Buddhism, Islam, and a serious talk about fundamentalism

Last week’s attack in Woolwich, London surprised and horrified me as much as anyone. It was quickly claimed that the men had shouted Allahu Akbar, “God is great” at the time. One early video showed one of the men also apologizing that women had to see what had happened and that the problem was atrocities in their own land (note, one of the two was born in London, the other in Nigeria), saying, “remove your government. They don’t care about you.”

Commentators rushed to fill in the gaps with terms like “Islamist,” “Baghdad style violence” and “terrorism.”

A steady tide of belligerent racism and Islamophobia ensued.

First a mosque was attacked. Then another. Then another. Then another. The count now is 10. Six days and ten Mosques… At least one Muslim has been murdered in what police suspect is a racially-motivated attack.

And Sunday morning I awoke to news that England’s resident racist political movement, the EDL, had rioted a few miles from where I live (note, there is a case to be made that they are not racist, just xenophobic in case that might seem better). Elsewhere in the UK EDL members were arrested for ‘racist tweets’ ahead of their own marches. And for a bit of background, you can see this 2010 Guardian investigation.

After the attack, the EDL looked a bit like this:

Wearing logo embossed ski masks.

Which just begs the question: why the matching ski masks?  (warning, offensive language):

YouTube Preview Image

And vowing vengeance. – yep, they posted it.

Now, I don’t mean to get too far away from the topic of Buddhism, Islam, and fundamentalism, but it’s worth noting that my own worry on the streets of Great Britain tonight is for what people in the EDL and similar groups might do next. 

london woolwich attack julie siddiqi

Meet Julie, she is a Muslim community leader in England. Read her story.

The fact is, Muslims across the country reacted to the crime with the same shock and horror that I did, quickly condemning the act and discussing their own efforts to deal with violence in their communities (this is one article that you must read).

So what part could Islam have possibly played in the attack?

The answer is by no means simple. As with any religion, there are numerous passages in the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an/Koran, that might be used to justify violence in certain situations. However, there are also other equally, and often more, compelling passages that demand restraint, kindness, and pacifism. The Huffington Post recently hosted a live discussion with two Muslims and one ex-Muslim to help draw out the finer points of this matter and while they tend to meander a bit in terms of their specific topic and rely on various sorts of evidence to support their claims, I highly recommend it as an introduction to various ways Islam can be interpreted and lived today.

For my part, I would suggest that the part Islam played here was incredibly superficial and that the motivations of these men had far more to do with their own 1) sympathies for the suffering of Muslims in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, 2) feelings of inability to help those people, and 3) anger toward those involved in the killings. That is, of course, too simple and the details will yet emerge as to just how things came to be this way. One Englishman, who recently watched his own step-brother drawn into a radical group wrote:

They came from all sorts of backgrounds. Some from Christian households, some from immigrant families, some with mainstream Muslim parents. Others, like my stepbrother, were white and came from ordinary middle England towns. There was no single demographic.

Some explained that they had been inspired to convert by things that had happened in their lives. One man whose sister had died of a cocaine overdose blamed Western society for “allowing her to die”. There was another who had watched George W Bush, after the 9/11 attacks, saying that “you are either with us or against us”, and had decided that he didn’t like him and was therefore against him.

All had taken their search to extremes because they were extremists. It was part of who they were – or had grown up to become. I wouldn’t say they were born that way, but at some stage in their short lives they had come to believe that they couldn’t live in the world they had been brought up in, and had turned against it.

The fact that the men in Woolwich attacked a military service member suggests the defensive nature of the attack (as odd as that might sound… If they just wanted to kill non-Muslims or random English people they could have killed several who gathered at the scene after the initial attack. But they didn’t. They only killed the soldier and then attempted to kill armed police when they arrived.) They were going after those who they felt -either rightly or wrongly- were responsible for, or acting as armed representatives of those attacking fellow Muslims elsewhere. They attacked a soldier and armed police, not ordinary Britons, which suggests that this definitely wasn’t an act of terrorism (note the part of the albeit nebulous definition that slips in:  “and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians)”).

