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Islam Again, Again

I said in my last post that I had some thoughts on terrorism and its causes, mainly after thinking about the Manchester attack. I think the there are two big problems which have lead to poor analysis of the situation: first, people tend to form conclusions based on their existing political beliefs instead of trying to reach an unbiased verdict; and second, they tend to look at things too simplistically instead of accepting that there is never just one cause for a complex social phenomenon.

In the last post I briefly mentioned my initial reaction when I first heard about the attacks. That was that it was probably “Islam again”. By that I meant that Islamic beliefs were likely to be an important part of the motivation for the attack. And that was clearly the case. But what I didn’t mean was that Islam was the only cause or that all Muslims should share equal blame.

Another important point is that, no matter how evil these attacks are, they really don’t represent a great threat when looked at statistically. There are plenty of stats out there to show this.

For example, the Washington Post reported that on the day that 130 people died because of the Paris terrorist attacks, roughly three times that number of French citizens died from cancer. They also say that in the US more people have been killed by being crushed by furniture than by terrorist activity since 9/11.

Those numbers should be accepted but that doesn’t mean that taking terrorism seriously isn’t important. It could be that because terrorism is treated as if it is far more dangerous than it really is that it has been kept under control to some extent. And disease, road deaths, and work related accidents are just an unfortunate side effect of people living their lives. Terrorism is far more malicious and deliberate and has no positive side making the losses a bit more tolerable.

So a death from a road accident and a death as a result of a suicide bomber aren’t really equivalent. People shouldn’t be scared of terrorism, but they shouldn’t become complacent and they should make their abhorrence of it clear even if they are unlikely to be affected by it directly.

I think I have made a case for treating terrorism and terrorists with the utmost contempt, what about the more difficult question of what or who to blame? Is Islam actually the problem?

Well yes and no. As I said above, all complex political or social issues have multiple causes. But the statistics make it very clear that Islam is a major factor. Find a list of terrorist attacks and you will see that the vast majority would be carried out by Islamic groups or individuals motivated by Islam. This cannot be denied, and I don’t think it can be denied that Islam is one of the most significant causes of terrorism.

People will say Islam is a religion of peace, of course, but that has become more a knee-jerk reaction than a statement which is the result of serious and considered thought. I don’t think it is a religon of peace at all. In fact, there are many reasons to think that it is one of the more violent religions. It’s true that most Muslims don’t act on these more aggressive aspects of their faith, but that doesn’t mean that they are not there and that they don’t encourage people with a predisposition to extremism.

Another excuse offered by Muslim apologists is that many of the problems in the Islamic world are caused by the unwanted meddling of the West, especially the US. I totally agree. I think US foreign policy is one of the biggest causes of political instability around the world today. But does the fact that a major power interfered with the politics of your country give you the right to kill innocent children at a pop concert in a different country? Only an incredibly sick-minded person whose human decency has been warped by a vile ideology could believe that.

Not many people would be prepared to sacrifice their own life and take those of many innocent people without some incredibly powerful ideology being involved. No one is going to strap on a suicide vest after considering a problem rationally. To do that takes something like strong political views… or religion, of course. The problem is currently Islam, but any Christian who thinks they can take the high moral ground on this should have a look at the history of their own faith and maybe reconsider that thought.

So was it Islam again? Yes it was, but it was also political frustration caused by western interference again, and it was many other things again too. Should there be greater scrutiny of Muslims because of this sort of event? Yes, but it should be in proportion to the potential threat.

These things are nuanced, and neither side: neither the people who always spring to Islam’s defence, nor those who automatically condemn all Muslims, are right. The truth is somewhere in between. Sure, it was Islam again and it will continue to be Islam again, but what our response should be to that fact is the real issue.

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  1. June 1, 2017 at 11:58 am

    “…any Christian who thinks they can take the high moral ground on this should have a look at the history of their own faith and maybe reconsider that thought”

    As an Anabaptist, this objection really does not apply. My predecessors were the recipients of religious violence, never the cause. Jesus was accused of being a terrorist but was found innocent of that charge. The original Christians went to their deaths rather than fight. I rightfully stand up and condemn the use of violence in the name of Jesus.

    It wasn’t until politics and power mixed with religion in the Catholic Church that there was a problem; one that has since lasted centuries. Christians, once they were allowed to read the scriptures for themselves, broke off.

    Islam is somewhat different. It was political from its foundation. You can debate whether Islam is a religion of peace or the sword, but history shows that its founder used both. Moreover, practitioners of Islam cannot read the official scriptures for themselves unless they are fluent in Arabic.

  2. OJB
    June 1, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Would you say they would need to share part of the blame for this…

    The Munster Rebellion: “In Munster, Germany, Anabaptists took control of the city, drove out the clergymen, and proclaimed a New Zion. The bishop of Munster began an armed siege. While the townspeople starved, the Anabaptist leader proclaimed himself king and executed dissenters. When Munster finally fell, the chief Anabaptists were tortured to death with red-hot pincers and their bodies hung in iron cages from a church steeple.”

  3. OJB
    June 1, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    Please note this: “…the Anabaptist leader proclaimed himself king and executed dissenters…”. Face it, all religion has an evil side, just waiting for a chance to escape. And Jesus (if he existed) has to take a lot of the blame for this.

    • June 2, 2017 at 12:13 am

      Would you say they would need to share part of the blame for this…The Munster Rebellion

      Well played sir. Well played. Pie in the face. That will teach me to be more precise.

      Of course I am referring to the Anabaptists as peace churches. Anabaptism broke from the Protestants, which broke from the Catholics. Modern day Anabaptists include the Mennonites (~1536), Quakers (~1650), Amish (~1693), and Church of the Brethren (~1708). These are all peace churches. The Mennonites were founded by Menno Simons as a direct result of the rejection of the Anabaptism of the Munster Rebellion. Anabaptism was formed during the chaotic Reformation period (1500s and 1600s). Yet when the dust settled, the violence was clearly and fundamentally rejected. So yes, during the formative years there were some who took the name of Anabaptist and used violence, but these did not survive. So we can use the name “Anabaptist” in its accepted modern sense.

      Together these churches make up a relatively tiny 3 million people. So, I can’t speak for all Christians when I condemn violence, but I can speak as a member of a church that has, as official doctrine, condemned such violence for hundreds of years. My dream is that the many, many Protestant Evangelicals that love their guns and “righteous” violence would repent.

      I don’t disagree with your overall point that the vast majority of Christians are guilty of supporting policies that have resulted and continue to result in violence. The Baptist church in America is one example of this. You do right to call these out and say that they lack the moral high ground on this issue.

      Have you ever interacted with a practicing Anabaptist (other than myself)?

  4. OJB
    June 2, 2017 at 1:13 am

    Yeah, you referred to “your predecessors” so naturally I researched the earlier activities of your church. Given that there are tens of thousands of different Christian sects I guess it is inevitable that some of them will be well behaved, which the modern version of yours appears to be. That’s great, but I’m referring to Christianity as a whole (just like I criticised Islam as a whole).

    Clearly the fact that the vast majority of Christians belong to sects which have been responsible for hideous atrocities in the past (and many still are today) indicates that the majority of people interpret the religion in a way that allows (or even encourages) that sort of behaviour.

  5. OJB
    June 2, 2017 at 1:14 am

    And no, I don’t believe I have ever discussed religion with an anabaptist before.

  1. June 6, 2017 at 4:20 pm

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