• Where I stand with Islam and violence now

    I have been quite outspoken in recent times about what I believe to be a necessary and inescapable connection between Islam, as properly understood (yes, that notion is wrought with issue) and violence (and intolerance). I have even debated this publicly and given a public talk on the topic (at the University of Exeter).

    I still stand by my claims completely.

    I wrote how Islam and Christianity have core differences which allow the holy books to be interpreted in different paradigms, allowing for more ability and rationale for cherry picking concerning the Bible.

    Mo’men Moukhtar http://www.freeimages.com/photo/islam-14-1532802

    I have also written about how, if one uses the Qu’ran and the role model of Muhammad as guidance (and not to mention the Hadith), then you cannot get away from the fact that Islam has, at its foundations, violence and morality that is a far cry from the morality understood in modern, morally progressive societies.

    My views on these points are the same.

    The most vociferous of my critics here have been fellow liberals. As a liberal philosopher (of religion), I have claimed that extremist violence is understandably and explicably linked to the Qu’ran and Muhammad (and the Hadith) and that the problem is largely insoluble because you can’t simply drop these things or explain them away (certainly in the way that you can do this with the mere inspired word of God in the Old Testament, for example). My liberal critics often take the position that the violent jihadis are not representative of the “true Islam” that happens to be peace-loving. I contest this and claim that, more likely, they are suffering from implicit egotism bias. What true Islam is, if such a thing were to properly exist, is what this debate is about. But you cannot deny those who claim that they are doing this in the name of Islam really aren’t, and that another more peaceable version really is the correct interpretation, especially (and this has happened a lot) when you haven’t even read the Qu’ran or looked into the history of Muhammad.

    But here’s the thing. I think, strongly that I am correct in this; however, I also think that this position is problematic for finding a short- (and possibly long-) term solution to the problem of religious fundamentalism, terrorism and moral atrocity which exists throughout the world.

    By pointing out the truth, I think that i am also helping to alienate the very people we should be “celebrating”. What I mean by this is that we should prefer the liberal Muslims over the more fundamentalist ones, for obvious moral reasons. These, though, under my claims, are “less correct” in their theological interpretations than the fundamentalists who we are trying to argue against. But by pointing this out, by pointing out the theological soundness that jihadis arguable have, is to pit the Western world and fellow non-Muslims against all of Islam, as the liberal Muslims get tarred with the same brush, and Islamaphobia runs rife. I believe we should be afraid of Islam, as a theological Qu’ranic Hadith-driven and Muhammadan worldview, because it fosters violence. Death is the answer for every wrongdoing in the Qu’ran, as dictated by God. But pointing this “truth” out is potentially damaging between the worlds of non-Muslims and the wider branches of descriptively labelled Muslims, liberals and all.

    In other words, I am saying that it is possibly worth shelving the truth in favour of social cohesion, and finding some sort of solution to the problems faced in the modern world. This is a moral dilemma in seen in terms of consequentialism; that truth has extrinsic value here, and if it causes or maintains problems, then it can have a negative moral value.

    Going around talking about the dangers of Islam, as true as this might be, is dangerous to solving the issues of the dangers of Islam, if you will. I am condemning the liberal Muslims, through guilt by association, to whom we should be so strongly appealing in order to pave a cohesive way out of this political, social and theological mire.

    Perhaps, I am therefore saying, it is worth me stepping back from the Islamic debate in order to reassess.


    Category: ExtremismFeaturedIslamMoralityPhilosophy of ReligionReligion and Society


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    • im-skeptical

      This is the problem faced by Obama. Many conservatives, as exemplified by Donald Trump, castigate him for failing to be more hostile toward Islam and Islamic people in general. They want to ban all Muslims from entering the country, and some have proposed indiscriminate destruction of ISIS-held territories. Obama, perhaps at the cost of significant political support, recognizes the danger of taking this approach. It is undeniably true that the best hope we have (and the best source of help we have had in the past) of fighting the radicals is to embrace the support of those who are more moderate or liberal. Alienating the entire Muslim population would be disastrous.

