tradition).
Also, you said, “if I could wave a wand and make it happen I would immediately end all immigration of muslims to this country since islam is in direct opposition to the Constitution and an enemy thereof.”
Is that where you stop? And what of the Muslims living here now, and having children in the United States? What would you do with them?
I’m pressing you on this because I want to see where you stop your own reductio ad absurdums—where your rhetoric no longer matches your actual support for actions. By your rhetoric, you’ve made Islam qua Islam a monster akin to Nazism. And if so, what does that mean in terms of the social policies that you would support? You’ve already said that you would stop all Muslim immigration to this country. What else would you do?
Ironically, by the way, the computer boards running our computers might well have come from Muslim women working long hours for low wages in Malaysian factories. A lot of high tech assembly takes place in the Muslim country of Malaysia. That doesn’t really fit your narrative, does it?
Oh, and one more irony. You spoke of “the followers of Islam who come out of the bushes and cut off the heads of little girls while on their way to school.” And who are those little girls? Muslims! Their moderate Muslim parents are trying to get them an education, and the fundamentalists are cutting them down. As within Christianity, there are “Christians” and then there are Christians. There is no soul to religion—no essentiality—only individual human beings reading texts in different ways under different contingencies. I want to know how a person reads a text, and where they stop their reductio ad absurdums, not what they superficially call themselves.
It’s you calling me a Chistian fundamentalist because that’s how you think and in your world I must be evil if I’m a Christian Fundamentalist anyway. You don’t know what religion I am or whether I have any religion at all. BTW, you called yourself a liberal, not me. Personally, I think you’re the kind of person who stands for nothing so falls for everything. A centrist. Hmmm, you mean a middle of the roader. You know what they say about that. You stand in the middle of the road and you’re bound to get hit. You asked what I’d do about the muslims living here now? First of all, any mosques and imams that preach hostility and violence against the west and America in particular, would be shut down and the leaders would face prosecution for the exhortation of terrorist acts. Then there would be studies done, in the open, on exactly whether the teachings of the Koran and Mohammded are compatible with an open and free society, and whether they pose a national security threat to this country,its Constitution, and freedoms. The study would focus on whether the general threat of physical violence in the name of Islam from any follower of Islam, has prevented any person or organization in this country from exercising their 1st Amendment right to criticize or otherwise characterize Islam in any way they wish. If it is proven that there is a reasonable expectation of violence to these persons and organizations based on the past actions of muslims both here and abroad, then the discussion would focus on whether Islam should be outlawed as profoundly incompatible with a free society governed by the rule of law. Now, Santi, you know this has already been proven. I could refer to many instances of this in this country and around the world but for now I’ll focus on the cartoons of Muhammed with the bomb in his turban. Many newspapers, universities, and websites in America didn’t publish the cartoons due to fears of Islamic retaliation. The reasonable expectation of violence was there because muslims all over the world were rioting in the street over the cartoons. That’s all I need to know. I refuse to have my children and grandchildren living in fear of people who should be criticized but can’t be because they terriorize others. I just don’t know what else to say to you about this. You go on and believe what you want about me and people like me but there’ll come a time when people like you are going to be looking around in desperation for us because of the storm that’s coming. And when it hits, it’s not the centrists that are going to save this country because they just don’t have the intestinal fortitude or the conviction of a strong belief system that it’s going to take to get the job done. Good Luck Santi and I wish you well.
I think that Christian fundamentalism, like Islamic fundamentalism, is intellectually indefensible and, insofar as it terrorizes its adherents with threats of hell, I regard it as a form psychological cruelty (especially toward children). I don’t like irrationality, cruelty, or authoritarianism—and both Christian and Islamic fundamentalisms have these things in an excess of measure. Fortunately, the future does not belong to either of them. They are anachronisms in the 21st century, and they will grow more anachronistic over time. The broken wheels squeek the loudest.
But people (fundamentalist or not) who do no violence to others, and respect freedom of choice and speech, are okay with me. My resistance kicks in wherever fundamentalists engage in violence, or attempt to treat their voluntary and freely chosen commitments as incumbant on the culture as a whole, and force the conscience of individuals (such as gay people).
Your ideas about how to contain Islam in America, by the way, are akin to burning down a village to save it. Your ideas violate the Constitution in the name of protecting it.
You haven’t answered the question. Are and have Americans 1st Amendment rights to speak freely about islam been violated by fear of islamic violence and retaliation for this speech.
Here’s the irony of this whole dialogue. You have no idea what religion I am or whether I believe in religion at all. You claim to be an agnostic who is decidedly anti-fundamentalist. Strongly if they are violent, less strongly but still against if they are non-violent. All of my responses to you have been concerned with how to deal with the violent aspects of Islam’s ideology, which are undeniably present in abundance. The exhortation of Islam is to spread it by the sword if necessary, but you damn well better spread it. They don’t have the moderating influence of Jesus Christ like Christians do, and they may never have that influence. Whether there are some Muslims who would not strap on a bomb and walk into a crowded mall is irrelevant. There are plenty that would, have, and will simply because their reading of mohammed says that this is what they’re supposed to do, under a variety of circumstances, to be a good Muslim and follower of Islam, period. It doesn’t matter what you or I or the so-callded moderate muslims say or think. Therefore, a sane civilization has to address the philosophy of Islam and how it’s belief system may threaten society’s security and ability to function as an organized, safe, law abiding civilization. The organized, sane, secure civilization of America is only that way because we have a system of laws that we all agree, are more or less necessary to the functioning of this society. Since the Constitution is the foundation of the United States, any belief system which threatens the constitutional rights of the people also threatens the United States and it’s ability to function as such. One of the most important constitutional rights of the people, is the freedom of speech. I claim the people’s 1st Amendment rights are being violated by Islam’s belief system because people and organizations in this country are, in fact, fearful for their lives if they ridicule or otherwise speak out against Islam or Mohammed. I also gave you an example of this fear when I said that there were newspapers, newsstations, universities, and websites that were afraid to publish the cartoon of mohammed with a bomb in his turban because of the threat of muslim violence, and you didn’t deny this. When I say that this constitutes a violation of their 1st Amendment rights you simply choose to ignore it. When I say that I think America must conduct hearings on the very real threat to our Constitution posed by the Islamic belief system you say that it’s akin to burning down the village to save it (talk about rhetoric). Why you would say that holding congressional hearings on threats to the Constitution would be like burning the country down is a mystery to me. The irony is that I propose a legal, accepted way to deal with Islamic fundamentalism (which you hate) and how it threatens the 1st Amendment and you vehemently oppose it. I propose that your thinking on this issue is confused at best, which leads me to question your philosophical view of the world in general, but also leads me to the conclusion that you have no way of dealing with this issue in any real, effective manner. Your answer seems to be only that if everyone were moderate like you, the world would be just peachy-keen and then you’d be able to get back to the real work of interpreting the meaning of existence. Sorry pal, but where I and most other Americans come from, existence is made by hard work, a hammer and nails, and a lot of sweat, blood, and tears. And when it comes to our kids, your answers -even if someone could figure them out – just don’t cut it.
I think that editors were afraid to run the pictures precisely because it might elicit violence against their employees and themselves. No doubt. But I think that the worry was individual vigilante violence, not mass violent protest from American Muslims. The local intimidation would have come from the fanatic here and there, not a mass form of intimidation. They were also, I think, concerned about the provocation of overseas riots, not broad riots among Muslim Americans in the United States.
I think that you’ve got to make the proper distinctions. Islam is not a monolithic phenomenon.
As for Jesus, I think you vastly overestimate Jesus’s influence over the level of violence that people who call themselves Christians are capable of. The Holocaust, please recall, occurred in the heart of Christian Europe, and was carried out by people who called themselves either Protestants or Catholics. And Judaism is also a monotheistic religion, and does not have Jesus as an influence, and yet you wouldn’t argue that this makes Jews more inclined to violence than Christians, right?
I think that you are using fundamentalist fanaticism as a whipping boy—an excuse—for tarring with their stupidity and violence a whole class of people. It’s ugly and it’s not reasonable.
As for reading the Quran to discover the mindset of jihadis, I think this is unnecessary. We already know exactly what possesses the mind of jihadis: syllogisms discovered in “holy” texts that are taken literally and to their extremes—to reductio ad absurdums. It’s the old time religion of fundamentalism. It’s always been with us—and its contemporary revival is a response to secular modernism. You can do fundamentalism with the Bible, with the Quran, and with Hindu scriptures. Lots of fundamentalists through history have. It’s the mentality of the abortion clinic bomber, the Hindu who burns down Muslim neighborhoods in India, and the Puritans who slaughtered the Native Americans as if they were the Canaanites and God had given North America to them. It’s the Jew living in the West Bank imagining that God has literally given the land to Jews. Fundamentalist psychology is completely understood. The question is what to do about it in an age of nuclear weapons. I think the first thing to do is identify the right people moving in the direction of being violent fundamentalists, and try to resist them wherever possible. The psychological profile is not alien to psychology—nor is the phenomenon culturally hard to spot by sociologists.
One thing that you don’t want to do is prejudicially generalize the stupidity of some in a group to that group as a whole.
I think that they have, yes. I agree with you that the Danish cartoon issue, Salmon Rushdie etc. are extremely troubling phenomena. Islamic fundamentalism is an enormous danger to Western civilization. If the movement ever obtains a nuclear bomb (and I think it’s about 50/50 over the next decade or two) and puts it on a Western city, and kills 100,000 or a million or more people with it, our civil liberties—and our economy—could be shut down in a day. And what if it managed to get 2 or 3 such weapons? All bets are off in terms of how our lives would be changed.
Western liberal democracy combined with global capitalism is not a robust human phenomenon. It may not survive the century. It’s not the inevitable winner of history (as Fukuyama thought). But that’s precisely why, in the face of jihadism and the danger it poses, it is crucial to speak about religious fundamentalism accurately, and to make distinctions. I’m criticizing Marquez, not for her right to free expression, but for her stupidity—for her failure to identify the right culprit for her rage and to speak intelligently about it.
You defeat irrationality with rationality—not with stupidity.
If conservative rage was focused, I’d be with you. The proper thing to eyeball is religious fundamentalism coupled to fantasies of apocalyptic violence and attempts to initiate it. That is the great meme of the 21st century that could bring down our civilization. I’m worried about it and I think about it. I have small children.
This meme needs to be decoupled from Islam qua Islam. This is not a civilizational war, and the average American Muslim should not be treated with prejudice or suspicion by their neighbors. We are at war with a cult that has emerged from within one of the world’s great monotheisms. It is important not to conflate the two. Jihadism is a fanatic Dostoevskian “underground man” cult reaction to modernity. It is not a reaction to the best way to read the Quran. Like the Bible, the Quran does not compel you to read it a certain way. And like Christians with regard to the Bible, Muslims choose to read the Quran in one way and not another. Most read it sanely and without running to reductio ad absurdums.
And to my knowledge, no Muslim community in the United States rioted during the cartoon controversy, or advocated violence of any sort. Are some within the Muslim community sympathetic to jihadists? Of course. But that’s the work of the FBI to figure out exactly which few feel that way AND would act on it, not you or me. These things need to be coupled—the belief and the action. People can (and do) say all sorts of stupid things in response to polls, and make boasts, and feel torn allegiences. The human psyche has always been filled with shadows. But it is law enforcement that identifies credible threats and unstable people, not you and me—or Marquez.
What am I missing here. There was no rioting because, AS I SAID, the cartoons were not published. Sheesh.
One other aspect to all this: fundamentalism feeds on fundamentalism. An imam says something in Pakistan, Pat Robertson says something here. These things move back and forth over the Internet and alarm different fundamentalists against one another, raising the rhetorical temperature everywhere. “The Muslims are coming to take over our Christian nation!” “The Christians are trying to eradicate Islam!” It’s not like Sherry Marquez is a rational person talking rationally about a group of people. And if some Islamic fanatic catches word of Marquez’s comment, it’s not like he’d offer a sane response. In this sense, it’s all a bitter joke. Fundamentalists committed to one form of irrationality are sassing with hot rhetoric fundamentalists committed to another form of irrationality. It’s primitive, it increases the chances of violence in the world, and it bodes ill for humanity in an era of nuclear weapons.
It seems that just about the only thing that Islamic fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists agree on is that evolution isn’t true and the Earth is 10,000 years old. Think about how tragic and absurd that is. Oh, and they also agree that gays are an existential threat to civilization. Oh, and that feminism is dangerous and a new world will arrive via an apocalypse. Hmm.
Santi, I commend your patience. I cannot be bothered reading the rest of the comments.
I believe in dialogue. I try to understand where people are coming from and it helps me think more clearly about where I’m coming from—and what heat my positions can withstand (and where they might need to change). Whenever somebody comes to talk to me at my blog with a wildly different set of premises from mine, I know that my blindspots are about to be exposed. I want them exposed.
You seem like a good person; confused, but decent. However, I think you have some issues that need working out. If you can’t see the difference between Christian Fundamentalism vs Islamic Fundamentalism then I think you’re just not based in reality and there’s nothing more I can say to you. If you have to go back 500 years to find some sort of comparison between the two then that alone should be a clue to you that your reasoning on the subject needs revision. There has to be some sort of common ground or a dialogue isn’t very constructive. Pat Robertson, no matter how fundamentalist you think he is, doesn’t issue death Fatwas against people who put down Christianity. Christian Fundamentalists aren’t going onto planes with bombs strapped to themselves or routinely blowing up as many people they can. Maybe not all Muslims are terrorists, but so far and with very few exceptions, all the terrorists (everywhere) have been Muslim. It’s on it’s way here, and when it starts happening you can ponder the difference between Christianity or any other religion, and Islam. I’ll leave you with this one thought: whether you want to admit it or not, it was the ideals of Christianity that led to and are the foundation of the United States Constitution. I’m not going to bother to go into the abundant and obvious evidence of this. The ideals of Islam have led only to Sharia Law which is designed to subjugate, enslave, and persecute people. Your problem is that you’re unable to separate individual muslims that you may know from the much larger subject of Islamic philosophy and how it is effected in the world. So I’ll take my leave from this blog because I choose not to be just an intellectual exercise for you to test against your world view. There are other more important things to do.
No problem if you disengage. But I deny that the United States was founded on Christian models of governance. The biblical model is monarchy (the divine right of kings). The people who wrote our founding documents were inspired by Greco-Roman models. The concept of democracy comes from Greece and the notion that the United States was a “New Republic” was a play on the “Old Republic” (the ancient Roman Senate). Jefferson, Franklin, Payne etc. were all inspired by Enlightenment rationalism, not Christian medievalism. Their heroes were not biblical characters, nor Calvin or Luther. Their heroes were Socrates and Cicero.
As for suicide terrorism, it’s not of Muslim origin. See the Wikipedia article on this here:
Or you can just go to the Bible and see the first act of suicide terrorism that I know of. Read the story of Samson bringing an enemy’s temple down upon himself and killing 3000 souls in the process. A bit reminicent of 9-11. If I recall, the story is in Judges, and the act is implicitly approved of.
Here’s the passage from Judges 16 (NIV):
25 While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.
When they stood him among the pillars, 26 Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. 28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
31 Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led [e] Israel twenty years.
By your lights, if this passage had been in the Quran, you would think it a model for Muslim action, and revealing the Quran’s violent nature, right?
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Santi, you’re proving Steve’s point. If you have to go back to Biblical times, to prove some sort of moral equivalence between Islam and Christianity—-well, that just goes to show it isn’t Christian fundamentalists committing homicide bombings, rioting over cartoons or going ballistic when somebody—such as Sherry Marquez—points out that Islamic societies have some—ahem!—problems, dealing with women.
Ah, yes, I know—when in doubt, and trying to make Islam look good, Always drag in the Book in Judges. Or Kings I, or II. Golly whackets, there are some violent things in the Old Testament, so how dare anybody criticize the Koran?
By the way—Sampson is a story of the Jewish people; those same Jewish people many Moslems would like to see destroyed. Asking what someone would think of this story, if they found it in the Koran isn’t just nonsensical (it isn’t in the Koran. It’s not in the Bhagavad Gita, the I Ching or Little Women, either), but it’s insulting to Judaism, as well as the Old Testament.
