The Door to Violence

I appreciate the info Ahmed, I like the term being explained by an adherent to Islam as opposed to some other faith – where they might get the terminilogy all wrong.

Bigger question, why is the Islamic stance on violence allowed? Why isn’t the standard ‘non-violence’?

Reason I ask is because having a stance that allows ‘some’ violence will actually open the door to much ‘more’ violence. Its the old adage if you leave the door open a crack, it’s still considered ‘open’ – whether open a crack or all the way. Misinterpretation of the standard of violence is common when a faith allows a ‘crack’ of it.

(Comment taken from my post on ‘suicide attacks on Islam finally blasted’)



10 thoughts on “The Door to Violence

  1. Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Nomad addresses the difference between other religions like Christianity and Islam and the notion of moderation:

    “This is the biggest misunderstanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. Anyone who identifies himself as a Muslim believes that the Quran is the true, immutable word of God. It should be followed to the letter. Many Muslims do not actually obey every one of the Quran’s many strictures, but they believe that they should. When non-Muslims see Muslims dressed in Western clothes, listening to Western music, perhaps drinking alcohol – people who, in their social lives, are not very different from Westerners – they assume them to be moderate. But this is an incorrect assumption, because it posits a distinction like that between fundamentalist Christians and moderate Christians.
    Moderate Christians are those who do not take every word in the Bible to be the word of God. They don’t seek to live exactly as Jesus Christ and his disciples did. They are actually critical of the Bible, which they read in their own language and have revised several times. There are parts they find inspirational and parts they deem no longer relevant.
    That is not what a moderate Muslim is. A moderate Muslim does not question Muhammed’s actions or reject or revise parts of the Quran. A moderate Muslim may not practice Islam in the way that a fundamentalist Muslim does – veiling, for example, or refusing to shake a woman’s hand – but both the fundamentalist and the so-called moderates agree on the authenticity and the truthfulness and the value of Muslim scripture. This is why fundamentalists manage, without great difficulty, to persuade Muslims who don’t practice much of Islam to begin engaging in the inner struggle, the inner jihad.
    In the past decade, as fundamentalist Islam has grown exponentially, many Muslims who weren’t strictly observant have suddenly changed. Fundamentalist preaching has turned them around very easily, because those non-observant Muslims do not have the intellectual tools to refute what the fundamentalists say, which is, basically, If you are a true Muslims and you believe what is in the Quran, then start practicing it.

    I think this bears closely on why Islam is in desperate need of long and sustained criticism, and why enlightenment values of secularism in Western countries need very strong support from all who live here… especially from the religious who partake of the religious freedom such secular values endorse. Of course, the opposite is true: secularism is considered by many faithists to be the bugaboo to attaining the theocracy that would magically make everything so much better. It’s a delusion, of course, but no faith-based belief is restrained nor constrained by reality. Hence the need for a metaphysical ‘reality’ in matters of faith.

    Hirsi then talks about Western attempts to modernize the Quran, to make it more morally palatable of science and respectful of human rights. She talks about people who have attempted to do this only to be hounded out of the public domain with death threats and violence and concludes:

    “Fundamentalists do not take kindly to these attempts to reshape the Holy Quran into a modern document; to them this is a clear degradation of God and Muhammad. And here, I believe, the fundamentalists win, because they are not suffering from what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. The fundamentalist’s God is all-powerful; he dictated the Quran, and we must live as the Prophet did. This is a stance that is clear. It’s the Westernized theologians who are trapped in confusion, because they want to maintain that the Prophet Muhammad was a perfect human being whose example should be followed, that the Quran is the prefect scripture, and that all its key injunctions – kill the infidel, ambush them, take their property, convert them by force; kill homosexuals and adulterers; condemn Jews; treat women as chattel – are mysterious errors of translation.”

    Hence, we see the scope of the problem for successful integration that respects the essential dominance of secular law in an enlightened civilization.

  2. Good points tildeb, I also have much respect for Ayaan Hirsi Ali…which is our democratic right to do. Irshad Manji also is a fav of mine.

    I am all for the modernization of the texts, not that they need to be changed, but they need to be looked at in terms of many factors that will change an interpretation of the text: history, culture of that era, issue of that era, why it was written, what was the intent, etc. This is a movement I see easy to do when scripture is compared within its time frame and compared to the current time frame – and again – extremely hard to convince a fundamentalist of these concepts.

    The problem with fundamentalism is it’s a key to turn one’s brain down. The norm seems to be about less thinking and more acceptance – and to question is to ‘doubt’…which is like a curse word in faith communities.

    • Yours is an entirely reasonable opinion.


      If I polled a thousand christians across the religious spectrum, how many do you think would agree that is is acceptable to kill others in defense of their faith?

      I suspect the number would be negligible.

      Such polls have been done (for example) with American muslims and the results reveal a vast difference: over 25% of young, affluent, educated muslims think it’s okay to kill in defense of the faith. In Britain, over 33% of British-born, college and university educated muslims between the ages of 19-36 think it’s okay.

