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Tuesday, 21 August 2007
Christianity Good, Islam Bad?
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 I have a review up of  Robert Spencer’s new book Religion of Peace?—Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t at Pajamas Media today.

If Christianity is a religion of peace, while Islam is irredeemably militant, what on earth does Spencer think is likely to be the outcome of a conflict between the two?

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Posted on 08/21/2007 1:20 PM by John Derbyshire
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22 Aug 2007
Send an emailRob

Muhammed carried a sword and rode a war horse. Jesus did not. Plus, the Prophet was married--he was a scrapper! Jesus was celibate. If you stick to the words of the founders of Christianity and Islam, as handed down by scriptures of the two teachings, it is clear that the message of Jesus was "peace and love, brother." The message of the Prophet was "Islam by whatever means necessary." That said, the history of the  *religion* that is Christianity, as practiced by the soi-disant "followers" of Jesus, shows a record no less bloody, overall,  than that of Islam. Muslims can justify the use of violence by certain verses of the Koran. Christians can justify violence by reference to the Old Testament. I blame the Israeli lobby.  



21 Aug 2007
Send an emailEnoch
When Muslims focused on Mohammed's commandment to give ssedaka and to seek truth, they created the metropolis of Cordova and oversaw extraordinary empires ranging from Babylonia to the Iberian peninsula, where tolerance was a virtue, libraries were loved and men of all belief systems were able to study, theorise and write.

If this is your evidence of "good, peaceful Islam", then one can only note that the extraordinary empires were not acquired peacefully, and it is simply not true that tolerance was a virtue and that men of all belief systems were able to study, theorize and write.

As a Jew, or as an agnostic, or as a social liberal, or an eccentric, etc. - your chances of survival were far greater in the average Islamic land than in the average Christian shire anytime between the tenth and sixteenth centuries.

Nonsense.

Christiandom devoured all that was before it. The myriad religions the pre-existed the arrival of Christianity throughout Europe were ALL devoured. Every single last one of them was wiped out with no mercy and none were able to survive the onslaught (except us Jews of course. We're good like that.)

Again, nonsense, and a vast oversimplification of the process by which Christianity spread. Until at least the 15th century it was largely peaceful and voluntary, and it was also gradual, with Christian and pagan practices existing in parallel for an extended period.
Deir al-Islam however - while ugly, intolerant and murderous (by our western, humanistic standards) - allowed for the survival of not only Jews but various other small religious groups as well, including Zoroastrians, Mandaeans, Manicheans (for a while) and ancient Christian sects that were shown no quarter throughout the Christian world!

Bernard Lewis: "The claim to tolerance, now much heard from Muslim apologists and more especially from apologists for Islam, is also new and of alien origin. It is only very recently that some defenders of Islam have begun to assert that their society in the past accorded equal status to non-Muslims. No such claim is made by spokesmen for resurgent Islam, and historically there is no doubt that they are right. Traditional Islamic societies neither accorded such equality nor pretended that they were so doing. Indeed, in the old order, this would have been regarded not as a merit but as a dereliction of duty. How could one accord the same treatment to those who follow the true faith and those who willfully reject it? This would be a theological as well as a logical absurdity."

Mark Cohen, Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, argues in Under Crescent and Cross that the "myth of an interfaith utopia" was first promulgated by Jewish historians such as Heinrich Graetz in the 19th century as a rebuke to Christian countries (particularly in Eastern Europe) for their treatment of Jews. This view went unchallenged until it was adopted by Arabs as a propaganda weapon against Zionism.  The Arabs wanted to show that the establishment of the modern State of Israel shattered an alleged previously existing harmony between Jews and Arabs in Palestine under the Ottoman Empire; they pointed to the supposed utopia of the so-called "golden age" as an example of the supposedly harmonious previous relationships.

Frederick Schweitzer and Marvin Perry agree that there are two general views of the status of Jews under Islam, the traditional "golden age" and the revisionist "persecution and pogrom" interpretations. They argue that the 19th century idealized view of Jewish historians was taken up by Arab Muslims after 1948 as "an Arab-Islamist weapon in what is primarily an ideological and political struggle against Israel", and ignores "a catalog of lesser-known hatred and massacres", including Muslim pogroms against Jews in Córdoba in 1011 and in Granada in 1066.

The argument regarding there being some inherent, fundamental, unchangeable intolerance that is borne of Islam (unlike Christianity) is so stupid that I really would only be arguing against this point with the historically ignorant.

Your own historical understanding is seriously in question.

