'Boredom, rooted in a fundamental discomfort with the self, is one of the least tolerable mental states.' -Gabor Mate, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Islam Isn't Violent

by Ethan Glover, Sun, Jan 11, 2015 - (Edited) Sun, Oct 16, 2016

There's a huge problem with the ignorance of Islam in the United States. You could even say that there's a problem with the ignorance of religion period. But let's stick to one topic at a time.

I'm an atheist, but even I get tired of people blaming all wars and violence on religion. When two states fight, how is that a religious war? It's not as if a religion has ever declared war on another. States may use religion as an excuse. But they also use patriotism and oppression as an excuse.

Religion = Philosophy

Here in the west, it's easy for people to separate religion and politics. Religion to protestant Christians especially is separate from all other activities. It's not a life philosophy; it's a separate thing that you do. This way of looking at things goes back to 18th Century enlightenment. Even the transcendentalist movement of the 19th Century.

The Middle Easts history with religion is quite different. It goes back a lot further. Before the separation of church and state, there was no concept of religion. When Jesus cast out the moneychangers, he was casting them out of a temple. A temple that doubled as the site for the imperial administration.

Today, we would interpret this action as political activism against inflation or taxation. (Depending on your interpretation.) We wouldn't interpret it as a religious action. To Jesus and other people of the time, religion was a way of life. It included all activities and elements of life.

You may not consider Buddhism and Confucianism as a religion. But Buddha and Confucius wouldn't have known what religion was.

People looked at "religion" in the same way that many of us look at libertarianism. It has nothing to do with voting or congress. It is a philosophical way of life. Libertarianism contains practical life advice, moral principles and more.

The Quran is clear about not being a doctrine. There is no Pope who tells people what to believe or what to do. There's no central authority, just the Quran and the interpretations of the Islamic community.

When you strip away the religious aspects, the Quran is about sharing your wealth. The Quran is there to help people build a just and decent society. So that vulnerable people get fair and respectful treatment.

Building that just society is what creates transcendence. It's not about going to a church on Sundays or praying. It's about doing good for society.

Misconstrued Concepts

People misconstrue many things about Islam. Even some people who proclaim to be practicing Islam have a lack of knowledge of the Quran. We'll get to some examples in a second. First, there is the idea of "holy war." The idea that Muslims support violence against other religions in the name of god.

Jihad

Jihad is, "the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin." Jihad can refer to any struggle. For example, giving to others less fortunate when you yourself have nothing to eat.

The word jihad only appears in the Quran 44 times and it only refers to warfare 10 times. Jihad has nothing to do with war. It's about the same internal struggles we all feel whether we are religious or not.

Suicide Bombings

The Tamil Tigers, a secular organization, invented suicide bombings, often associated with Islam. For the suicide bombings in Lebanon in the 80's, secularists committed most of them. Muslims did only about seven of those bombings and socialists did 27.

Suicide bombings don't come from any religion. Robert Pape of Chicago University did a study on the bombings done from 1980-2004. He came to the same conclusion. Suicide bombers are motivated to fight when they see the invasion of their homeland. Often by a foreign power with superior weaponry.

Only 25% of the surviving attackers from 9/11 had regular Muslim upbringings. Before they signed up, most of them had been to secular schools. A lot of them were non-observant. It was only after their recruitment for the job that they converted to Islam.

Pape's studies found that the problem is not with Islam, but an ignorance of Islam. Many of the attackers didn't read the Quran until they had gone to prison. When released to go home, two former terrorists ordered a couple of books from Amazon. "Islam for Dummies," and "The Quran for Dummies."

Sharia Law

As with suicide bombings and war, there have been people that use the Quran as an excuse. That doesn't mean the Quran is at fault. It doesn't even mean that it's what the Quran suggested.

Sharia law inspired a lot of American legal tradition. Sharia influenced John Locke and the Bill of Rights. Its major tenants may sound familiar. The protection of life, religious liberty, intellect, lineage, and private property.

Many Muslims may practice traditional gender roles, just as many Americans do. But that doesn't mean its law. Muhammad preached that no one has any superiority over another. This includes all races, sexes, and religious beliefs.

Where it's illegal for women to wear certain clothing, or to drive in their countries, look to state law. Not their religion.

What's Happening in the Middle East?

Young people in the Middle East are witnessing the deaths of their fellow Muslims. This goes back to Russias invasion of Afghanistan and continues into the modern day.

There is decades worth of aggressions against Muslims. These act as motivation for kids to join Al Qaeda or ISIS. This is no different from when kids raced to the recruiters office after 9/11.

TV's in the Middle East are full of grotesque images. Piles of bodies, Israeli soldiers killing children, and the bulldozing of homes. Even worse, governments can't do anything about it. It's no wonder that young boys want to fight.

The wars in the Middle East now are only adding fuel to the fire. Before Iraq, there was little anti-Americanism in the region. Now that the west commits some of those images on TV, anti-Americanism has skyrocketed.

Between Western and Israeli aggressions, terrorist groups are having no trouble finding recruits. Young kids who do not understand Islam.

But the Muslim world is fighting back against the violent gangs. Islamic scholars are fighting to get the right information about the Quran out there. In Saudi Arabia, there is a rehabilitation center for former terrorists. It teaches non-violent Islam. It breaks away the propaganda about the Quran given to them by terrorist groups.

The more ignorance spread by Islamophobia, the worse the problem gets. Once we realize who the aggressors are, we can work together. We can get past the ignorance and make a real difference, rather than making it worse.

For more, check out Will Coley from Muslims for Liberty on FreeTalkLive. He fields a lot of questions on Islam.