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September 17, 2010

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http://www.seattleweekly.com/2010-09-15/news/on-the-advice-of-the-fbi-cartoonist-molly-norris-disappears-from-view/

When Mohammed starting having visions, he went to Khadijah and said: "I don't know if I'm crazy, or if God (Allah) is talking to me." And she said, "you're not crazy."

I don't know about you, Doc, but if my spouse came to me saying, "I'm seeing visions and hearing voices," I'd be more inclined to suggest a dose of Prozac than to say, "It's all right, dear, it must be God communing with you."

Look, I do thank you for posting this. Khadijah sounds like an interesting historical figure, more down-to-earth than Cleopatra, more modest than Messalina -- but self-evidently less rational than Hypatia. I mean, who comes off looking saner in the above exchange? The husband who wonders whether he's going nuts, or the wife who assures him he's not?

--TP

Thanks Dr S. This is the kind of thoughtful post I hoped you would write.

I'd note that they didn't have Prozac back then. So that wasn't an option even if his wife DID think he was nuts.

Second, wives tend to get to know their husbands pretty well. She doubtless understood the character of the man she was married to.

And that character? Well, he DID spread Islam at the point of a sword, stacked up bodies like cord wood.

So, you going to tell your homicidally inclined husband that the fact he's hearing voices DOES mean he's nuts? Who knows what the voiced would tell him to do THEN?

Well, he DID spread Islam at the point of a sword, stacked up bodies like cord wood.

Ahhh, a minor in Islamic history to go with that minor in Spanish, Brett?

...and because, doncha' know, the crusades and the inquisition somehow don't count anymore.

"...and because, doncha' know, the crusades and the inquisition somehow don't count anymore."

Yes they did exist. And there are centuries of back and forth between the nations of Islam and Christendom. That history does play a part in our mutual views of each other.

I was pointed to a really interesting Atlantic article from 1990 that has an interesting point of view on it. Note that at the time Bernard Lewis view:

We should not exaggerate the dimensions of the problem. The Muslim world is far from unanimous in its rejection of the West, nor have the Muslim regions of the Third World been the most passionate and the most extreme in their hostility. There are still significant numbers, in some quarters perhaps a majority, of Muslims with whom we share certain basic cultural and moral, social and political, beliefs and aspirations; there is still an imposing Western presence—cultural, economic, diplomatic—in Muslim lands, some of which are Western allies. Certainly nowhere in the Muslim world, in the Middle East or elsewhere, has American policy suffered disasters or encountered problems comparable to those in Southeast Asia or Central America. There is no Cuba, no Vietnam, in the Muslim world, and no place where American forces are involved as combatants or even as "advisers." But there is a Libya, an Iran, and a Lebanon, and a surge of hatred that distresses, alarms, and above all baffles Americans.

italics mine and, unfortunately, not so true 20 years later.

But I believe it is a good synopsis of why we keep seeing this circular argument about whos religion is worse, with some historical context.

BTW, very interesting post Doc. Sorry if the comment above was slightly off topic.

Well, he DID spread Islam at the point of a sword, stacked up bodies like cord wood.

indeed. Mohammad was the first and last person in history to spread religion by violence.

just ask the native Americans from Argentina to Alaska how Christianity came their way...

cleek: That was guns & disease. Totally different than swords. Swords are uniquely violent.

I'd note that prozac and other anti-depressants don't appear to be much better at treating mental illness than placebos.

IOW, she'd be asking her husband to trade his fantasy for hers.

Or ask the population of Asia Minor, where Alexander went, or most of the area around the Mediterranean how the Romans spread their religion, or basically anybody in most of the middle east, through pretty much all of history, or most anywhere in the world, really.

Most of my knowledge of Islam comes from two books...

Take care that you are not "imprinted", then. Such an important topic needs wide, dispassionate study.

"The most difficult subject can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him."
-- Leo Tolstoy

Yes, Richard The Lion-Heart killed a lot of Muslims nearly a thousand years ago. So obviously we have no right to object to having our Western nations fill up with honor killings, household slaves, and exploding mass transit today.

/

a surge of hatred that distresses, alarms, and above all baffles Americans.

I look at this and see only insanity. I mean, everyone on Earth has hatred. And while some of that hatred is just unfathomable, almost all of it can be understood if you just bother to talk to people. People living in Iran or Lebanon most certainly have hatred, just like Americans have hatred, but I find their hatred is, if not rational, at least easily comprehensible.

It boggles the mind that someone published an article in one of our leading public journals positing that a billion people are irrational fruitcakes who hate just because they hate, without any reason to hate.

@ Turbulence

It boggles the mind that someone published an article in one of our leading public journals positing that a billion people are irrational fruitcakes who hate just because they hate, without any reason to hate.

Sometimes I don't know why I bother commenting, when someone like you says exactly what I was thinking, but better.

Thx, Turb.

Yes, Richard The Lion-Heart killed a lot of Muslims nearly a thousand years ago. So obviously we have no right to object to having our Western nations fill up with honor killings, household slaves, and exploding mass transit today.

No objections allowed! That's right!

PS: Christianity killed a lot of people post Richard - or was used as a pretext for a lot of death.

But that is, as usual, beside the point to your utterly inane comment.

Take care that you are not "imprinted", then. Such an important topic needs wide, dispassionate study.

As you no doubt have undertaken. You seem, if anything, dispassionate on the topic.

"Prozac" was not meant to be taken literally. It refers to all psychopharmaceuticals in the God-isn't-really-talking-to-you trade.

As for the how "the Romans spread their religion", Nate, you may know something I don't. The Romans tended to import the cults of foreign gods into Rome itself. They conquered the Greeks and the Jews, but did not go around replacing the native gods with their own, so far as I know. My impression is that they were theologically closer to Herodotus (who thought it perfectly natural, when visiting foreign lands, to worship the local gods he found there) than to Mohammed or Cortez. Am I wrong?

--TP

I don't see that at all in the Atlantic article. I see it saying that Muslim hatred of the West baffles Americans, not that it is irrational or without reason. I also don't see that it posits anything about a billion people.

