Should we fear Islam as much as Islam needs to fear us?
One of the difficulties for non Islamic people trying to work out the motivations and actions of Muslims is that on their TVs and in their newspapers they see regular and spectacular examples of violence initiated by those they consider to be Islamic terrorists and since such forms of extreme behaviour are designed to be very visible, Islam then becomes a synonym for what is seen as irrational violence. When innocent people are killed as they often are in a terrorist attack, relatives and friends and indeed whole communities respond with outrage. . This type of situation naturally reinforces the notion that those responsible are reprehensible if not evil in intentions. Most Muslims (and most Christians) do not take part or sanction violence. For example here in New Zealand there are many Muslims living –but as yet no terrorist incidents. Unfortunately for the vast majority of Muslim people who are in fact very moderate in their views and behaviour, moderate behaviour is hardly newsworthy. Because the good behaviour is not noticed, many will judge Muslims on the basis of the extremist attacks.

Perhaps it would do us well to remember how we too are misinterpreted. It is forgotten that the same frustrated outrage that we feel upon hearing civilians are killed by terrorism is also felt in some distant community when innocent civilians are mistakenly killed by soldiers at war on our behalf. The 107 000 plus official civilian deaths in Iraq reported by the Body Count project of official deaths in October 2010 is clearly an extreme underestimate of the total – but it still trumps the under 3000 civilian deaths in the Twin Towers.

Yes it is true that there have been literally thousands of Islamic terrorist attacks since 9/11 … and thousands of innocent victims. What is also true is that thousands of innocent Islamic civilians have also been killed by those at war on our behalf. A flying shard in the eye causes great anguish whether it be from a suicide bomb or from a fragment from a grenade flung during friendly fire. Whether or not a child is killed by a terrorist act or killed by so called friendly fire, the antagonism towards the killers is the same, and the same resentment held towards those who have ordered the action. This creates a cycle of violence. One of the more obvious theatres where such sequences are played out is Israel. Militant Palestinians based in nearby border territory such as Gaza, frustrated by what they see as injustice curtailing their freedom and denying them access to land they believe is theirs by right, launch random attacks with the intention of causing the Israelis to grant concessions. The Israelis outraged by what they see as irrational attacks on civilians, launch severe military counter offensives against the areas from where those who launch the rocket attacks are based. Since these areas are usually also civilian areas, civilians die causing more outrage and setting the scene for further attacks.

If by dangerous, we think about numbers killed rather than on chosen mode of killing, we would have to admit the Muslims are in more danger from Christians and Jews than are the Jews and Christians from the Muslims. The Israelis count the number of rockets landing on their populations and feel great anger. The Palestinians count their dead and are unconvinced that the Israelis were justified in their reprisals since at the end of each year there are many more Palestinian casualties than Israeli casualties. The Iraqi citizens count their dead and are unconvinced it is morally justified on the grounds that it was legal military action under difficult circumstances. It does not seem to occur to either side they are conveying a message of hatred to civilians – no matter what the true intentions might be.

It is often said by Christians that the real problem is that there are writings in the Koran which call for violence.
It is probably fairer to say there are also passages in the Bible advocating violence as a last resort towards non believers that match the passages in the Koran advocating violence as a last resort. In practice however, as with the Bible, with thousands of verses to choose from to guide behaviour, violence is not part of a way of life either for most Muslims or for most Christians. Yes there is a verse in the Qur’an (Koran) calling for death for those Muslims who convert to other faiths, yet although there are no doubt places where this still happens, none of the converts to Christianity I have met appear to be in fear for their lives. Concerns for issues of charity and kindness are more important in the eyes of most. For those concerned primarily about the Islamic extremists honesty should compel us to remember too there are the very visible crazies amongst the fundamentalist Christians as well. There are also surveys showing the so called hawks in the US are typically drawn from conservative or fundamentalist Christian groups. Just as with Christianity, in Islam there are different emphases within different sub groups. We note in passing that the Qur’an (known better in the west as the Koran) commands Muslims not to be divided into divisions or sections but rather be united under a faith in Allah (cf Qur’an 3: 103 But differences there are and those differences extend to making Islamic followers different both in customs and attitudes. For example the Sufi usually appear to Westerners to be peaceful and mystical. The Wahhabi in Saudi Arabia with their insistence on the importance of Sharia law, come across as a much more hardline group within the Sunni grouping while the Shi’ites appear to the untutored Western eye to be more hierarchical with a totally different political structure. Between such groups despite their rhetoric there are disagreements, and in practice long running disputes between the major groups cause what Westerners might see as terrorist acts, with militants from rival sects occasionally attacking each others mosques and religious festivals. A memory of religious disputes between rival Christian groups through the centuries should suggest to Western observers that such disputes are not unique to Islam.
There are probably also national differences. For example the recent Pew survey of attitudes in Pakistan revealed a much greater acceptance of honour killings than would be the case in a more liberal Muslim country like Turkey. Again the actual physical fears need to be kept in perspective. For example in Saudi Arabia there is a very low crime rate and virtually no murders each year whereas in the US despite all the freedoms the crime rate is high and the gun crime rate one of the highest in the world. Your chances of getting killed in the claimed Christian nation of the US are greater than in most Muslim countries.
Look again at the proposition that Islamists have more to fear from Christians than Christians from Islamists and have your say.

