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Islam and Tolerance (09 Oct 2014 NewAgeIslam.Com)



The Diversity of Islam: 20th century would not single out Islam as the bloodthirsty religion; it was Christian/Nazi/Communist Europe and Buddhist/Taoist/Hindu/atheist Asia that set records for mass slaughter

 

 

By Nicholas Kristof

Oct. 8, 2014

A few days ago, I was on a panel on Bill Maher’s television show on HBO that became a religious war.

Whether or not Islam itself inspires conflict, debates about it certainly do. Our conversation degenerated into something close to a shouting match and went viral on the web. Maher and a guest, Sam Harris, argued that Islam is dangerous yet gets a pass from politically correct liberals, while the actor Ben Affleck denounced their comments as “gross” and “racist.” I sided with Affleck.

After the show ended, we panellists continued to wrangle on the topic for another hour with the cameras off. Maher ignited a debate that is rippling onward, so let me offer three points of nuance.

First, historically, Islam was not particularly intolerant, and it initially elevated the status of women. Anybody looking at the history even of the 20th century would not single out Islam as the bloodthirsty religion; it was Christian/Nazi/Communist Europe and Buddhist/Taoist/Hindu/atheist Asia that set records for mass slaughter.

Likewise, it is true that the Quran has passages hailing violence, but so does the Bible, which recounts God ordering genocides, such as the one against the Amalekites.

Second, today the Islamic world includes a strain that truly is disproportionately intolerant and oppressive. Barbarians in the Islamic State cite their faith as the reason for their monstrous behaviour — most recently beheading a British aid worker devoted to saving Muslim lives — and give all Islam a bad name. Moreover, of the 10 bottom-ranking countries in the World Economic Forum’s report on women’s rights, nine are majority Muslim. In Afghanistan, Jordan and Egypt, more than three-quarters of Muslims favour the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their faith, according to a Pew survey.

The persecution of Christians, Ahmadis, Yazidis, Bahai — and Shiites — is far too common in the Islamic world. We should speak up about it.

Third, the Islamic world contains multitudes: It is vast and varied. Yes, almost four out of five Afghans favor the death penalty for apostasy, but most Muslims say that that is nuts. In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, only 16 percent of Muslims favor such a penalty. In Albania, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan, only 2 percent or fewer Muslims favor it, according to the Pew survey.

Beware of generalizations about any faith because they sometimes amount to the religious equivalent of racial profiling. Hinduism contained both Gandhi and the fanatic who assassinated him. The Dalai Lama today is an extraordinary humanitarian, but the fifth Dalai Lama in 1660 ordered children massacred “like eggs smashed against rocks.”

Christianity encompassed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and also the 13th century papal legate who in France ordered the massacre of 20,000 Cathar men, women and children for heresy, reportedly saying: Kill them all; God will know his own.

One of my scariest encounters was with mobs of Javanese Muslims who were beheading people they accused of sorcery and carrying their heads on pikes. But equally repugnant was the Congo warlord who styled himself a Pentecostal pastor; while facing charges of war crimes, he invited me to dinner and said a most pious grace.

The caricature of Islam as a violent and intolerant religion is horrendously incomplete. Remember that those standing up to Muslim fanatics are mostly Muslims. In Pakistan, a gang of Muslim men raped a young Muslim woman named Mukhtar Mai as punishment for a case involving her brother; after testifying against her attackers and winning in the courts, she selflessly used the compensation money she received from the government to start a school for girls in her village. The Taliban gunmen who shot Malala Yousafzai for advocating for education were Muslims; so was Malala.

Iran has persecuted Christians and Bahais, but a Muslim lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, showed enormous courage by challenging the repression and winning release of a pastor. Dadkhah is now serving a nine-year prison sentence.

A lawyer friend of mine in Pakistan, Rashid Rehman, was a great champion of human rights and religious tolerance — and was assassinated this year by fundamentalists who stormed his office.

Sure, denounce the brutality, sexism and intolerance that animate the Islamic State and constitute a significant strain within Islam. But don’t confuse that with all Islam: Heroes like Mukhtar, Malala, Dadkhah and Rehman also represent an important element.