I mean, what about this, from Marty's excerpt above?

We should not exaggerate the dimensions of the problem. The Muslim world is far from unanimous in its rejection of the West, nor have the Muslim regions of the Third World been the most passionate and the most extreme in their hostility. There are still significant numbers, in some quarters perhaps a majority, of Muslims with whom we share certain basic cultural and moral, social and political, beliefs and aspirations; there is still an imposing Western presence—cultural, economic, diplomatic—in Muslim lands, some of which are Western allies.

???

It boggles the mind that someone published an article in one of our leading public journals positing that a billion people are irrational fruitcakes

Singling out Muslims in this way is indeed wrong, but rather than wasting our time trying to make sense of mistaken and outdated explanatory models, let's just call all religious people irrational fruitcakes and be done with it.

I don't see that at all in the Atlantic article. I see it saying that Muslim hatred of the West baffles Americans, not that it is irrational or without reason.

Aren't these the same thing? If I saw you lighting a house on fire, I might be baffled by your actions, at least until you explained that you were a fire marshal and that you were leading a training exercise for the local fire department using an abandoned property. My bafflement at your behavior is of a piece with my inability to comprehend a reason for it.

Moreover, I think the article is pretty clear in saying that Muslim "hostility" (why don't we ever talk about American hostility or Israeli hostility or Chinese hostility?) had some legitimate causes, but once those causes were eliminated, the rage continued unabated. That clearly indicates that the rage is irrational:

If we turn from the general to the specific, there is no lack of individual policies and actions, pursued and taken by individual Western governments, that have aroused the passionate anger of Middle Eastern and other Islamic peoples. Yet all too often, when these policies are abandoned and the problems resolved, there is only a local and temporary alleviation. The French have left Algeria, the British have left Egypt, the Western oil companies have left their oil wells, the westernizing Shah has left Iran—yet the generalized resentment of the fundamentalists and other extremists against the West and its friends remains and grows and is not appeased.

I also don't see that it posits anything about a billion people.

Well, there are about a billion Muslims in the world.

TonyP: To an extent they did, sure. But they also enforced the cult of the state, and the emperor. And it was more a matter of "Hey, you have a local storm god? Well, so do we, so yours was really just Zeus, disguised as a boar!" It really depends which part of the Roman era you look at: Wikipedia

Well, there are about a billion Muslims in the world.

But, Turb, he doesn't use "Muslims" in your excerpt, rather "fundamentalists and other extremists." Are there a billion of those (or were there in 1990)?

the Western oil companies have left their oil wells

???

I really thought that the two most interesting parts of the article were:

1)The historical context of the centuries old battle between the two religions, where for much of the time they were both equivalent to states.

2) his indictment of what we have done in the last twenty years, by pointing out, in advance, that most of what we have done is exactly the wrong response.

(I was also interested in seeing an insightful quote, at the end, from a President I had never seen quoted before.)

I think I found the money quote regarding the assertion of irrationality, so I will agree on that point, Turb. It's explicit.

This is no less than a clash of civilizations—the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both. It is crucially important that we on our side should not be provoked into an equally historic but also equally irrational reaction against that rival.

I still think it's pretty clear throughout the article that he's not discussing all or most Muslims. That's not to say that I agree with everything he says, just that I don't think it's fair to say he's imputing hostility (or irrationality) to all or most Muslims.

Europe “cleansed” Islam from its region, almost “cleansed” Judaism as well.

Many of you seem to forget, that Islam, when in power, has a better reputation for dealing with its minority religions. Christianity remained, about 15% of the population up until very recent history. And the mass death of Jews is a more popular phenomenon in Europe.

European Christianity did not stop being genocidal with European expansion.

Many of you seem to forget, that Islam, when in power, has a better reputation for dealing with its minority religions.

Really? Like, who seems to forget that, and how so?

I think his move to use “Judeo-Christian” is a bit weird. Considering most Jews and many conservative Christians objected to the term, up until 9-11. Most conseravtive Protestants started using it to avoud the anti-Jewish label....and NeoCons (who previeously rejected it, Coen wrote his famous article in Commentary, during the late 1960s) have embraced it when they developed political formations with right-wing Protestants.

Coen, Arthur A. (1971). The Myth of the Judeo-Christian Tradition and Other Dissenting Essays, New York: Schoken Books.

Grossman, Marshall. (1989). “The Violence of the Hyphen in Judeo-Christian” In Social Text, pp. 115-122.

Hartmann, Douglas, Xuefeng Zhang and William Wischstadt. (2005). “One (Multicultural) Nation Under God? Changing Uses and Meanings of the Term ‘Judeo-Christian’ in the American Media” In Journal of Media and Religion, pp. 207-234.

Moore, Deborah Dash. (1998). “Jewish GIs and the Creation of the Judeo-Christian Tradition” In Religion and American Culture, pp. 31-53.

Silk, Mark. (1984). “Notes on the Judeo-Christian Tradition in America” In American Quarterly, pp. 65-85.

And that character? Well, he DID spread Islam at the point of a sword, stacked up bodies like cord wood.

That is, he built an empire, which is wonderful when the Greeks, Romans, British, or Americans do it, but hellishly evil when it's done by Arabs or other dark-skinned types.

"Many of you seem to forget, that Islam, when in power, has a better reputation for dealing with its minority religions."

Probably the better word is 'had'(650-1200). In current places where it is in power it tends to have a much much worse reputation for dealing with its minority religions. That includes even such relatively peaceful places as Indonesia, and is even worse in the Middle East and African countries where it is in power. This is especially true in the last hundred years.

Mike Schilling, casual assertions of racism without large portions of proof aren't welcome here.

Sebastian, from the nineteenth century until the mid to late (depending on where you live), both Canada and the United States took First Nations children from their homes and parents and brought them up in residential schools, run to a great extent by religious bodies. The governments of Canada and the United States had various reasons for doing this, but destroying First Nations religious or spiritual practices and converting the people to Christianity ranked high among the motives.

