Muslim Riots and 14th Century Christians

As I was thinking about the recent fundamentalist Muslim mobs, this Sam Harris quote came to mind from The End of Faith:

In thinking about [fundamentalist] Islam, and about the risk it now poses to the West, we should imagine what it would take to live peacefully with the Christians in the fourteenth century—Christians who were still eager to prosecute people for crimes like host desecration and witchcraft. We are in the presence of the past.


Dealing with these pockets of Muslim fundamentalists is like dealing with Christians many centuries ago. They are undeveloped morally and intellectually. They actually think getting angry and killing people over a movie rumor is going to solve something. But they’re just grown-up children, throwing murderous temper tantrums.

How can we stop the cycle of violence? How can we help them grow the fuck up?

  • Giac

    complete agreement…they have already descended into sectarian violence….it’s just like xtians the 15th century…
    that’s what happens when you are late to the game and all you can do is copy paste religion…:)

    • Baker

      I find it strange that you blame christians on the witch hunt. It was evil men, hiding behind religion.
      But if you were to educate yourself on history you’d know that , plus it was the church of Rome who promoted this evil. I am a Wiccan and I know this. Yet you profess to wise yet you are clearly a fool.

      Learn about the subject before you condemn people. Are you just an atheist who likes to hate? If so then there is no difference between you and the people you pretend to condemn.

      Remember what you send you is returned to you, so please do what you will and do no harm.

      • Brian K

        While I agree 100% that evil men manipulate religion in the interests of power, claiming that somehow “what you send is returned to you” is meaningless woo.

      • Custador

        Being told to educate yourself by somebody who has zero clue what they’re talking about… There goes my irony meter, bang in a puff of smoke…

  • The Other Weirdo

    I don’t know what we can do to help them. Who helped those Christians you were talking about? The only way real change will occur is when the Muslims themselves start jumping on these outbreaks the moment they happen. It’ll happen when they remove the imam’s power over the people as a whole. Sure, there’ll always be individuals swayed by fools, as there are in Christianity and Judaism, but they can’t be allowed to run whole cultures the way they do now, and it’ll have to be Muslims who will have to take that leap. We can’t do it for them.

    • Jacquie Howard

      Christians still persecute non-christians, just not always violently. Now they tend to make religious laws that everyone has to follow, christian or not!
      Christians still run the U.S., even tho it’s totally unConstitutional.

  • Mike G

    Education and leadership by example.

    EDUCATION. Do not let our schools indoctrinate kids into xanity or any other philisophical or religious position. TEACH OUR KIDS HOW TO THINK, NOT WHAT TO THINK.

    PLEASE. Our future depends on it

    • Brian K

      Is that even possible? Contentless education? How would that even work?

      There is not a society on earth that does not, in some way, “indoctrinate” its youth. Modern mandatory universal public education (especially at post elementary level) was based on authoritarian Prussia and was very deliberately designed to create good workers and citizens.

      I don’t disagree that religious indoctrination should be tamped down in public schools, but even a totally secular education will involve teaching kids, to a degree, what to think. There are shared cultural and social values that will be inculcated, history instruction, basics of civil life, etc. If not…then what is the point of public education?

  • Noelle

    Convince me this is about a YouTube video.

    There was a riot at my university back in the last century (hey, there’s some Wikipedia on it: No, I was not involved. I was studying for a neurology exam. It was timed for after a basketball game. But it had nothing to do with basketball. There was a riot, because a riot was expected. The night prior, after the qualifying game was won, a moderate-sized group of drunken students took to the streets and did some small amount of property damage. The police and media freaked out and assumed that the next night there’d really be a riot. And they talked about it. A lot. People of all ages came from all over the place because they knew there’d be a riot. TV said so. And so it was.

    What really triggered this current wave of violence? If you can figure that out, maybe you can figure out how to prevent it in the future.

    • Noelle

      Also, your example with old-timey Xian violence only points out there has always been violence in the name of religion. A Muslim friend of mine mentioned a couple months ago that all this religious violence started with Israel and Palestine. I pointed out to him this simply wasn’t true. Our earliest records of any religion is coupled with violence. Our earliest records of people shows violence. Communities of animals use violence to get what they want. It’s in our very make-up, and so is altruism. What creates violence? What creates altruism? What creates a mob mentality?

    • Yoav

      From this timline it look like the maker of this piece of crap got froustrated with it going unnoticed on youtube for months so he made sure to post it on arabic language sites, at which point groups, like the salafis, who think they can gain from Egypt descending into chaos got involved and once a riot start it have a tendency to feed itself.

  • vasaroti

    Perhaps the internet will help. But that’s only if people are allowed to access anything they want to, without state or religious censorship. Printed materials can be hard to come by in some parts of the Islamic world, but Arabic-language science and comparative religion materials accessible by smartphone might make a difference.