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  1. Robert says:

    I’m a Methodist; I’ve been married to a devout Muslim for the last 15 years. We don’t like fanatics of any stripe, but we see nothing to fight over, and nothing to fear.

    • peddiebill says:

      That is great. Your experience was obviously positive. Mind you I also had a Muslim man at my Church who had converted to Christianity and married a Christian in Fiji. He was not only totally rejected by his family, they wouldnt even let him know when his father died. I guess there is good and bad in all religions – which in a way was behind the intention of my post.

  2. Pingback: Truth About Islam Capter 21 « YOU DECIDE

  3. I must point out here that you’re appearing as somewhat of a religious-violence apologist. All of the atrocities you mentioned above are related to the crazed parties of god all believing that god is on their side. Nevertheless, I accept the challenge set throughout the tone of the article.
    You’re hinting that we shouldn’t judge Islam by its extremists. I agree with you completely. I judge Islam on its religions texts, its teachings and, behaviours and policies of those in charge of a muslim majority country. In order to get a good perspective, it seems to me pretty rational to find out how Islam operates by looking at areas where the state is Islamic.
    You are right that apostasy is punishable by death according to the Qur’an.
    You are also right to say that Sharia Law is a brutal application of the Qur’an in society, which has devastating impacts on human freedom.
    Where I would like to turn your conclusion around is I would stick with your opening hypotheses on Islam being a religion where we should fear. The key goal of any Muslim, based on the teachings of the Qur’an and the Hadith is to achieve a global islamic state, or a global Caliphate. This is a very real desire of muslims and should be taken seriously. Muslims should be feared on these grounds.
    I think your closing comment about being more likely to get killed in the US than you are in Saudi Arabia is insulting to the freedoms guaranteed to its citizens by the US and those denied by Saudi Arabia. Sharia Law is in full swing there and is responsible for some of the most egregious violations of human rights and need to be emancipated. I would like to end by going a step further and acknowledging what the conflicts you’ve discussed have in common – Monotheism. The idea of a single god which is the catalyst to so much terror, warfare and oppression at the moment (granted you enjoy a high degree of freedom in your country) I put it to you that if you want to get a usually moral person to behave immoral, then introduce them to god. Islam, although is a prominent and visible threat on the global theatre, Christianity and Judaism are just as harmful to human rights, freedom of thought, honest inquiry and so on, but, as you said, they do, at least in Western Nations like Britain, America and of course New Zealand, do not condemn members of their ‘flock’ to death for deciding to leave the faith – progress of a kind.

    • peddiebill says:

      I was born in New Zealand, where we not only have a sort of Christian tradition, we also have a relatively large number of immigrants who are generally well behaved. Our gun laws are fairly low key and rational and the fact is that a higher proportion of gun deaths occur in the US where they choose not to have gun laws. If you put freedom ahead of the safety of citizens that is your choice! Our Muslim population is very well behaved (so far!) so I don’t have the same terror of Islam that some US citizens appear to have. Perhaps they are well behaved because they are treated reasonably and without paranoia. Just on straight statistics I note that the US has had many more Muslims killed than has been the case in reverse. Thousands of Iraqis killed by the invasion of Iraq trumps the Twin Towers by a factor of how many? ie I honestly believe they have more to fear from the West than the West has to fear from them….(Going right back to the Crusades). Certainly religion is often misused by all religions. So is nationalism!