Contemporary fundamentalist Christians living in America have had the historical experience of the feminist movement to help them come to a less sexist relation to women. It didn’t happen in a vacuum. And contemporary fundamentalist Christians also enjoy the wealth generated by secular capitalism. Oh, and the US military fights for them. But if you switched their geographical and economic positions—and the contingencies of history—fundamentalist Christianity would be no more or less closed off, sexist, and violent than the Islamic world is (from our vantage) today. Really, the arrogance with which you regard your fellow human beings is breathtaking. You have zero historical perspective—it’s all about essentializing your (imagined) religious “superiority.” Forgive me if I make no large distinctions between the God of the Quran, the God of Joshua and the God of the Book of Revelation. It’s an antiquated game you’re playing, and in an age of nuclear weapons it’s inane and irrational. Anyone of any religious faith who renounces fundamentalist terror and torture and refuses to demonize his or her neighbors—and that is the vast majority of Muslims living in America today—are my friends.
“Going balistic” against Sherry Marquez is a wildly loaded way to describe the Muslim community’s reaction to her comments. There was no rioting in the streets. Some people in the community spoke out in the local paper and at a board meeting saying, “I’m here too.” I joined them, as an agnostic, in solidarity on this blog. I’m here too, and I pay taxes, like the Muslims that I share this community with. I will not be a second class citizen in my own home, and I don’t expect Muslims to be either. This land is your land. This land is my land. From California to the New York islands. No religious sect owns the country.
Santi. Like it or not if you live today in any Muslim country you are a second class citizen as long as you are not a Muslim. If you don’t believe me look into how Christians are treated in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and so many other Muslim dominated countries.
As for the Quran, you need to read it before you compare it with the Bible. In the first Chapters when Mohammad was not powerful it was conciliatory towards other religions, especially Christianity and Judaism. After Mohammad migrated to El Madina and defeated his enemies, it became a book of violence inciting its followers to fight all non Muslims including the people of the Book, the Jews and Christians, to force them to convert. Before Mohammad death he instructed his followers to clean the Arabian Peninsula from all non Muslims, which they did. Today radical Muslims, following in Mohammad’s tradition, divide the world to two camps, Dar Elharb (the house of war), the places where they are not in control, and Dar Elsalam (the house of peace), which is where they are in control. They apply different rules of engagement depending on the fact if they are the majority or the minority. Once they become a majority you will see a dark side of Islam which will make you wish to go back to the Christian world which you do not appreciate today.
Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of Dar Elharb, Dar Elsalam
Thanks for the link.
We don’t live in a “Christian world.” We live in a secular world derived from the 18th century Enlightenment and ancient Greco-Roman models of governance and intellectual inquiry. I value that world enormously and would never let any sectarian theocrat (of any religious persuasion) take that from me. Secular humanism and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are worth fighting for—and advancing in the world. I want the world to be won by the European Enlightenment—and I think that, in the long run, it will be. I believe that fundamentalism—in all its manifestations—is an old and broken wheel squeaking. So long as fundamentalism does not succeed in blowing up the world, the future will not belong to it.
The greatest human symbol in the world—greater and ultimately more powerful than any other—stands in New York’s harbor. It is the Statue of Liberty. That symbol has brought more happiness and hope into the world than any other devised by the mind of human beings. I’m on her side, and I think that the future belongs to her. So long as reason is in the world she will be the North Star by which all nations—including our own—will be judged. She is the last best hope for humanity. The Statue of Liberty is the symbol of the Enlightenment’s fruition. America does not channel her, and frequently does not live up to what she represents. But she belongs to all who love free thought, science, reason, liberty, and human equality, wherever they are.
And I’m not blind to the threats of jihadi terrorism. I know that there are vile forces at work in the Islamic world and I wish those forces ill. But what I don’t think will defeat the jihadis is irrationality or fighting fundamentalism with fundamentalism. Reason, calm, and alliances with moderates of whatever religious persuasion are the ways to sunlight. And Lady Liberty holds the torch. There is nothing in fundamentalism, intellectually or emotionally, that can hold a candle to her. The future belongs to the most compelling idea, and she’s it.
Santi, try to reconcile your dreams about the reason, calm, and alliance with moderates with what is infesting our universities today. Imagine if a small group can do that what would you do to control millions of them.
