Does Islam Generally Promote Violence? (bibliography)

by Luke Muehlhauser on February 6, 2011 in Resources

islam crescent

Here is a bibliography of the most substantive writing I have found on the subject of whether or not Islam generally promotes violence. Obviously, some people of most religious have been violent throughout history. But is Islam violent at its core? Or is Islam a religion of peace?

Yes, Islam Generally Promotes Violence

No, Islam Doesn’t Generally Promote Violence

(Please suggest more defenses of Islam. I’m having trouble finding ones with any substance.)

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Paddle February 6, 2011 at 4:55 am

This is a bizarre question to be raised in a context that generally casts a critical eye on the coherence of religious systems. Is Hinduism a “violent religion”? Animism? Christianity? We can all think of examples of scriptures/beliefs/ritual affect from all of these systems being used to promote violence and also to promote non-violence.

People seem to be broadly aware of the fact that global Christianities are tied to their social context and obviously don’t have a shared, universal relation to Scripture as a whole or any particular historical cultural expression of church. The idea that you would be able to get to a real truth of what the entirity of Isam is “at its core”, on the question of violence or non-violence, seems equally odd to me as trying to do the same with Christianity. It’s a commonplace for members of one cultural group to see less familiar cultures as less complicated and nuanced than those they have greater exposure to. I’ve only just started reading your blog regularly though and maybe I’m not getting something?

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Sweetwater Tom February 6, 2011 at 5:10 am

I think that this is wrong question. People use their religion to justify their feelings, emotions and behaviors. Violent people will use their religion to justify their violence. Others will use the same religion to justify peaceful behaviors. It would be more useful to ask why are some cultures more violent, and can we enhance the pacification of those cultures?

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John Warner February 6, 2011 at 5:50 am

In the “Islam is violent” camp are only three writers – though Robert Spencer has written a book a year on why Islam is violent for the last ten years and seems to have an axe to grind.
Virtually any book on Islam which explores its history and the diversity within Islam and the muslim world would in my view count as books in the “Islam is not necessarily violent” camp as that is the only other option as I would suggest that almost all religions have had some time or group of people where violence has been seen to be part of the faith. Christianity for all the pacifism tendencies in it has a violent history as do hinduism, sikhism, buddhism as well as native chines and japanese religions too.
I have to say that listing seven Robert Spencer titles in a list when he is a man who has endorse the English Defence League what can only be described as a bully boy club is worrying.

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Sweetwater Tom February 6, 2011 at 6:03 am

Slightly off-topic, but I have heard it said that the Buddha is the only major religious figure without blood on his hands. Can you give me an example of violence in the name of the Buddha?

Thanks

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Paddle February 6, 2011 at 6:06 am

Yeah, further agreement with the two voices above. John Warner does make a good point though the any actual cultural exploration of Muslim communities is likely not to summarise these people as violent, unless they’re working with specifically violent groups like the Taliban. In this respect, there are literally hundreds of anthropological writings on Muslim communities around the world that would fit the bill, and no doubt historical works as well.

It is probably the case that the reason you struggle to find texts that explicitly talk about Islam as a whole being non-violent is that the only work which assumes that this violence/non-violence thing to be a central and salient question with regards to the entirety of Islam are works that have a specifically anti-Muslim political agenda, such of those of Spencer.

In this respect, I guess I’d be concerned that questions such as the one posed in this post reinforce the assumptions of a dominant contemporary narrative of Islam that is basically racist.

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Zeb February 6, 2011 at 6:41 am

Luke, would define what you mean by “violent”? I agree that Christianity can ne construed as pacifist, whereas Islam cannot and may actually be explicitly anti-pacifistic. But is any non- or anti-pacifistic system “inherently violent.” As a pacifist my answer is yes, but that puts Islam, democracy, and (probably) desirism in the same category, which I doubt you or the authors you cite mean to do.

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Jon February 6, 2011 at 7:12 am

On my own I did a couple of corpse tallies. In the first I looked at who produced the most corpses in the 20th century, focusing on Christians and atheists. I was surprised to see the tally for Muslims was paltry.

In the second I looked at corpses produced by the US of Muslims/Middle Easterners and likewise corpses produced by Muslims of Americans over the last 30 years. Once again the corpses produced by Muslims are so few that they are barely visible as contrasted with corpses produced by the US.

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Sweetwater Tom February 6, 2011 at 8:00 am

The body counts may reflect the resources available rather than the peace/violence level of a society or religion. Democracies are not good neighbors — too war-like.

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Brice Gilbert February 6, 2011 at 8:10 am

Does the treatment of women and suppression of rights with the threat of violence count as violence? We’re talking about the content of the religion though right? What the books actually say? Or what people interpret them to say, and the actions they take? I’ve become so disillusioned with the many ways people can ignore things in these books when it feels convenient that I’ve just given up.

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Larkus February 6, 2011 at 8:28 am

Luke, could you sort the sources into peer-reviewed and not peer reviewed, like you did with other bibliographies?