I also have trouble with the term “Islamist.” I suppose it is generally just a shortening of “Islamic fundamentalism,” but when this convenient shortening happens to only one religion, it seems a bit unfair. For instance, do we talk about the Westboro Baptists as a Christianist hate group? No. They’re called “extreme” or “controversial.” And I don’t suppose we’ll be hearing about the horrible “Buddhismist” preacher Saydaw Wirathu of Burma (James Ure is quite right in describing his teachings as Hatred and Anti-Muslim).

Which brings us to the rather horrible suggestion that I have seen in places too numerous to mention: that there is something intrinsic to Islam that is at the root of Islamic fundamentalism. To back up just a moment, you see – if we call it “Islamism” it is so easy to conflate it with “Islam.” There is no need to talk about the broad spectrum of the religion, from the most liberal and/or secular to the most fundamentalist. For instance, it would be irresponsible to say that “Cardinal Dolan incites Christianist Hatred toward Homosexuals,” somehow equating the rather conservative (and I would suggest abhorrent) views of this one particular Catholic leader with Christianity as a whole. If you have a hard time seeing the extremism of the Westboro Baptists or “traditional marriage” Catholics, then think of Christian groups like the LRA, Jonestown, or the KKK.

These last three are not “Christianist” organizations. They are extremist, fundamentalist, far-right-wing, etc. At least that is how we think of them. Because we all know that most Christians are nothing like that.

But whenever a Muslim commits a crime, it seems that the media (and, I’m afraid, many of the people I know) still need to have a conversation about “the problem of Islam.” Warren Jeffs. Is he part of “the problem of Christianity“? No. And given the current love affair that the West has with Buddhism, do you think we’ll ever see a headline: “the problem of Buddhism”?

Of course this is because Buddhism is not a problem. Nor is Christianity. Nor is Islam or any other religion.

The problem is fundamentalism – often fueled by poverty, things like PTSD from being raised in constant fear of violence, warfare, the threat of indiscriminate bombings, shootings, unfair trials, disappearances, torture and so on.

If you spend enough time surrounded by these things, I really don’t think it matters what ideology or religion you identify with: you are quite likely a broken person who needs help. But in societies where help is not given by the state, it is far too often the radicals that step in, offering help with a hefty – but unmentioned – price tag.

This is why Buddhists in some countries will snap into their own versions of Islamophobia, as James Ure’s post – see above- discusses, or racism. Some Western Buddhists or others might use these cases as a reason to look down on Asian Buddhists in general or specific groups in particular, but this would be to completely miss the point of the causes and conditions that brought these individuals to their current state. I am tempted to say that there are common socio-economic-historical strands to be found between the radical/fundamentalist elements of such groups as the EDL, fundamentalist Muslims in England and elsewhere, some Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Burma (and Thailand, while we’re at it), Muslims in various countries (I don’t know enough to try to pin down specifics), and Christians in other various countries (again, leaving it to you to fill in where is most appropriate).  We could also throw in the early developers of suicide bombings: Hindus in Sri Lanka.

I fear I have meandered a bit myself.

The point I hope to impart you with is that 1) Buddhism is not intrinsically peaceful, despite what many superficial analysts suggest, 2) Islam is not intrinsically violent, despite what far too many journalists, particularly bought and paid for by the right wing, will tell you, and that 3) fundamentalism is more of a socio-economic or political issue than it is one of religion. Part of what makes religions survive is their ability to speak to many people with their broad variety of statements and justifications. All religions, in their foundation or early development, have justifications for violence in some form or another and no religion that I can think of has survived for more than a century without some of its members being both a victim of violence and a perpetrator, suggesting that none of what happened last week or what has happened since is anything all that new.

