On Islam and Violence
By Dyab Abou Jahjah
Why are Muslims so violent? why do we feel that the most violence is committed in the name of Islam? Is Islam the victim of bad PR and a continuous smear campaign? or does the truth lie in the middle? Questions that many of us are confronted with on daily basis. And they are worth an answer.
So why are Muslims so violent?
Let me start by saying that questions on human condition are rarely guided by the pure pursuit of truth. All questions we ask are rooted in our image of the world, our experiences, our emotions, and our views.
Some Muslims are violent, that is a fact. Not just extreme cases of fascist movements like ISIL and other salafi-jihadi groups. Also normal Muslims can be violent. They can be violent husbands, violent fathers, violent cops, violent rulers, violent football players, etc... but so can Christians and atheists, and Jews and Buddhists. So the question is not whether Muslims can be violent or not, because all humans and all animals, and nature itself can be violent.
The question is two fold: Are Muslims more violent than other people? and if they are, are they like that because they are Muslims?
First of all, we must only compare the comparable. We can compare Muslims and Christians, because these are two religious communities, but we cannot compare Muslims and Americans for instance. Because one category is a religious community and the other is a nation, a people. Above all, some Americans are Muslims, as a matter of fact, millions of Americans are.
However, and just like in the case of Turkey, America is a Christian heritage nation and should be accounted for when assessing the violence proneness of Christians. Just like secular Turkey cannot be excluded from any account of Muslim violence. The same goes for most European countries.
So again, are Muslims more violent than Christians?
what is the method that we can use to answer this question? should we compare the beliefs of both religions and see if one is more violent than the other? or should we observe the behaviour of both communities and build upon the facts?
Since we are asking about violence, we are referring to actions, deeds, facts on the ground. So we are looking for atrocities, massacres, dead counts, sculls. We cannot base ourselves on texts in order to assess violence and to measure it. Violence is an action and not an opinion. If we are to analyse the roots and origins of violence, then an analysis of ideas and believes and interpretations can come handy, but this will be for another article. First let us establish who is more violent, Muslims, or Christians, and based upon that, we can go further.
The Muslim killing record is quite modest if we compare it to the holocaust, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Colonialism, and even the crusades. This latest set of atrocities can all be linked to Christianity one way or the other, and some of it were explicitly waged as a Christian war or endeavour. The Muslims cannot match the quantity nor the quality of the industrious murder frenzy that was displayed by Christianity, and the culturally Christian west, through out history and to our present day.
Sure the Arabs, the Turks and some other nations killed and committed atrocities in the name of God and under the banner of Islam, and they still do this today. But they did not do that as much as the Western nations of Christian heritage.
But did Christians kill because of being religious? or having a Christian culture? or did they kill in spite of it?
Is Christianity an evil teaching? does it encourage genocide, slavery and racism?
Opinion may diverge on that, and that is normal. However, and beyond any opinionated nuance, the facts and figures are very telling. Objectively Christians and Culturally Christian nations kill more and are much better at it. The fact that they use high-technology tools does not change the nature of the deed. Cutting innocent people to pieces is an atrocity whether you do it with a kitchen knife, or with a remote controlled, satellite guided drone.
But did Christians kill over faith, or did some people kill other people over money, or pride or power and they happen to be Christians?
Let us ask the question differently. Did Nazism emerge in Germany because the ideas of Hitler were so convincing to the the masses? Or did the ideas of Hitler appeal to the German masses in the thirties because of certain conditions of their life at the time?
To put it more philosophically, are we living in a world of ideas? or are ideas emerging in the world we are living in, and within its conditions?
This is not a simple debate. Great philosophical schools have fought epic battles over this for centuries, and still do today. But why would that even matter? Do Muslims kill over faith? or are they driven by other motives and faith is just a narrative they use? this is the same question and it can always be asked.
It may be logical to object, and point out that we started discussing the alleged violent nature of Islam, and we ended up discussing the violent history of the West and Christianity.
