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Is Islam really the religion of peace their followers claim it to be?


Alan McDougall
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In part because the question is incredibly vague, and clarification has not been forthcoming.

 

Agreed. What's needed is to show a relevant difference between Islam and any other religion, something that would allow us to treat it differently with regard to judging its peaceful intentions. I haven't seen anything close to that so far.

 

I think the attempt to brand the religion as inherently violent has failed. The religion itself doesn't perform the violence, so the followers MUST be at fault. When we look at individual followers, we see great diversity in the way they practice their religion. Only a small percentage condone the violence done in its name, so the followers aren't inherently more violent than anyone else either. No relevant differences that we can plead makes them special.

 

 

 

 

 

Is it time now to talk about why so many fear that Islam's followers will suddenly unite, start frothing at the mouth and cleanse the Earth of infidels?

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Um.. because Muhammad, peace be upon him, followers declared it has to be done... or maybe that was the followers of Jesus, or Krishna, Vishnu I've lost count but the followers of the opposition say it so it must be true... Hmmm doesn't make much sense when I read it either...

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I think the attempt to brand the religion as inherently violent has failed. The religion itself doesn't perform the violence, so the followers MUST be at fault. When we look at individual followers, we see great diversity in the way they practice their religion. Only a small percentage condone the violence done in its name, so the followers aren't inherently more violent than anyone else either. No relevant differences that we can plead makes them special.

I'll pull a line from Sam Harris - beliefs do matter. It is literally true that religions don't perform violence, but they are software on the brain. In that sense, they have an effect on culture and individuals. I'm too ignorant of Islam or really any religion to compare, but we can't just look the other way and blame culture or politics.

 

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Is it time now to talk about why so many fear that Islam's followers will suddenly unite, start frothing at the mouth and cleanse the Earth of infidels?
Or we could talk about why people who have a reasonable familiarity with the past few centuries of evangelical fundamentalist monotheism, in particular the consequences of its alliances with political power and armed force, are not happy with yet another one of these clouds building on the horizon.

 

Anyone familiar with the spread of religion-rooted fascism through Europe and into the Americas over the past century, say, or having some acquaintanceship with the Ku Klux Klan operations in the US, or having followed Mexican history for a few decades, will tend to treat the arrival of Islam into their community with a good deal of wariness, suspicion, even hostility. These kinds of religions are inherently oppressive to the extent they have political power, and the rule of thumb for tyranny is that it's much easier to prevent than overthrow.

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The Ottoman Empire had a brutal 1/3 policy towards the Serbs for about 500 years starting in 1389. Breed out 1/3 (the local Muslim overlord got to sleep with each Serbian newlywed wife the first night), covert 1/3 ( the Serb man wouldn't have to give up his wife the first night if he converted to Islam and could then own land as well), and kill 1/3. The Bosnian Muslims were a direct result of a Serb Christian population forced to convert to Islam centuries ago.

 

I'm sure we could pick any religion and find atrocities committed in the name of it. It is the frequency of atrocities that matters, because, unfortunately, when a warmongering leader wants to go to war he will use any means available. What about Nazi Germany or Stalin? There were atrocities committed by both and neither was in the name of religion. People will always find a "reason" to go to war and religion is an easy way to rile up a population.

Edited by Trumptor
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I agree with the latter part of the post, but with the risk of going off-topic do you have sources for the first paragraph? I am not familiar with that particular region but it sounds a bit surprising as the Ottoman Empire does not have a strong history of forced proselytism, from what little I have read. Quite the opposite at times.

They did abduct (or bought) non-Muslim children to integrate them into their janissary system (or more general their devsrime (sp?) system in which these slave kids become part of military or civil servants, often in surprisingly powerful positions, depending on abilities) and in these cases there was force conversion. IIRC it did crush Serbian unity, though, which was brittle to begin with and mostly religious in nature (not too different from islamic powers, in that respect, but then again, I do not remember the respective books well and may be wrong).

The strongest action directed at Christian elite (to my knowledge) resulted in the burining of the relics of the founder of the Serbian church in the late 16th century (sometime during the wars between Ottomans and Habsburg Monarchy). The reason was that Serbian church leaders officially encouraged opposition to Ottoman rule.

 

The right of the first night is a popular legend that has been attributed to many societies, including feudal Christian rulers and in most cases are little more than myths. So there may be some intermixing between story and history. But if I am wrong I would be happy to see any sources you may provide as it would add quite a different perspective to what I have read so far.

