As ISIS goes on a murderous killing spree in Syria and Iraq, President Obama is pretending that they aren’t “real” Muslims because “no faith teaches people to massacre innocents.” Sorry, but that’s nonsense. In fact, most religions teach people to massacre innocents (which is not the same as saying that most religions actually do so or that most religious people believe it). Eliyahu Federman takes the president to task for this equivocation:
In reality, a fundamentalist interpretation of any religion can open the door to murder and massacre.
The problem isn’t just literalist interpretations of the Koran: The New Testament, the Jewish Torah and many other religious books contain explicit calls for disproportionate punishments and killing of nonbelievers.
It’s something people love to ignore. Just like Obama, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in condemning the IS, also insisted: “No religion condones the murder of civilians.”
Yet nothing is further from the truth. The IS “embrace[s] a harsh interpretation of Islamic sharia law,” reported the LA Times.
VICE News’ exposé on the group unequivocally documents the extreme religious views that guide its actions and its intent to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate.
Want more hints that there’s a huge religious component to the group? It named its head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the successor of Mohammad. It devotes much of its energy to slaughtering those who violate the literal dictates of sharia law.
Of course, since it operates in majority-Muslim lands, this means the Islamic State’s victims are mostly Muslims who don’t accept its fundamentalist ideology, along with Christians and others — but that hardly means this is not about faith.
It’s trivially easy to cite chapter and verse from the Bible and the Quran not just encouraging but demanding the murder of innocents. Does this mean most Christians and Muslims would ever consider doing such things? Of course not. They have a wide range of rationalizations, excuses and interpretations that allow them to ignore such passages. But pretending they aren’t there and that lots of people do take those verses literally and believe they justify barbarism is quite absurd.
As I’ve said many times, we need to stop thinking that there is such a thing as Christianity or Islam. There are multiple versions of each that differ from each other in hugely significant ways. Decent, compassionate people find all the support they need in those holy books to justify being decent and compassionate. Violent, hateful people find all the support they need in those books to justify being violent and hateful. They all pick and choose the parts of their religion that they like and find ways to explain away or ignore the rest. It’s also not reasonable to claim that one or the other of these versions is the One True Religion.