Something has always bothered me about declarations that claim Islam is a violent religion. Largely relying on circumstantial evidence, because the regions that are typically the most violent tend to be Islamic, the argument goes that Islam is a violent religion. I haven’t read the Koran that I was sent by CAIR yet to decide for myself, but the claim sounds eerily similar to those that come from another sector of society.
The problem I have with this line of reasoning is that if you take history from a few hundred years ago, it could just as easily be applied to Christianity, and in fact, many secular “thinkers” continue to argue that Christianity breeds nothing but violence. It is this line of thought the leads social elites to demand that students say nothing that could smell of religion because that would violate the “wall of separation”. How it can be argued that the First Amendment (designed solely to protect individual citizen’s right of expression) supports the notion that private citizens not be allowed to speak their minds is beyond rationality.
Universities unconstitutionally suppress religious speech. Anything that can be related to Christianity is ripped out of the public square. This is what Enlightenment thinking has wrought, not freedom of expression, but restriction of the lines of inquiry into the deepest questions of human existence.
By claiming Islam is a violent religion on similar bases, people have unconsciously validated the Enlightenment thought that religion only breeds violence. This idea is simply wrong.
As an example, take Northern Ireland, which is often described as suffering from sectarian violence. On one hand, you have the Catholics who want to claim Northern Ireland as their own, and on the other, you have the Protestants (Anglicans) who want to claim Northern Ireland as theirs. The problem is the fighting has nothing to do with religion. Belfast holds no particular weight for the Papacy, and unless Belfast figures into Henry VIII’s problems with his Y chromosome, it has nothing to do with Anglicanism either.
The fighting over North Ireland is a political fight based on two nations’ claims that the land belongs to them. The Irish (a predominantly Catholic people) claim that Belfast rightfully belongs to them. The English (predominantly Anglican) claim it is theirs. Religion isn’t the area of contention. Anyone who describes this as a sectarian fight largely misses the point or is intentionally trying to find a tendency of violence in religion where it does not exist.
Another example is the so-called sectarian violence in Iraq. The Sunnis and Shiites don’t like each other, that is clear. However, when they have been fighting in Iraq, it doesn’t appear that they are fighting over the finer points of Islam. They do appear to be fighting over economics and political power. For the two groups to come together and form a viable government, it won’t take a reconciliation of the finer points of religious doctrine, but a political compromise.
The problem with religion is that it makes good propaganda in the hands of social elites who want to manipulate public opinion in their favor. This is why the “wall of separation” exists, to prevent the organs of government from misusing religion and vice versa. The institutions ought to remain separate.
It isn’t religion that drives people to violence; it is the social elites who use religion as a tool. It is naïve in the first degree to think heads of state sit around and think about what God wants of them. Generally, the most power hungry are more concerned with an increase of their own power and wealth, typically the things directly antithetical to most religions.
The next time someone says Islam (or another religion for that matter) is violent, take pause. Such over-simplistic stereotypes tend not to be well thought out and are generally just intellectual laziness on the part of a person who can’t win an argument otherwise. Anyone can cherry-pick a verse or two from a book.