Thursday, 27 September 2012

Islam is not peace, even if most muslims are peaceful

A few days ago the web buzzed with a video by Abeer Ali showcasing reactions from the Middle East to the recent events shown in the media.

The video goes a long way to demonstrate that the vast number if Islamist are moderate not the fringe lunatics who campaign and complain whenever anyone expresses a non positive view about muslims.

I like the video, the people in it are intelligent, rational, non violent, and tolerant. However it ends on a note I feel compelled to challenge. A full minute of the 8 and half minute long video is a montage of people saying "Islam is peace".

No. Wrong. Sorry, and repeating it does not make it less wrong.

Islam is not peace... at best you could say "Islam values peace" but Islam is first and foremost  a religion, a monotheistic, abrahamic faith embodied in a text called the Qur'an (or Koran). This text is considered by it's adherents to be the direct, inerrant, unchangeable, verbatim word of god.

Depending who you ask and how how you interpret them there are about 100 verses in the qur'an that call for violence against those who are not muslim, refuse to convert, or actually convert away from Islam - some of them are pretty graphic. And even worse, unlike the genocidal parts of the old testament in the bible, verses in the qur'an demanding death for non-muslims are often open ended and exist outside of a specific historical context.

Even if you cut it down to just the ones that specifically call for muslims to inflict harm directly rather than claim god will do it, there are still dozens, for example:
So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Qur'an 9:5
Convert or die - pretty unambiguous.

This does not mean of course that all muslims are dangerous fanatic lunatics - far from it, moderate muslims are, as the video shows, a peaceful and friendly people. But that is their current culture, their religion is something different, based on the central concept that Muhammad was the last prophet god would ever send and that the qur'an is the inerrant laws of god that were given directly to him.

The fact that so many muslims are peaceful is a tribute to the people not the book. The humans beings who choose to focus on the parts of their religious text that teach compassion, tolerance, and understanding deserve all the credit and all the applause for this. They stand testament to the ability of human to make good choices and determine for themselves what laws (from god or otherwise) that are truly moral.

Factions exist that read the qur'an and see justifications in killing and enforcing the rule of Islam. Movements like the taliban used strict interpretation of the qur'an to create a state of extreme human rights abuses. This shows that the qur'an and Islam are not guarantees of peace.

The qur'an is complex, it is beautiful and inspiring as well as harsh and brutal. Like any book it should be read and understood and not feared or revered. It has parts that should be lauded and parts that should be shunned - but it's status as the word of god makes such rational evaluation and analysis impossible for adherents.

Islam is not peace.

Islam is a faith in crisis (like many others), with moderate humanist morals at direct odds with commands from god that current muslims must choose to ignore or re-interpret if they wish their faith to co-exist with their conscience.

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