      We can try to excuse and sugar-coat and ignore the fundamental incompatibility between islamic quranic beliefs and secular enlightenment values all we want but we are only fooling ourselves. That they are incompatible is the issue and not whether or not if we wait around long enough and practice tolerance for intolerance perhaps these polling numbers will eventually approach zero. That’s rather foolishly optimistic in my opinion. Islamic quaranic belief needs confrontation at every opportunity to be revealed as the antithesis of Western secular enlightenment values that it truly is, that it truly espouses, that it truly exports, that it truly exercises. That’s not to vilify muslims – who can and do break free from the shackles of its anti-human rights, anti-human equality, anti-human freedom, anti-human dignity of personhood – but the faith of conquest and violence to which far too many do submit.

      No doubt I will be thought of as some kind of islamaphobe, but I think my fear is very reasonable and based on very good evidence. I also have the audacity to think that many people actually believe what the quran says they should believe. It is those who pretend that tolerance and non-judgement are the politically correct approaches to take to islam who I think are deluded.

  3. “If I polled a thousand christians across the religious spectrum, how many do you think would agree that is is acceptable to kill others in defense of their faith?” (tildeb)

    Probs that nuber would be low, undoubtedly there would be some. However, Christianity does have as it’s standard towards violence to be a stance of ‘non-violence’…again the stats on that would be negligible and most Christians likely believe in some forms of violence as ‘ok’.

    However, the standard is always ‘non-violence’…which is why I raise the question about Islam’s stance – which allows the door to be ‘open’ to some aspects of violence…which is the case with the door being ‘open’ – whether that’s a crack or all the way – it’s still ‘open’.

    The thing with Christian theology is their leader ‘died’ without a struggle really…accepted his death and this is a very celebrated part of Christian thought (ie: the crucifixion). In fact, nowehere in the NT are people exactly ‘pro-violence’….which flew in the face of some movements within Judaism of that time that hated the Romans.

  4. “Bigger question, why is the Islamic stance on violence allowed? Why isn’t the standard ‘non-violence’?”

    the biggest question is, why is humanity’s stance on violence allowed? why isn’t the standard non-violence?

    because we buy into the myth of redemptive violence. that is the lesson i have learned through the Christian tradition and all it’s atonement theories. Rene Girard should be required reading for anyone within the Christian tradition, flirting with it, or standing against it.

    it’s required reading if you’re human. if you don’t read him now, you’ll just keep coming back until you do.

    • There are well-established injunctions from various scriptures to support direct violence. In addition, nature is a very violent place. It takes an act of extraordinary will to concede the right to violence only to the state. Just ask any parent who uses it as a tool of control: many parents believe it is a necessary tool, or someone responding to violence.

      So when you ask why is humanity’s stance on violence allowed, it always comes back to why any individual resorts to it. Sometimes there are very good reasons for such a response because it is the most effective one to achieve a desired result.

  5. “the biggest question is, why is humanity’s stance on violence allowed? why isn’t the standard non-violence?” (Z1G)

    I don’t expect humanity, as a whole entity. to take a stance of non-violence – they really have no requirement to do so – politically anyways. In fact, your constitution makes room for the allowance of violence…and most countries do within their laws.

    However, for the religious, this becomes a huge question since it is about God, country is one thing, but what would the God we follow suggest? For the religious that viewpoint is going to become all authoritative and even over-ride gov’t ideals on the subject. Which is why I focus on it.

    I see within the Christian tradition the first call to non-violence in any of the big 3 religions, or even most (if not all) religions prior. Which is part of what drew me to this faith, non-violence has a twinge of what humans are capable of.

  6. “I don’t expect humanity, as a whole entity. to take a stance of non-violence – they really have no requirement to do so – politically anyways.”

    i do. don’t backtrack on yourself, that’s the myth of redemptive violence.

    “I see within the Christian tradition the first call to non-violence in any of the big 3 religions, or even most (if not all) religions prior.”

    Judaism, I would say, is the first call. There are plenty of scriptures that attest to this… but the scriptures are texts in travail, they are three steps forward and two back. Then there are later scriptures of Judaism, like the Mishna and its commentary and the Talmud, that are filled with passages expressing ideas which can compete with those in other religions.

    Hillel said to a Gentile who had come to learn God’s law. “Do not do to your next what you do not wish to be done to yourself. This is God’s law – all the remaining is only a commentary to it.” And Bruria, the noble wife of Rabbi Meir, advised her husband to pray for the conversion of his enemies and not for their extinction.

    There’s also a really great article I read while in seminary I found on the ATLA database called “THE NONVIOLENCE OF JUDAISM FROM JEREMIAH TO HERTZL”
    by John Howard Yoder that was really insightful.

  7. (and first call, i mean in the abrahamic tradition. Buddhism and Hinduism have elements of it pre-dating our traditions with nonviolent theologies and philosophies for a few thousand years)

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