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I tried to find the information online and all I found was a one third policy implemented by the Fascist Croatian Ustasha movement of WWII. The information is here -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Serb_Sentiment and here -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ustase. It was a policy of killing one third of Serbs, deporting one third, and converting one third to Catholicism. A professor at UW-Madison taught us about the Ottoman Empire one third policy in a European History class back in the 90s. I'll try to locate it some more when I have time if in fact it is correct information and can be found. About the children taken by the Ottoman empire back to Istanbul and trained as elite soldiers I have learned about as well. We call them "Jagnicari" in Serbian and there are many, many stories about these soldiers coming back to their villages as Muslims and killing their moms, dads, and siblings without ever knowing they were actually Serbs themselves or that this was their homeland. There is some interesting reading on life under the Ottoman empire in Serbia here, although the source information is from back in 1972 -> http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=1006040609360.

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The Ottoman Empire rounded up children as their Janissaries (and it was Janjicari, not Jagnicari - my mistake) from other places as well, like Greece, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, etc, so this wasn't something directed only at Serbs. I didn't quite make that clear in my previous post.

Edited by Trumptor
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Yupp, and it is known that some parents even bribed scouts to take their children (mostly a practice in Bosnia, I believe), However the stories of janissaries forgetting and killing their own parents is likely based on propaganda. They were well educated, were in a position of power and certainly knew where they came from. In addition, the children were usually between 6-14 when they were given to new families.

The part about anti-Serbian sentiments are more in line with the little I know but (again, AFAIK) not connected to Ottoman rule. It may be interesting enough to open a new thread on it to avoid derailing this thread more, if more info is forthcoming.

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You know I looked up Janissaries because I didn't believe what you said about them knowing where they came from, being well educated, and in positions of power - and actually found that the information I found agreed with your view. I never thought so before. I remember a story about a woman weeping and telling her son, "Don't forget your name" while he was being taken by the Turks, in the hopes that he wouldn't forget who he was. When he came back as an adult and massacred his former village, he ran across his mom and before slitting her throat, she called him by his name. He instantly recognized his mom and saw what he had done and fell into her arms crying. I wonder if there were real instances like this or if this is spun from legend.

 

But you're right, this is detracting from the main point of the thread. I was trying to point out an instance of Islamic aggression in the Balkans and went off a bit. As I said earlier though, if we look, we can probably find incidents of violence from any religious group against another. Are followers of Islam more likely to engage in violence against people of other faiths? Does anyone have any statistics on this?

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Actually, something about the Janissaries that shows the other side that I am more familiar with hearing than the educated engineers, mathematicians, etc I read about ----

 

"From the 1380s to 1648, the Janissaries were gathered through the devşirme system which was abolished in 1638... In early days, all Christians were enrolled indiscriminately. Later, those from Greece and Serbia were preferred."

 

"In 1804, the Dahias, the Jannisary junta that ruled Serbia at the time, had taken power in the Sanjak of Smederevo in defiance of the Sultan and they feared that the Sultan would make use of the Serbs to oust them. To forestall this they decided to execute all prominent nobles throughout Central Serbia, a move known as Slaughter of the knezes. According to historical sources of the city of Valjevo, heads of the murdered men were put on public display in the central square to serve as an example to those who might plot against the rule of the Janissaries. The event triggered the start of the Serbian revolution with the First Serbian uprising aimed at putting an end to the 300 years of Ottoman occupation of modern Serbia."

 

I didn't think it was necessary to start a whole new thread for a little information that would still be marginally inline with this thread, but it makes the stories handed down through history about the atrocities by the Janissary much more believable.

 

Sources

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janissary

Edited by Trumptor
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It could very well be that individual events such as these colored their view. But as you may have noticed that this was conflated with Ottoman-based slaughter, whereas this event was an outright revolt against sultanic power by the janissaries. It also shows how much power these slaves eventually got (i.e. not unknowingly committed slaughter by mislead brain-washed converts). It is a bit ironic that their own people suffered under it (rather than the Ottoman rulers), but it also shows that organized brutality and atrocities are based on power struggles more than anything.