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IbnAbuTalib February 6, 2011 at 8:35 am

Bat Ye’or, Robert Spencer and Andrew Bostom are not scholars of Islam. They are plain loons of whom you can learn more about in the following website http://www.loonwatch.com

On the other hand, Montgomery Watt and Esposito are ACTUAL scholars. They know their stuff! You will find that in places like SOAS, University of Chicago and elsewhere that are renowned for their Islamic studies programs, books by Spencer, Bostom, et al. don’t even make it in the reading list. This just goes to show how far removed their books are from academia (no, evangelical colleges don’t count as academia).

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Scott February 6, 2011 at 8:42 am
gwern February 6, 2011 at 8:49 am

Scott, it’s funny you bring up Victoria’s work because I was about to point out to Sweetwater that Japan has a long history of warrior monks and yamabushi, and that (like in Europe) monasteries and temples were militarily active and powerful players. (See eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Mount_Hiei or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C5%8Dhei ).
But now I have to wonder if that’s just Japan’s fault.

/thinks

…I *guess* China might have a few examples. Presumably the monks of the Shaolin had blood on their hands at some point, and their temple wasn’t burned for nothing. But I’m drawing a blank on India.

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Sweetwater Tom February 6, 2011 at 9:03 am

I tend to think of killing in the name of a leader as being dirrerent from a member of a particular religion and killing for other reasons. Perhaps I shouldn’t. I will check out the book — thanks.

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Silas February 6, 2011 at 9:30 am

Hmm, that’s a pretty retarded Pat Condell-ian question.

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Wrath February 6, 2011 at 9:55 am

It’s sufficient to say that even moderate, peaceful Muslims support to stoning of homosexuals, apostates and adulterers.

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Paddle February 6, 2011 at 10:00 am

Does the treatment of women and suppression of rights with the threat of violence count as violence? We’re talking about the content of the religion though right? What the books actually say? Or what people interpret them to say, and the actions they take? I’ve become so disillusioned with the many ways people can ignore things in these books when it feels convenient that I’ve just given up.  

This is the problem. Luke, if you could start by saying what exactly you mean by the “core” of a religion that might help. God knows it’s a problem that has bedevilled the social scientific study of religion for decades.

On the subject of women’s rights, Saba Mahmood has written a lot on women in the Egyptian mosque movement and does a good job of showing that in a lot of cases the beliefs and religious practices of members stand as a source of personal and collective empowerment. Her informants also don’t seem to be obviously violent in any way so I guess you can put that on the “no” pile.

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Patrick February 6, 2011 at 10:29 am

This is the problem. Luke, if you could start by saying what exactly you mean by the “core” of a religion that might help. God knows it’s a problem that has bedevilled the social scientific study of religion for decades.

Not to stick my nose in too far where it doesn’t belong, but I don’t think it matters what Luke means by the core of a religion. He’s compiling a bibliography of other people’s writings. Surely the issue is what they mean, not what Luke means. And I bet they don’t all mean the same thing. That’s the useful feature of a bibliography- it can cover a variety of perspectives on a question.

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Paddle February 6, 2011 at 11:10 am

Right, fair enough. In that case I’d go back to my point above. The vast majority of works which take “Is Islam inherently violent?” as their central problematic are going to be ones which are politically motivated by the idea that “it” *is*.

I could count dozens of articles and book chapters I’ve read on Islamic communities by proper scholars, but none of them would really even address this question because, as loads of people have pointed out, it’s a bit of a weird question. I’m really not sure how useful compiling a bibliography is, in these circumstances.

I could be wrong though, it’s not my area of expertise and I guess there might be some good Islamic theologians dealing with the question. I’d be interested if there are.

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Ralph February 6, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I think what’s uniquely violent about Islam is that it is the only major religion that advocates violence to achieve its religious goals. Pointing at historical violence perpetrated by Christians (and atheists for that matter) is irrelevant in that their scripture (at least the New Testament) do not generally support violence.
While one can quote scripture from all religions depicting how their gods advocated violence and subjugation at one point in their history, only Islam advocates it as a general principle to advance its goals. While a lot of Islamic apologists quote peaceful verses to defend their contention that Islam is a religion of peace, one must realize that the most violent passages in the Quran abrogated the very peaceful verses they most often quote and that the concept of taqiiya obligates them to lie about this exact point.
(I invite correction on this point)

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Patrick February 6, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I think that the “(at least the New Testament)” line is a pretty big caveat. Given that the Old Testament flat out endorses violence against the enemies of its religion (defined as anyone who practices another religion and who, by merely living nearby, constitutes an existential threat of seduction away from the faith that must be answered by total, genocidal eradication, or in some cases total, genocidal eradication coupled with enslavement of male children and rape of female children), that gives all three of the Hebrew descended religions a scriptural basis for violence. Additionally, even if violence isn’t being explicitly endorsed in the new testament, new testament theology can easily be turned to support violence. Trends of thinking that attribute to non believers a love of evil and a willful and morally blameworthy rejection of all that is good are awfully easy to turn towards violent ends.

That being said, I do think that judaism and christianity have the advantage on this, because they have so much verbiage that covers so many different perspectives on their religions that its easy to paper over the ones you don’t like. Islam is more coherent, and unfortunately that translates into a greater prominence for passages that endorse violence. Islam is obviously not monolithic, and religions do not have essential natures. They are social constructs. And islam has a tradition of interpreting their scripture that should allow them to get to the same position that judaism is in presently, with a core scripture that says one thing and then a lot of annotations that blunt its force. That work hasn’t yet been widely performed or accepted, but I wouldn’t underestimate how fast these things can change.

