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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Is Violence Endemic In Islam?

These days I seem obsessed with Islam and its intolerance. I see recent events in dire terms, signaling a move toward what might eventually become a World War of Religion that ultimately pits non-Muslims and Muslims against each other in violent confrontation.

Dan K. Thomasson, a Scripps-Howard News Service columnist whose work is published in the local newspaper, had a thoughtful column in this morning’s edition in which he discusses this issue. In it he recites the response of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf to a question from NBC’s Tom Brokaw, who asked why there is such a violent reaction among Muslims to the now-infamous cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, but no reaction when radical Muslims blow up mosques and kill fellow Muslims. According to Mr. Thomasson, Gen. Musharraf really didn’t answer the question, and could not answer it. The reply, he said, was “couched in the cautious rhetoric of a politician who is beset by his own religious-driven problems.”

He goes on to say that Mr. Brokaw’s question is precisely what most non-Muslims the world over puzzle about, and he offered, “ the answer actually would seem to be that radical Islamic preachers use any excuse whatsoever to encourage violence, particularly against societies that cherish freedom. Taken a step further, the implication is that Islam itself is a religion built on violence, not on free expression.”

That impression “is one that moderate, God-fearing Muslims the world over need to correct quickly if the millions of them who live in open societies around the globe are to fit into the polyglot religious cultures of the modern world,” Mr. Thomasson continued. “If they are citizens of democracies, then they must respect those institutions without violent disagreement.”

In conclusion he said, “American Muslims should lead the way in disavowing this behavior. Otherwise Muslim and violence become synonymous whether it is a fact or not.” That is certainly true.

However, there is a real question whether most American Muslims even believe that this violence is wrong. As evidence of this question I cite the experience of a close personal friend, who works closely with some Muslims. He recounts the experience of another of his co-workers, who is Hindu, attending a meeting with Muslim co-workers on the evening of September 11, 2001. His Hindu friend commented that the dark events of that day were not even discussed, let alone condemned by the Muslims in attendance.

My friend is convinced that most American Muslims, while not personally bent on violent behavior, do not condemn it when it is done in the name of Allah. If this is true among the American Muslim community at large, it seems my vision of a coming religious war may be accurate.

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is his friend aware of a little thing called a long running hatred between some Hindus and Muslims? Little thing called Pakistan vs India, going back to the 1948 partition of the country and way before that?

I work with a lot of Muslims and had my child cared for by a Muslim family. And on Sept 11 and the days after, the only sentiments I heard expressed were horror at the carnage and shame that people would believe this was acceptable in Islam....

James Howard Shott said...

I'm sure he is. It is my expectation that co-workers, even those who belong to rival religions, share sentiments about substantive events.

My friend also expressed similar experiences, but thought the instance involving his Hindu friend was more meaningful because of the more casual atmosphere of this particular get-together.

I don't doubt there are Muslims who were appalled at the events of 9/11. I just wonder how large a proportion of the whole of Muslim-dom they constitute?

steve said...

I think it is unfair how you group Muslims under one umbrella; bringing forth, a somewhat irrational fear of a religious world war. There are over a billion Muslims on this planet just as there are over a billion Christians and Chinese. There are bound to be extremely diverse views falling on all colors of the spectrum. It would be unwise to speculate based on a highly innaccurate and small sample.

James Howard Shott said...

You may not have read previous posts where I allowed, in fact, insisted, that the radical Muslims were a small minority of the whole. I said then, however, that if all of Muslim-dom was to avoid being dragged into disrepute, the moderates, who supposedly grossly outnumber the radicals, would have to step up and take the murderous brethren by the throat and knock some sense into them. That hasn't happened.

What is worse, however, is the testimony of people I know personally and trust that says that even the moderates do not denounce the violence, or do so only mildly. That indicates to me that while all Muslims may not themselves be violent, they subscribe to the exclusivity of Islam as the only true religion, and will not stand in the way of a violent and bloody purging of non-believers in order to establish Islam globally.