      I think it is fortunate that there are so many Muslims that do not adhere so strictly to some of the fundamental tenets of the religion.

    • 1. By not speaking the truth about Islam your liberal critics are more likely to keep their heads in the sand. How is this kind of ignorance going to help in combating Islamic terrorism?

      2. What do you think the solution to Islamic terrorism is?

      3. Why not be more concerned with showing Islam to be false than showing that the fundamentalists are closer to true Islam? Wouldn’t this be less likely to drive the liberal Muslim to become a fundamentalist Muslim?

      4. The fundamentalist Muslim already divides the world between Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harab. The liberal Muslim is already forced to make a choice between the two.

      • Bert Bigelow

        The problem with “showing Islam to be false” to Muslims is the same one we atheists face in showing Christianity to be false to Christians. It is frankly futile to argue with a believer.
        I think Jonathan is right. Somehow we have to convince moderate Muslims that we are the “good guys” and that some members of their faith are endangering humanity (think nuke terrorism).
        We must have their help to eradicate this cancer that threatens us all. By that, I do not mean that we need to eradicate Islam. Just the fanatics…and it would be nice to quiet a few Christian fanatics as well.,,especially politicians who say we should bomb the desert in Syria and Iraq until it glows. Then, maybe we could all live in peace.

        • Bert:

          If Jonathan is correct that violence is at the heart of Islam (in the Koran, Hadith, and Sira) then eradicating Islam seems to be the only way to get rid of Islamic terrorism. Suppose that tomorrow every Islamic fundamentalist became a moderate or liberal Muslim and that all moderate and liberal Muslims thought we were the good guys. There would always remain the possibility of a moderate or liberal Muslim re-examining his religion and becoming radicalized.

          • Bert Bigelow

            There is always the danger of a Muslim or a Christian or anybody else becoming radicalized, like the nutcase that just tried to burn down a Mosque in Coachella, or the one who pulled a knife on a Muslim woman. If we want to eliminate all radicals, we will have to eradicate Christianity as well because you never can tell when some peaceful Christian is gonna pick up a gun and go murder everyone in the nearest Planned Parenthood facility. There is plenty in the Bible to inflame mentally unbalanced people. We should probably look at the holy books for Hinduism and Buddhism as well. And we atheists are known for finding in our Atheist Bible all kinds of justifications for atrocities.

            • Yes, anyone could become radicalized regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.

              But I think you’re downplaying the fact that Islam, unlike any other major religion I am aware of, has a violent core to it. According to true Islam (as I understand it), the world is supposed to be under a caliphate and jihad is the means to bring this about. People of the Book can live as dhimmis while other non-Muslims have to convert to Islam or be killed. Shariah is the law of the land.

              If I want to be a better Christian I look to Jesus Christ and the apostles as my example. If a Muslim wants to be a better Muslim he looks to Muhammad and his closest followers. The behavior of these two groups of religious founders is radically different. One is far more likely to encourage violence than the other.

        • “It is frankly futile to argue with a believer.”

          I’ve met a few hundred former believers who would disagree.

    • John Grove

      I agree with your opinion 100% and also not sure what solution(s) can be had to change these people’s mind. It looks very grim at the moment.

    • Pedro

      ggIt is a good conundrum to raise! I think the answer has to be a two part answer, first part being in complete agreement with your final thought of moderation but surely as a temporary solution. With a greater long term goal of eventually easing people off from the crutch of religion.
      Religious semantics being put to one illogical side.

    • Collin237

      The problem is that Islamic terror is being blamed on the entire book of the Quran. Actually, it’s caused by a specific set of verses. In the modern world, if a book is considered a source of knowledge, statements in it that are found wanting are freely disavowed.

      If it is assumed that there is any meaning in claiming that a text is written or inspired by a god, who is supposed to represent the highest ideals, and a statement conveys an ideal that can be struck down by a higher ideal, then the claim is falsified for that statement. By this standard, every holy book contains unholy portions.

      The modern response should be to strike them out. We do this with scientific dissertations when a finding is overturned by further research. We do this with political charters when a law is overruled by a court case. So why don’t we do this with holy books?