Actually, I don’t think “going ballistic” is such a wildly loaded way to describe the reaction of the local mosque. As I recall, Mr. Khatib, in the Antelope Valley Press, did make some remarks about the need to silence Marquez, lest “an enraged Islamic population” become violent. That sounds like a threat to me. No rioting yet, but if you don’t hurry up and make that Marquez woman shut up, don’t blame us “peaceful” Moslems if something happens! Nice town ya got here; too bad is something was to happen to it. .
No one ever called Khatib on that, either, though what he said was a lot scarier, and more threatening, than anything either Parris, or Marquez, said.
I also think calling in the L.A. CAIR, and the Interfaith Alliance, and condemning Marquez’s and Parris’ remarks as Hate Crimes is, indeed, going ballistic, or, at least, overkill. Have Jews and Christians called for all the various anti-religious letter writers to the Antelope Valley Press to be charged with hate crimes, and, not only them, but whatever political group they belong to, forced to apologize for any hurt feelings they may have caused? Yet that’s exactly what the Palmdale Moseque/CAIR/Interfaith Alliance wants, not only from Marquez and Parris, but from the entire Republican Party!
And please don’t haul in what would have happened, if historical Christianity had done this, or that, of it it would have been as bad as Islam, in another time and place. What-have-beens, should-have-beens, don’t matter. What matters is what’s happening here, and now. And, what’s happening is, we’re losing our freedom of speech (is this land our land—or CAIR’s land? Are we living in an Englightenment society, or a Christian society, or one that’s allowing Islam to control it?) I support reason too, but I don’t see any of it working in this case.
Concerned Christian, Steve, you mkae excellent points, but I’m afraid, despite his protests, Santi really doesn’t accept the dangers of Islamic terrorism, yet.
And, Santi, if you can’t make any distinction between the God of the Koran, or the God of the Book of the Revelations—or the God of the Gospels, or the Sermon on the Mount, or the faith revealed in the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Jataka Tales—then you’re the one who needs to study history.
You’re playing an old game of lumping all religious faiths together, and then pretending they all teach the same things, and they’re all exactly the same. They aren’t. I suspect your dislike of Christian fundamentalists is warping your judgment.
What people believe in does shape their culture. You should also study Islam’s actual history. You can ask yourself why it was the West that ended up with the Enlightenment, whereas Islam has never had one (and doesn’t look as if it’s going to, any time in the near future.)
For starters, I recommend you begin studying the history of Islam’s invasion of India and its dealings with that culture. And you can begin that by finding out what Will Durant (neither religious, nor a bigot) had to say about the Moslem role in that. Also, you can google “Bamiyam Buddhas”, and check out what Islam has been doing in Indonesia, Russia, Red China and Hindu India. (Remember Mumbai?)
Maybe seeing what Islam has done, and is doing, in parts of the world that are not Judeo-Christian in tradition will help you see that people like Marquez are not just being evil bigots, when they criticize Islam. Maybe. (Won’t be holding my breath.)
You wrote: “Are we living in an Englightenment society, or a Christian society, or one that’s allowing Islam to control it?”
I would hope it’s an Enlightenment society (which is not the same as a Christian society). And the reason that we had the Enlightenment is because people were disgusted by endless Christian sectarian war in Europe. The Enlightenment represented the defanging of sectarianism, not its intellectual flowering. It was a looking back to Greek and Roman models of intellection and governance as a way out of the Christian fundamentalist impasse.
As for Islamic fundamentalism, I loathe it and push back against it on this blog constantly. I have a search engine at the upper right of this page. You can verify that.
I am committed to the Enlightenment vision of history, and that means that I want fundamentalism and religious literalism in the world to be in retreat everywhere (whether it appears under the guise of Hindu fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism, Orthodox Judaism, or Christian fundamentalism). Fundamentalism is the enemy of democratic pluralism and reason. I oppose it all. I do not tolerate the intolerant who would take from humanity the hard earned gains of the Enlightenment. Anywhere stupidity and violence substitute for thought, and anywhere that women and gay people are treated as second class human beings under the thumb of heterosexual male dominance, I resist. It is the great question of our time: will we be a global civilization committed to the advance of dialogue, reason, evidence, sexual equality, and science, or will we be a world of factious sectarian and paternalist cultural enclaves devoted to insular behavior, anti-intellectualism, and distrust?
