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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Battle:Islam - Iron Blogger Republican - First Rebuttal

Well, I have good news and bad news for myself.

The bad news is, my opponent isn’t playing my game (as determined in the Iron Blog guide). The good news is, in this case, I can win both my game AND his game.

To be fair, my opponent finds himself in an unenviable position. In essence, he has to convince the judges that the world’s largest non-Christian religion is populated by well over a billion adherents who are all crackpots and crazies who want us dead.

The only thing really working in Chris’ favor is our own ignorance of Islam as a whole; we have only seen the fringe, extreme, killing side, just as abortion clinics are rarely visited by the cute old ladies in my church who bake the pies.

Let us disabuse ourselves of that ignorance in this very post, then.

My talented opponent’s logic begins where it must when one tries to defend this untenable concept – with history. He wisely plays the biggest card in his deck from square one, and I must concede immediately that Islam was a violent religion from its inception.

Here are his words from the opening statements:

These three, in order were Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, one of these religions is not like the others. One of these religions came into existence through war, was sustained by war, and aims to use war eternally until every single human being on this planet earth is of that religion. One religion is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of dead, and is responsible for more genocides than any other group the world has ever seen.
I thought for a second that he might go with Christianity or Judaism here, but he (wisely, given his assignment) named Islam. Of course, in selecting one to win the title of Most Violent Religion Ever, he discounts a solid performance by Judaism in the Old Testament, as well as years of Roman Catholic murder-for-God. If you combine the two, the Judeo-Christians win in a landslide.

Judaism was founded in circumstances every bit as violent as Islam. Old Testament examples of Jihad are too numerous to cite, but I’ll pick one as a representative from Deuteronomy 20, specifically verses 16 and 18.

However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes…Otherwise they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.

Time for church… where’s my sword?

And really, for a late-comer, Christianity is gaining ground on Judaism in terms of pure violence. So it’s a shame my opponent writes off the other two of the “big three” when they have at least as much claim on the title “religion of Jihad” as Islam does.

The point is, of course, that this is what the big three religions WERE, not what they ARE. The case that the big three are violent is exceedingly simple to prove if one only uses Scriptures written thousands of years ago and recent actions of fringe fundamentalists as proof.

The question posed by my beloved Chairman was framed in the present tense. IS Islam a religion of peace, or a religion of Jihad?

In the right now, my contention has been, and remains, that those who use terror and murder as tools, then claim to be Muslim or Christian, are liars, brainwashed or otherwise self-deceived. Again I state: the 9/11 hijackers were not practitioners of Islam, and those who kill in the name of Christianity are not followers of Jesus.

Given that every religion is made up of fallible humans, and given that any large group of fallible humans will contain a small percentage of violent jerks, and also given that all three of the major religions in America were founded on spilled blood, let us turn our attention to the heart of Islamic faith.

Once we find the heart of the thing, we can tell more clearly if the 9/11 hijackers in particular were acting according to the Islamic faith, or acting on their own urges and merely seeking pseudo-divine justification.

For questions of world religion, I always turn to Huston Smith. He wrote the textbook, The World’s Religions, that I used as a collegian, and he has since become the world’s foremost authority on comparative religious studies.

So let’s see what he has to say about Islam:

It is ironic that of the major faiths outside Christendom, Islam stands closest to the Judaeo-Christian West both geographically and religiously... On reflection, though, while this is indeed ironic, it is not surprising. Common borders provoke border disputes, and these can easily escalate into raids, blood-feuds, and full scale wars. During most of their history, Muslims and Christians have been at odds, and rivals are not known for having the most objective views of each other.

The proper name of this religion is Islam. Derived from the root s-l-m, which means primarily "peace" but in a secondary sense "surrender," its full connotation is "the peace that comes when one's life is surrendered to God." This makes Islam — together with Buddhism, from budh, awakening — one of the two religions that is named after the attribute it seeks to cultivate; in Islam's case, life's total surrender to God.

Wait a second… “Peace that comes when one’s life is surrendered to God?” That’s not at all how Chris used the word “surrender.”

Far be it from me to question Chris’ credibility on this issue (although the not-so-subtle allegation that Jesus never existed didn’t help, never mind that Jesus DID NOT advocate peace at all costs as Chris tries to use in counterpoint to Mohammed… I remember Jesus talking about coming to bring "not peace but a sword" in the gospels - not to mention the downright scary descriptions of his return, when he, in apocalyptic terms, opens a can of whup-tooshie to the tune of 1/3 of the earth destroyed by fire, mountains tossed into the sea and all of his enemies slain by his armies, many by a sword that comes out of his own personal messianic mouth, no less), but I might just anyway.

And so, finally, we come to my opponent’s first rebuttal.

This interesting bit of communication can be broken down into two major phases. Phase one is his attempt to prove that because Islam still promotes acts such as public beheading of capital offenders and cutting the hands off thieves, that the religion as a whole is inherently violent to this day. Phase two, which I shall mostly ignore, proves historically, again, how violent Islam’s past was, a point I conceded from the opening statements.

As for phase one, I can only answer with a hearty, “C’mon, now.”

This is how Islamic nations choose to deal with convicted criminals. We have seen on this very website how even our own country has a death penalty system in place. Are we to believe that because a government based on Islam has a more strict legal retribution system than we do, the religion as a whole is full of terrorists? C’mon, now.

As to that apparently harsh legal system, I would say two things.

(1) America is not far behind the public beheadings as eye-for-an-eye capital crimes go. Electrocution is more painful than beheading (remember the fun twitching description from 1999 I cited in the Death Penalty debate?) and has been used over 150 times in America in just over 25 years. There are even movements afoot to make executions public as a deterrent here in the States, or just for ratings. In one study presented before the U.S. Government, nearly half said they’d watch an execution on television.
(2) Humanitarian that I am, you can’t argue with success. Get your hand chopped off for using it to commit a theft. Cruel and unusual? Only cruel compared to our own legal code. Only unusual because of the astoundingly low crime rate in Muslim countries. Per thousand people, where the U.S. has 81.55 total crimes, Turkey chimes in at only 4.2. I would have given the stats for the Islamic countries we’re more familiar with, but they didn’t even make the list, as you can see. Even the Muslim communities in America reflect this low crime rate.

Chris goes on to ask:
“Has the Pope declared war on any country in recent memory?”
This question was presented in direct comparison to the Islamic code of law. Hmmm… a Pope known for peace hasn’t declared war, but Islamic law is stricter than ours… why, the Muslims MUST all be terrorists! This, as far as I can follow, is the chain of logic we are meant to believe.

Let me give an answer to the question anyway, out of charity. Has the Pope declared war on any country in recent memory? Well, never mind that the Pope isn’t exactly in the health it takes to declare anything. As point of fact, and recalling the “big three,” Christian and Jewish leaders have recently called for war (just the fundamentalists, of course – the mainstream, that we never hear from over the fundamentalist din, remains against war, just like mainstream Islam). One exciting exception to this is Pat Robertson, who is for the war in theory, but would have much preferred “the assassination route.” Proud moment for Christians, that!

Chris would seemingly have us think that Islam as a whole is a religion of Jihad and terror, and that its proponents MUST support violence.

I mean, I THINK that’s what he’s saying. Really, you can’t blame me for being confused. Here are some quotes from Chris on his own website:

On whether Islam is the religion of violence:

Let me remind you that the Mullahs and "religious" tyrants ARE NOT Islamic…

…TRUE MOSLEMS ARE NOT THE ENEMY. It is the people who capitalize on their submission to Allah who are the ones we need to remove.

On whether the majority of those claiming to follow Islam are killers:

I am unsure of what the average indigenous Arab thinks, but I do know that it is not a universal mindset in their world. If it were, then there would be many MILLIONS more dying in a short period of time. So if this is true (and it is), than it is definitely impossible for everybody living in an Arab nation to be so blind and racist as this quote suggests.
Then later in the same posting, Chris gives my very definition of fundamentalism:

Now, there are REASONS that there are those who resort to violence and hate, and this is one of the biggest problems I see not only in the Middle East, but in the Western World as well: Ignorance, and false education

Later, quoting his own comments from another site (note that this is his most recent and final posting on the topic):

I blame the zeitgeist of the middle east as a whole for this. It was only a matter of time before the fascists had their opportunity for an attack, but you have to realize that these people who carry out these attacks only believe themselves to be moslems.. they are not. not by ANY stretch of the imagination.
Same post, later:

I Blame the Governments of the Middle East for creating a hostile and backwards zeitgeist that allows for stark ignorance to be passed off as fact, and for maintaining a mindset and culture that causes all of the violence, and is the direct root of the Middle East's problems.
I could not agree more… those who resort to violence are by no means true members of Islam - “Not by any stretch of the imagination.”

I thank Chris for phrasing it better than I could have.

Submitting in peace (or should I just say “Islam”?),

Dan Champion, Iron Blogger Republican


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