Islam: Religion of violence or religion of peace? The definitive answer

Islam is a  hot topic right now, and with the rise of extremists and islamophobes who claim that the religion is all about violence (and for practically the same reasons), I decided to do a little bit of research and find out the answer for myself.

So, is Islam violent or peaceful? I picked out in a selection of three verses from the Qur’an which appear to support violence:

  1. Surah 2, verse 191: “And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.”
  2. Surah 4, verse 74: “Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world’s life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward.”
  3. Surah 61, verse 4: “Truly Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure.”

Some pretty solid stuff there. But it isn’t fair and balanced reporting if I don’t also mention three verses that refer to Islam as a religion of peace:

  1. Surah 2, verse 256: “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.”
  2. Surah 9, verse 6: “And if anyone of the idolaters seeketh thy protection (O Muhammad), then protect him so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and afterward convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a folk who know not.”
  3. Surah 41, verse 33: “The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend”

There’s probably a whole lot more, but I decided to limit my search to three of each because I’m not a religious scholar and I write this blog in my spare time. This was enough to prove that this approach will not provide a definitive answer, especially since the verses were all cherry-picked and taken completely out of context.

This got me thinking that maybe Islam is not a religion that promotes violence or peace. Maybe, just like other 1,000+ year old religions based on a text filled with archaic and often contradictory verses, it is just a religion followed by a large number of people and open to their individual interpretations. Some of those people want to kill every non-Muslim and put the world to fire and sword, and some of those people want to live in peace and harmony with all mankind, and probably most fit somewhere in the middle.

And so it comes to pass that the people who want to kill every non-Muslim and put the world to fire and sword read the Qur’an and look for the verses that can be interpreted as saying “kill every non-Muslim and put the world to fire and sword”. And the people who want to live in peace and harmony with all mankind read the Qur’an and look for verses that can be interpreted as saying “live in peace and harmony with all mankind”. And each do their thing while claiming the Qur’an as their authority to do so.

I guess the real message here is that we shouldn’t lump all Muslims together as a homogenous group (i.e., the basic definition of bigotry), the same way we don’t lump all Christians together as a homogenous group.

Terrorism, Muslims, and the Media

Dear Media,

I understand that the world is changing, we are in a 24 hour news cycle, and everything is 2.0 now. But during the period between when there is a tragic event, and when some information about it is known….you actually are allowed to shut your metaphorical mouth and say nothing.

Here, using the awesome power of Microsoft Word, I have put together a rough flowchart demonstrating what the sequence of events should be:


(Of course, if it were an ideal world, step 1 wouldn’t occur in the first place!)

The key point I am trying to make is that between steps 2 and 3, you are under no obligation to report anything. If you absolutely must, you can repeat the most recent bit of news for people who have just tuned in or turned on or tapped in whatever kids do these days.

But please, I implore you, don’t fill the gap with empty, baseless speculation! Yes, a bomb is a terrible tragedy. And yes, a lot of scared people are looking for answers… but if you don’t know who set it off, or why, then don’t start trotting out tired old anti-Muslim sentiments. Why even mention Muslims? The vast majority are harmless, law-abiding individuals. Why not mention Jews? From 1980-2005 More terrorist acts in USA were committed in the name of Judaism than Islam.

The fact is that even mentioning Muslims in this context helps reinforce the confirmation bias that is already simmering in some people’s minds. I noted that the 7:30 Report, a show on ABC (an Australian public tv station, not the US one) had a segment reviewing the history of US terrorist attacks done in the name of Islam…they devoted much more than 6% of their time to that line of enquiry. I dread to think what the commercial networks are saying…

I am not a Muslim (in my mind every religion is as silly as the next…well, maybe some are a little sillier!). But I do hate the idea that any particular group of people is being tarred with a brush because of something that a small number of brainwashed people who claim to be in that group (but really aren’t) may or may not have done, especially when it is 15 times more likely that the act was committed by some other group, and especially when the insinuations being made are based on no absolutely no evidence but cultural/racial bias and stereotypes, and especially especially when the insinuations are being perpetuated by a publicly funded broadcaster in one of the most multicultural countries in the world!

To summarise, if you don’t have anything to say then just don’t say it.

Yours Sincerely,

An angry voice
Shouting at the clouds