I found something that amused me at the Arab News, which calls itself “The Middle East’s Leading English Language Daily.” It was a religious advice column, with someone writing in with this question:
Nowadays Islam is under so much assault with some non-Muslim saying that it is not a peaceful religion. Could you quote some verses in the Qur’an that would convince others of how baseless this whole smear campaign against Islam is?
Now that’s a good question, considering that almost all the concerted violence around the world (as opposed to random, personal crimes) and all the threats of violence, consistently emanate from those purporting to speak for Islam. What’s interesting is the answer from the columnist, Adil Salahi, because it’s a non-answer. He starts by praising the question (always a good tactic to deflect attention for your inability to answer — it’s law school 101):
Thank you for your message that shows that you are a person who does not accept what is said without questioning its truth. This is the mark of an intelligent person.
Then Salahi gets to the meat of his answer:
What you have been told about Islam and the Qur’an is certainly untrue. It is the word of someone who either does not know what he is talking about, or someone whose grudge against Islam blinds him to the truth. It is as the saying goes: The proof of the pudding is in the eating. You only need to open the Qur’an and read to realize that what it calls for is peace, not war.
At this point, I expect the column to dive into a detailed exegesis that highlights every verse in the Koran that calls for peace, and that explains why the Koran’s warlike language is meant symbolically, and not as an incitement to violence. That never happens. Instead, we get the interesting statement that the Koran comes from God, not Muhammed. The only thing I could understand from this was the Salahi, unable to turn away from Mohammed’s warlike acts and pronouncements, is trying to downplay his importance — which strikes me as something close to heresy within the confines of Islam. Thus:
The Prophet has always maintained that he did not write or compose the Qur’an, which is universally agreed to be a book of surpassing literary excellence. Yet Muhammad’s own statements, which we know to be his, are also superb. So, how can anyone attribute the Qur’an to Muhammad when he has repeatedly disclaimed any part in its authorship? Besides, the Qur’an provides numerous proofs that its only author is God Almighty. These begin with its style, which is unlike any human writing, and include its subject matter and different statements.
After we’re assured that it’s God’s book, not Mohammed’s, I’m still expecting those Koranic quotations that will assure me that the violent practitioners around the world are subverting and perverting God’s call for peace and harmony. That never happens. Instead, the author tells us that the Koran is about war and jihad, and certainly authorizes those acts:
The Qur’an certainly speaks about war and jihad. But when we take all statements in the Qur’an about war, and also take into consideration the circumstances prevailing at the time of the revelation of each, and relate this to the final statements, we are bound to have a firm conviction that war in Islam is a defensive one. But we have to add here that its being defensive does not mean that Muslims must wait until they are attacked before taking to arms. It means that they may take measures to remove the threat of aggression.
The article wraps with an attack on the Bible, the US and the UK, all of which prove the point that nations sometimes attack without justification.
If this is a sampling of astute Islamic advocacy and rhetoric, it leaves me cold and unconvinced. After stating an impossible premise — Islam is all about peace — the author first uses sleight of hand to deflect the reader’s attention (let’s talk about the Koran’s authorship), and then reluctantly concedes precisely the opposite point the article is meant to convey. For an example of good analytical writing, which does show that the Koran is obsessed with warfare, try this site.
[The picture is a Janissary, one of the soldiers of the Ottoman Empire.]
UPDATE: Andrew Bostom takes on the “religion of peace” mantra here — and destroys it.