Let’s not feed Islamophobic bigotry by highlighting only the horrors while neglecting the diversity of a religion with 1.6 billion adherents — including many who are champions of tolerance, modernity and human rights. The great divide is not between faiths, but one between intolerant zealots of any tradition and the large numbers of decent, peaceful believers likewise found in each tradition.

Maybe that is too complicated to convey in a TV brawl. But it’s the reality.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/09/opinion/nicholas-kristof-the-diversity-of-islam.html?rref=opinion&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&pgtype=article

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-tolerance/nicholas-kristof/the-diversity-of-islam--20th-century-would-not-single-out-islam-as-the-bloodthirsty-religion;-it-was-christian/nazi/communist-europe-and-buddhist/taoist/hindu/atheist-asia-that-set-records-for-mass-slaughter/d/99444

 




TOTAL COMMENTS:-   1


  • Bill Maher's Dangerous Critique of Islam: by Peter Beinart (The Atlantic) . . .


    There's a constructive way for liberals to oppose illiberalism, and then there's the approach the comedian took.

    Last Friday, the cranky comedian, aided by atheist author Sam Harris, enraged actor Ben Affleck by calling Islam, in Harris’s words, “the mother lode of bad ideas.” Then on Monday, Maher condemned liberals for being so afraid of being called Islamophobes that they won’t denounce brutality committed in Islam’s name. “We’re liberals!” Maher declared about himself and Harris. “We’re liberals … we’re trying to stand up for the principles of liberalism! And so, y’know, I think we’re just saying we need to identify illiberalism wherever we find it in the world, and not forgive it because it comes from [a group that] people perceive as a minority.”

    Where Maher goes wrong is in forgetting two other lessons of the liberal anti-totalitarian tradition. The first is to be precise about what you’re opposing. The second, to not get so carried away with your own virtue that you end up justifying terrible crimes.

    It’s one thing to denounce the Saudi monarchy for its fanatical illiberalism. Like Stalin’s dictatorship, it’s a particular regime in a particular place. But to imply that Islamism—and by extension organizations such as Tunisia’s Ennahda Party or Turkey’s AKP, both of which have won democratic elections—are just milder versions of ISIS is dangerously sloppy.

    That’s especially true when the ideology isn’t even Islamism but Islam. Maher wants Americans to denounce Islam because while “all religions are stupid, Islam just happens to be the one right now, in this century, that’s most dangerous and violent.” That’s a wild overgeneralization. “Islam” is not violent or peaceful, dangerous or benign. Like every great religion, it includes a vast array of diverse and often contradictory teachings, which different people interpret in different ways in different places and times. Yes, in some Muslim-majority countries, women and religious minorities are treated brutally. But that has far more to do with their particular national circumstances than with the fact that Muslims populate them. After all, other Muslim-majority countries have elected female heads of state. To lump together Indonesia and Yemen because both countries are mostly Muslim makes about as much sense as lumping together Ireland and the Dominican Republic because both countries are mostly Catholic.

    When Affleck told Maher that America has “killed more Muslims than they’ve killed us by an awful lot … and somehow we’re exempt from these things because they’re not really a reflection of what we believe in. We did it by accident,” he was making a crucial point. As the great liberal Cold War theologian Reinhold Niebuhr stressed, nations, like individuals, are often unable to acknowledge the degree to which selfish interest infects their supposed pursuit of high principle. Restraining the evil that lurks within our own culture requires facing our own history of, and ongoing capacity for, terrible crimes. It requires trying to see largely Christian America the way we are seen by the Muslims whose cities we have bombed. By contrast, declaring that the essential barbarism in today’s world lies elsewhere—not even just in a foreign regime or movement but in an entire religion—lets us off easy.    

    “The pride and self-righteousness of powerful nations,” wrote Niebuhr, “are a greater hazard to their success than the machinations of their foes.” It took the Vietnam War for Schlesinger to truly appreciate that point. Given America’s experience in the Middle East over the last decade, Maher has no excuse.



    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 10/9/2014 2:55:52 PM



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