Muslim Violence, Christian Non-Violence: People in Glass Houses Should Not Throw Words
by Sheila Musaji
Recently, someone who had visited The American Muslim site sent me an email with links to a couple of articles and asking me to explain why all the violence in the world involved Muslims.
The first article “The Difference Between Christianity and Islam” emailed to me by the reader made the “point” that: “Christianity has evolved and civilized to where violence is not the norm, but a very obscure abnormality. Where as violence for Muslims is a daily occurrence, and a sought after means to their ends.”
The other article said that: ”... the way of God, the One true God, Whom Islam tries to use to lay claim to its legitimacy, is wholly different than that of Muhammad and Allah. The way of the God of Israel, as most pointedly exemplified by His incarnation and appearing as the Lord Jesus Christ, is about laying down the life for others, not about taking others’ lives for oneself in the name of an imaginary and bloodthirsty god. Jesus Christ demonstrably did not come to set up an earthly Kingdom by material conquest. He told His followers that His Kingdom was not of this world. He instructed them not to fight back with the sword when threatened for their faith, much less did He lead them to go out and subjugate mankind with carnal weapons of coercion, be they political, economic, psychological, and least of all, military. He laid down His life, even unto death by crucifixion, and showed everyone that the Kingdom of God is not about the things of this world. It is not about the things that Muhammad and Muslims scheme over, fight over, and even dream of and promise to the ignorant and susceptible as their reward in Heaven if they will sacrifice their bodies while murdering and destroying. What a diabolical religion!”
I could chalk these articles up as the ramblings of a few nut cases. I could assume the fallacy and hypocricy in these statements was obvious to all Americans—but it is obviously not. Here are a few statements from important figures in the U.S. government and military, for example:
“Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for Him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you.” said John Ashcroft, former Attorney General of the U.S.
Maj. Gen. William Boykin declared that he was “God’s Warrior” and that “America is a Christian nation.” He demeaned the entire Muslim world by stating that his God was bigger than a Muslim warlord’s god and that the Muslim’s god “was an idol.” And, he said all of this in uniform.
Mike Huckabee’s Iowa campaign manager Bob Vander Plaats appearing on Tucker on MSNBC, stated that “we’re fighting a radical religion in Islam” and that “the war on terror is a theological war.” For a “theological” war a lot of people are dying.
Col. Tom Snodgrass said: “My analysis of the factors bearing on the adequacy and applicability of Christian Just War to the present conflict presented in this essay leads me to conclude that there is no question that jus ad bellum criteria are fully satisfied from the US standpoint. And just as was the case in the World War II Pacific Theater, the Islamic enemy’s disregard for any human or Judeo-Christian standard of morality makes the application of normally acceptable jus in bello criteria absolutely impossible and therefore inapplicable. Furthermore, as World War II-era Americans accepted this reality and went on with the war approving whatever was necessary because “no prisoners” and “fire/nuclear bombing” were essential to quickly end an unjust Japanese-initiated war, so too Americans must now accept that all weapons and targets are justly within the “engagement” for US war fighters in this existential war against Islamic Jihad. In this war, the stakes are even higher than they were in 1941.” - he is saying that all Muslims are the enemy and that the principles of a just war don’t apply to this enemy. Pretty much the argument of al Qaeda.
Let’s look at the premise that “violence is not the norm” in Christianity. How to measure something like this is tricky, but this was certainly not true throughout large portions of history. Whether it is true today is arguable. One look at our our cities, our schools, or even our homes, and violence by Christians, and every other group, is apparent. Since 9/11, there has been a rise in hate crimes against minority groups, and the aggressors often identify themselves and their motives as being Christian. Looking at the bigger picture, what country is the primary supplier of weapons to the rest of the world? Hint: it is not a Muslim country. What country has the highest military expenditures per capita of any country on earth? See previous hint. Which country has proposed bombing other countries into the stone age? The answer to all three is the US, which no one would identify as a Muslim country. Those who developed and dropped the atom bomb were a multicultural group—but none were Muslim. Looking outside the US, where have arguable violent and repressive systems like fascism, communism, and Naziism been produced? Not in Muslim countries. Was it Muslims who carried out the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides? Are the Italian and Russian mafias Muslim? Are the South American drug cartels Muslims? Who talks about sanctions, pre-emptive strikes, invasions? Who allows the torture of Muslims in various secret and not-so-secret prisons. What religion was Timothy McVeigh? The IRA?