 

And here is a tie-in to the question whether in Islam violence is more prevalent. In a superficial way one could paint that e.g. the murder of the knezes was under Ottoman rule. But looking deeper we find that it was a power struggle between factions. It is almost impossible to quantify violence based on religion. Wars are power struggles and religion can be used as a convenient banner (as it has already been mentioned). However, power structures change over time making it more or less opportune to do so. If we cherry-pick timelines we can easily make the case for about any religion to be more aggressive than others. Hence, I would think that such statements are essentially meaningless.

Edited by CharonY
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I agree with you. Cherry-picking events can be used to smear any religion, except maybe a few like the Amish (can't imagine any reported Amish atrocities, but I may be wrong). Even the very events can be interpreted completely differently and have wildly differing reported numbers of killed, converted, etc. depending on where you get your information from.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Is Islam a religion of peace absolutely not, the evidence of violence all over the globe in the present time is hard evidence to that fact! Rhetorical question!

 

After six pages, representing a lot of work on the part of almost everyone involved, I find this "rhetorical question" post extremely insulting. It is most definitely NOT a rhetorical question! Thanks for throwing everything we said out the window in favor of your preachy little viewpoint, which you stated on the first page and simply repeat here despite many attempts to wring from you some clarification.

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Are you ever going to answer the question I asked in post 3? What's the metric for deciding whether a religion is peaceful or not?

 

Must I list for you all the unspeakable crimes against humanity, what is on your TV screen and mine daily, This does not need a long protracted dialogue by many people to come to the conclusion that "In this day and age" Islam is the source of suffering of millions of people, two examples, Syria and Iraq. It is out there for all of us to observe as an objective a daily horror, we don't need to go into statical proof, it is happening daily before our very eyes and ears. Suicide bombing just one example of what emanates from an Islamic culture.

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"Must I list for you all the unspeakable crimes against humanity"

No, just the ones that are not also undertaken by non-islamic groups.

 

"This does not need a long protracted dialogue by many people to come to the conclusion that "In this day and age" Islam is the source of suffering of millions of people, two examples, Syria and Iraq."

Indeed, but a slightly longer dialogue might find that the reason is not Islam per se, but the circumstances in which the people find themselves.

If, through no action on your own part, you find yourself part of a group that is persecuted by, for example, a superpower you might feel you have no sensible alternative to join a fight that you didn't pick.

 

"Suicide bombing just one example of what emanates from an Islamic culture."

Or, then again, not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Austin_suicide_attack

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamikaze

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What's the metric for deciding whether a religion is peaceful or not?
Whatever it is, it probably cannot be based on some kind of census of violent acts committed by adherents.

 

The stories of individual people living under various religious regimes - in places where a particular religion has become politically institutionalized and acquired the power of coercion trhough violence - might be as solid a base for a metric as any evidence we have.

 

We do have stories and visible evidence of Islamic institution, whenever given the opportunity, coercing by threat of force and doing violence under its own justification. The flagrant abuse of women throughout the Islamic world, pretty much everywhere it is not prevented by non-Islamic counterforce, is perhaps the most obvious of this.

 

That does not make Islam inherently more violent than other systems of religious belief, but from a practical point of view inherent nature is not the pinch matter - the particulars of the situations faced right now take priority.

 

Illustration: among the young male children of Ottoman frontier Balkan nobility sent to the central Ottoman imperial schools for their finishing education we find the last Count Dracul, who became known in adulthood as Vlad the Impaler. He went as a youth, spent his teenage years under Ottoman Islamic educational supervision and care, and came back home to his inheritance of political power in Transylvania as a young man entering his adulthood with a couple of personal quirks: a deep hatred of Islam and Muslims and especially Turks, a devotion to fundamentalist Catholicism , and a fascination with public rectal impalement on sharpened poles as a punishment for violations of Christian teachings.

 

His short reign was noted for its establishment of honesty, rule of law, peaceful good order, modesty and cleanliness and fair dealings, in a region formerly noted for the lack of these attributes. Travelers, for example, even merchants of modest means and their daughters, were remarkably safe throughout his realm - vulnerable persons and possessions did not need the armed guards necessary in the Islamic ruled neighboring regions. The penalty for petty theft, fornication and lewdness (male or female), or lying and cheating in a business deal, was death by impalement alongside the public road - all travellers and residents passed examples of the wages of these decreasingly frequent sins against Catholic Christianity, hopefully long expired, as they went about their lives. They were wise to behave peacefully themselves, and to attend Mass regularly.

