Tuesday, May 15, 2007

World Peace

Contrary to the opinion of my father and other believers, I actually try to keep an open mind and see both sides, especially in areas where my knowledge is limited. So, I'm trying to learn more about Islam because I work with Muslims and so far they all seem very nice, decent, hard working people and not a single one has threatened me or tried to do me harm or, for that matter, tried to convert me to their religion. In other words, they are a lot like most of the people I work with and I'd like to understand a little more about their religion and how they can believe and be peaceful while many of their fellow believers use Islam as a philosophical springboard for genocide and hatred.

I recently finished listening to "The Truth About Mohammed." When I finished I felt I'd learned how Islam is used to justify violence and repression around the world, but I also felt like I'd just read a very one sided polemic. What I didn't learn from the book was what made Islam such a popular religion throughout the world and across many different cultures. The author didn't even make an attempt to show any redeeming value to Mohammed's life or the religion he founded.

So I picked up what I knew would be a polemic in the opposite direction, "Islam and World Peace." So far it is pretty typical of a lot of religious writing in that it consists of a sequence of unjustified assertions that probably seem like self-evident truths to the author, but that quite questionable to me.

The gist so far seems to be that the cause of all of the violence in Jerusalem and the rest of the world is unbelievers and that if all of the believing nations of the world would just expel or otherwise get rid of the unbelievers and follow the law of God then the world would be at peace. My interpretation would be that if we would all just accept the truth of Islam then we'd have peace. That makes sense in a certain way but begs the question about how to persuade the unbelievers to believe. Mohammed started out preaching and trying to persuade, but the only thing that ultimately worked for him was warfare and complete intolerance of other religions. So, does that mean that to achieve peace the believers need to declare war on unbelief and destroy or expel all unblievers? Wait, isn't that what the Islamic terrorists are saying? Now I'm confused again. I guess I'll have to keep listening to the rest of the book.


Anonymous said...

Maybe this is just as valid a method of preaching peace as any: http://www.thenewsroom.com/details/300487/Life+and+Leisure?c_20191

In case you want to post it here :)

Bull said...

The muppets instead of Koranic and Biblical literalism? What does it say of those two traditions when I think that the puppets are more inspired?

Anonymous said...

Mohammed started out preaching and trying to persuade, but the only thing that ultimately worked for him was warfare and complete intolerance of other religions.

No and no. In fact, it was the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, between the Muslims and the Quraish, that opened up the doors, so to speak. After the peace treaty was signed, the numbers of non-believers becoming Muslim skyrocketed.

I appreciate that you're open-minded with regard to Islam, but you still have a fair amount of research to do.

Bull said...

When was the Battle of Badr and when was the Treaty of Hudaybiyah? Wasn't the battle in 624 AD and the treaty in 628? Unless I'm missing something Mohammed had already resorted to warfare, raiding, and martyrdom doctrine before the treaty. Further, the treaty was quickly broken with the Muslims marching on Mecca and the Quraish with an army of 10,000.

I'm seriously trying to learn and understand, but the facts as I understand them don't show that Islam became ascendant through peaceful persuasion. It achieved its dominance in the region through military and political means.

I guess I'm not sure what you are saying "no and no" to. Muhammed was not generally accepted in Mecca and retreated with his followers to Medina where his doctrine and practice became increasingly militant until he was able to assemble a sufficient following and wealth to conquer the region.

After the treaty his numbers did skyrocket. But to me it appears that this could be the result of seeing the writing on the wall.

Of course it could also be that people had always wanted to join Islam but had been afraid until Mohammed had enough power to provide his followers with security from the existing regimes.

Or are you disputing my statement of intolerance? I'd like to see the refutation of that because all evidence available to me points to Islam being a very intolerant religion to this very day.

I make no claim to be an expert. That's why I'm studying and trying to understand. But what I'm finding doesn't sound very appealing.

AZ Awakening said...

Just say no to ANY Restoration Religion.

Bull said...

Oh. Didn't Mohammed also expel several Jewish tribes from Medina prior to the treaty you cited? Didn't he also attack the Banu Qurayza and execute all the captive men when he won? It sure sounds like warfare was an integral part of Islam before the treaty. Isn't the treaty a sign that the Quraish recognized the growing military power of Medina and Mohammed?

C. L. Hanson said...

I'm not convinced that focusing on "Islam as the worst offender in terms of warfare and human rights" is necessarily a productive strategy in terms of fostering world peace. The Bible condones (or encourages) genocide, slavery, treating women as property subject to the whims of their male keepers, etc. Many religions have a history of religious-inspired warfare. Rather than debating the proposition "Yeah, but Islam is worse..." let's analyze how people whose religious traditions contain warfare and human rights violations come to be persuaded to reject those aspects of their traditions and live peacefully in a pluralistic society.

People naturally see their own culture and traditions as embracing a wide spectrum of human experience. For someone born in an Arab country, being a Muslim typically represents a huge range of positive, neutral, and negative associations. If you take the worst of it and say "This is Islam," many people who might have been persuaded to take a moderate and peaceful stance will conclude that you don't understand the situation, and as a result may feel more sympathy with the extremists.

By contrast, one book I've seen for kids at the local bookstore is a picture-book about the contributions of Muslims to science, especially during the middle ages. The book is in French, with some lines written in Arabic. I like this sort of thing because it says to kids "By contributing to the pursuit of secular ideas, you're not turning your back on your traditions, you're honoring your proudest traditions."

I'm not saying Islam shouldn't be criticized -- quite the contrary, I think the practices of many modern Islamic states deserve quite a lot of very harsh criticism. However, I would beware of rhetoric that says "Islam itself is the problem; Muslims are not capable of living peacefully with themselves or others." If that's the problem you've isolated, the solution you'll be led to is to eliminate Islam and/or eliminate Muslims. That leads to further polarization and ensures that the Muslims will band together to fight you.

It is better to convert Muslims to the belief that having a modern, pluralistic society -- with separation of church/mosque and state -- has great advantages even for the faithful and others who don't desire to reject their Muslim identity.

Bull said...

Chanson, I totally agree. I really took up this topic because of the anti-Muslim rantings of my father. It wasn't my intent to single out Islam. In fact, in the past I've pointed out that other religions have checkered pasts. The Bible, in particular, is full of atrocities.

I guess I was surprised to find a supposedly what is supposed to be an Islamic apologist peace-nic blaming the worlds violence on all of the unbelievers.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...


It is quite confusing. After 9/11, I read the Koran and several pro-and con literature about Islamic religions.

I came to a conclusion that like all religions there is a "radical" group that twists the religion to accomplish their goals in a violent manner. Unfortunately, these religious leaders have a strangle hold over a large amount of people

Also, the Palestinians do have a reason for their hatred.

Islamic countries did have a renaissance at one point when the religion was more free. Art, science, and industry flourished. When the religion regained its prominence, then they lost their place in the world. As one religious historian said, the Islamic religion tried to change (to become more modern in its thinking), but it was unable to evolve. The religion is still in the middle ages.

So what happens when a religion (or religious leaders) realize that they are not being "blessed" for their righteousness?... exactly what you see happening today.

Just my opinion.

Sideon said...

Off topic:

love the Bull avatar :)

You crack me up!

More off topic:

When are you gonna be in the Bay area again for drinks, drinks and more drinks?

Bull said...

Glad you like it. That's where the nickname came from, not from what I'm full of.

Bull said...

I'll be in the Bay area again around the July 22 weekend. I've got classes to teach and the MotoGP at Laguna Seca.