So, the idea that ALL violence or terrorism is Muslim is laughable. All these examples show, as would a simple glance at any collection of court-documents, that there is an unfortunately common occurence of violence today, and it does not all involve Muslims (not even close). By population, violence is an aberration found in EVERY group.
“In the first half of this decade, from 1990 to 1995, 70 international states were involved in 93 wars which killed five and a half million people.(5) Most of the casualties were civilians, noncombatants. At the beginning of this century, most of the war casualties were military (85-90%). In World War II more than half of all war deaths were noncombatants. Today, at the end of the twentieth century, more than three-fourths of all war deaths are civilians.(6)” (Source) Were any Christians involved in these wars? Of course.
Jesus may have asked his followers to lay down their lives for others and to concern themselves with the heavenly kingdom and not to fight with the sword — but the reality of the last 2,000 years has not been typified by such actual behavior except in the case of small groups like the Amish and the Quakers. More typical have been clergy like Charles Stanley, “pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, whose weekly sermons are seen by millions of television viewers, led the charge with particular fervor. “We should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible,” said Mr. Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “God battles with people who oppose him, who fight against him and his followers.” In an article carried by the convention’s Baptist Press news service, a missionary wrote that “American foreign policy and military might have opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Stanley was not alone as a number of other clergymen and their flocks supported the war in Iraq. “As if working from a slate of evangelical talking points, both Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of Billy Graham, and Marvin Olasky, the editor of the conservative World magazine and a former advisor to President Bush on faith-based policy, echoed these sentiments, claiming that the American invasion of Iraq would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims. Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the hugely popular “Left Behind” series, spoke of Iraq as “a focal point of end-time events,” whose special role in the earth’s final days will become clear after invasion, conquest and reconstruction. For his part, Jerry Falwell boasted that “God is pro-war” in the title of an essay he wrote in 2004. The war sermons rallied the evangelical congregations behind the invasion of Iraq. An astonishing 87 percent of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported the president’s decision in April 2003. Recent polls indicate that 68 percent of white evangelicals continue to support the war. But what surprised me, looking at these sermons nearly three years later, was how little attention they paid to actual Christian moral doctrine. Some tried to square the American invasion with Christian “just war” theory, but such efforts could never quite reckon with the criterion that force must only be used as a last resort. As a result, many ministers dismissed the theory as no longer relevant.”
As Chris Stephen pointed out in an article entitled ‘Praise Bush and the Iraq war’ “Cornerstone Church, a vast squat white temple in San Antonio, is rapidly becoming the movement’s epicentre, thanks to the charismatic founder, Pastor John Hagee, the rising star of America’s TV evangelists. For these evangelists, the war in Iraq is not a disaster, but the beginning of the fulfilment of biblical prophecies that culminate, possibly very soon, in a mighty struggle between good and evil at Armageddon. ... “Listen up, president of Iran,” booms the pastor. “We are going to be your worst nightmare, Mr Ahmadinejad. The pharaoh threatened Israel, he ended up fish-food in the sea. When you say Israel is going to disappear in a sudden storm you may be predicting the way you disappear.”
Don Swarthout, President, Christians Reviving America’s Values said: “I truly hate the idea of an all out war, but if we don’t kill them, they will kill us. Nuclear war maybe our only option if we are going to stop radical Islam’s attempt to take over the world.”
Other articles have pointed to the same sentiments being common among certain segments of the Christian population of the U.S. Jim Lobe wrote an entire article on the subject: Conservative Christians Biggest Backers of Iraq War.
Sounds a tad bit violent to me. And, even those who declaim the violence are not adverse to benefitting from it. Max Blumenthal in Onward Christian Soldiers comes to the conclusion that: “Conservative fundamentalists with close ties to President Bush are planning a new missionary push in Iraq—and they might already be converting U.S. troops to their cause.” Is basing a missionary campaign in the ashes of violent endeavors a form of “subjugation” or a “carnal weapon of coercion” like that which the second article ascribed to Islam?