Hopefully we can all come to see that religions are not all bad, nor all good. I tend to think that they must do some good (even if it is just a big placebo effect) for their adherents, or else they wouldn’t survive. And many secularists are no doubt trying to figure out how to replicate the best/most useful aspects of religions without all of the superstitious stuff. But until that sets in, if it ever does, we really have to learn to live with one another without the simplistic and often stupid labels and attacks against one another.

* UPDATE: the term ‘fundamentalism’ employed here draws from the massive scholarly collaboration, the “Fundamentalism Project.” You can read excerpts from Donald Swearer’s contribution on Fundamentalistic Movements in Theravadin Buddhism here - the article begins with a short discussion of defining fundamentalism (with thanks to Naga Dhoopati for the heads-up via G+).

Also, have a look at this excellent post, Woolwich and its aftermath, by Peter Goble at the UK Secular Buddhist Community.

  • http://elisafreschi.blogspot.com/ elisa freschi

    Thanks for this insightful and well-thought post, Justin.

    Personally, I agree with your implicit anti-Dawkins point about the fact that religions are not in themselves “bad” (just like literature is not “evil”, although many stories may have triggered violence), whereas fundamentalism is. I also agree that fundamentalism can be religious, but does not need to be (as we know because of political fundamentalism and because of extremism linked with races and even with football-teams).

    However, I am sorry I was not born/converted a Muslim, for by now I would have liked to help myself and my brothers-sisters in faith to better understand the traits of Islam which go strongly against actual violence, but also to point at the historical moments in which a certain group has read Islam as favouring actual, physical violence against its enemies.

    I am *not* saying that Islam believers should apologize for what people have made in the name of Allah (just like I would not expect any apologise for what the KKK did from any Christian!). However, understanding the history of the possible misunderstandings of what “jihad” meant would, I think, be beneficial for Muslims who do not want to be confused with “Islamists” and for non-Muslims, if they want to escape too easy prejudices.

    • justinwhitaker

      Yup – more history, more understanding, etc is needed.

      • kcthomas

        Much delving into history or talk about something past is unwanted. The human civilization at present can understand that violence is bad and hatred is bad, that peace, love and joy and tolerance are good. Let the rulers and the ordinary citizens behave accordingly and then there will be peace and joy.

  • Douglass Smith

    Re.: “As with any religion, there are numerous passages in the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an/Koran, that might be used to justify violence in certain situations.”

    Which passages (e.g.) from the Pali Canon could be used to justify hatred or violence? I’m not asking out of snark, I just can’t think of any. Instead I think of MN 21, the simile of the two-handled saw. That said, there may be some passages with which I am unfamiliar, or which I have forgotten.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=736353377 Jayarava Attwood

      I don’t violence can be justified based on the Pāli Canon – but the Pāli suttas have had remarkably little influence on the development of Buddhism around the world, so I would be looking elsewhere.

    • justinwhitaker

      The earliest Theravadin case seems to be in the Mahavamsa (4th-5th century CE), wherein the basic tenets of karma, the 3 refuges, and the 5 precepts were employed by a group of eight Arahats to let a ruler off for killing countless non-Buddhists, setting a precedent that has been invoked ever since. There is no passage in the Canon cited, but the concepts are all from there. Emptiness and samadhi training were invoked in militaristic Zen as well.

      Stephen Jenkins makes what I would consider a very feeble attempt to show that early Buddhism is rife with violence in the book “Buddhist Warfare” – worth reading just to see how badly mangled an early text can be (note: he calls Vajrapani – Vajirapani in the Pali – the Buddha’s “bodyguard.”; you can find Vajirapani in action in DN3) or see here:

      http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_names/va/vajirapaani.htm

      • Douglass Smith

        If so, it bears noting that one apparently cannot justify such behavior by reference to passages from the Pali Canon. Indeed, the Canon would condemn such behavior in the strongest terms. This would make early Buddhism quite rare, and different from Near Eastern religions of the book.