    As has already been pointed out, most of these Libyans and Egyptians have grown up in a culture where if something makes it to print or film, it’s government sanctioned. The immediate need is to educate them about how free speech, libel, and hate speech work in the US, and point out cases where our laws have protected Muslims..

    • Noelle

      That’s a good point. We don’t understand why anyone would think a random American nutjob stands for anyone but himself. They see it as another example of evil Americans attacking their faith. Certainly, both sides understanding the others’ cultures and laws is a step in the right direction.

      • Brian K

        This is definitely a good point. There is an assumption that vidoes produced by random idiots are government sanctioned or even sponsored. Which boggles the minds of westerners.

    • FO

      Awesome point.
      Give them unconstrained internet.
      Expose them to the rest of the world.
      Make it impossible for them to hide from differences.

      But we Westerners are at least partly to blame for this.
      Because we have supported and sometimes put in power those that curtailed freedom and education.

  • smrnda

    One reason why people don’t riot is that they have better things to do, and because they have a high enough standard of living that they are disinclined to *want* to be violent. When people have a low enough standard of living, they have nothing to lose.

    I don’t want to reduce this to a purely economic problem because I’m sure that’s a totally inadequate explanation. The other problem is that a more technologically advanced and economically viable society can only come about through increased education, and that unless you’re allowed to think you can’t really get educated. The other problem is a poor, undeveloped nation with a small number of educated people is going to be unstable owing to massive levels of income inequality, and people will be easy to whip into a frenzy over anything.

    Exposure to new ideas and new cultural artifacts could go along way, and I’m hoping that attempts at censorship become less and less successful. Even banal pop culture artifacts can show people a better way of life is possible, and promote the idea that it’s okay to question religious authorities.

    • Brian K

      Is Tunisia a totally deprived place? Are the rioters all poor or oppressed?

      I’m not sure this is the case. Much poorer countries don’t see massive riots. The riots cross socioeconomic boundaries. The 911 hijackers were sons of wealthy elites by any historic standards.

  • A3Kr0n

    Some would say PZ Myers is going to Hell for twice the length of eternity for his Crackergate party. some even tried to get him fired from the university where he works. I’d say the only reason Christians don’t go around killing anybody (except abortion clinic bombers) is because they know they’ll get caught, otherwise? NO DIFFERENCE!!!

    • smrnda

      Good point. Part of the problem could be that many Muslim nations have extremely weak governments and so, even if laws are on the books, they are a meaningless abstraction.

    • AllForOneOrOneForAll

      It’s nice that you would say”the only reason Christians don’t go around killing anybody (except abortion clinic bombers) is because they know they’ll get caught, otherwise? NO DIFFERENCE!!!”
      There are huge differences. 1) The level of education coupled with low quality of life, provides the radical attitudes of the people choosing to use their faith as a weapon to bring death to any who insult it. 2) Go back in time hundreds and even thousands of years, yes, the Christian faith was also intertwined with politics, which people eventually learned was a bad idea. People became educated and moved forward. 3) As a Catholic, when a show like South Park makes fun of Jesus, I am not parading around the streets with other misguided and lost souls, screaming about beaheading people and death to all. Nor, as seen in Sydney, am I hiding behind children, by having them hold up signs that insist on beaheading.

      The huge difference right now is that Christianity is not throwing itself into a frezied mob to add blood to it’s hands. In fact, Christianity has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Rather, it is an arguement for those with nothing viable to say, to try and cloud the disgraceful actions of many. Nor is the issue the US government. Why should they have to be held accountable for what one of their citizens do? All of us who live in 1st world countries are entitled to freedom of speech. There is no reason why a foreign country and it’s people should be able to dictate how anyone else, thinks, feels or voices their opinion.

  • The Vicar

    We’ve explicitly invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, and we’ve been fighting (mostly bombing, and usually with unmanned drones) in Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. (We bomb children and weddings and farmers. We even send the drones back a few minutes later to bomb the people who come to help cope with the explosions of the initial bombs.) We stand with Israel even when they invade their neighbors and despite their treatment of the Palestinians. Our politicians are saber-rattling against Iran, and we’re already flying drones into their airspace and hacking their computers. Everywhere we go, we loot and destroy and prop up despicable dictators. We don’t invade North Korea, we don’t get into conflicts with China, when there are riots in the west we don’t send in troops, but we take every opportunity to send troops or drones or both to Islamic countries. The Muslims look at all that, and they conclude that we’re targeting Islam.