During the same period, the authorities persecuted First Nations spirituality; I have heard from people whose parents sheltered First nations people in the thirties and forties who risked arrest for going to pray at their sacred sites.

If you have a documented instance of a Muslim country taking the children of members of a religious minority and forcibly enrolling them in Muslim Madrasses as a widespread state policy, please post it here. If you have recent cases of Muslim authorities aiming to eliminate a religious minority within their jurisdiction, please post it here.

If you want more on the dire history of Canada and the United States, and Christian European-originating society in general in relation to First nations religion and spiritual practices, just use Google. Unfortunately, I don't have permission from the survivors I have spoken to to share the worst of the stories, but trust me, they would raise the hair on your head, and I know of no analog from Muslim societies. Muslim society, like all human society, has a lot to answer for, but Muslims to have a tolerable to good record on religious tolerance.

It seems to me that both Elizabeth Moon's attack on American Muslims and your defence of Islam miss the point, which doesn't specifically concern Islam at all. The controversy over Park51, as a part of the larger controversy over the place of Islam in the United States, really concerns the question of whether Americans truly believe in the principles articulated at the founding of the United States.

To quote from the Declaration of Independence:

it is the Right of the People to... institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Jefferson's statement implies a trust in the common wisdom of the people. It means, in plain English, that American Muslims working non-violently to persuade their compatriots to amend the constitution to allow for Sharia law follow the American script as well, and as patriotically, as any other citizen. Everyone aims to make the country as good a nation as possible, and the best ideas, or at least those which work best for the majority of the citizenry, will prevail.

I don't know on what basis someone who doesn't believe that believes in the founding principles of the United States of America as articulated in the declaration of independence and the constitution. Indeed, I know of no other basis for any post-enlightenment democracy. The kind of tolerance that the writer Dr. Science claims your country generously extends to Muslims actually underpins the whole American enterprise.

It disturbs me that so many Americans seem to have lost sight of the meaning of the American project.

1. You probably shouldn't assume that just because something is recorded in the holiest book of a religion, or that religion's historical records, it actually happened. This is true not only of the blatantly magical things recorded in such places, but of the more mundane matters.

2. Religious essentialism is fallacious if your goal is a descriptive take on the religious beliefs of actual people. You can't reason that just because a religion's holy texts endorse a particular viewpoint, the religion as practiced endorses that viewpoint.

So in short, I wouldn't necessarily assume that Muhammad's life had any resemblance to the records we have of it, and even if it does, it doesn't matter for dealing with the beliefs of actual Muslims.

One more comment on Ms. Moon's linked article: her assumption that Muslims will come from other countries, and therefore should show circumspection in fitting in, makes no sense at all in the American context. Leaving out the huge number of Muslims whose families have lived in the United States for generations, consider this: if an American descended from the first wave of European invaders, say on the Mayflower, finds Islam morally satisfying and intellectually convincing, your constitution as now written absolutely affirms his or her right to enter a mosque and make a profession of faith. Once done, that makes him or her a Muslim. Again, your constitution says quite explicitly that this can have no effect on the mutual obligations she and this person have as citizens of the same country. So on what basis does she argue that Muslims somehow deserve suspicion and should accept their suspect status?

Well, DUH. Obviously, if an American of good European stock, raised in a Christian family, were to profess Islamic faith, they've just explicitly rejected American values, and thus must be viewed as suspect. Amiright, or amiright?

"Certainly nowhere in the Muslim world, in the Middle East or elsewhere, has American policy suffered disasters or encountered problems comparable to those in Southeast Asia or Central America. There is no Cuba, no Vietnam, in the Muslim world, and no place where American forces are involved as combatants or even as "advisers." But there is a Libya, an Iran, and a Lebanon, and a surge of hatred that distresses, alarms, and above all baffles Americans."

So Lewis wrote that in 1990? After a nearly a decade of a war between Iran and Iraq in which the US sided with Saddam, when we weren't making arms deals under the table. And Lebanon--uh. Why would some Lebanese hate Americans? Well, maybe it had something to do with a civil war and Israeli invasions where we took sides.


"That includes even such relatively peaceful places as Indonesia, and is even worse in the Middle East and African countries where it is in power. "

Indonesia's massive human rights violations in the 60's and 70's had more to do with Right against Left than Muslim against non-Muslim. The hundreds of thousands murdered when Suharto took over (to the cheering of America) were alleged commies. The Timorese were led by Fretilin, a leftist group.

The only place I know in the Mideast where Christians have had power would be Lebanon, and the record isn't pretty. Perhaps one could also count the evangelical Christian support for the most fanatical Israeli settlers--in this case, American Christians are in effect sponsoring the persecution of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

African conflicts are mostly fueled by other factors, even when there is a religious component. Sub-Saharan Christian Africa has not exactly been a conflict and massacre-free place. I'm sure if it were predominantly Muslim we'd have people pointing to the atrocities that have occurred in the past few decades in the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Mozambique, Uganda and South Africa as evidence of the inherently bad effect Islam has on societies.

" Israeli invasions where we took sides."

Incidentally, I know that some in the US government tried to reign in Israel during the 1982 invasion, but Haig allegedly gave the green light for it and I believe the US has been known to supply a weapon or two to the Israelis from time to time.

I forgot to mention Bob Woodward's book "Veil", where he says the CIA sponsored a car bomb attack on Fadlallah that killed 80 people (though not the target).

The hundreds of thousands murdered when Suharto took over (to the cheering of America) were alleged commies.

Not just cheering. Active CIA support before, during and after.

I wouldn't necessarily assume that Muhammad's life had any resemblance to the records we have of it, and even if it does, it doesn't matter for dealing with the beliefs of actual Muslims.

It does matter since Muhammad is considered a model for Muslim behavior throughout the Muslim world, like Jesus is among Christians. The fact that their actual lives were different than the mythologized versions we have doesn't change that.

