Why should Islam be the one religion always characterized as intrinsically violent, simply because its holy book and its history also contain violence? Why should non-Muslims always point to the Koran and ancient history as evidence of Islam’s violence while never looking to their own scriptures and history?
While such questions are popular, they reveal a great deal of confusion between history and theology, between the temporal actions of men and what are understood to be the immutable words of God. The fundamental error being that Judeo-Christian history—which is violent—is being conflated with Islamic theology—which commands violence. Of course all religions have had their fair share of violence and intolerance towards the “other.” Whether this violence is ordained by God or whether warlike man merely wished it thus is the all-important question.
Old Testament violence is an interesting case in point. Yahweh clearly ordered the Hebrews to annihilate the Canaanites and surrounding peoples. Such violence is therefore an expression of God’s will, for good or ill. Regardless, all the historic violence committed by the Hebrews and recorded in the Old Testament is just that—history. It happened; God commanded it. But it revolved around a specific time and place and was directed against a specific people. At no time did such violence go on to become standardized or codified into Jewish law (i.e. the Halakha).
This is where Islamic violence is unique. Though similar to the violence of the Old Testament—commanded by God and manifested in history—certain aspects of Islamic violence have become standardized in Islamic law (i.e., Sharia) and apply at all times. Thus while the violence found in the Koran is in fact historical, its ultimate significance is theological, or, more specifically, doctrinal.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Violence in Islam vs. Violence in Judaism and Christianity
Below is a snippet from an insightful article published a few days ago on JihadWatch which excellently explains the difference between violence in Islam and violence in Judaism/Christianity. Click the link for the whole article.