I’m sorry, but it does not impress me when Christians fundamentalists and Muslim fundamentalists hurl their stupidities and invective back and forth between one another. For me, neither the Bible nor the Quran are texts that should be read literally (anymore than I would read Homer or Ovid’s Metamorphosis literally). These books were written in barbaric times by people ignorant of even the most basic facts of the universe (its age, its evolution, etc.). That people reify these books as infallible leads to all sorts of absurdities (70 virgins for suicide bombers; people obsessed with figuring out who the antichrist will be; God as Dick Cheney torturing people for eternity in hell; God as a literal real estate distributor of land to Israel etc.). These books are used for intellectual and ethical outsourcing, for controlling anxiety about the future, and for excusing cruelty toward outsiders. Fundamentalism is a reaction to Modernism, and Modernism is the fruit of the Enlightenment.
As for Will Durant,I have read Durant’s discussion of Islam in India. In fact, I’ve read all of Durant’s books, and I started with “Rousseau and Revolution” when I was a teenager. I love Durant. Durant would be on my side in this dispute. Durant knew the folly of religious stand-offs between holy text literalists.
As for the Buddhas blasted by Muslim fundamentalists, I just happened to post on that very subject this morning:
Here’s the article where Mr. Khatib issues his warning about violent populations: http://126.96.36.199/search?q=cache:http://www.avpress.com/n/01/0301_s4.hts
Again, Mr. Santi, in the Buddha article, you focus all your anger on Christians/Jews/anybody who happens to be religious.
For some reason, despite what you say, you really don’t seem too worried about Islamic fundamentalism; otherwise, I suspect, you’d be a bit more concerned about Mr. Khatib’s comments, his ongoing jihad to wring more, and more, apologies from Sherry Marquez and the political theater of CAIR/Interfaith reliance, trying to stifle Facebook remarks, while our mayor wastes time going on a “pilgrimage” to the local mosque, and everyone moans about their hurt feelings, and how they feel so excluded—although not so excluded they’re at all nervous about going on, and on, about their hurt feelings. (People who really feel excluded do not carry on like this.)
What Sherry Marquez said about Islam and women was mild, compared to what others, such as Wafa Sultan, Hirsi Ali and Bridgette Gabriel have said about it. I know the local Barnes & Noble has carried some of these womens’ books; what’s next? Shall we sue it, or call in CAIR, because it carries tomes offensive to Islamic sensitivities? Or, maybe, we should call for outlawing the Internet completely, because someone, somewhere, might say something mean about Islam? You see where this sort of thing leads? As I said earlier, your hatred of “fundamentalists” is blinding you to the real dangers here. That’s sad.
As for reading the Koran—really might not be a bad idea. Knowing the enemy, and all that. You don’t believe in it, but others do; you might want to find out what it is they really believe.
You’re not a careful reader. My chief target in the article link was P.Z. Myers—an atheist—and my quarrel is not with religion, but fundamentalist religion. You don’t see any connection between Christian and Islamic fundamentalism?
Hirsi Ali is one of my heroes. She is an atheist, by the way.
And I share Christopher Hitchens’s views on Islamo-fascism. I think that there is such a thing.
What I don’t share with you is the reductio ad absurdums that you try to lay at the door of American Muslims living in Los Angeles County. The stereotyping is outrageous and ignorant. Reason requires that you make distinctions, but you’re obviously enamored of your Manicheanism, and thus cannot be bothered to look up and treat individuals with basic decency. Some of the very Muslim Americans you call part of the collective “enemy” have served in the U.S. military proudly, and now call LA County their home. Calling Muslims, as a group, your “enemy” is not, in my view, a reasonable position.
Santi, if you study the progress of Judeo-Christian teachings over the years you can see the changes from the strict laws in the Torah to the social justice lessons of the prophets, but the most important lesson is the emphasis on loving God and loving other humans, which our Lord Jesus Christ mentioned when he was asked about the greatest command, in Matt 22:36-40, and referred to words in Deuteronomy and Leviticus: Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Unfortunately Islam totally ignored this message and focused on treating God as a tyrant despot, whom you try to please otherwise you will burn in Hell. Muslims who totally accept Islam are left with a dark and vicious picture of a god who requested total obedience and surrender, which by the way is a more accurate translation of the word Islam; it is not peace it is surrender. So any true Muslim is divided between dealing humanely with his neighbors and following his god command to fight non-Muslims to force them into surrendering to his god. The real Islam is what is going on in the Muslim world today; their last atrocity is killing six Christians who were helping them in Pakistan.