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IbnAbuTalib February 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Ralph: While a lot of Islamic apologists quote peaceful verses to defend their contention that Islam is a religion of peace, one must realize that the most violent passages in the Quran abrogated the very peaceful verses they most often quote and that the concept of taqiiya obligates them to lie about this exact point.

Historically, taqiyya was practiced by Shia Muslims, not to promote their religion, but to protect themselves from persecution by the dominant Sunnis. Today, taqiyya is used by Islamophobes to characterize Muslims in the following sense: “Islam is an inherently evil religion and all Muslims know it. All Muslims are out to get us. Even though the majority of them are peaceful, that’s only a ruse to gain our trust. They are not really peaceful, they are only pretending to be peaceful. When they say Islam is against terrorism, they don’t really mean it. ”

In other words, Islamophobes are using taqiyya to spread fear and paranoia about Muslims. For more about the politics of taqiyyah, visit the following sites:
http://www.loonwatch.com/2010/08/taqiyya-the-ultimate-intellectual-cop-out/
http://spencerwatch.com/2010/08/15/silencing-spencer-taqiyya-and-kitman-are-part-of-judeo-christian-belief/
http://www.ibishblog.com/blog/hibish/2009/08/01/muslims_islamists_islamophobes_and_doctrine_taqiyya

Regarding abrogation, it is not as simple as Ralph makes it out to be. There has been fierce debates among scholars over the centuries as to whether the concept of abrogation itself is valid, and if valid, which verses are abrogating and which verses were abrogated, and so forth.

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Fernando Aguilar February 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Two books I think should be read:

David Cook – “Martyrdom in Islam”
David Cook – “Understanding Jihad”

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AgnosticUsman February 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm

i agree with brice gilbert that in order to sort out this question what we need to do is to go back to the texts, read them and see whether they incite violence or nit. Whilst doing so we must determine the correct exegesis of the sources by using authentic hadiths and classical taffsir along with the opinions expressed by the islamic theologians. Muslims as a people are not viollent. I live with them. I think we shouod ignore how people are actyally behaving right now e.g terrorism and taliban etc and see how they OUGHT to behave as per scriptural sources.only then will we be able to answer if islam is violent or not.

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toweltowel February 6, 2011 at 7:49 pm

A question similar to Luke’s: does anyone know of any books that examine the dark side of Islam without transparently pushing a political agenda?

All religions have a dark side, and Islam is no exception. But when writers examine it, they’re either (1) obviously aiming to demonize Islam in the name of Western civilization, or (2) obviously aiming to whitewash Islam in the name of religious tolerance.

But I don’t want a book that will hide or downplay inconvenient facts when they conflict with the political agenda of demonizing or whitewashing Islam. I want a book whose only agenda is a fair-minded and well-informed presentation of the facts, and let the chips fall where they may.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 6, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Patrick,

Exactly. I’m not much much interested by what I think the “core” of a religion means. I suspect these authors have a variety of views about that.

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Paddle February 7, 2011 at 2:31 am

Luke,

Gotcha. I didn’t get that context at first I must admit.

But still, I think you’ll find that the question will skew the material you get. Nobody is going to write a book called “Is Islam intrinsically violent?” without a political agenda. The question itself is absurdly loaded and overly simplistic, as we see by the fact that the majority of references in the “yes” column are written by a man who has been renounced by Muslim, atheist, and Christian scholars alike as a bigoted hack.

David Cook’s work looks really interesting though! I’ll go away and read that.

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Michael February 7, 2011 at 2:50 am

I doubt that many pro-Islam sources of substance exist. That’s probably because, as Sam Harris says: “Osama bin Laden … is giving a truly straightforward version of Islam, and you really have to be an acrobat to figure out how he is distorting the faith”. Meanwhile …

Dr. Tina Magaard—a Sorbonne-trained linguist specializing in Textual Analysis—published detailed research findings in 2005 (summarized in 2007, here) comparing the foundational texts of ten major religions… Magaard concluded from her hard data-driven analyses, “The texts in Islam distinguish themselves from the texts of other religions by encouraging violence and aggression against people with other religious beliefs to a larger degree. There are also straightforward calls for terror. This has long been a taboo in the research into Islam, but it is a fact that we need to deal with…”

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IbnAbuTalib February 7, 2011 at 3:51 am

Michael: I doubt that many pro-Islam sources of substance exist. That’s probably because, as Sam Harris says: “Osama bin Laden … is giving a truly straightforward version of Islam, and you really have to be an acrobat to figure out how he is distorting the faith”. Meanwhile …

Sam Harris is not an authority on Islam. Neither is Osama Bin Laden for that matter.

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zaarcis February 7, 2011 at 6:55 am

Also IbnAbuTalib can’t say anything about Islam.

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Patrick February 7, 2011 at 7:36 am

Heh. Tina Magaard kinda makes me laugh. I wish I could find her whole article instead of just a citation of it from an idiot like that Bostom (MD, MS! relevant credentials FTW!) guy. I looked around a bit, but all I could find were articles about her from racists. Maybe I’ll swing by my university library and read an original copy. The internet says they have one… ok, I just called, and its in Danish. That’s useless to me. Also, all of your linked citations are also in Danish. Similarly useless.