I swear if I hear one more person say "Judeo-Christian heritage" I'm going to punch them directly in the face. Jews and Christians have not traditionally been, shall we say, happy partners in culture- and civilization-building, certainly not in Europe and not here in America.

This was a wonderful post, and very informative. Thank you for posting it, much less taking the time to research all this information. It's nice to see someone actually research before they open their mouths and talk like they know what they're talking about.

I must admit to being somewhat puzzled by the response to my comment. Let us posit that the originators of several other religions were also sociopathic killers. And that numerous secular movements have been spread at the point of a sword, spear, panel vans, or whatever weapon happened to be current. Let me concede all these things.

Does that make telling one particular sociopathic killer, religious or secular, that they are indeed nuts, any safer? How is it even relevant to this question?

No, telling your husband, who you have already noticed has violent tendencies, that, yes, he's nuts, is not particularly safe. Heck, I'd venture to say it's not particularly safe even if your husband isn't starting his own religion.

"Ahhh, a minor in Islamic history to go with that minor in Spanish, Brett?"

Would I need a degree in Catholic sociology to know that Christ was crucified? Some things ARE part of the common knowledge, know even to the undegreed.

Brett, given your previous comments on Cordoba, I posit that you don't actually know anything about the founding of Islam and your reference to bodies stacked as cordwood doesn't represent any historical knowledge. How many people died in the Battle of Mecca? What you think is common knowledge is actually ugly prejudice, though I don't think you'll ever admit it.

At any rate, founders of religion that seek to proselytize are generally not sociopathic killers, as they are trying to gain followers. The sociopathic killer part comes when the religion is trying to keep its now numerous followers in line.

"If you have a documented instance of a Muslim country taking the children of members of a religious minority and forcibly enrolling them in Muslim Madrasses as a widespread state policy, please post it here. If you have recent cases of Muslim authorities aiming to eliminate a religious minority within their jurisdiction, please post it here. "

Jews, almost everywhere in the Middle East other than Israel. Christians in Turkey (Istanbul pogram), the anti-Christian pograms in the Sudan, even relatively friendly Egypt persecutes Christian converts from Islam, in Saudi Arabia Christians are subject to whippings for practicing openly, in Iran Christian converts from Islam have been sentenced to death as recently as 1993 and otherwise subject to severe persecution [their numbers dropping by 2/3 since the Islamic revolution](see for example this HRW report.)

In short, I don't think you know what you're talking about.

Just wanted to say that I loved this post. Especially this:

When Mohammed starting having visions, he went to Khadijah and said: "I don't know if I'm crazy, or if God (Allah) is talking to me." And she said, "you're not crazy."

I say that as a resolute atheist, as someone fairly-recently married, and as someone who's had one or two - inconvenient, given the atheism - religious experiences of his own. And that's all I'll say about that.

I swear if I hear one more person say "Judeo-Christian heritage" I'm going to punch them directly in the face.

Internet Tough Guy!

Model 62 wrote:

IOW, she'd be asking her husband to trade his fantasy for hers
What I think you -- and Brett B, and Tony P -- are missing is that Khadijah didn't trade anything: she helped Mohammad shape his understanding of what he was experiencing along lines *she* was comfortable with. As I said, she was already a monotheist of some stripe; she also is said to have introduced Mohammad to her cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal, a Christian who helped Mohammad put his visions into a Christian context.

Basically, Khadijah didn't just go along with Mohammad's ideas: she was crucial to shaping his ideas, to pointing his sense of spiritual vocation in a particular direction. IMHO this makes her an even more accurate stand-in for other believers, because *every* religion is shaped as much by its followers as by its leaders or its god(s).

Sebastian, I wrote elimination, not persecution. Most Muslim nations do forbid non-Muslims (primarily Christians) from proselytizing Muslims. Many Muslim-majority states persecute converts from Islam, mostly by ignoring or condoning vigilante violence. But that still doesn't mean Muslim states aim to eliminate religious minorities. Christians practice in Iran and elsewhere, and the Iranian government accommodates them, for example by relaxing the ban on alcohol to allow for Communion wine.

To make your point, you really need a quote from a Muslim leader that their program will eliminate a minority completely, compel them to renounce and forget all trace of their languages, cultures, and traditional religious beliefs. Has Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for example, ever said anything to the effect that he hopes that by the time he leaves office, every last member of the Iranian Jewish community will have converted to Islam? If he has, post the quote, but I don't believe he's said anything like this. And while I don't delude myself that the Jewish community in Iran or many other Muslim-majority nations leads a comfortable life, I don't know of any Muslim-majority nation that has a program in place specifically aimed at eliminating, through forced conversions, their Christian or Jewish communities.

You don't have to like it, but Christian-majority countries, and not just the ones that obviously spring to mind, have aimed exactly this kind of rhetoric at religious minorities, they have tried to carry such programs through, and they have on occasion succeeded.

I really wish you had it right. I wish this history didn't exist. But denial won't get us anywhere useful.

envy: I understand you meant what you wrote facetiously. But let me answer it seriously: someone who follows their conscience has in fact enacted the deepest and most important of American values: freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of conscience. A free people, freely investigating and following their beliefs and consciences within a framework of laws, will find a way to live out the truth and can build a good, as in just and prosperous, state. If the United States does not rest on that intellectual base, the foundation the declaration of independence and the US constitution speak of, then what does it rest on? The right to enslave Black people and steal from Red people?

Doctor Science,

Speaking only for myself, I am NOT missing the point that Khadijah "was crucial to shaping [Mohammed's] ideas". But for all I know, Joseph Smith's wife was crucial to shaping Mormonism, too.

Far from disparaging Khdijah as a bit player, I am entirely willing to give her due credit for loosing yet another brand of monotheism upon the world. To the extent she contributed to the notion that God's message to Mohammed was "You're my last and final prophet; I'm done revealling now", Khadijah gets major points for clever marketing. A formidable woman, no doubt about it.

But either Allah spoke to Mohammed or Allah did not speak to Mohammed; either God exists or God does not. How you assess Khadijah's significance as "an even more accurate stand-in for other believers" ultimately depends at least a little on that, doesn't it?