What's new to me though is the frozen picture of the result of hundreds of years of Christianity verses hundreds of years of Islam. While neither society was in fact remotely tolerant, the end result - the tally of survivors, if you will - demonstrates a more tolerant Islamic world than Christian world.

It does nothing of the sort.  Basically you are cherrypicking the evidence to support your preconceived conclusions.

21 Aug 2007
Send an emailmnuez
a short blog post I scribbled on the subject a little while ago: http://mnuez.blogspot.com/2006/08/realization.html



Realization



It's popular in certain quarters (that I frequent) to say (and truly believe) that "Islam is the problem".

These folk are of the point of view that there is such a thing Authentic Islam ("Just read the Koran!") and that Islam is fundamentaly evil and intolerant. Unlike, they say, Christianity, among other religions.

Naturally, as a Jew, I find this to be rather preposterous. I mean, sure, Muslims today, in their majority, aren't too against the violence that their coreligionists are wreaking against the infidels. Voluminous data demonstrates that. so sure, if you want to say that the Islam believed by a great many Muslims today isn't too tolerant, I could agree with you on that.

Similarly, if you wanted to say that certain Koranic verses aren't overly accepting the Kuffir, I could agree with you about that as well.

What I disagree with thouh and considfer ridiculous is the belief that Islam is fundamentally intolerant and that Muslims have always been so and that all of religious history shows this great distinction between kind and progressive Christianity (and Judaism) and evil, intolerant Islam.

The facts of the matter of course - and this is something rather easy for a Jew to see - are that Islam and Christianity and Judaism (etc.) are just words and they mean only what those who use them mean by them. In one time and place "Christianity" means one thing and in another time or place it means something else.

So too with Islam.

When Muslims focused on Mohammed's commandment to give ssedaka and to seek truth, they created the metropolis of Cordova and oversaw extraordinary empires ranging from Babylonia to the Iberian peninsula, where tolerance was a virtue, libraries were loved and men of all belief systems were able to study, theorise and write.

And when they focused on Mohammed's teachings regarding Jihad, they created the culture of Jihad that we find in many corners of Deir al-Islam today.

And the same can be said for so many other cultures and religions - particularly Christianity.

As a Jew, or as an agnostic, or as a social liberal, or an eccentric, etc. - your chances of survival were far greater in the average Islamic land than in the average Christian shire anytime between the tenth and sixteenth centuries.

But al of this is old news to me.

The realization then?

Some evidence for the above. --- You say that Islam is unlike Christianity in that Islam can brook no opposition while Christianity is fundamentally a tolerant faith?

Have a look at Christiandom and grab a glance at Deir al-Islam.

Christiandom devoured all that was before it. The myriad religions the pre-existed the arrival of Christianity throughout Europe were ALL devoured. Every single last one of them was wiped out with no mercy and none were able to survive the onslaught (except us Jews of course. We're good like that.)

Deir al-Islam however - while ugly, intolerant and murderous (by our western, humanistic standards) - allowed for the survival of not only Jews but various other small religious groups as well, including Zoroastrians, Mandaeans, Manicheans (for a while) and ancient Christian sects that were shown no quarter throughout the Christian world!

That's it.

The argument regarding there being some inherent, fundamental, unchangeable intolerance that is borne of Islam (unlike Christianity) is so stupid that I really would only be arguing against this point with the historically ignorant. What's new to me though is the frozen picture of the result of hundreds of years of Christianity verses hundreds of years of Islam. While neither society was in fact remotely tolerant, the end result - the tally of survivors, if you will - demonstrates a more tolerant Islamic world than Christian world.

El Hamdu Lila


mnuez


21 Aug 2007
Send an emailEnoch
I don't know what Spencer's view is on the nature of the Christian "religion of peace", but a religion of peace does not necessarily mean a religion of unconditional, absolute pacifists who are obligated to lie down and submit to Islamic domination. There is plenty of support in Christian doctrine for Just War, and there are plenty of historical examples of Christian nations successfully resisting - indeed, conquering and occupying - Islamic nations.

Advocates of the "democratic peace" theory - that democracies are inherently more peaceful than other types of nations - certainly do not argue that the "likely outcome" of a conflict between an inherently peaceful democracy and a totalitarian regime is necessarily defeat for the democracy.  Peaceful democracies, when roused, have inflicted total destruction on aggressive, warlike totalitarians (Germany) and successfully resisted, for long periods, a totalitarian regime with a universalist ideology (the USSR). 

In short, an inherently peaceful entity is in no way automatically destined to lose any conflict with an inherently less peaceful entity.