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Steven R. February 7, 2011 at 10:17 am

I just find it funny that if any religion that sprung from Judaism were to be followed like it was intended (here meaning how the earliest practitioners) they would be called immoral extremists. It tells you quite a lot that when a religion is followed as it was intended to is violent. That said, Islam is no more of a threat than Christinaity, for both religions have adapted to modern times and it’s been other socio-political factors that have led to the rise of Islamic Theocracies.

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Felipe Ramos February 7, 2011 at 10:28 am

Hello Luke,
My friend, who was agnostic but convert to Islam few years, recommend me book – The Muslim Next Door by Sumbul Ali-Karamali. Sumbul explain common American misunderstand Islam is violent religion. This book print at 2008.

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zaarcis February 7, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Maybe I’ll swing by my university library and read an original copy.The internet says they have one… ok, I just called, and its in Danish.That’s useless to me. Also, all of your linked citations are also in Danish.Similarly useless.

Lucky you. It looks I need to travel to another country if I want to read it.
(For me Danish is just a language. It’s translatable, isn’t it?)

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zaarcis February 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Of course, it’s cheaper to simply buy it.

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Patrick February 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I’m sure its translatable, but not by me. You can get a copy on the internet if you want to pay money for it, but again it will be in Danish.

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Michael February 8, 2011 at 1:04 am

IbnAbuTalib, I’m sure glad you’re around to show us how Bin Laden is distorting the faith e.g. here is Osama quoting from the koran:

“As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarized by the Most High’s Word: “We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us–till you believe in Allah alone” [Qur'an 60:4]. So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility–that is, battle–ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed [i.e.,adhimmi ], or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy!… Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity, and hatred–directed from the Muslim to the infidel–is the foundation of our religion.

And here he cites an exemplar from Muslim history:

“When the king of the Copts of Egypt tried improving relations with the Prophet by dignifying his messenger and sending him back on a beast of burden laden with clothing, and a slave-girl, did such niceties prevent the Companions from raiding the Coptic realms, forcefully placing them under Islamic rule?”

I’m sure you’ll be able to find an authority of substance like Esposito to show us where Osama went wrong. I’m sure you’ve been asked silly questions like these a million times since 9/11 so I’m sure you’ve got a stack of ready quotes to cut and paste and share with us. I’ll be awaitin …

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John Warner February 8, 2011 at 2:26 am

My attention was drawn to Dr Tina Magaard who was referenced in an earlier comment – her own website which is in Danish, French, Italian and will have some English she says – does not have here Sorbonne doctorate but her other work from that period seems to indicate that she worked on the literary criticism of modern French and Italian poetry. It does seem to imply that she is outside her field here – analysing raw religious texts and then reporting “The texts in Islam distinguish themselves from the texts of other religions by encouraging violence and aggression against people with other religious beliefs to a larger degree. There are also straightforward calls for terror. This has long been a taboo in the research into Islam, but it is a fact that we need to deal with…” seems to smack of polemics and prejudging on project that is outside her main area of expertise.

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IbnAbuTalib February 8, 2011 at 5:32 am

Michael: IbnAbuTalib, I’m sure glad you’re around to show us how Bin Laden is distorting the faith e.g. here is Osama quoting from the koran…I’m sure you’ll be able to find an authority of substance like Esposito to show us where Osama went wrong.

I don’t need to go to Esposito since the error of Osama is evident from reading the context of the verse he quotes. Here is the whole of verse 4 from Surah 60: You have a good example in Abraham and his companions, when they said to their people, ‘We disown you and what you worship besides God! We renounce you! Until you believe in God alone, the enmity and hatred that has arisen between us will endure!’––except when Abraham said to his father, ‘I will pray for forgiveness for you though I cannot protect you from God’––[they prayed]

Subsequently in verses 8 and 9 of the same Surah, we read the following:..and He does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes: God loves the just. But God forbids you to take as allies those who have fought against you for your faith, driven you out of your homes, and helped others to drive you out: any of you who take them as allies will truly be wrongdoers.

Need I say more?

Michael: “When the king of the Copts of Egypt tried improving relations with the Prophet by dignifying his messenger and sending him back on a beast of burden laden with clothing, and a slave-girl, did such niceties prevent the Companions from raiding the Coptic realms, forcefully placing them under Islamic rule?”

Osama envisages early Muslim conquests as being motivated by the desire to convert (forcefully) infidels to the true religion of God. This was not the case in reality, however. As Daniel Brown (not the author of “The Da Vinci Code” but an actual scholar of Islam unlike Spencer and Bostom) writes, “No systematic sacking of cities took place, and no destruction of agricultural land occurred. The conquests brought little immediate change to the patterns of religious or communal life. There were no mass or forced conversions. Christian, Jewish, or Zoroastrian communities in Syria and Iraq may have felt threatened, but they continued to thrive. New synagogues, churches, and monasteries were still being built into the eighth century, and churches or synagogues were not converted to mosques on any noticeable scale. The first urban mosques were not built until after 690… [According to tradition, Muhammad died in 632. -B.C.]”

