Islam is a violent ideology that compels Muslims to violence – just not all the time and against all people, and this is where apparent contradictions come in. They seem like contradictions only if you buy into the sales pitch that Islam is a religion of peace.
The inerrancy of the Quran is explicit and accepted by all Muslims I’ve ever come across and read about – except for reformists. And some sects of Islam, like Ahmadiyya, emphasise peace more than others.
Some ancient reformists were denounced and persecuted. The same is true of modern ones. Ancient reformists responded to their times, modern ones to theirs, and the latter are attempting to reform Islam to make it compatible with secular liberal democracy, by making Islam a more private religion that is not more primary than secular liberal democracy. One feature they accept they have to get rid of is this ‘inerrancy’ problem – a tough ask.
All other Muslims reject this and declare Islam to be above such man made affairs as secularism, liberalism and democracy. Many Muslims engage in deep cognitive dissonance to arrive at the conclusion that Islam, as-is, is compatible, but still primary.
We see the confusion at work in many ways, such as when Islam is declared a religion of peace, and literal examples from the texts are offered as evidence. The Muslim proffering this or that passage as evidence neglects to tell you about the violent passages that are in the same vicinity in the texts.
If you do point out these difficulties you are told you are ignorant, you don’t understand the Quran and that you should consult a scholar. How this Muslim manages to grasp these subtleties but feels unable to explain them is rarely answered; but if it is answered it is usually with a statement that they have listened to their teachers – i.e. Islam is a religion of peace and these other passages are excused because someone told them so.
Many will disengage if you press further. You’ll be banned or blocked or they’ll simply stop responding, after their parting shot about how pathetic and ignorant and evil you are and how they feel sorry for you. This is such a common occurrence you’d think it was a Quranic instruction for dealing with the overly inquisitive.
Questions I’ve yet to get a reasonable answer to
How come the ’nice’ passages can be quoted literally, to be taken as-is, while the violent ones require context and scholarship to explain away? To the Jihadists they don’t need explaining away. Those passages are taken explicitly too.
Why not take the violent passages literally and require context and scholarship to explain why the nice bits don’t apply? To the Jihadist this isn’t necessary either, because the texts are clear enough on when they apply, and when they don’t – and overriding all that, the Quran is good to go, for all time, apparently. It’s a mystery why a perfect book then needs so many scholars to interpret it so that bad stuff doesn’t count, and yet it is placed in the hands of so many un-scholarly people who read the bad stuff as-is.
Examples of the Difficulties
Example: The passages telling Muslims to be nice only apply to Muslims, and to a lesser extent to non-Muslims submitting to the will of Allah by conforming to the requirements of submission as laid down in the Quran. It’s also clear from the texts that if these non-Muslims step out of line, preach their own religion, engage in too much familiarity with a Muslim woman, then a brutal experience awaits them here on earth – as well as that already expected eternity in torment.
Example: There is no compulsion in Islam. You are not compelled to become a Muslim. Of course, the previous example might make you think otherwise – it’s not a good deal being a non-Muslim in an Islamic state – unless you behave as Islam requires, unless you submit.
The dangers of being a non-Muslim are often played down. We are told about how Muslims were kind to non-Muslims – well, at least people of the book, not so much other infidels. But this is gross cherry picking. There are as many examples of the persecution of others under Islam as under any ideology.
And, the non-compulsion? It’s a one way ticket. You are not compelled to become a Muslim, but you are compelled to remain one – which is sort of tricky for indoctrinated children that decide they want to leave when they have chance to make their minds up.
Example: Slavery. Much is made of the Euro-American Atlantic slave trade. Breaking News: It couldn’t have happened without the Islamic slave trade. The Islamic world engaged in slavery long before and long after the Atlantic slave trade. The west coast African slaved trade was run by Muslims, and even included Muslim slaves. Mauritania made slavery illegal as late as 1981. ISIS used the Quran to justify slavery, and sex slavery. Slavery has returned to Libya, for the poor economic migrants that can’t pay their way through.
Mohammed could have received a message from Allah, had he chosen to, that said, in one verse, “Oh Muslim! Do not engage in slavery. Free all existing slaves and take no others!” But no, the Quran is peppered with references to slavery that do not condemn it – and what’s not haram is halal, right? The best the Quran can do is suggest to not be too mean to slaves, and that under some circumstances you can get extra points if you let some slaves go free.
Example: Islam is even convenient for getting rid of fellow Muslims that are a bit of a personal nuisance. Someone offended you but you have no evidence? Get a couple of friends to declare they saw your victim damaging a Quran and you’ve got rid of him pretty quick. Check out what happened to Farkhunda in Afghanistan: a pious Muslim girl accused a man of profiting from trickery. He fixed her. He told some men that she had damaged pages of a Quran – they beat her to death, stoned and set fire to her body.
In the last example of Farkhunda you might rightly declare that this was itself an un-Islamic turn of affairs. I agree. But that hasn’t stopped Islam being used for nefarious purposes.
Trying to Justify Non-Violence
Whether you believe you are being an honest Muslim, or you are being a bad Muslim using Islam falsely, Islam has all the textual tools ready to turn to violence.
Compare the texts of Islam with, say, the US Constitution, the UN requirements for inter-state affairs, the Humanist Manifesto.
If the US does great violence against its own people, then it is clearly being un-Constitutional. Anyone that engages in such violence has to jump through rhetorical hoops to make a case that they are acting within the Constitution.
When the west went to war in Iraq against Saddam, lawyers had to jump through hoops to persuade their masters and the public that the west were acting within international law and with the sanction of the UN.
If a Humanist engages in murder, rape, they are acting in direct defiance of the Humanist manifesto. It’s such a clear manifesto that there is no wriggle room to excuse such violent behaviour to other individuals.
Now, for Muslims the opposite is true. They have to explain away the violent edicts and find excuses not to use them. Punishment for apostasy is clear. If a particular Muslim is part of a particular and common subset of Islam then the guidance in the Hadith is clear: death for apostasy. But most Muslims ignore this, or jump through contextual scholarly hoops to explain why it should not apply to some particular ex-Muslim. Oddly, they appeal to humanist principles.
For the US Constitution, the UN international law and the Humanist manifesto you have to put effort into justifying non-compliance if you want to be violent.
For Islam, the Quran, the Hadith, you have to put effort into justifying non-compliance if you want not to be violent when the texts demand you should be.