Is this not a form of escapism. aren't Muslims always trying to avoid any critique of their violent religion by diverting the discussion?
Besides, why do we need to discuss history at all when we are talking about the world we live in today? Sure the West was violent, and probably because of Christianity. But both the west and Christianity evolved into civilised and pacifist civilisation forms. Can we say the same of Islam and the Islamic world?
Nothing is less true. The west with its Christian heritage, and as a political entity led by the United States of America, in our modern time, in this current historical epoch, has proven itself to still be extremely belligerent and aggressive. So this is not just us using a far and forgotten history to make a point.
The US and its allies have fought the most wars of our modern times, and they have killed the largest numbers of people, and they continue doing that on daily basis. To claim that the West is pacifist is to resonate the western propaganda that is fed to the gullible public opinions.
So where does this leave us?
To start with, it ridicules the question on whether Muslims are more violent. When put to the test of reality, this question, that is often nothing less than a statement, collapses like a house of cards. Not only are Muslims less violent, they are big losers in the violence game. Considering the fact that there are so many Muslims on this planet ( around 1.5 billion), and that many Muslim countries and regions are occupied and colonized and attacked by Western countries and their allies (Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Mali, Chechniya, Kashmir, etc.), it is safe to say that the acts of violence committed by that community are way too mediocre to justify the notoriety it is enjoying on the matter.
It is a fact that the appearance of Muslim Fascism since the early 1990's under the form AL Qaeda and its ramifications later on (ISIL, etc...) have Influenced the perception on this.
The global terrorist network Al Qaeda, That was shaped during the Afghani Jihad and supported by the CIA and the Saudi regime before going rogue in the early nineties, have killed far less people than the Christian Fundamentalist "Lord Resistance Army" in Uganda, to cite only one example. But the difference is that it did kill globally, and it it did target the centre of international power, the United States and to a lesser extent, Europe while the LRA was confined to Uganda and neighbouring African countries. This all made Islamic terrorism more spectacular (9/11, USS Cole Attack, Killing Western Hostages by ISIL, etc). On top of that, Al Qaeda and co, mastered the art of creating spectacular news items, and communicated them globally. It is the Muslim Terrorists themselves who want to be perceived as the main if not the only danger to American hegemony and to the current international order. They cultivate fear through the use of propaganda and gruesome violent tactics. On the other side of the spectrum, the conservative and racist right wing propagates the same image about Islam and Muslims that the Jihadi bounce at them. Instead of recognizing Islamic Fascism as a minority phenomenon, and above all, recognizing the fact that the most victims of Islamic-Fascism are Muslims, and that the people who are fighting Islamic-Fascism are also by far Muslims, it is being often portrayed as being the main stream Islam. This strengthens Islamophobia and feeds the conflict logic that AlQaeda, ISIL and Co want to spread. All this to the Applaus of Israeli propaganda and diplomacy aiming at using the fear of Islamic-Fascism to discredit The Palestinian Islamic resistance factions. The Israelies feed the idea that ISIL and co are the same as Hamas and co. While in reality the Muslim Brotherhood brand of Islam to which Hamas adheres is one of the arch enemies of Islamic-FAscism as propagated by ISIL and ALqaeda. As a matter of fact Hamas is fighting ISIL as we speak in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus and beyond.
Western-Islamophobes and Islamo-Fascists are objective allies, and they both share the same reductionist views on Islam the West, and the relationship between various civilisations. They both try to portray Islamic terrorism as a mainstream trend within the Islamic world and they both want to discredit any attempt by moderate Muslims and non-Muslims to find common ground.
(soon on Violence in Islamic Prophetic tradition)
Well written Abou!
I keep having to remind myself that we live in a world where when a Catholic nun puts on that black and white garment they say she's pious and when a Muslim lady puts on that same exact wear they say she's oppressed. And when a non Muslim goes to a military training camp they call that booth camp, but when a Muslim goes to a military camp they call that a terrorist camp.
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