        Of course, one can ignore the texts and do what one will; that is always the case. But then it’s harder to blame ‘the religion’ for one’s actions. And yes, the later tradition’s notion of emptiness can be used to justify (or to refrain from proscribing) mischief, but that is something of a separate issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=736353377 Jayarava Attwood

    I agree with your three points. More or less. And despite the meandering. I wish you luck counteracting the British press which is read by millions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=736353377 Jayarava Attwood

    It occurs to me that the other side of the story is that the British government and the British military has an appalling record of political meddling and violent intervention in the middle east. MP Rory stewart’s documentary on the events in Arabia (as was) at the end of WW1 shows that we really set the scene of betrayal that has continued ever since. Had we honoured the agreement hammered out by T E Lawrence the world would almost certainly look different. But we did not. And then we carelessly displaced the Palestinians and left them to their fate. Etc.

    The Islamic world has every right to be angry with the British government because they have been treated shabbily time and again. That they choose to react with violence is deeply unfortunate. But we started it. And we carried it on through modern times.

    I’d also say on more reflection that separating religion from socio-economic or political issues is not really possible. Arabic culture is Islamic just as European culture is Christian. In both cases the concept of retributive justice is prominent. We punish wrong doers because (it is believed) that it restores the balance. And Jesus’s argument that vengeance is the Lord’s has never really carried that much weight.

    I read this quote today (http://genealogyreligion.net/) from an American military “hero”

    Like many soldiers, Kyle was deeply religious and saw the Iraq War through that prism. He tattooed one of his arms with a red crusader’s cross, wanting “everyone to know I was a Christian.” When he learned that insurgents had placed a bounty on his head and had named him al-Shaitan Ramadi—the Devil of Ramadi—he felt “proud.” He “hated the damn savages” he was fighting. In his book, he recounts telling an Army colonel, “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.”

  • stimpy77

    What a bunch of hogwash. Fundamentalism, as a word, is a literal belief in the text of the “scriptures”, whichever scriptures they may be. If you look up the Quran on Google, and just start reading, you will discover emphatic and rather startlingly harsh, hateful language towards Christians specifically, and fascist verbiage that any and all people of religions other than the Muslim religion, and secular unbelievers, must be done away with.

    A fundamentalist New Testament believer will counter this with turning the other cheek and praying for his enemies, because that is the language of the New Testament.

    • justinwhitaker

      Stimpy – thanks for the comment. Your definition of fundamentalism seems to reflect an early, pretty much exclusively Christian understanding of the term. Today that might just be called scriptural literalism to separate it from the evolved (post 1980s or so) definition of fundamentalism which tends to include involvement in politics and concerns for orthodoxy.

      Flipping through my copy of the Qur’an I don’t see the passages you refer to. It reads a lot like the OT and NT, honestly – lots of Allah/God making people out of clay, good angels, bad angels, people doing what God wants (nice depiction of heaven in ch 56… Of course Muslims will praise its uniqueness as much as Christians do the message of Christ, and both have developed interpretive frameworks to prevent misunderstanding and cherry-picking (and *of course* neither religion has been perfectly successful in this), but it really is quite similar.

      • stimpy77
        • justinwhitaker

          Decontextualisation :) You can make the OT look like a hateful, violent book and you can make Jesus look like, well, pretty much anything.

          http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/cruelty/ot_list.html

          • stimpy77

            How convenient a backboneless argument. I have examined the contexts each of the individual “verses” described in the linked reference I gave, and while some of them are contextually about specific “unbeliever groups”, some are not, and are still violent and vengeful. Besides, the thing about the Quran is that its “verses” tend to be standalone statements, with little nuggets of context like “the unbelievers of [some group]” weaving in for your convenience. But when you figure out how Jesus is made to look like a violent hatemonger by the New Testament’s own words, let us know. (For the record, I never said “Old Testament”, that’s all Judaism and Christians are not Jews.)