He also writes, “What did change was the ruling class. The new rulers spoke Arabic, represented a different ethnicity, and kept aloof from their conquered subjects… The new rulers continued to use Greek and Persian in adminstrative documents. They continued to mint Byzantine-style coins complete with the image of the emperor holding a cross, and Sasanian-style coins bearing Zoroastrian symbols and Sasanian dates…” (A New Introduction to Islam)

Seems like Osama got both history and his Islamic lessons wrong.

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Steven R. February 8, 2011 at 10:29 am

Heh, if we’re going to play the game of pointing at historical atrocities committed in the past by people claiming to be of a certain faith, Judaism, Christianity AND Islam would all be very condemnable indeed. In fact, all the suburbanites involved in the Neo-Pagan movements would be the religion to pick if all we’re doing is looking at the number of deaths and forced conversions.

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cl February 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Luke,

I know that we share some concerns about language, and that’s why I think you might want to reconsider the way you title some of these posts. To ask, “Does Islam Promote Violence” makes more sense. To ask, “Is Islam A Violent Religion” doesn’t make sense, and seems to lend more towards polarized response. Sure, most people can make sense out of the question, but religion cannot be violent. Practitioners of any given religion or ideology can be violent, and any religion or ideology may promote violence, but, well… I trust you get the point.

Take it or leave it, it’s certainly minor, but it’s a habit that–if developed–promotes clarity in language, and there, we can all do better.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm

cl,

I like it. Changed.

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Michael February 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm

IbnAbuTalib, here’s an alternate view of the Muslim conquest of Egypt that is quite different from your jarring proposition of a benevolent conquest, and confirms Bin Laden’s view of “enmity and hate” towards infidels. I presume you’ll have some of Daniel Brown’s sources at the ready to dismiss this 7th century “politically-incorrect Christian-biased Islamophobia”…

From Andrew Bostom’s Legacy of Jihad:

John of Nikiu speaks of the early invasions of the Arabs in Egypt as merciless and brutal. Not only did the invaders slay the commander of the Byzantine troops and all his companions when they captured the city of Bahnasa, but “they put to the sword all that surrendered, and they spared none, whether old men, babes or women”. They perpetrated innumerable acts of violence and spread panic everywhere. (p. 390)

The conquest of Egypt was led by Amr ibn al-As, a contemporary of Muhammad:

Amr ibn al-As (c. 573 – January 6, 664) was an Arab military commander who is most noted for leading the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640. A contemporary of Muhammad, and one of the Sahaba (“Companions”), who rose quickly through the Muslim hierarchy following his conversion to Islam in the year 8 AH (629). He founded the Egyptian capital of Fustat, and built the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As at its center — the first mosque on the continent of Africa. (source: wikipedia)

A christian by the name of John Of Nikiu ( in the Nile Delta) gives an account of the Islamic invasion of Egypt among other things. He is so Islamophobic he refers to Muhammad as “the beast”.

From the Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu (1916 English translation) , written around the year 700:

9. And the general Theodosius, hearing of the arrival of the Ishmaelites, proceeded from place to place in order to see what was likely to befall from these enemies. 10. And these Ishmaelites came and slew without mercy the commander of the troops and all his companions. And forthwith they compelled the city to open its gates, and they put to the sword all that surrendered, and they spared none, whether old men, babe, or woman

12. And the chief of the faction who was with Jeremiah informed the Moslem troops of the Roman soldiers who were hidden. And so these took them prisoners and put them to death

CHAPTER CXIII… And so they effected the submission of all the province of Misr. 4. But ‘Amr was not satisfied with what he had already done, and so he had the Roman magistrates arrested, and their hands and feet confined in iron and wooden bonds. And he forcibly despoiled (them) of much of (their) possession, and he doubled the taxes on the peasants and forced them to carry fodder for their horses, and he perpetrated innumerable acts of violence. 5

CHAPTER CXV. 1. And ‘Amr the chief of the Moslem spent twelve months in warring against the Christians of Northern Egypt, but failed nevertheless in reducing their cities….

7. And the Moslem marched against other cities to war against them, and they despoiled the Egyptians of their possessions and dealt cruelly with them….

CHAPTER CXVIII. 1. Now the capture of the citadel of Babylon and of Nakius by the Moslem was a source of great grief to the Romans. 2. And when ‘Amr had brought to a close the operations of war he made his entry into the citadel of Babylon, and he mustered a large number of ships, great and small, and anchored them close to the fort where he was…..

4. ‘Amr and the Moslem army, on horseback, proceeded by land till they came to the city of Kebrias of Abâdjâ. And on this occasion he attacked the general Domentianus. 5. But when the latter learnt of the approach of the Moslem troops, he embarked on a ship and fled [in a ship] and abandoned the army and their fleet. And he sought to enter the small canal which Heraclius had dug during his reign. But finding it closed he returned and entered the city of Alexandria. 6. Now when the soldiers saw that their commander had taken flight, they cast away their arms and threw themselves into the river in the presence of their enemies. 7. And the Moslem troops slaughtered them with the sword in the river, and none escaped save one man only, named Zechariah, a doughty man and a warrior. 8. And when the crews of the ships saw the flight of the troops, they too took to flight and returned to their own country. And thereupon the Moslem made their entry into Nakius, and took possession, and finding no soldiers (to offer resistance), they proceeded to put to the sword all whom they found in the streets and in the churches, men, women, and infants, and they showed mercy to none. 9. And after they had captured (this) city, they marched against other localities and sacked them and put all they found to the sword. And they came also to the city of +Sa+, and there they found Esqutaws and his people in a vineyard, and the Moslem seized them and put them to the sword. Now these were of the family of the general Theodore. 10. Let us now cease, for it is impossible to recount the iniquities perpetrated by the Moslem after their capture of the island of Nakius, on Sunday, the eighteenth day of the month Genbôt, in the fifteenth year of the cycle, and also the horrors committed in the city of Caesarea in Palestine…