    For the most part they’re wrong — although I have no doubt that there’s a fairly large segment of the U.S. which really does want to kill Muslims specifically. But our case that we aren’t deliberately targeting Muslims would be a lot stronger if we actually came out and told the truth: “we will do anything to make sure that a few large companies control natural resources, we’re racist against anyone who isn’t caucasian, and we want to keep poor and powerless people that way so they aren’t a challenge. Your countries have lots of resources and are largely filled with poor, brown-skinned people. Your religion is just a coincidence.”

    Of course, we could also stop bombing, really pull our troops out of other countries (where they shouldn’t be in the first place), and in general stop trying to control the entire world. But I’m trying to stay realistic.

    • Brian K


  • Jing-Reed

    And so it would appear that a 21st century Coptic Christian is responsible for all the current rioting in the middle east. ‘Sam Bacile’ goes by many names.

    The Daily Beast has the complete story –

  • Bob the Builder

    As a matter of interest, there is no real povety in Australia compared to Global but yet there has been violent rioting. Intentional violence at the slightest excuse. Violence otherwise nearly unseen on out streets. Let them in because their country is in a bad way and what do they do to our country? As it was intentional, the full weight of the law should occur but soft diplomacy will win out, they are counting on it. Meanwhile they vote to make changes that enable them to dig deeper roots. Take a look at England.

    • Noelle

      Shouldn’t any nation built on immigration encourage its newbies to grow roots?

    • Mogg

      I’m not sure that you can compare the Redfern and Cronulla riots with what happens relatively regularly in, say, France. That we have had two incidents worthy of being called a riot in well over a century (the previous one being the rather despicable Lambing Flat riots between UK-descended and Chinese miners in the early 1860′s), is disturbing. But that is nothing in comparison to what Greece seems to do a couple of times a year and France experiences regularly; nobody was killed in the Cronulla riot (or the Redfern one after the initial incident which started the whole shebang). In fact, I’m not sure if you can classify the Redfern riot as the same kind of thing as Cronulla given that the group concerned was not an immigrant population but an Aboriginal one, and it was in response to a perceived injustice rather than a bogan turf war gone nuclear.

      There’s also little reason to think that the situation is getting worse. The Cronulla riots happened 7 years ago, and it’s not like it’s been a simmering hotbed of near-riot in Cronulla and Maroubra ever since. Nor have the equivalent areas in Melbourne seen a surge in riotous behaviour. There’s been a seeming surge in inner-city rndom violence, but that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with race, it’s what you get when you turn drunken young men out of clubs and into a city with no after midnight public transport and an inadequate taxi service.

      I worry about immigrant and religious kids not mixing with the wider culture, and the potential for problems further down the track from our far-too-prevalent private school system encouraging separatism whether based on nationality or religion. It’s also true that like every single previous wave of immigrants some of the latest newcomers, who coincidentally happen to be largely Muslim, have some trouble adjusting. 15 years ago it was the Vietnamese, now it’s African and Middle Eastern groups which have the spotlight on them. In my parents’ time it was the Italians, and before that the Irish Catholics. We all take time adjusting to the new and different, and Australians are no less racist than any other nationality. Overall, though, multiculturalism as it happens in Australia still works fairly well. Where else can you get someone like me, who had friends of Indian Sikh, Japanese and Italian heritage as friends at school, a notable number of Greek high school teachers, Macedonian and Slovenian best friends at university, a Hungarian brother-in-law and a Dutch/French partner, working and living in an area known for its excellent Italian and Middle Eastern restaurants?

  • PsiCop

    Re: “How can we stop the cycle of violence? How can we help them grow the fuck up?”

    If by “we” you refer to Westerners, the answer is, “we” can do absolutely nothing about it. Anything we say or do along those lines is likely only to enrage them further.

    If by “we” you refer to more rational Muslims who don’t rage and riot over movies they’ve never even seen, then there might be something they can do. But what that is, will largely be up to them to figure out. I’d say that initially it would require something along the lines of how adults in any culture get their own children to grow up … and that would be by imposing discipline on them. That is, they’d have to limit or prevent this kind of violent behavior, first, very likely via the use of force. Only once they’ve established barriers of conduct — and enforced them over a period of time both rigorously and unquestionably — perhaps then they may be able to open up a “dialog” of sorts and coax them out of the Dark Ages.

    This will require a lot of courage, and even more finesse. It’s an effort that will be actively resisted, in all likelihood violently. It will no doubt cost a few lives, and it might even cause a good deal of social and perhaps even political chaos. But that might be a comparative bargain; after all, there’s already enough chaos in the Muslim world, and lives are being lost at the moment, so un-infantilizing them will save many more lives in the long term.