            • justinwhitaker

              1 – the OT is still important to Christians, which is why so many want the 10 Commandments plastered in public places and why many particularly hateful Christians like to cite Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

              2 – “I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Here’s a painting of Jesus about to punch a guy in the face: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-27-_-_Expulsion_of_the_Money-changers_from_the_Temple.jpg

              2b – Obviously most Christians go with less violent passages, or intertret this away or simply ignore it (as do Muslims when reading their own Qur’an – go figure).

              2c – The context only makes things worse – for through Jesus you will become enemies with even your own family…

              3 – Watch the video I linked to in the post. Islam has many rich traditions of interpretation of the Qur’an and of how it influences their daily lives, going back to the hadith of Mohammad. I’ve never heard of anyone suggesting that individual verses can be taken out of context.

  • tedseeber

    Muwahiddun theology is less than 200 years old.

    If you believe that cultures follow a lifecycle of their own, just as the human beings that make them up do, Islam is currently suffering from a reformation of sorts. The main political split is between five pillar “moderate” muslims and six pillar “extreme” muslims, but even that isn’t good enough; you must also discern between six pillar “extreme community” muslims and six pillar “Allah Only” muslims. And even that isn’t enough, for you have among the Muwahiddun the relatively peaceful Druze vs the Saudi Sunni Wahhabi vs ethnic groups like the Chechens.

    I just hope their version of sola scriptura doesn’t end up like the Christian version- or we’re looking at around two more centuries of this stuff, ending with 30,000 “house mosques” all squabbling about what the Koran means.

  • kcthomas

    Whitaker seems to say that religions are not responsible for fundamentalism and its violent manifestations. This is the diplomacy leaders and politicians employ and tide over the situations. When the London killer says he did it for Allah as his brethren are killed by the British soldiers in Afghanistan . Why can’t we say in the name of Allah that violence by all is wrong and proper universal action must be taken to make all people of all religions aware of this fundamental fact. ? We all know many wrongs and violence were committed in the name of God or of religion in the past. Should we not discontinue that mentality as we have become more civilized ?

    • TheodoreSeeber

      “Why can’t we say in the name of Allah that violence by all is wrong and proper universal action must be taken to make all people of all religions aware of this fundamental fact. ? ”

      Just about every mainstream school of Islam did this, both Sunni and Shia, in 2001. Didn’t do much good, because the violent fundamentalists are NOT a part of those sects.

  • J_Bob

    by “extremism of “traditional marriage” Catholics,”, do you mean those who believe in marriage from the beginning was between a male & female ?

    • justinwhitaker

      Specifically those who believe that their particular interpretation of scripture justifies calling on government to enforce this interpretation on others.

      • J_Bob

        So how are SS marriages going to bond, to create & raise the next generation?

        • justinwhitaker

          I don’t think ‘bonding’ has ever been an issue; but they can adopt, have a surrogate, or – like many hetero couples – not have children.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Bravo for you! You have brought into the discussion the effects of PTSD, from which many brought up in radical religions and cultures suffer. I am among those sufferers, even though I am was brought up as a “Christian” in the United States of America.

    Until we look toward peace on earth as the goal of religion, we will not stop justifying atrocities with invoking a god of war.

    True Christianity is not the mess that The Roman Catholic Church codified, unless their “Christ” is someone other than the “peacenik” Jesus. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous, at best; dangerously hypocritical, at worst. All protestant religions are fruit from a poison tree. It may be time to start over with The Sacred Spirit inherent in being fully human.

  • Jerry Lynch

    Fundamentalism is a disorder, plain and simple. A symptom is the use of a religion or other type of group as the chosen medium of expression for their hate, fear, or narcissism. Somehow ban a fundamentalist from their chosen medium, usually picked by the happenstance of culture or particular oppression, and he or she will quickly throw themselves into another with equal vanity and spleen. These are sick people.