      • I suggest you have a chat with these ‘well behaved’ muslims and ask them what they think about non believers – they believe that the bible is a book that has been distorted and ruined by men and therefore cannot be trusted. God, as a result of this, sent his messenger Muhammed which lead to the oral words of the Qur’an being written down about 23 years later. All muslims believe Islam is the last and final religion, some believe apostates should die, others don’t but they all believe the world should be under a global caliphate – something i think we should all take very serious indeed. Have a little chat as opposed to being ignorant about them and find out how much they dislike your world view and how little tolerance islam has for other religions.

      • peddiebill says:

        I went to the official information site on Islam: – and from the Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam they said:

        What Does Islam Say about Terrorism?

        Islam, a religion of mercy, does not permit terrorism. In the Quran, God has said:

        http://www.islam-guide.com/aqwas-ys.jpg God does not forbid you from showing kindness and dealing justly with those who have not fought you about religion and have not driven you out of your homes. God loves just dealers. http://www.islam-guide.com/aqwas-ym.jpg (Quran, 60:8)

        The Prophet Muhammad http://www.islam-guide.com/salla.jpg used to prohibit soldiers from killing women and children, 1 and he would advise them: {…Do not betray, do not be excessive, do not kill a newborn child.} 2 And he also said: {Whoever has killed a person having a treaty with the Muslims shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise, though its fragrance is found for a span of forty years.} 3

        Also, the Prophet Muhammad http://www.islam-guide.com/salla.jpg has forbidden punishment with fire. 4

        He once listed murder as the second of the major sins, 5 and he even warned that on the Day of Judgment, {The first cases to be adjudicated between people on the Day of Judgment will be those of bloodshed. 6} 7

        Muslims are even encouraged to be kind to animals and are forbidden to hurt them. Once the Prophet Muhammad http://www.islam-guide.com/salla.jpg said: {A woman was punished because she imprisoned a cat until it died. On account of this, she was doomed to Hell. While she imprisoned it, she did not give the cat food or drink, nor did she free it to eat the insects of the earth.} 8

        He also said that a man gave a very thirsty dog a drink, so God forgave his sins for this action. The Prophet http://www.islam-guide.com/salla.jpg was asked, “Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness towards animals?” He said: {There is a reward for kindness to every living animal or human.} 9

        Additionally, while taking the life of an animal for food, Muslims are commanded to do so in a manner that causes the least amount of fright and suffering possible. The Prophet Muhammad http://www.islam-guide.com/salla.jpg said: {When you slaughter an animal, do so in the best way. One should sharpen his knife to reduce the suffering of the animal.} 10

        In light of these and other Islamic texts, the act of inciting terror in the hearts of defenseless civilians, the wholesale destruction of buildings and properties, the bombing and maiming of innocent men, women, and children are all forbidden and detestable acts according to Islam and the Muslims. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the vast majority have nothing to do with the violent events some have associated with Muslims. If an individual Muslim were to commit an act of terrorism, this person would be guilty of violating the laws of Islam.

        Now my own comment: The fact is that there are almost one billion Muslims world wide. The vast majority are simply peace loving citizens. If only a few hundred are terrorists, statistically I am right! The New Zealand case is not uncommon. (No Terrorist incidents). There are a few hundred terrorist acts every year – and a much larger number of Western inspired acts of sorting out terrorism by violence. (Have you heard of Drones?) If it is evidence purely by number of incidents I am afraid the “Christian West” is simply the more dangerous. Read my book: Anatomy of Terror if you want the specific detail. Throwing the baby on the fire is repugnant in the West, but evidently throwing fire (eg White phosphorus) on the baby is OKsimply an unfortunate consequence of the need to teach our enemies not to mess with us. How do you think the parents of the baby feel?