--TP

If you have a documented instance of a Muslim country taking the children of members of a religious minority and forcibly enrolling them in Muslim Madrasses as a widespread state policy, please post it here.

Well, John, the Janissaries under the Ottoman Empire were very famous:

According to military historian Michael Antonucci, every five years, Turkish administrators would scour their regions for the strongest sons of the sultan's Christian subjects. These boys, usually between the ages of 10 and 12, were then forcibly taken from their parents and enrolled in Janissary training. The recruit was immediately indoctrinated into the ways of Islam.
Wikipedia, Janissary

And then there are the Mamluks:

A Mamluk was a soldier of slave origin who had converted to Islam.

They were of varied ancestry but were often Kipchak Turks,[1] depending on the period and region in question.
Wikipedia, Mamluk

Slightly different situation, but there is a history of forcible training and conversion. Now, historically, such trained outsiders eventually rose to power in their societies, becoming the masters where they were once the slaves. Still...you later moved the goalposts from your original request:

To make your point, you really need a quote from a Muslim leader that their program will eliminate a minority completely, compel them to renounce and forget all trace of their languages, cultures, and traditional religious beliefs.

If you read the sources I posted, Fraud Guy, you will see I did not, alas, move any goal posts. The Turks did indeed conscript Christian boys, but they did not do so with the avowed purpose of eliminating Christians as a faith community. The administration of the First Nations residential schools policy had exactly this goal in mind. As I wrote:

The governments of Canada and the United States had various reasons for doing this, but destroying First Nations religious or spiritual practices and converting the people to Christianity ranked high among the motives.
A little research should convince you that I haven't exaggerated this. The governments of Canada and the United States went to special pains to enroll all First Nations children, not only those they found militarily useful, and residential schools aimed to eliminate culture, language, and especially traditional religious observances.

Islamic society has a lot to answer for, but in terms of the treatment of religious minorities, European (or overseas European) Christian societies really have very little moral standing to criticize them. I wish that we did.

Argument by deflection takes on a tinge of cowardice, after a while.

"Now here we come to the great crux of intellectual life: the attitude to violence. It is the fence at which most secular intellectuals, be they pacifist or not, stumble and fall into inconsistency -- or, indeed, into sheer incoherence. They may renounce it in theory, as indeed in logic they must since it is the antithesis of rational methods of solving problems. But in practice they find themselves from time to time endorsing it -- what might be called the Necessary Murder Syndrome -- or approving its use by those with whom they sympathize. Other intellectuals, confronted with the fact of violence practiced by those they wish to defend, simply transfer the moral responsibility, by ingenious argument, to others whom they wish to attack. -- Paul Johnson

Inspector,

Yes, that is a very wise insight into the nature of non-faith-based pacifism and the moral dilemmas raised by violence. Of course, why pick only on "secular intellectuals"? My take from this is Mr. Johnson, a man of faith, does not suffer from "Necessary Murder Syndrome" since any violence he may support or conveniently ignore does not even require justification.

This is better? I think not.

I swear if I hear one more person say "Judeo-Christian heritage" I'm going to punch them directly in the face.

Internet Tough Guy!

You just made the list, buddy.

Bobbyp--

"My take from this is Mr. Johnson, a man of faith, does not suffer from "Necessary Murder Syndrome" since any violence he may support or conveniently ignore does not even require justification."

I think that's right. Everything Paul Johnson said in that paragraph is valid, except he is obviously restricting it to people not in his current tribal group. And it's not hard to guess why. It's also not hard to guess that someone who chooses a name like "sanity inspector" probably thinks he is exempt from the malady he attributes to others.


The classic description of the malady Paul Johnson identifies is in Orwell's essay Notes on Nationalism

The difference, of course, is that Orwell is an honest man and sees that everyone on all parts of the political spectrum is susceptible to this sickness. Paul Johnson, being a political hack, identifies the problem and demonstrates that he has it in the same paragraph.

John Spragge,

If you have recent cases of Muslim authorities aiming to eliminate a religious minority within their jurisdiction, please post it here.

I don't know how you define "recent," but certainly the authorities in some Muslim countries drove out Jews in the aftermath of the creation of Israel. Indeed, some Muslim leaders - notably Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem - provoked considerable anti-Jewish violence and allied themselves with Hitler during WWII.

@Sanity Inspector: Exactly whom do you accuse of argument by deflection, and what do you accuse them (us?) of deflecting? This discussion concerns an alarming rise in the popularity of religious intolerance in some American circles, and an associated misunderstanding of basic American founding principles. What exactly does violence or deflection have to do with this?

A context free argument does nobody any good.

If you have recent cases of Muslim authorities aiming to eliminate a religious minority within their jurisdiction, please post it here.

Darfur, Sudan.

The conflict in Darfur has its roots moreso in race and social role than religion, and even then the Sudanese conception of race is not as clear-cut as many in the Western media try to portray it to be. But that to one side, just because there's a conflict with self-identified Arabs on one side and non-Arabs (self-identified or otherwise) certainly does not in itself make it a conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims (recall, most Muslims are not Arab), and an attempt to paint the situation in Darfur as such betrays ignorance, incuriousity, and/or intellectual laziness on the part of the speaker.

Both sides in Darfur are Muslim. Southern Sudan is where you have the Christian/Muslim split.

envy... let's not make this personal. I have no doubt that if you dig into the Muslim on Muslim disgrace in Darfur you can find a glimmer of religious distinctions, and, yes, some Muslim leaders did develop a disproportionate hostility to the Jewish communities within their borders, although I don't off hand know of any that eliminated, or aimed to eliminate, their Jewish populations entirely. And as for the unfortunate case of al-Husseini, he acted almost entirely in response to European movements: English colonialism, a Zionist movement he believed aimed to displace his people, and, of course, one of the worst and most eliminationist outbreaks of European intolerance on record.