  • Jerry Lynch

    As I read further down, there were comments about the source of the PTSD. I agree. The West has much to “apologize” for in the Middle East (and elsewhere but that’s another blog). Our “self interest” in those countries was a scourge on those people. How long did it take America to apologize for its 100year policy of displacement (and worse) toward the indigenous people, breaking every treaty made.
    Perhaps if we made a heartfelt outreach to these people, with an official statement admitting our mistakes, in detail, and saying we were wrong and wish to make proper amends, we could end this war on terrorism. This wil not make the mental illness of fundamentallism go away and there will be something along the same lines in the near or perhaps distant future, yet maybe a new and healthier direction could be found.

  • ShunyataBhavana

    Wherever Islam is in contact with non-Muslims (Christians in Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Egypt, the Philippines, South Sudan/Darfur, Lebanon, Syria, on the Somali/Ethiopian border; Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs in India; Jews and Secularists in Israel; Secularists and Christians all over the USA, in Madrid,
    in London, in the Caucus, in Afganistan, inside Russia; Buddhists in Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia; between Muslim sects in Pakaistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere), Islam is on the offensive, with violent attacks. Those other religions and belief systems seem to generally get along OK with each other. Yes, some of them are violent towards Islam in return, but, I’d say that the violence is defensive/reactive in nature (as it is, for example, in Myanmar). If Muslims were chill towards Buddhists, I feel certain that Buddhists would be chill with them.

    By my definition, a proper religion mostly deals with humanities relationship with the absolute and our place in the cosmos, not with political conquest. To my eyes, this makes Islam less a religion than Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, etc and more of a political movement. Islam commands political warfare against and subjugation of the unbeliever.

    You say Islamic fundamentalism is “fueled by poverty” – I’d be curious what support you have for this assertion. The fact is, there is actually generally a strong correlation among Arab suicide bombers with high education and previous material success – many of them are among the more affluent in their societies.

    Osama bin Laden, for example, came from an extremely wealthy family. Nidal Hasan was an U. S. Army M.D. and Major. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a
    London engineering student and the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker. 9/11 terrorists Mohammed Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed both received Western university educations. Sayyid Qutb helped found the Muslim brotherhood after studying at Stanford, and then returning to Egypt to write twenty-four books and be a leader of the Egyptian intelligentsia. On and on – such people are the assertive leaders of their societies, not it’s oppressed hopeless masses.

    It is no coincidence that Arab terrorism began at the same the time that Arabs nationalized oil wells, formed the OPEC cartel, and started making lots of money from the West. Both were examples of expressions of a nascent aggressive strength, not of poverty and weakness.

    Also, if you do not think that large numbers of Americans/Europeans secular leftists do see Westboro Baptist, the LRA, Jonestown, and the KKK, as not fringe elements of Christianity but as embodying central essence, and are against all Christianity as “Christianist” evil, then you and I pay attention to different online political discussions.

  • kcthomas

    My humble question is ‘ If every mainstream school of Islam supports non violence, how can a minority become courageous to follow the path of non-violence ” ? If the basic faith of Islam is peace and non violence and tolerance, let the mainstreams declare separation from others publicly, boycott them everywhere in all countries specially Muslim countries. Even among Sunni and Shia sects there is no peace accord recognizing non violence. I am not accusing anyone, but reading from events.

    • justinwhitaker

      From the post: “The fact is, Muslims across the country reacted to the crime with the same shock and horror that I did, quickly condemning the act and discussing their own efforts to deal with violence in their communities (this is one article that you must read).”

      • kcthomas

        Yes Some may say so. But the jihadis believe in Koran and according to them Koran sanctions. A change in attitude is warranted if we want peace.

  • Ambaa

    Totally agree! I’ve struggled to explain this concept on my blog too. I don’t believe that any religion is intrinsically violent or bad, but I feel constantly like I’m being asked to declare that mine is good and others are bad. I have no problem with other religions. I do have a problem with radicals.