This “positive” missionary aspect has been widely discussed. For example: Christian Missionaries Battle For Hearts and Minds in Iraq; Bible Belt missionaries set out on a ‘war for souls’ in Iraq; Why Iraq Beckons Missionaries; God and Country; War in Babylon has evangelicals seeing Earth’s final days
This response is to the concept that violence is somehow unique—or even more common to—Islam than to other religious groups. It is currently common to EVERYONE. Addressing the moral and ethical arguments that revolve around the concept of “justified violence” is a separate matter all together. If your response to this article is that some violence is justified, you have missed the point. However, in this author’s opinion, the message of Jesus Christ was correct. Violence is not the answer. Indeed, if people of faith (every faith I can think of) were to follow the actual teachings of their scriptures (not some crazed pastors’ or imams’ distorted agenda), then the current violence would end. No legitimate representatives of any faith can both follow the teachings of their faith and preach violence.
This is one of the difficult issues to dialogue about, but it is an issue that needs to be dealt with - What was the religious affiliation of: - Those who enslaved and murdered the Native Americans; - Those who colonized most of what is now the “Third World”; - Those who dropped the atomic bomb; - Those who developed and participated in the political systems of Naziism and Fascism; - Those who carried out the Rwandan genocide?; - Those who participated in torture at Abu Ghraib; - Those who carried out ethnic cleansing against the Bosnian Muslims; - Those who were responsible for the death of millions in Germany’s death camps? If the answer to any of these questions had been Islam then the criminals would have been identified as “Islamic” ....... This demonizing of the “other” and oversimplification of genuine issues that need to be resolved does a disservice to all of us, and in the current political climate also isolates traditional mainstream Muslims who otherwise might be able to serve as a bridge between cultures.
“The leap from deviant Muslims perpetrating atrocities to a religion being impugned for the sins of its supposed adherents is breath-taking in its audacity. This distinction has become critical ever since the ‘’showdown with Saddam” transmuted into the ‘’war on terror.” With the daily mind-numbing imagery of maniacal Muslim ‘’insurgents” savaging troops and civilians alike, a transformation rapidly took place: The problem was just not Muslim terrorists but an ‘’evil” Islam itself. This is a theme broadcast with malevolent glee by talk shows on a daily basis thereby intensifying suspicion, fear, contempt, and hatred of Islam. Demonizing Islam makes it the enemy in the ‘’war on terror.” ... Ironically, it is us Muslims who have the greatest vested interest in eradicating terrorism. We need to do this to salvage our religion and our self-respect. As long as we are marginalized by the West and taunted by the extremists, we are made to feel as if we were part of the problem rather than of the solution, and our commitment becomes ambivalent. If the so-called war on terrorism has any chance of being won, there needs to be an immediate redefinition of the enemy.” Foe isn’t Islam, it’s Binladenism, Abdul Cader Asmal
Christian-Terrorists and Secular-Fanatics: Licensed to Kill, by Yamin Zakaria
Relative Violence in Islam and Christianity, Nick Gier
Soldier of God Little Holy Warrior Toys, Corey Habbas (toys with military and Christian themes combined)
Is the Christian Right a Fascist Movement?, John W. Whitehead
For Evangelicals, Supporting Israel is ‘God’s Foreign Policy’, David Kirkpatrick
Christian Holy Warriors Set Sights on Iran, Bill Berkowitz*
Left Behind, ‘Convert or die’ computer game sold at Walmart.
RELIGIOUS TERRORISM IS AN OXYMORON, Sheila Musaji
The Muslims Are Here! The Muslims Are Here!, Sheila Musaji
A Spiritual Jihad Against Terrorism, Sheila Musaji - 5 parts
see also our article collections on - Religious Extremism - A long history of injustice ignored - Claim that all terrorists are Muslims ignores history - Muslim voices against extremism and terrorism which contains specific sections of various voices against extremism and terrorism -
Muslim Voices Against Extremism and Terrorism
MUSLIMS DENOUNCE TERRORISM
- Qur’an & Hadith against extremism (see also power point presentations)
- Part I Fatwas
- Part II Statements by Organizations
- Part III Statements and Articles by Individuals (see also power point presentations)
- Part IV A Few Quotes A-K, and A Few Quotes L-Z
- Part V The Muslim Majority Who Don’t Get Publicity (see also power point presentation)
- Muslims and Arabs in the U.S. Military
- Selective Hearing of Muslim Voices Against Extremism
- Sunni Shia Unity Resource - collection of articles