Yes – by far. More on this later in the post.
There is an astounding ignorance among Muslim-bashing Americans who proclaim their “truth” about a broad Islamic intention to destroy “the West” or to undermine “Western” modern secular government. But nothing could be farther from the truth. While the videos of bin Laden circulate on the nightly news, the spokesmen and women representing mainstream Islam hardly get airtime at all. Hence, when people think of Islam, they don’t think of the American Muslims just down the block, they think of the wingnuts like bin Laden, who is about as representative of Islam as crazyman Terry Jones’s Quran-burning stunt is of mainstream Christianity.
So Terry Jones was prepared to publicly burn the holy writings of a religion he knew nothing about. When asked if he had even read the Quran, he admitted he hadn’t. So why was anybody taking this guy seriously, when he was very obviously just a nutjob? The guy didn’t even have 50 people in his congregation, and his views were so extreme he can be regarded as more of a cultist than anything else.
It is baffling why the mainstream media allows a single cretino to hijack, with a petty stunt, the public spotlight for a whole week. Had CNN and FOX and the others simply neglected him, the way we at UC Berkeley neglect the “Happy-happy-happy” corner guy and his ridiculous message boards, had they ignored him as non-news, as was his due, then they could have moved on to truly important stories.
Important stories examples: 1) an unprecedented disaster in Pakistan, 2) a crumbling war effort in Afghanistan (about a quarter of our translators there barely understand a word of Pashtun, and got sent in anyway), or 3) a criminal “kill-team” of US soldiers in Afghanistan, operating sport-killings on Afghan civilians and cutting off body parts for trophies. Of course, the entertainment value of bad translators in Afghanistan or hapless flood victims in Pakistan doesn’t compare to Quran burning in the current climate of American Islamophobia. All of the stories above would help us understand the world better. Instead, the media has created its own issue by spotlighting this guy and refusing to simply dismiss him as unrepresentative, uninteresting, and uninformed.
Muslims around the world were understandably outraged, and demonstrated massively in some countries. The Taliban now have only to print the front-page of the Times to get its propaganda. The drift of the information media toward entertainment and sensationalism has real-world consequences that are grave and violent. Today’s media-news norm is one of distractionism instead of journalism. Distortion instead of insight. Entertainment instead of understanding. This is no way to continue.
So back to the Bible and the Quran regarding violence. From an NPR segment earlier this year:
“Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible,” Jenkins says.
Jenkins is a professor at Penn State University and author of two books dealing with the issue: the recently published Jesus Wars, and Dark Passages , which has not been published but is already drawing controversy.
Violence in the Quran, he and others say, is largely a defense against attack.
“By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane,” he says. “Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide.”
It is called herem, and it means total annihilation. Consider the Book of 1 Samuel, when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: “And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them,” God says through the prophet Samuel. “But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”
When Saul failed to do that, God took away his kingdom.
“In other words,” Jenkins says, “Saul has committed a dreadful sin by failing to complete genocide. And that passage echoes through Christian history. It is often used, for example, in American stories of the confrontation with Indians — not just is it legitimate to kill Indians, but you are violating God’s law if you do not.”
Jenkins notes that the history of Christianity is strewn with herem. During the Crusades in the Middle Ages, the Catholic popes declared the Muslims Amalekites. In the great religious wars in the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries, Protestants and Catholics each believed the other side were the Amalekites and should be utterly destroyed.
Juan Cole also has some useful analysis on the Quran:
Dangerous falsehoods are being promulgated to the American public. The Quran does not preach violence against Christians.
Quran 5:69 says (Arberry): “Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness–their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.”
In other words, the Quran promises Christians and Jews along with Muslims that if they have faith and works, they need have no fear in the afterlife. It is not saying that non-Muslims go to hell– quite the opposite.
When speaking of the 7th-century situation in the Muslim city-state of Medina, which was at war with pagan Mecca, the Quran notes that the polytheists and Arabian Jewish tribes were opposed to Islam, but then goes on to say:
5:82. ” . . . and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.”
So the Quran not only does not urge Muslims to commit violence against Christians, it calls them “nearest in love” to the Muslims! The reason given is their piety, their ability to produce holy persons dedicated to God, and their lack of overweening pride.
The tendency when reading the Quran is to read a word like “kafir” (infidel) as referring to all non-Muslims. But it is clear from a close study of the way the Quran uses the word that it refers to those who actively oppose and persecute Muslims. The word literally meant “ingrate” in ancient Arabic. So the polytheists (“mushrikun”) who tried to wipe out Islam were the main referents of the word “infidel.” Christians, as we see above, were mostly in a completely different category. The Christian Ethiopian monarch gave refuge to the Muslims at one point when things got hot in Mecca.