CHAPTER CXXI… 10. And now many of the Egyptians who had been false Christians denied the holy orthodox faith and lifegiving baptism, and embraced the religion of the Moslem, the enemies of God, and accepted the detestable doctrine of the beast, this is, Mohammed, and they erred together with those idolaters, and took arms in their hands and fought against the Christians.

Wow! That’s hardly a benevolent Muslim conquest. Alas, it’s the old stereotype of Islam being spread by the sword and terror. But I’m sure this is just another simple misunderstanding that you will be able to clarfiy. So I’ll be awaitin Daniel Brown’s sources to set the record straight…

Meanwhile I’ll see what I can find about Osama’s use of Surah 60.

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Michael February 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm

IbnAbuTalib, here’s an alternate view of the Muslim conquest of Egypt that is quite different from your jarring proposition of a benevolent conquest, and confirms Bin Laden’s view of “enmity and hate” towards infidels. I presume you’ll have some of Daniel Brown’s sources at the ready to dismiss this 7th century “politically-incorrect Christian-biased Islamophobia”…

From Andrew Bostom’s Legacy of Jihad:

John of Nikiu speaks of the early invasions of the Arabs in Egypt as merciless and brutal. Not only did the invaders slay the commander of the Byzantine troops and all his companions when they captured the city of Bahnasa, but “they put to the sword all that surrendered, and they spared none, whether old men, babes or women”. They perpetrated innumerable acts of violence and spread panic everywhere. (p. 390)

The conquest of Egypt was led by Amr ibn al-As, a contemporary of Muhammad:

Amr ibn al-As (c. 573 – January 6, 664) was an Arab military commander who is most noted for leading the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640. A contemporary of Muhammad, and one of the Sahaba (“Companions”), who rose quickly through the Muslim hierarchy following his conversion to Islam in the year 8 AH (629). He founded the Egyptian capital of Fustat, and built the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As at its center — the first mosque on the continent of Africa. (source: wikipedia)

A christian by the name of John Of Nikiu ( in the Nile Delta) gives an account of the Islamic invasion of Egypt among other things. He is so Islamophobic he refers to Muhammad as “the beast”. (to be continued…)

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Michael February 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I’m having trouble posting the rest of my comment. Is there a limit to the number/length of posts allowable? I’ve tried breaking it into small parts, but still no luck. Thanks.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Michael,

The spam filter grabs some stuff. I can’t configure it. I’ll check the spam queue.

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IbnAbuTalib February 10, 2011 at 2:29 am

Michael: A christian by the name of John Of Nikiu ( in the Nile Delta) gives an account of the Islamic invasion of Egypt among other things.

It was not only John of Niku but other Christian historians like Sophronious who described the Arab invasions as violent and barbaric. Aside from the fact that John was not an eye-witness to the actual events and as such was not reporting history as he had seen it but merely recounting what others had told him (which doesn’t necessarily have to be authentic), it is understandable why these writers would describe the conquests in such dismal terms. Daniel Brown writes, ” The speed of the Arab expansion is staggering, and it is not surprising that the descendants of victors and vanquished alike portray the conquests as cataclysmic. Later chroniclers saw the Arab defeat of the Byzantine and the Sassanian empires as a complete upheaval of the political, social and religious culture of the Near East……From the perspective of the defeated Byzantines, the conquests were disastrous…..Only apocalyptic language would do to depict such a nightmare…” (p.108)

More importantly however there is no archaeological evidence to support the history reported by John and others. Brown continues, “Archeological data tell a somewhat different story. If we look for evidence of the burning, looting, or destruction…..we find none.” (p.109)

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cl February 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Luke,

I like it. Changed.

I figured I’d just get flak for that, too, but… right on.

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Michael February 11, 2011 at 10:11 pm

IbnAbuTalib, you have not provided any sources to counter the Christian accounts of a barbaric Islam. Since you haven’t quoted any Muslim accounts, let me do that for you. From Robert Spencer’s Politically Incorrect Guide To Islam:

Caliph Umar made a telling admission in a message to an underling: “Do you think,” he asked, “that these vast countries, Syria, Mesopotamia, Kufa, Basra, Misr [Egypt] do they not have to be covered with troops who must be well paid?” [9]

Why did these areas have to be “covered with” troops, if the inhabitants welcomed the invaders and lived with them in friendship?

The Muslim historian Ibn al-Athir (1160-1233), in his world history entitled The Complete History, includes this account of eighth and ninth century Muslim incursions into Spain and France:

In 177 [17 April 793], Hisham, [Muslim] prince of Spain, sent a large army commanded by Abd al-Malik b. Abd al-Wahid b. Mugith into enemy territory, and which made forays as far as Narbonne and Jaranda [Gerona]. . . . For several months he traversed this land in every direction, raping women, killing warriors, destroying fortresses, burning and pillaging everything, driving back the enemy who fled in disorder. He returned safe and sound, dragging behind him God knows how much booty.