As to the video you posted above of disruptive students of a speech, I support your view: the students are not respectful of the right of speech on a college campus. It was an outrageous display of intolerance for expression that they didn’t like: it is a total breakdown of dialogue and intellectual freedom to persistently shout down a speaker.
As for your observations concerning the religion of Jesus, I don’t think that the NT provides a consistent picture of Jesus and his tolerance and concern for others. Jesus, and the gospel of John especially, shows a proclivity for speaking of Jews in ugly terms—terms that spawned two millenia of European anti-semitism that culminated in the Holocaust.
And, as an agnostic, I doubt the value of the first commandment, and don’t like that Jesus put it in the form of a command. It is authoritarian to insist that people must love God with all their hearts and minds. Maybe the proper response to the world that God created is to doubt God and to wonder, if God exists, how he (she?) could allow so much suffering in the world. I think that the whole subservient nature of the first commandment is exactly akin to that which you criticize in Islam. To force the mind and the heart in response to a command is a form of submission itself.
In other words, by your very quote you show that Christianity is also a religion of submission. But here’s my response to Jesus (which I will put in the form of a low key suggestion that respects the conscience of individuals):
“Consider listening to your heart and mind, and if you find yourself doubting the existence of God and God’s goodness, that’s okay. It’s totally understandable. It means you’re thinking.”
If Jesus had said that instead of what the gospels record him as saying, a lot of the world’s subsequent fundamentalist ugliness would have been dodged. Fundamentalists are drawn to the very authoritarian passages that perhaps repel you: the hell passages, the threats, the certitudes, the commands. And, of course, the Bible is full of them.
So I don’t think that Christians should look down with smugness upon Muslims. Both religions have their dangerous fundamentalists promoting apocalyptic violence and authoritarianism. And both of their holy books have passages that people have used to justify cruelty, violence, and authoritarianism.
Moderate Christians, Muslims, Jews, and secularists (like myself) better make alliance because we’re not the enemy. Cultish fundamentalist certitude is.
Santi, I appreciate the points you made, it’s useful to have a dialogue where we try to see the other point of view. I want just to comment on the words that Jesus made. He was asked as a Rabbi, one of the greatest questions in the Jewish tradition; with all these commandments in the Old Testament, what is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered using one of the most beloved teachings in the Torah, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:4) So Jesus actually in this example did not impose His own teaching but used the Torah’s words. I would like also to compare the Judea-Christian teachings with Islamic teaching in regard to love. You can do a search about love in the Bible and in the Quran. I looked up a listing of the word “Love” in the Quran, and I included a good reference on that subject, they are mostly either in a negative form: People love bad things or God does not love those who do bad things. The positive form of Love comes as a reward that God loves those who do good things. There is no mention of unconditional Love, so basically God in Islam loves good people and hates sinners. You can imagine how someone who is agnostic or homosexual will be treated by such a God or his follower if they are in charge.
Socrates taught that dialogue is the route to truth. As to Islam not being a religion of love, I hope that you are wrong about that. I sincerely doubt that the average Muslim and the average Christian are substantially different in terms of their capacity for love. I think it dehumanizes people to suggest that some religions aspire to love in ways superior to other religions. People are pretty much the same in their capacities for love and violence. A good deal of our temperaments are genetic, and so mild people will read their religion mildly and hostile people will read their religion in a hostile way.
And I don’t think that the basic teachings of Jesus are complicated. You don’t need a biblical command to arrive at human cooperation as a good idea.
I don’t like cold legalism, and it sounds like you don’t either. But my bet is that most Muslims don’t like cold legalism as well. When I look, for example, at the Muslims protesting in Iran, I see hippie Muslims speaking of Gandhi, and fighting for a nonviolent and democratic future for Islam.
I don’t think that Islam is one thing. It’s complicated.
Note: I just put up an Abraham Lincoln quote as a new post. Take a look and see what you think:
Maybe pick up the chat there?
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