Alright, I'm trying to get to the bottom of an Islam issue
I've always agreed with what most of Sam Harris has said on Islam and also how he points out problems with moderates/liberals. Problems as far as not calling religion into question or saying that religion isn't the problem. I'm trying to figure out when the violence in the middle east crosses the line from the civil war or resistance to the U.S occupation to flat out religious fundamentalism. Because I can say that one thing is clear. If another country occupied america and one of my family members was murdered, I would be dedicating my life to completley fucking over whoever the enemy was.
So I've been having a dicussion with a christian (a very progressive christian) on this issue and it has made my brain twist into knots. I'm not very knowledgeable on modern or ancient history of the middle east and I'm lost. I really want to see some different perspectives on this and see if I can figure this out. I'll share some of the dialogue that we have been having (sorry for the long length but it's really good):
Most of his first response (from the tucker carlson interview with sam harris): Now, as for what Harris is saying... Every act of 'terror' by the people known as 'terrorists' is a reaction to imperialist reppression. In fact, the CIA and US GOV'T supported and funded these same groups in the '80's to go to war when the USSR invaded Afghanistan. Where do you think al-Qaeda learned how to be guerillas, the Quran?
These corporate cable news shows feature a lot of this type of b.s. propaganda meant to make us fearful of the religion of our GOV't-scapegoats. The raping of the land for oil, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Cheney's dream-war in Iran, the financial, military, and diplomatic support for the Zionist Police State called Israel (which kills and tortures more people than any Muslim state or 'terror' group ever has) is meeting it's resistance in the form of guerilla warfare.
The only reason this has anything to do with Islam is because the people (who live in this barren, dead land known as Arabia who have one thing we don't have -- OIL) are Muslims, and for Muslims, everything--life, death, WAR, peace, has to do with God. The Quran is a book of peace, full of PROGRESSIVE moral guidelines. I don't agree with the death penalty or the female/gay repression or the lack of freedom of speech...but these things are not from the Quran. These are conservative clerics which are present in every religion. I'm a Christian, a lot of Black Panthers were Christians and Muslims and Jews, a lot of warriors in the EZLN are Christians, a lot of people who fought alongside Castro in Cuba were Christians, but if I saw Pat Robertson out on the street I'd punch him in the fuckin face.
Followed by some of my response: You made a lot of great talking points up until: “The Quran is a book of peace, full of PROGRESSIVE moral guidelines.”
I think you are highly mistaken. As Harris has said, by no stretch of the imagination can you argue that the core principal of Islam is non-violence. The mainstream doctrine of Islam contains over and over the notion of martyrdom in jihad. It contains the imperative to convert, subjugate, or kill infidels. If you were to highlight all of the verses with this message in the Koran, you would have quite a book filled with highlighter. It is taboo to notice this. Not to say that this is all Muslims of course.
The problem with this death cult that has formed in the Middle East is that they target non-combatants. Fundamentalists are blowing themselves up on buses, killing innocent civilians, a lot of children etc. Just look at all of the newspapers. This happens almost every day. In these cases, which could possibly be a majority, it has very little to do with our occupation.
But put all of that aside for a second man. Sure, political issues, occupation yeah... But how much do you think it really helps that their life is based deeply on a theology, which glorifies martyrdom?
Sam Harris: So where are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers? They have suffered an occupation that is every bit as brutal and far more cynical than any other that we or the British or the Israelis have imposed upon the Muslim world. Where are the throngs of Tibetans in the streets calling for the deaths of Chinese non-combatants? Where are the Tibetans blowing themselves up on Chinese buses at weddings in crowds of children, or in front of the red crosses, or in front of the UN? You would have to bend the very core principles of Buddhism. It would be impossible with Jainism... Yeah, but we don’t have to believe in claims upon insufficient evidence to take moral teachings to heart. Religion is the only area in our discourse that gives us bad reasons for doing good things, and makes us do bad things while we think we are doing good things. Which is more moral: helping someone purely out of concern of suffering, or helping someone because you think that the creator of the universe will reward you for it? We can confine ourselves to a 21st century conversation about morality and ethics, with all of the scientific and philosophical arguments that we have acquired in the past millennia or so, or we can confine ourselves to an iron age conversation about morality and ethics as it is preserved in our religious texts.
His response: I myself am a Catholic and the Vatican has this to say about Islam:
“The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God…they venerate Jesus as a prophet... (Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate (3), October 28, 1965)…”
This is exactly what the COEXIST label is about. Although the doctrines and central beliefs are different, no religion advocates religious hate or animosity. The Pope himself prayed in a mosque in Turkey earlier this year which is a very significant gesture of peace and ‘coexistence.’ Here is an article, written by a Muslim, on the relationships between Muslims and Christians/Jews:
...And historically, we know that the cause of these constant clashes were not so much religion as were bigger things like land and power over resources. Religion was a part of the culture, much like art or philosophy or styles of cuisine.
What should also be realized is the immense power and hold of propaganda in Western Civilization which still persists today. When peoples came into conflict, they hated their enemies and depicted their cultures and ways of life as barbaric. Islam was depicted by imperialists as a ‘religion of the sword,’ which is something it has never been. Africans and Native Americans were thought-of as savages without any morals. Their cultures, along with their religions, were unfairly depicted to be something they were not, and this attitude still persists. Even though we know it is inaccurate, we still grasp to it as a society.