 

Now: religion played a serious and probably formative role here - but what can we say? Do we regard Vlad's reign, or the Catholicism he rested upon as his foundation, as peaceful? Do we regard the Islamic oversight and strong influence of Vlad's formative years as violent? More violent than the Catholicism he took as his belief?

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Must I list for you all the unspeakable crimes against humanity, what is on your TV screen and mine daily, This does not need a long protracted dialogue by many people to come to the conclusion that "In this day and age" Islam is the source of suffering of millions of people, two examples, Syria and Iraq. It is out there for all of us to observe as an objective a daily horror, we don't need to go into statical proof, it is happening daily before our very eyes and ears. Suicide bombing just one example of what emanates from an Islamic culture.

 

I take that as a "no", then, and that you'd rather preach than discuss.

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"Must I list for you all the unspeakable crimes against humanity"

No, just the ones that are not also undertaken by non-islamic groups.

 

"This does not need a long protracted dialogue by many people to come to the conclusion that "In this day and age" Islam is the source of suffering of millions of people, two examples, Syria and Iraq."

Indeed, but a slightly longer dialogue might find that the reason is not Islam per se, but the circumstances in which the people find themselves.

If, through no action on your own part, you find yourself part of a group that is persecuted by, for example, a superpower you might feel you have no sensible alternative to join a fight that you didn't pick.

 

"Suicide bombing just one example of what emanates from an Islamic culture."

Or, then again, not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Austin_suicide_attack

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamikaze

 

"Must I list for you all the unspeakable crimes against humanity"

No, just the ones that are not also undertaken by non-islamic groups.

 

"This does not need a long protracted dialogue by many people to come to the conclusion that "In this day and age" Islam is the source of suffering of millions of people, two examples, Syria and Iraq."

Indeed, but a slightly longer dialogue might find that the reason is not Islam per se, but the circumstances in which the people find themselves.

If, through no action on your own part, you find yourself part of a group that is persecuted by, for example, a superpower you might feel you have no sensible alternative to join a fight that you didn't pick.

 

"Suicide bombing just one example of what emanates from an Islamic culture."

Or, then again, not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Austin_suicide_attack

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamikaze

 

You "cherrie pick" one or two isolated examples of suicide bombing from sources other than Islam and ignore the countless Islam driven Muslims who in the present day are causing havoc all over the world (In the here and now).

 

We should look at what is happening, in the here and now, not ancient history of religious atrocities that have no bearing on the present state of world peace.

 

John you should separate and enclose the quotes of other from those of yours in your posts,, by making use of the quote fancily above, that you can find in the column just below "My Media" It can be confusing to those less used to an internet dialogue forum.

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My point was very simple, it's not just Islam that does that creates suicide bombers.

Others do it when they feel they have no alternative.

 

And you cherry pick the points to which you respond.

Could you cover this (rather than irrelevancies such as the quote function).

 

"This does not need a long protracted dialogue by many people to come to the conclusion that "In this day and age" Islam is the source of suffering of millions of people, two examples, Syria and Iraq."
Indeed, but a slightly longer dialogue might find that the reason is not Islam per se, but the circumstances in which the people find themselves.
If, through no action on your own part, you find yourself part of a group that is persecuted by, for example, a superpower you might feel you have no sensible alternative to join a fight that you didn't pick.

 

Or are you unwilling to take part in the slightly longer debate?

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No one has to deny the malign influence of Islam so easily visible in various oppressions and atrocities around the world, in order to cast doubt on an attempt to make Islam appear somehow uniquely and inherently most evil among all human belief systems.

 

For example: The belief system deeply held and relied upon and overtly used to justify the behavior of the original Count Dracula, Torquemada, the Spanish Conquistadors and the US plantation slaveowners, the pioneer colonists of Tasmania, the implementers of the Final Solution in WWII, or even (taking it down a notch) the interrogation prisons at Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, et al, familliar to us all, has a history and a living nature that would seem difficult to outscore in a Most Evil contest. Granted that all the slander of Islam has basis in fact and evidence in reality, the question becomes: So?

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I suggest everyone should read "Understanding Muhammad" by a former Muslim Ali Sina. The job done by him is superb.

 

You can find the book by googling it or writing an email to Ali (he sends copies for free). I bet that once you finish reading the book, you will never see Islam in the same light as before.

Edited by SlavicWolf
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