Alright, I'm trying to get to the bottom of an Islam issue

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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

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I think that your original

I think that your original approach was right.
Where Islam goes, religion-related violence follows in a way that even Christianity can't match. So while we would be naive to rule out the social and political conditions helping terrorism, we would also be naitve to ignore the effect that Islam has on people.

If I was arguing your friend, I would quote the examples of Islamic incidents that:
a) Don't happen with other religions.
b) Happen in prosperous western countries too where economic conditions cannot be blamed.

This site would be a good resource for such examples. An anti-Islamic writer in America was murdered, a film-maker in Europe murdered too. There were the riots over cartoons. Even in enlightened, modern countries such as France and Italy, people who have criticised Islam (that's criticised, rather than 'slagged off') have received death threats, legal threats, and anything else that the Islamic community can throw at them.
There's also evidence of the conditions of governments where Islamic fundies take over - human rights go out of the window!

As always, these actions are those of an extreme few, and every religion has extremists like these. Islam seems to have particular talent of breeding them though!

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separate Islamic states in

separate Islamic states in Thailand and the Philippines. I have two friends native to these countries. and they both talk about terrorist acts committed for the formation of separate Islamic states in these countries. which doesn't quite fit with the “The Quran is a book of peace, full of PROGRESSIVE moral guidelines.”

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Just one comment:  You

Just one comment:

 You know a tree by the fruit that it bears.

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curiousjorge050476 wrote:

Just one comment:

 You know a tree by the fruit that it bears.

Yep, apparently the worst thing a human being has ever done was acquired knowledge.

"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

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I hold the view that there

I hold the view that there are two factors involved in behavioural outcomes.

1) Motivation (a stimulus; the trigger)
e.g. criticism, causing offence, disagreement… usually political in some way or another.

2) Ideology (dictates your reaction)
e.g. political ideologies, religious ideologies, ethical ideologies

In other words, a person’s response to a stimulus depends on their ideology.

Recently example: Salman Rushdie’s knighthood has trigger calls grossly of our proportion to his work of fiction and knighthood, from chants of “Kill Him Kill Him” to the Pakistani Minister for Religious Affairs stating his knighthood justifies suicide bombings!!

I hold that the problem depends on the ideology since stimulus can trigger multiple different behavioural outcomes, or none. I think the behavioural outcomes of a person are influence or caused by their ideology (so for example, if you felt compelled to murder doctors who carry out abortions, abortion itself would not be the problem, rather, the problem is rooted in your perception of abortion and wherever this perception derives from.)

People often say politics is the root cause, but I don’t think it is. While politics can and does trigger behaviour, it is not the politics in of itself that is the issue. If it was, you would expect the same or similar outcomes irrespective of ideology/views, but this is not what we see.

What are the possible options we have… well, we could educate people into rational, logical and critical thinking, or we can eradicate anything that may trigger unwanted behaviour (especially to sensitive issues)… so not more criticism, no political decisions that are not unanimously supported, no causing offence… clearly this is absurd, and impossible.

Sure, we can change the things can trigger unwanted behaviour (for instance, politics… foreign policy), but as long as people still adhere to an ideology, there will always be potential problems. Temporarily solving a 'cause' for action is not solving the 'problem' itself, which will remain unless there ideology is adopted.

If we don’t accept their demands, we are regarded as the enemy, the opposition, and as the enemy we are liable to inadvertently trigger further reaction.

Applying this to Islam, and specifically the idea of Jihad, and how Islamic scripture can be used to justify conflict.

(To clarify, I regard moderate Islam, and radical Islam as two distinct positions that are based on the same source.)

Here is information the University of Southern California on Book 19 of the Sahih Muslim Hadith (The Book of Jihad and Expedition)

The word Jihad is derived from the verb jahada which means:" he exerted himself". Thus literally, Jihad means exertion, striving; but in juridico-religious sense, it signifies the exertion of one's power to the utmost of one's capacity in the cause of Allah. This is why the word Jihad has been used as the antonym to the word Qu, ud (sitting) in the Holy Qur'an (iv. 95). Thus Jihad in Islam is not an act of violence directed indiscriminately against the non-Muslims; it is the name given to an all-round struggle which a Muslim should launch against evil in whatever form or shape it appears. Qital fi sabilillah (fighting in the way of Allah) is only one aspect of Jihad. Even this qital in Islam is not an act of mad brutality. It has its material and moral functions, i. e. self-preservation and the preservation of the moral order in the world. The verdict of all religious and ethical philosophies-ancient and modern-justify war on moral grounds. When one nation is assailted by the ambitions and cupidity of another, the doctrine of non-resistance is anti-social, as it involves non-assertion, not only of one's own rights, but of those of others who need protection against the forces of tyranny and oppression. A Muslim is saddled with the responsibilities to protect himself and all those who seek his protection. He cannot afford to abandon the defenceless people, old man, women and children to privation, suffering and moral peril. Fighting in Islam, therefore, represents in Islamic Law what is known among Western jurists as" just war".