This is a narrow Western view of the Koran and Islam. The view you currently subscribe to, that Islam is not a religion of peace, was invented years ago by Western imperialists. It’s true that Islam is not against violence per se, but it certainly doesn’t advocate it. In regards to war, Muhammad said “War is a deceptive error.” He grew up and lived in an area of unimaginable conflict between tribes. He was born into a world of violence. He united them all after fighting several military campaigns lasting just twenty years. By the time of his death, the entire Arabian peninsula was peaceful. The thing you call a “Jihad” is simply a just war. Martyrdom is the idea that if you die protecting or defending your people in war, you’ll be rewarded for it in the afterlife. It’s like an unselfish death, a self-sacrifice, sort of like a soldier who falls on a grenade to save others.
Yes, that is violent fundamentalism. But as I said before, it is an effect of a cause, and the cause is violent change. I do not see why the innocents are being killed. Muhammad never killed innocents, the Koran doesn’t advocate it. The most significant Muslim theologists of yesterday and today do not advocate it. But it didn’t happen in Iraq before the occupation, and it happened years ago during the Intifada in Israel. These are wars whether we depict them that way or not. The killing of innocents is not something that I endorse, but I don’t think that the solution is sitting around on the news and constantly talking about it or wondering about the logic behind it, but I think we pretty much know that it’s a desperate thing to do. The main thing is that we know WHY it happens and what should be done to stop it, but many people in power are unwilling to do that.
Islam glorifies martyrdom, yes. But you have to know what that is. It is a self-sacrifice in war. It is the same as when Tania Bunke was killed and Che Guevara was captured in Bolivia. He died defending the people—that’s martyrdom. The issue is whether or not the war or method of war is just, and in Che and Tania’s case I believe it is. When the guerillas in Iraq die killing innocents, it is not. When they are killed by US soldiers in a gun fight, it is. We do the same thing is this culture when we label deceased veterans as heroes. Since the wars they fight are unjust in the first place, I do not consider them heroes. And a lot of them kill innocents too, and the same went for the war in Vietnam. So the criticizing, to me, should be done to INJUSTICE: the killing of innocent people, the motivations and methods of wars, the reasons that anyone is in battle in the first place. In the case of the mideast, who drew first blood? Why is the war over there, and not on our soil? Who has what the other wants? Are we fighting because these people want our lakes, rivers, farmland, forests? Or do we want their oil? Which fight then, is the just fight? Does anyone actually expect them to sit around while we come and do what we want?
First, you have to remember that the situation in Tibet is much different. The Chinese are not people of another world. They are neighbors, and these peoples have been fighting since the dawn of civilization. Tibetans used to rule China, and now it’s the opposite. Their cultures, while different, are more so similar than Arabian and Western cultures are. And yes, Buddhism is a very pacifist religion. But where has that gotten them politically speaking? Is Tibet not on the verge of extinction at the hands of Chinese aggression? And another thing to be considered is that Tibetans did fight and rise up numerous times. 1989 saw a major riot in Lhasa. When the Chinese invaded in 1949, the Tibetan army and CIA-backed guerillas fought a failed campaign to drive them out. I have a lot of respect and interest in Buddhism. Buddhists believe in the goodness of people. The Dalai Lama believes Tibet will be free some day, and I hope it will. But it gets very hard to bring it into politics. Buddha was a hermit living in the wilderness, not a fighter by any means. So Buddhists are probably the least likely people on earth to see fighting in a war. And it’s the same with Hindus. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t fight at all but it’s not likely.
I definitely agree that we are humans first, and that’s why humanism is something we can rely on. But I don’t think the moral teachings divide people. Islam and Christianity and Judaism and Hinduism and Buddhism all teach honestly and kindness. And if you do those things you will not be intolerant, if you really stick to them and not let your ego get ahead of it, or your greed get ahead of it, you’ll make a lot of peace. People make mistakes and do this all the time in all different cultures. We ignore things that we don’t even know we’re ignoring because we’ve done it for so long. Narrow-mindedness is a disease, and any group of people, religious or not, that promotes that is problematic. But all the truly religious—all the prophets and saints we truly revere—were revolutionaries. Muhammad and Christ and the prophets of Israel were hated and shunned by the people in power. They meant to wake us up. I do think that religion divides people sometimes—but it doesn’t mean to. The revolutionaries wanted to make peace.
Anyway I wanted to show you that religious teachings, if they are truly religious, are not promoting anything that isn't humanistic and compassionate in nature. Religion does get all tangled up in war and clashes and everything else in the world; but believe me--
--these are the diseases of civilization. If ANY of “the powers that be” further these things in the name of religion then more shame on them. But the teachings do not promote these things. I know this because I went to Catholic school for twelve years and the message I was taught was humanist and socialist and egalitarian in nature. It was what led me to these things and the philosophy of Marx, and the progressive ethics and practices of humanism, and animal liberation among other things.
That's the end of the discussion (all of which I didn't include). I hope everyone will enjoy and lay out some great ideas.
"Every true faith is infallible -- It performs what the believing person hopes to find in it. But it does not offer the least support for the establishing of an objective truth. Here the ways of men divide. If you want to achieve peace of mind and happiness, have faith. If you want to be a disciple of truth, then search." - Nietzsche