So far we’ve referenced two Christian sources and two Muslim. All these accounts paint the same stereotype of violent bloodthirsty Muslims on the rampage. Are there any accounts to confirm your “benevolent conquest”, or just more speculation?

BTW, if you scroll up, a longer quote from John Of Nikiu is now visible.

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IbnAbuTalib February 12, 2011 at 3:38 am

Michael: IbnAbuTalib, you have not provided any sources to counter the Christian accounts of a barbaric Islam.

As Daniel Brown noted, there is no archaeological evidence showing that the early Muslim conquests were how SOME Christian accounts described them to be-violent and barbaric. The reason why I say “some” is because there exists other writings by Christians that paint a different, almost more welcoming picture of the Muslim conquests, such as Ishoyab III’s letter to Shemon.

“…..As for the Arabs, to whom God has at this time given rule (shultana) over the world, you know well how they act towards us. Not only do they not oppose Christianity, but they praise our faith, honour the priests and saints of our Lord, and give aid to the churches and monasteries. Why then do your people of Oman reject their faith on a pretext of theirs? And this when the people of Oman themselves admit that the Arabs have not compelled them to abandon their faith, but only asked them to give up half of their possessions in order to keep their faith. Yet they forsook their faith, which is forever, and retained the half of their wealth, which is for a short time”

Another reference is from the 7th century Armenian bishop Sebeos who wrote:

“Twelve peoples representing all the tribes of the Jews assembled at the city of Edessa. When they saw that the Persian troops had departed leaving the city in peace, they closed the gates and fortified themselves. They refused entry to troops of the Roman lordship. Thus Heraclius, emperor of the Byzantines, gave the order to besiege it. When the Jews realized that they could not militarily resist him, they promised to make peace. Opening the city gates, they went before him, and Heraclius ordered that they should go and stay in their own place. So they departed, taking the road through the desert to Tachkastan Arabia to the sons of Ishmael. The Jews called the Arabs to their aid and familiarized them with the relationship they had through the books of the Old Testament. Although the Arabs were convinced of their close relationship, they were unable to get a consensus from their multitude, for they were divided from each other by religion. In that period a certain one of them, a man of the sons of Ishmael named Muhammad, became prominent. A sermon about the Way of Truth, supposedly at God’s command, was revealed to them, and Muhammad taught them to recognize the God of Abraham, especially since he was informed and knowledgeable about Mosaic history. Because the command had come from on High, he ordered them all to assemble together and to unite in faith. Abandoning the reverence of vain things, they turned toward the living God, who had appeared to their father–Abraham. Muhammad legislated that they were not to eat carrion, not to drink wine, not to speak falsehoods, and not to commit adultery. He said: “God promised that country to Abraham and to his son after him, for eternity. And what had been promised was fulfilled during that time when God loved Israel. Now, however, you are the sons of Abraham, and God shall fulfill the promise made to Abraham and his son on you. Only love the God of Abraham, and go and take the country which God gave to your father Abraham. No one can successfully resist you in war, since God is with you.”‘

Michael: Why did these areas have to be “covered with” troops, if the inhabitants welcomed the invaders and lived with them in friendship?

I don’t think I understand the question.

Michael: The Muslim historian Ibn al-Athir (1160-1233), in his world history entitled The Complete History, includes this account of eighth and ninth century Muslim incursions into Spain and France:

So far on the web, I have come across that quote only in anti-Islamic websites. I cannot comment on it until I have seen the actual source for myself. Nevertheless, I will say that the Muslim conquest of Spain was initiated by the Ummayyad dynasty which was NOT known for its devotion to Islam. Many Muslim scholars of antiquity have denounced them as a source of “Fitnah” to the “Ummah”.

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Nassir May 1, 2011 at 12:13 am

The anti-Islam books you list are written by people who are known bigots and not exactly reliable and legitimate sources for information on Islam. Robert Spencer runs the hate site JihadWatch, which is basically akin to Stormfront, although directed against Muslims instead of non-whites and Jews (though it seems there are quite a few Stormfront fans who like what Spencer has to say). One of the JihadWatch’s writers recently called for the murder of Egyptian protesters—specifically, he wanted Mubarak to make another “Tiananmen Square.” Another JihadWatch writer, who goes by the pseudonym “Hugh Fitzgerald,” has said that Americans should rejoice at the deaths of Muslim civilians. I could go on and on about the objectionable things you’ll find on Spencer’s site, but you get the point.

Similarly, Andrew Bostom has a blog that most Muslims and many non-Muslims would find offensive. On a Loonwatch thread some time ago, someone actually cited him in order to buttress their arguments. Specifically, they wanted to bash the 12th century Muslim theologian al-Ghazali because his interpretation of jihad was peaceful. It turned out that Bostom selectively quoted the theologian—out of 17 pages he proof texted a mere three paragraphs, using ellipses (…) to hide what he didn’t want his audience to see. Like Spencer, he has no academic credentials when it comes to Islam.