So, the Muslim should launch into jihad in order to fight against evil in whatever form or shape it appears, thus the key issue here is what is ‘evil’. This, I think, is a fundamental part in what separates a moderate and an extremist.

The moderates view of ‘evil’ tends to be far more flexible compared to that of the radical Muslim. Some moderate Muslims tend to uphold the view of ‘tolerance’ and ‘respect’ for all beliefs. They might think all religions are different paths to the same truth. Others may not really have a problem with non-Muslims, but might regard them as wrong in their belief and see them misguide, but they don’t see them as evil in of itself.

The radical Muslims however have a far more restricted view of ‘evil’. Since they regard the scriptures and the divine word and revelation of god, the ultimate truth, they don’t change the context, since that would negate the belief that it is the divine truth. Thus as they see Islam as inherently good, they tend to regard anyone who does no accept their brand of Islam (i.e. in its original context) has inherently evil. They often even include moderate Muslims here. They tend to think that if you truly believe in Allah and Mohammed, then you would accept their brand of Islam, otherwise, you’re and infidel, a disbeliever.

Moderate Islam is progressive (in comparison to radical Islam). It has changed, for the most part, according to the changing social and moral zeitgeist. It does this thought diluting, interpreting and/or expelling the bad parts of the Koran--the parts which do not conform to the morality of todays world or the morality of the individual--from the moderate doctrine, and highlighting the good part of the Koran.

Radical Islam, conversely, has not changed; it is essentially transporting the same behaviour from thousands of years ago to today’s world. This brand of Islam keeps in the parts that do not conform to todays morality.

Mohammed was a warrior; and the goal of Islam as I understand it is to ultimately spread around the world. If necessary force is justified to achieve this goal (since force is just against evil). It wouldn’t be surprising to say that had lived Mohammed was in todays world, carrying out the same behaviour/actions, many would likely consider him as an extremist. Conversely, if an extremist of today was send back to the 7th century, he wouldn’t be regarded as an extremist. This is simply acknowledging the behaviour of the time. In the 7th century what we today call extremism was not abnormal behaviour. This is the same with Christianity and the Inquisition. It’s only when you transport that behaviour to more modem times – the 20th / 21st century – does this behaviour becomes abnormal, and this is exactly that the extremists are doing.

Since Muslims are to strive to be like Mohammed in their lives, extremists do just that, they do not interpret their scripture according to modern insights.

Moving on…. note this line from the quoted text above which states that jihad has moral functions: “It has its material and moral functions, i. e. self-preservation and the preservation of the moral order in the world.

So here this depends on ones view of morality, which means that because the radical Muslim is convinced that his brand of Islam is the only [unchanged] truth, and therefore moral truth, his jihad will take place under these conditions. He would therefore believe the moral order of the world is under this brand of Islam, thus to implement and preserve the moral order of the world requires this brand of Islam be put in place, and then defended. So if something conflicts with this, it is seen as evil, and this justified actions to be taken against it.

The extremist will almost certainly live by Sharia law i.e. gods law. Ergo anything which opposes this consequently opposes the perfect divine word of god. And democracy is inherently opposed to Sharia law.

Many democrats, and several official institutions in democratic countries (as the European Court for Human Rights) are convinced that Sharia is incompatible with a democratic state. These incompatibilities have been clarified in several legal disputes.

In 1998 the Turkish Constitutional Court banned and dissolved Turkey's Refah Party on the grounds that the "rules of sharia", which Refah sought to introduce, "were incompatible with the democratic regime," stating that "Democracy is the antithesis of sharia." On appeal by Refah the European Court of Human Rights determined that "sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy"[44][45][46]

Refah's sharia based notion of a "plurality of legal systems, grounded on religion" was ruled to contravene the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It was determined that it would "do away with the State's role as the guarantor of individual rights and freedoms" and "infringe the principle of non-discrimination between individuals as regards their enjoyment of public freedoms, which is one of the fundamental principles of democracy".

I think the conflict in Iraq is in-part about this. Extremists in Iraq adhere to Sharia, see the US introduce a type of government/living which inherently opposes their inherently good and divine political/world view, they see it as evil, so they fight it. They are justified according to their scripture to fight against evil. Whether something actually is ‘evil’ is beside the point… these radicals think it is (given their world view) and their holy books instruct jihad against it evil.

Nigeria is currently also having some trouble with Islamic extremists with a Nigerian government building being bombed recently by extremists.

The justification of the behaviour of the radical Muslim has support from within Islamic texts, given a certain view on the theology, namely, that it is the perfect divine word of god, and therefore cannot and should not be changed.

So the doctrine of both the moderate and the radical Muslim derives from the Qur'an and the hadith. It clearly states that the Muslim is justified in fighting evil and preserving the moral order of the world.

When it comes to ambiguous parts they will be interpreted according to the individuals own view and used to support them (and since they are ambiguous who can say they are wrong)

But there are also parts of the hadith and the Qur’an which are not ambiguous but rather clearly instruct violence without the need of interpretation:
9:29 Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, bring brought low.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan