Stop defending Islam as a 'religion of peace'

**This is an opinion column and it does not reflect the views of the Eastern Echo.**

People need to stop defending Islam. It’s one thing to condemn violence, hate and prejudice against and/or by Muslims, but it’s another thing altogether to claim that Islam is a religion of peace, while at the same time deriding people of other faiths for their backward beliefs.

There are over one hundred verses in the Quran that call for war, many of which are directed specifically at nonbelievers. Some of these verses are quite graphic, such as verse 5:33 which states, “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.”

Another verse (8:12) says, “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”

There is no possible way to take verses like these figuratively or metaphorically. It is quite evident that Allah, according to the Quran, calls quite literally for the mutilation and slaughter of all those who oppose Islam.

Radicalism is not representative of all Muslims, but illiberal ideals, violence and extremism are representative of Islam and, unfortunately, many Muslims do condone such things.

Apostasy—the act of leaving one’s religious faith—for instance, is punishable by death, according to the Quran. Verses 4:89, 9:11-12, 2:217, 9:73-74, 88:21, 5:54, 9:66 call for Muslims to kill those who leave the faith (and there are many more from the Hadith).

This crime is punishable by death in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Library of Congress.

According to a poll done by Pew Research Center in 2013, which asked Muslims of various countries (such as Albania, Russia, Bosnia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and others) about the penalty for apostasy, a large number of them supported the death penalty. In Egypt, 86 percent supported killing apostates.

In the same poll, 89 percent of Pakistani Muslims supported stoning as the penalty for adultery and 88 percent favor penalties such as “whippings or cutting off the hands” for crimes like theft.

According to The Week, in Saudi Arabia (ironically, the head of the United Nations Human Rights Council), women cannot go anywhere without a chaperone, drive a car, “wear clothes or make-up that show off their beauty,” interact with men they’re not related to and many other oddities.

Crimes that are punishable by death in Saudi Arabia (often by public beheading or stoning), according to Vocativ, include adultery, “consensual gay sex with an adult,” robbery, drug distribution and possession, apostasy, consumption of intoxicants, sorcery and witchcraft. You can also be executed for being gay and being an atheist, according to The Washington Post.

That being said, it is evidently clear that immoral and violent practices are not simply those of fanatic and extremist Muslims, but also those of many so-called moderates.

Now, I’m not claiming that all Muslims support laws and penalties like the above, but a shocking number do and it’s time to stop sugar-coating the issue—as many liberals in this country do—and denounce the arcane and depraved laws and practices of a bygone era. It’s time to admit that Islamic violence is not only practiced but also encouraged by large numbers of Muslims. It’s time to admit that Islam is not a religion of peace.

I am not calling for people to hate Muslims, nor am I calling for violence against them. I do not support any sort of bigotry or intolerance towards the Muslim community, but we need to stop ignoring the reality that Islam is no better than Christianity was during the Inquisition.

Even when considering Muslims in non-Muslim countries (many of them democracies), the statistics might be surprising.

A Populous Poll from 2006 showed that 12 percent of Muslims in Britain believe that suicide attacks against civilians in Britain can be justified and 1 in 4 support suicide attacks against British troops.

In 2007, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll which found that 26 percent of younger Muslims in America believe suicide bombings are justified. 42 percent in France.

With these figures it’s hard to settle for the common quip of “Islam is peaceful.”

Looking at just the United States, which has an estimated Muslim population of five to 12 million according to Frontline, that’s still over a million Muslims (even taken from 26 percent of the lower estimate of five million) who statistically believe suicide bombings are justified. Granted, this number is taken from the 2007 percentages and I’m highly skeptical of such a high number, but it’s still quite telling.

Now, I have never met a Muslim who has judged me or who seemed radical. My intention is not to smear the average Muslim who believes in peace and kindness and all the good teachings and lessons found in the Quran. Verse 5:89 of the Quran, for instance, tells Muslims to feed and clothe the needy, 7:199 says to be kind and forgiving toward one another, 42:42 states that it is wrong to oppress people.

However, I do want to bring to light the hypocrisy of calling the religion itself nonviolent, when so many Muslim nations and Muslims themselves support such radical violence.

We have to stop demonizing anyone who questions Islam and talk about it frankly. I think having this discussion would be incredibly enlightening. And we must stop referring to criticism of Islam as “racism.” Islam is a religion practiced by many people across the globe, over a billion in fact, and it is not the sole property of one single ethnicity. I criticize Islam, just as I criticize Christianity.

Sam Harris once said, “Holding Islam up to scrutiny, rationally and ethically, must not be confused with anti-Muslim bigotry. Cries of ‘Islamophobia,’ which have become ubiquitous on college campuses and in much of the liberal press, have been used to silence legitimate criticism. In an open society, no idea can be above scrutiny, just as no people should be beneath dignity.”

To say that Islam is a religion of peace is just simply not true. And Muslims who believe in democracy, human rights and nonviolence need to figure out how to spread their progressive beliefs, rather than perpetuate those of a violent Stone Age.

(Update: I have decided to get rid of direct comparisons to Christianity in this column, because I do not want people to get the wrong impression that I am calling one faith better or worse than the other.)


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