As I wrote in my first post, Islamic history has some notable blots on it. But you simply cannot excuse intolerance directed at Muslims by imputing intolerance to Islam as a whole. If your argument depends on an assertion or an implication that we can't tolerate Muslims because if we let them get in the drivers' seat, they will behave with extreme intolerance, then you have a dud argument.

Bahai, Iran

TP: either God exists or God does not

Well, that there would be one a them philosophical questions, wouldn't it? I am not convinced that it's as simple as that.

Did I miss something? Isn't DaveC still banned?

@js:

You are correct. That was unnecessary on my part. And in any case, I've been around well more than long enough that I should know better than to respond to DaveC in any case...

John Spragge,

some Muslim leaders did develop a disproportionate hostility to the Jewish communities within their borders, although I don't off hand know of any that eliminated, or aimed to eliminate, their Jewish populations entirely. And as for the unfortunate case of al-Husseini, he acted almost entirely in response to European movements: English colonialism, a Zionist movement he believed aimed to displace his people, and, of course, one of the worst and most eliminationist outbreaks of European intolerance on record.

Estimates of Jews who left Muslim countries run up to 1 million or more. Some, no doubt were simply moved by Zionsm to migrate to Israel, but many many more were simply driven out, either by official acts of their governments or by tolerance for unofficial violence and persecution. To describe this as simply "disproportionate hostility," (how much hostility would have been "proportionate?") is to grossly understate the facts.

As for al-Husseini: "Unfortunate?" Really? The man was a murderous anti-Semite who provoked pogroms as early as the 1920's. Unfortunate, but gee, just a reaction to European events.

Wikipedia gives a table of Jewish population of various Muslim countries in 1948 and now. It's worth a look, as is the accompanying article, especially in light of your lack of knowledge of any countries that aimed to eliminate their Jewsih populations.

Another item worth reading is this. I recognize that it is hard to find fully objective sources on these matters, but there is no doubt that what were once thriving Jewish communities in many Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries have effectively disappeared. That "disproportionate" hostility you mention has a lot to do with that.

There's a recent book "The Arabs and the Holocaust" on that subject, and Peter Novick in "The Holocaust in American Life" also touches on the Mufti. According to Novick, the Mufti's biographical entry in the "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust" is the second longest, only slightly exceeded by that for Hitler. He implies this is in order to discredit the Palestinian cause.

Gilbert Achcar in "The Arabs and the Holocaust" says that the vast majority of Arab soldiers in WWII fought on the side of the Allies. The Mufti was more successful organizing the Bosnians than in persuading the Arabs to side with Hitler.

Donald Johnson,

It's true that al-Husseini was not hugely successful in his attempts to rouse Arab support for Hitler. According to Benny Morris the most notable event was a pro-Axis rebellion by the Iraqi Army in 1941. This was fairly quickly defeated by British forces, along with Arab Legionnaires, but not before a Baghdad pogrom killed 120 people.

John, you're either essentially interpreting the paragraph ending in "but destroying First Nations religious or spiritual practices and converting the people to Christianity ranked high among the motives." as if it read "was the only motive" or "was the most important motiv", or you're giving the Canadians and US Americans a lot less leeway than you appear to be willing to give Islamic-controlled countries in the Muslim world.

You don't quote examples of the US condemning someone to death for peacefully exercising a Native American religion (even in the 1800s) but I have pointed to instances of that in the past 50 years in Muslim controlled countries.

You either don't seem to know the actual history vis-a-vis Islam, or you are heavily discounting it. I urge you to look at, for example, the link Bernard provides. Those population changes didn't happen by accident.

It's probably beside the point now, but Peretz has apologized:

http://www.tnr.com/blog/77761/atonement

Bernard, Sebastian,

Yes. Several countries in the middle east (be they 'arab' or 'muslim'--does that make them indistinguishable?) treated jews badly after 1948. Now I'm trying to wrack my brain as to why? What happened that year? I know Babe Ruth died that year. I am told that I was born that year. But something else must have happened that year....I just can't put my finger on it.

Tragically, they seemed to have gotten along just fine before then. Did something get into the water?

Given that Islam views itself as the continuation of Christianity (just as Christianity views itself as the continuation of Judaism), whereas Christianity never viewed Native American practices as being related to them (though it is interesting to note the reaction to ,a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Dance">Ghost Dancing though the Wikipedia article really understates how much Ghost Dancing was just Christian doctrine repurposed for the Native Americans), it really strikes me as y'all are talking about apples and cinderblocks. Certainly, that relationship doesn't prevent bad things from happening, but it makes it a different beast that the relationship between Native American spirituality and Christianity.

Bernard: the second source you list goes directly from an expression of concern that Arabs might feel and express hostility to their Jewish neighbours on account of Zionism to an alleged conspiracy to fan that hostility. Given that one of its proponents called Zionism a "colonizing venture", and considering the history of betrayal and exploitation the Arabs experienced from European colonialism, it seems a bit naive to expect Arabs would not find the Zionist proposition upsetting.

It seems to me a stretch to say that the evidence indicates the state policy of any Arab Muslim state aimed at eliminating the Jewish community, and a still greater stretch to equate that to the cooly eliminationist approach to First Nations culture and spirituality current in Canada and the United States in the same time.

Bobbyp,

So in your opinion the establishment of Israel made it OK for say, Syria, to mistreat Jews who lived in Damascus? (BTW, it started before 1948, but never mind that)

I think your moral reasoning is seriously flawed. It sounds entirely too close to that of those who think 9/11 justifies bad behavior towards Muslims living in the US.

John Spragge,

1. I make no equation between the North American eliminationist policies you refer to and the behavior of Muslim governments towards Jews.

2. WIth respect to the latter, I think you are not seeing because you do not wish to see. The facts are plain. The disappearance of Jews from Arab countries simply cannot be explained without reference to persecution, whether official or unofficial but governmentally encouraged. To pretend that many hundreds of thousands of Jews, whose families had, in some cases, lived in Arab lands for centuries, simply decided one day to pick up and head for an uncertain future in Israel is just irrational. On this point, which of us exactly is naive?