  • Michael R

    Reality is a dangerous concept. Your reality is one of general abstractions. Abstractions are for lazy folk who don’t like to think. So here I have done the work for you. I have laid out an Eightfold Noble Path to enlightenment on Islam. If you limit yourself to abstractions and generalities you can find all sorts of common themes in religion. But in reality, there are differences that matter greatly. I invite you to the specifics of reality, my friend:

    1. There’s two dimensions to the Islamic problem, nature and nurture. Nature is Islamic doctrine. Nurture is British foreign policy, social policy, etc. Both are important. To ignore either one is insane. The interesting question is: does Islamic doctrine inspire violence any more than other doctrines/religions/ideologies? The answer is quite obviously: yes it does. e.g.

    2. Danish researcher: Islam is the most violent religion

    “The religious texts of Islam call upon its followers to commit acts of terror and violence to a much higher degree than any other religion, concludes Tina Magaard, who graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris as a PhD in Textual Analysis and Intercultural Communication, after a three-year research project that compared the basic texts from 10 religions.”
    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2013/05/danish-researcher-islam-is-the-most-violent-religion.html

    3. Let’s compare Muhammad, Jesus and the Buddha:

    “Mohammed committed an act of violence on the average of every 6 weeks for the last 9 years of his life”.
    http://www.politicalislam.com/blog/what-is-the-truth-about-american-muslims-part-3-3

    4. Did Jesus or the Buddha commit similar violence? No. This simple fact destroys any pretense to sameness e.g.

    “In Medina, Mohammed sat all day long beside his 12-year-old wife while they watched as the heads of 800 Jews were removed by sword.2. Their heads were cut off because they had said that Mohammed was not the prophet of Allah.”
    http://www.politicalislam.com/pdf/WebSitePDF/Sira.pdf

    You simply can’t equate the life of Muhammad with other religious leaders.

    5. A Rational Study of Radical Islam, by Dr. Bill Warner
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9sYgqRtZGg

    This video shows that Islam is dualistic, reflecting the transformation of Muhummad from a peaceful preacher to violent warlord. This latter period of his life is what terrorists use to justify their similar actions. And it is this period of his life that condemns Islam as a dangerous ideology that must be treated on a par with other evil and seditious ideologies. (I’m not saying Islam is categorically violent, it may be possible to explain Muhammad’s violence as purely defensive, but nonethelesss the violent life of Muhammad disposes Islam to a violent interpretation far more readily than other religions).

    All this implies NOTHING about how we treat Muslims in light of this knowledge. That’s a totally separate matter. We can be both honest and civilised in our response.

    The bottom line is: if you are not Islamophobic, you don’t know Islam, and you are not rational.

    And before you quote Christian verses of violence:

    6. Bible and Qur’an: equally violent?
    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2009/03/bible-and-quran-equally-violent.html

    “Besides passages apparently celebrating warfare and ethnic cleansing as sanctioned by almighty God, the books of Moses also contain other passages jarring to modern sensibilities. God commands, for example, that Sabbath-breakers be put to death …

    … the consensus view among Jews and Christians for many centuries is that unless you happen to be a Hittite, Girgashite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, or Jebusite, these Biblical passages simply do not apply to you…

    In Islam, however, the situation is quite different.

    … in contrast to the Bible, the Qur’an exhorts believers to fight unbelievers without specifying anywhere in the text that only certain unbelievers are to be fought, or only for a certain period of time, or some other distinction. Taking the texts at face value, the command to make war against unbelievers is open-ended and universal.”

    Open-ended and universal is the key difference.

    7. Sam Harris The Problem with Islamic Fundamentalism are the Fundamentals of Islam
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDMOxjHIt0U

    8. Islam – What the West Needs to Know
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xCdehrV96U

    You particularly should watch the Sam Harris video, because he tears apart the “fundamentalist” argument with a great sports analogy: religion is like sports, and there are sports like Thai Boxing and there are sports like Badminton. To say they are both Thai Boxing and Badminton are equally synonymous with violence is absurd. Just as your argument from abstract generalities that all religions are capable of inspiring violence is equally absurd.

    For the record, I’m an atheist. I’m not here to defend Christianity or Buddhism from criticism, but you can’t equate them with Islam.


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