      • I’m sorry but Muslims not only have a terrible relationship with animals but they currently exempt themselves from European regulations that are designed specifically with animal welfare in mind. They refuse to stun the animal making it unconscious as it is their religion for the animal to face Mecca and have its throat slit while fully aware. Don’t you talk to me about Islamic instructions to treat animals humanely. We have legislation but they want their own. Look at the Islamic Eid celebrations and see how thousands upon thousands of Muslims take part in the public sacrifice of animals. Islam dictates that on the Eid every Muslim should either sacrifice a goat or join in the crowds to sacrifice a cow or a camel. You’re sadly mistaken.
        I’m struggling to understand your sympathy for a religion that not only contradicts all other religions convictions but is most certainly not peaceful. If you look at Muslim majority states today – that is nations that are run according to the Qur’an you will see how you assessment of a “few hundred” is profoundly wrong. Looking at Muslim propaganda is not evidence. Islamic teachings do not approve of democracy. Take a look at North Korea’s official website which talks about guaranteed freedom of democracy and freedom of religion and expression. We know this to be nonsense but if an Islamic website talks of peace with no mention of a global take over or condemnation of Sharia on a whole – it’s embarrassing to take their word for it. Read the Quran as it calls for more evil than the old and the New Testament does. Shame

      • peddiebill says:

        Please understand that, like you, I don’t like cruelty to animals whether it is Muslims sacrificing animals or non Muslims bludgeoning unwanted calves to death. Because I am not a vegetarian, I feel uncomfortable about insisting that no animals be killed. However I suspect focussing on others’ shortcomings while turning a conveniently blind eye to our own is a recipe for violence between nations. I remember hearing the Dalai Lama on the topic and when he was asked why he didn’t do anything about encouraging rebellion against the Chinese in Tibet, he said something to the effect that since he couldn’t do anything substantive about the huge force of the Chinese, to encourage violence would not change them, but it would change him. I regret the Muslim attitude to animals, as I regret cruelty on the part of non Muslim farmers in this country. However I suspect we need to concentrate on peacemaking rather than on focussing too much on differences which emerge from different backgrounds. I would have thought rationalists would approve of peace-making! I also suspect we need to be ruthlessly honest about our worst excesses before starting on the shortcomings of others. You appear to be oblivious to the excesses of our side but I may be wrong about that. I remember discovering somewhat to my surprise that since terrorism only mounts on behalf of the weaker of two forces when the stronger of the two forces brings extra force to a situation, trying to smash terrorists only makes matters worse. Focussing on the terrorism is only seeing one dimension to the problem, which is presumably why George Bush thought he was helping to smash the bad people in Iraq and wound up by making things infinitely worse.

      • Ah, well I agree with most of that. I share your non vegan stance; I think, as a meat eater, we should be respectful about the origins and manner in which the animal are slaughtered as part of our human responsibilities – I am however uncomfortable with your tone with regard to the trivialising and ‘under the carpet’ attitude towards such extreme manifestations from such extreme beliefs. You quoted previously on how islam is a peaceful religion, quoting specifically that it dictates good treatment of animals. The situation which you regret is a legal exemption which needs to be challenged by those who know better than to allow this.
        I get your point that there are other atrocities taking place across the world by different organisations but we do respectfully challenge this behaviour and demand more of these people. the same should be held towards Islamic customs and beliefs, whether filtered down and well behaved in certain cultures or it majority extreme interpretation in muslim majority nations – not the minority.
        With regard to Iraq, i respect your position on this but i profoundly disagree with you about the idea that Iraqi citizens are more at risk of violence oppression and death now than they were pre-invasion. I happen to believe this to be true. I cannot disagree about the awful things that US soldiers have done while overseas, yet most are held to account now. We can easily spot trends of atrocities and come to a conclusion, which is what you have done on Iraq – however, people are more reluctant to say the same for Islam.

      • the freedom and good behaviour you refer to is surely attributed to the laws and freedoms granted by New Zealand and have no correlation between Islam at all.

      • peddiebill says:

        I am puzzled. You say they are to be feared. I say treat them and all citizens reasonably and they are not to be feared. This happens in New Zealand. No Twin Towers – or even no terrorist incidents. The US said Saudi Arabian terrorists flew into the twin Towers. Let us kill as many as possible in some nearby country to teach them they can’t mess with us. They did ….. and as a result there was a jump in world-wide terrorism of something like three-fold. I ask again – Who is to be feared?

      • If you’ve read the Quran then you wouldn’t be as puzzles as you are- unless you stick to your a la carte method that you apply to the bible then there’s no surprise that you’re puzzled

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