September 15, 2011
Of Course Islam is More Violent and Radical than Christianity or Judaism
This hit piece by Spencer Ackerman over at Wired is just another indication of one of the problems of the intellectually lazy: despite all evidence that apples are not oranges, they are unable to make meaningful distinctions because such distinctions are offensive to conventional wisdom.
As you know, I do not think Islam is inherently violent. I do not think we are at war with Islam.
But, one of the sure signs of laziness is generalized equivocation.
Such equivocation is apparent in Ackerman's piece.
Christianity is a religion. Islam is a religion. They are the same. Therefore, any suggestion that one has more violent adherents than another must be motivated by bigotry.
Which is not just lazy, it's a lie. We have reams and reams of data that show that Muslims are far more likely to support terrorism than Christians.
Now, I wonder why that is? Um, maybe it's because mainstream Islam is much more tolerant of violence than is mainstream Christianity?
The problem with people like Ackerman is that they define 'mainstream' in a convenient way: the mainstream is simply what I like.
While this might be good for propaganda purposes, it is not an intellectually honest definition.
A lot of Muslims reject traditional notions of violence and oppression that have been part of mainstream Sunni and Shia Islam for as far back as historical records have been kept.
A majority of Muslims in the US reject these traditions. They are innovators. Many of them left their countries of origin because of they hated these very traditions. I'd love to see more Muslims like them.
But in my view, outsiders must treat religions as if there is no right or wrong way to believe. A religion is what its believers say it is. Anything more than this is theological inside baseball.
So, when outsiders claim that one version of a religions is the correct one and that another version is a perversion, we are imposing our own values on something that is not our own. Let Muslims duke this out. It's their fight, not ours.
It's like Buddhists picking Lutheranism as "true" Christianity and rejecting Catholicism as "deviance from the mainstream".
At best we can only say that this is what the majority believes or this is what has traditionally been taught or this is what has been accepted as orthodoxy.
To say that Islam as it has been practiced for over a thousand years isn't mainstream is a statement in the absurd.
Now, I expect politicians to say such absurdities. We pay politicians to lie. And, in this case, it's a useful lie. The more Muslims that are convinced that Islam has always been peaceful and supported basic human rights the better every one will be.
Is speculation on the possibility of reforming Islam of value to FBI agents in counter-terror training? Um, no.
But adherence to many versions of traditional Islam is a predictor of Islamism and support for terrorism. There's just no way around that fact. It's not a convenient fact and it doesn't mean that Islam causes terrorism.
As I've said many times before: there is no one thing called Islam, there are only Islams. Just as there is no one Christianity, there are Christianities.
But if you want to stop Islamist terrorism I suggest not looking into Anabaptist fundamentalism.
Perhaps a paper such as was presented at Quantico wasn't appropriate to helping train our CT agents, but neither is it an outrage.
Somewhere between those who equivocate all religions as equal, therefore denying that certain traditional Islamic beliefs are at the root of Islamist terror, and those that claim that only the terrorists and Islamists represent "true" Islam lies the truth.
Both sides are in denial about the complicated and ever changing nature of religious beliefs. Until they can reconcile their oversimplified preconceived notions with reality then we are stuck in a place where there can be no real conversations about policy choices, only accusations and name calling.