    My guess is … it just ain’t gonna happen. The more reasonable Muslims will simply do what they’re already doing, which is to verbally distance themselves from their extremist brethren and sistren, without actually doing anything to force them to change. They won’t take the risk of acting because, quite frankly, they’re as intimidated by the raging immaturity of the Muslim world as anyone else is and they don’t want to “rock the boat.”

    • FO

      I disagree.
      Fostering education and freedom of speech in all those countries could make a difference.
      And it would be much cheaper and welcome than a fucking war.

      • PsiCop

        But … they don’t want to be educated, and they object to freedom of speech. They can’t be talked into growing up, any more than a parent can talk a child into growing up. They need to be disciplined. That might involve using force, but it might not. Either way, we can’t do it. Other Muslims have to do it to them.

        But this whole discussion is irrelevant … because those other aren’t even going to try it.

        • FO

          Many Muslim are not happy with the fundies.
          But making them even colder is definitely viable.
          Burn the ground around the fundies.

        • FO

          Everybody wants money and technology.
          To get those, you need to educate the population and to expose it to new ideas.

          Also, despite what the TV teaches us, many Muslim on the average nice people who are not happy with the fundies.
          Making them even colder towards religion is definitely viable.
          And this would burn the ground around the fundies.

          • Brian K

            But what does “fostering education and freedom of speech” mean in concrete terms. Especially given the reality outlined by The Vicar above. (there are reasons the United States is looked at with suspicion. Not saying the riots are justified in any way, but…

            And…we are universalizing here. A solid percentage of the population in our own countries is in favor of theocracy to various degrees. Ben Six nails it:

            “There has never been a period where Muslims haven’t thought that laws for human affairs can be derived from their creed. The extent to which their legislatures are based on religious teachings and the scale and severity of laws within them varies and they might grow more secular and lenient if and when radical governments such as that of the Muslim Brotherhood collapse. To suggest that liberalism is going to suddenly flourish, though, is wildly optimistic. It assumes that an alien ideology that has little or no support within these nations is going replace the dominant and generally traditional culture before I’m in a position to get over 50s car insurance. Hirsi Ali must have a great idea for how we’re going to make this happen, right?

            We must be patient. America needs to empower those individuals and groups who
            are already disenchanted with political Islam by helping find and develop an

            I can get behind the recommendation of patience but what does “empower” mean? Taking them to our countries like latter-day Charles de Gaulles or trying to turn them into revolutionary forces within theirs? Arming them and funding them for violent resistance or smuggling books and tapes to them so they can learn and teach? Who exactly is it she wants to “empower”, anyway? What influence do they hold, and how can we expect them to gain it? What are their ambitions should they become powerful? As it stands, Hirsi Ali’s advice is no more helpful than if she’d written, “Imagine all the people – sharing all the world”.”


            How are “we” going to accomplish all these transformative goals? What if the “forces” “we” select to do so turn out to…mirabile bleu…have their own agendas inimical to “our” interests? (c.f. Syrian rebels)

            People can be “nice” but sitll support…or passively accept…unpleasant politics.

  • david

    Ban all muslim migration to Australia or anyone with strong spiritual beliefs.

    • Noelle

      Why are there no Muslim protests right now in Dearborn, Michigan?

    • Mogg

      Why just Australia, specifically?

  • Baker

    I find it strange that you blame christians on the witch hunt. It was evil men, hiding behind religion.
    But if you were to educate yourself on history you’d know that , plus it was the church of Rome who promoted this evil. I am a Wiccan and I know this. Yet you profess to wise yet you are clearly a fool.

    Learn about the subject before you condemn people. Are you just an atheist who likes to hate? If so then there is no difference between you and the people you pretend to condemn.

    Remember what you send you is returned to you, so please do what you will and do no harm.

    • Kodie

      What you send where is returned how, exactly?

      • Sunny Day

        Wiccans have a very temperamental post-office.

    • Azel

      What is your problem with the author saying that Christians (i.e. people professing to follow the teachings of Christ) were responsible for the witch hunts ? The catholic hierarchy, using the catholic faithful and the secular authorities of catholic countries as its arm, are Christians and were responsible for these despicable acts, so it is not a falsehood to say that Christians (and not Christianity, nor all Christians, an important distinction) were responsible. And at times they didn’t even need the weight of an overarching and extremely powerful hierarchy to provoke witch hunts: an example would be the Salem witch hunts.

      Unless you’re objecting on the grounds that no evil man can be a true follower of a religion, in which case you’re the fool. No religion has ever been an assurance of morality and goodness, and powerful hierarchies are more often than nor problematic when the only check is in the afterlife: power corrupts.

    • trj

      So, the “church of Rome” did not consist of true Christians? And Protestants didn’t promote witch burnings?

      Your grasp on history is frankly not impressive. Neither is the standard “evil people are not True Christians” sales pitch.