Perhaps you share bobbyp's bizarre view that the establishment of Israel justified the persecution of Jews in Cairo, or Aleppo?

but there is no doubt that what were once thriving Jewish communities in many Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries have effectively disappeared.

To make the discussion more concrete, let's consider Egypt. I don't understand the causality here at all. Is the idea that Gamal Abdel Nasser, uber pan Arab nationalist, forced all the Jews out of Egypt because of his rabid Islamic beliefs? That seems kind of strange given that Nasser wasn't really friendly with Islamists; recall that he was brutally assassinated by...Islamists.

An alternative explanation is that when Nasser started nationalizing businesses and seizing property, people with means started fleeing the country. Jews in Egypt at the time constituted what Amy Chua terms "market dominant minorities" and so would tend to leave once Nasser began grabbing property.

Oh, please Bernard, you are being childish. I merely point out the correlation, perhaps causal in nature. Did I state this "justified" these actions? There is no justification for such action. But facts are facts....tens and tens of thousands of Palestinians were also "persecuted" in 1948 and forced to move out of erstaz Israel. Perhaps you feel the establishment of the Zionist state somehow justified this crime, eh? Pot meet kettle?

But really, an arab politician seeing his peoples' land (or his power) taken by European Zionists backed (backhandedly) by other European powers, plays footsie with the enemy of that Great Power? Please don't tell me you are surprised. Was he a "murderous anti-semite"? I shall concede the point. Was Begin a vicious murderer? Were his murders any more justified? Paul Johnson wants to know!

I submit the evidence is fairly clear that over the long sweep of history "Islam" is not any more inherently "viciously discriminatory" than say, Christianity or the behavior of certain nationalistic Jews. Yet here you are, apparently defending the opinions put forth by that poor put upon Elizabeth Moon who is put out because what? Muslims pray too often?

Her opinion disgusts me. How about you?

bobbyp,

Oh, please Bernard, you are being childish. I merely point out the correlation, perhaps causal in nature. Did I state this "justified" these actions? There is no justification for such action.

You "merely point out the correlation?" Oh right. For what purpose? Do you really think that any commenter here is unaware of the correlation you refer to. Give me a break. "No justification for such action?" Glad to hear that. It sure sounded to me like you were justifying it. I'm being childish? I don't think so. I challenged your clear implication and now you back away, like a schoolyard bully.

Was he a "murderous anti-semite"? I shall concede the point.

Mighty f***ing generous of you. Though you really don't have a choice since, as you point out, facts are facts.

I submit the evidence is fairly clear that over the long sweep of history "Islam" is not any more inherently "viciously discriminatory" than say, Christianity or the behavior of certain nationalistic Jews.

I don't disagree with respect to Christianity. And certainly there are extreme nationalist Jews whose ideas and actions are abhorrent. But when you talk about "the long sweep of history" you take the point too far. Whatever you think of Israel and Zionism - which was by the way a reaction to the "viciously discriminatory" behavior of Christianity - they do not have a millenium or two of history.

As for Elizabeth Moon, you are sadly mistaken if you think I hold sympathy for her anti-Muslim views, or anyone else's.

I got into this discussion to point out a simple fact - that contra John Spragge there is a history of (some) Muslim countries mistreating and seeking to eliminate (by expulsion, by some violence, not by mass murder) their Jewish communities. You can excuse that any way you like, but facts are facts.

I have no interest in an extended (or brief) I-P debate. We all know those go nowhere. My point was a limited historical one.

"I submit the evidence is fairly clear that over the long sweep of history "Islam" is not any more inherently "viciously discriminatory" than say, Christianity or the behavior of certain nationalistic Jews."

I confused by the insistence on both sides of this discussion to show their side is less evil (or the other side has less to fear). It seems there is over a thousand years, at various times and places, of two major religions taking their shot at ruling the world.

Neither wants to be marginalized, both have past and present radicals.

I think that justifies a rational skepticism of motives and potential actions, particularly by the radicals, on both sides.

What I don't understand is the insistence that somehow it is reasonable for radical Muslims/Arabs to hate/distrust/be skeptical of Christians/Americans yet it is somehow bigoted if radical Christians/Americans have equivalent reactions.

What I don't understand is the insistence that somehow it is reasonable for radical Muslims/Arabs to hate/distrust/be skeptical of Christians/Americans yet it is somehow bigoted if radical Christians/Americans have equivalent reactions.

Your confusion is perfectly reasonable given complete ignorance of recent world history. Fortunately, we need not be ignorant.

American Christians did start a war for no reason that ended up annihilating a million Muslims in Iraq. That seems like a pretty good reason for Muslims to be concerned: I mean, if a million corpses isn't enough to get your attention, what will? On the other hand, Islamic radicals have managed to kill substantially fewer Americans and Christians over the same time period.

Moreover, when considering capabilities, American Christians retain vastly more military and destructive power than any group of Muslims in the world. You simply cannot compare a handful of IEDs with, say, an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine armed with 24 ballistic missiles capable of delivering 120 nuclear warheads.

Now, if Al Queda demonstrated capabilities significantly more advanced than digging a hole in a road and filling it with a crude explosive, maybe it would be rational for American Christians to be much more scared. And if America publicly apologized for those million deaths and tried to make recompense, maybe it would be rational for Muslims to be much less scared. But neither of those things have happened or are likely to happen, so it is rational for American Christians to be not scared and for Muslims to be afraid.

Turbulence,

To make the discussion more concrete, let's consider Egypt.

Random choice of countries, is it? Yes, Egypt is complex. There is something in what you say, but it's not the whole story. There was certainly anti-Jewish violence in Egypt in the aftermath of 1948 and even earlier, and many Jews were expelled after the 1956 war.

BTW, I think Islamism is a red herring here. The various expulsions were not driven by Islamism, but rather by anti-Zionism.

And of course there is no reason why the discussion ought to be restricted to Egypt. If you really want to argue that the disappearance of Jewish communities from Arab countries had nothing to do with persecution related to Zionism I think you have a way to go. The notion that the political winds just happened to blow that way at that time is a tough sell.