As for Bat Ye’or, Loonwatch has written an excellent article highlighting her fallacious methodology and belief in conspiracy theories.

http://www.loonwatch.com/2009/09/anti-muslim-loon-with-a-crazy-conspiracy-theory-named-eurabia/

(Please suggest more defenses of Islam. I’m having trouble finding ones with any substance.)

Unfortunately, anti-Islam literature is far more popular than books that are impartial or in defense of Islam. CAIR has a very long list, and the authors certainly have more credentials and honesty than Spencer, Bostom, and Ye’or.

http://pa.cair.com/education/islam-reference-list/

Here’s a list I would suggest:

1. The Heart of Islam : Enduring Values for Humanity by Seyyed Hossein Nasr

2. No god but God by Reza Aslan

3. The Place of Tolerance in Islam: On Reading the Qur’an – and Misreading It by Khaled Abou El-Fadl

4. The Case for Islamo-christian Civilization by Richard W. Bulliet

5. Peace and the Limits of War: Transcending Classical Conception of Jihad by Louay M. Safi

6. Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr

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Nassir May 1, 2011 at 12:35 am

Here is a bibliography of the most substantive writing I have found on the subject of whether or not Islam generally promotes violence. Obviously, some people of most religious have been violent throughout history. But is Islam violent at its core? Or is Islam a religion of peace?

In my opinion, the right questions aren’t being asked. What should be said is, “how do Muslims interpret the Qur’an and Sunnah?”

Obviously, the answer would be very complicated. From the beginning, Muslims have disagreed (often vehemently) about fundamental aspects of their religion. Asserting that Islam does this or that and applying a fixed set of immutable properties to it is essentialist and ignorant.

That being said, it’s obvious that most Muslims believe that their religion is peaceful. It’s not pacifist per se, but instead most Muslims believe that war can only be justified in self-defense in the modern context.

“Certainly there is a robust tradition in Islam of limiting war to defence against aggression. Rudolph Peters observes that ‘by the end of the nineteenth century the idea that jihad is defensive warfare became current in the Middle East’.” [Brahimi, Alia. Jihad and Just War in the War on Terror. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. 108. Print]

This is common knowledge and even as something as obscure as Travel Mecca and Saudi Arabia for Smartphones and Mobile Devices verifies it.

Most Muslims today only interpret Jihad as only a defensive form of warfare: the external Jihad includes a struggle to make Islamic societies conform to the Islamic norms of justice.”

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Nassir May 1, 2011 at 1:06 am

@Michael, are you JihadWatch’s @traeh, by any chance? Your posts have the exact sane content as his. I was banned from JihadWatch for pointing out an error Spencer made regarding the architectural designs of a certain building (so much for free speech!). If I wasn’t banned, I would’ve responded to claim you made, that the gates of ijtihad are closed. It seems that you have an essentialist view of Islam (please see my above comment).

I doubt that many pro-Islam sources of substance exist.

The substance, in terms of human lives lost, says that Western civilization has killed more than any other in history. In an interview, Samuel Huntington said…

“I don’t think Islam is any more violent than any other religions, and I suspect if you added it all up, more people have been slaughtered by Christians over the centuries than by Muslims.

IbnAbuTalib, I’m sure glad you’re around to show us how Bin Laden is distorting the faith e.g. here is Osama quoting from the koran:

I don’t know the reasons behind your vendetta against IbnAbuTalib, but Bin Laden was quoting a line referring to the relationship between Abraham and his people. Also, your source is Raymond Ibrahim—another Islamophobic fraud—and he appears to add content that wasn’t in Bin Laden’s little sermon (e.g. dhimmis). Regardless, Tabari seems to interpret the Qur’an quite differently. Ironically, he comments on a verse four after the one you’ve cited.

Al-Tabari says that the most proper interpretation of verse 60: 8 is that God commanded kindness and justice to be shown amongst all kinds of communities and creeds (min jami asnaf al-milal wa’l-adyan) and did not specify by His words some communities to the exclusion of others. Al-Tabari says that here God speaks in general of any group that does not openly fight Muslims or drive them out of their homes, and that the opinion that this kindness was abrogated by later Qur’anic statements makes no sense (la ma ‘na li-qawl man qala dhalik mansukh).” [Dakake, David. "Chapter 1: The Myth of a Militant Islam." Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition. New Delhi,: Pentagon, 2005. 9. Print.]

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Agus Nizami August 15, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Just read:
http://islammyreligion.wordpress.com/2008/12/16/is-islam-the-most-violent-religion-in-the-world/

From the statistics above, the number 1 killer is the Christians with 177,941,750 victims (World War I kill 17 million people and World War II kill 55 million people. The wars between Germany, British, France, US, etc). It outnumbers the Muslims which only kill 31,943,500 victims.
Mark Levin in his blog counting the body count between the victims that the Judaeo-Christians kill compared to Muslims:
http://islammyreligion.wordpress.com/2008/12/16/is-islam-the-most-violent-religion-bodycounts-in-modern-history
In 20th century Judaeo Christians killed 200 million people in Stalin’s era, WW1, WW2, and others while in 1950 population in Northern America and Europe only 720 million. They killed more than 50% of “its own”. While Muslims killed less than 1% of the Judaeo-Christians killing.

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