See bobbyp if you don't believe me.

Random choice of countries, is it?

Given that I'm Egyptian, not really ;-)

BTW, I think Islamism is a red herring here. The various expulsions were not driven by Islamism, but rather by anti-Zionism.

I agree that Islamism was likely an insignificant cause. I'm not sure that anti-Zionism per se was the primary motive everywhere, but it probably was in at least some places.

I don't really understand the dispute here. It seems that we agree that a bunch of Muslim-majority countries did a bunch of things that caused Jews to leave. Many of these countries were run by secular Arab nationalists that were hostile to Islamism in general. So what exactly does this tell us about Islam per se?

"so it is rational for American Christians to be not scared and for Muslims to be afraid."

It is rational for a Muslim country, let's say Iran, trying to build, or pretend to build, nuclear weapons to fear the existential threat of attack for regime change and the consequences of that.

At a personal level, each individual doesn't care if the other side can kill 3000 people or 1 million, if they or their family or their friends might be one of them they will still be afraid.

Well, that there would be one a them philosophical questions, wouldn't it? I am not convinced that it's as simple as that.

Jacob, have you invented some sort of quantum theology? Are you suggesting a Schroedinger's-cat-like deity who neither exists nor doesn't until we open the box and look? That would be kinda cool, actually :)

--TP

@Sebastian: Let me make very clear what I wrote: in both Canada and the United States, religious and civil authorities made and carried out policies explicitly aimed at converting and assimilating all of the First Nations by eradicating their cultural identity and spiritual traditions. I don't say that lightly or happily; I have friends whose ancestors helped make those policies; I have had friends whose parents helped carry them out. This heritage has caused and continues to cause great anguish and shame. But I cannot, I will not allow the comfortable lie that somehow Islam has a unique history of religious persecution.

As for killing people for their religious practices: ask for something difficult. At Wounded Knee, the US Army slaughtered between 150 and 300 of the Lakota people, largely over the fears raised by a Plains Indian religious practise: the Ghost Dance. I know of no remotely analagous incident in the Muslim world. Where did the official troops of a Muslim or Muslim-majority state surround a church, Synagogue, or Mandir and slaughter 150 people?

@Bernard: Exactly what argument do you want to make here? That Muslims sometimes do bad things? I think this makes the third time I have said that in this discussion alone. That I don't approve of mob violence? I don't see why I should need to say that, but OK, I don't approve of mob violence. But unless you do make an equation between the eliminationist policies towards First Nations peoples in North America and the mob violence against Jewish communities after the advent of Zionism, I don't see what that has to do with this discussion.

Keep in mind, the context of this discussion: a movement has arisen in the United States to attack Islam and to block, by various means including boycotts, zoning laws, and other forms of harassment, the construction of Mosques and community centers intended to serve Muslims. One excuse given for this holds that Muslims present some sort of vague threat to a civil, secular society. In that context, Sebastian wrote:

In current places where it is in power it tends to have a much much worse reputation for dealing with its minority religions. That includes even such relatively peaceful places as Indonesia, and is even worse in the Middle East and African countries where it is in power. This is especially true in the last hundred years.
I responded to Sebastian by quoting the eliminationist policies towards First Nations religions practised by Canada and the United States, both Christian majority countries. Unless you can make a case for the equivalence of Muslim mob violence in reaction to the founding of Israel as an equivalent to eliminationist policies, indeed, unless you can find a way to defend the proposition that Muslim-majority states have behaved worse than Canada and the US, I don't honestly see your point.

@Bernard:

If you really want to argue that the disappearance of Jewish communities from Arab countries had nothing to do with persecution related to Zionism I think you have a way to go.
Your attempt to draw a moral analogy breaks down here. As far as the information you or anyone else has provided here goes, none of the Jewish communities in Muslim majority countries have actually disappeared. Some have scattered to various European or North American countries; some have gladly made aliyah. A number of North American First Nations, by contrast, have simply lost their language and spiritual traditions. They have not relocated to Ecuador or Hawaii; their culture has disappeared. Whatever spiritual insights their religious practices held, what ever information their language alone encoded, we have lost it forever. In some cases, their descendants have made valiant efforts at recovery, bringing in teachers from similar traditions. But the eliminationist policies of the nineteenth and early twentieth century have succeeded in some cases; Canadian and American officials set out quite deliberately to extinguish First Nations cultures and spiritual traditions forever, and in some cases they succeeded.

I don't see how you can equate that to condoning mob violence that causes a community to flee. If you really need me to say this every time, I regard both actions as bad. But one has an absolute and permanent effect, and the other does not.

Nigeria

DaveC, why are you posting if you were banned? Shouldn't you, you know, respect the banning?

Or did someone from your church hurt your feelings recently?

Indonesia

I still believe religion is usually an easier label to blame than say ethnic/tribal label.

Northern Ireland wasn’t really Protestant vs Roman Catholic, but the ethnic groups of the United Kingdom (English, Scottish, Welsh) vs Celts.

This formation can be seen in most conflicts. I suspect if one of the tribes decides to convert, the conflict will not disappear.

Hey look! It's a FAMILY DOG story!

I think the Bahai may be indeed an example (and someone different from DaveC should have brought it up). It's interesting that the Bahai consider themselves to be the next step up the ladder (but not the final one!) that went Judaism->Christianity->Islam. Religions tend to be especially intolerant (to put it mildly) of people that claim that they upgraded from the existing obsolete model, I think. No expert there but didn't Hinduism 2.0 (Buddhism) meet similar reactions initially?

BTW, I think Islamism is a red herring here. The various expulsions were not driven by Islamism, but rather by anti-Zionism.

Hmmm...I believe that was my initial point....must have been garbled in translation.

The violence in Nigeria between Christians and Muslims goes both ways. You can even see that in the link above, but here's another--

link

I did not post the 5:04 am entry, and I have no idea what the person who forged my name means or why they did so.

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