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The False History of Muslim Intolerance

by Nonpartisan Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 03:42:18 AM EST

[Cross-posted at ProgressiveHistorians and Eteraz.]

First of all, let me state for the record that I am not a Muslim; therefore, I do NOT claim to speak for the Muslim community in any way.  However, I am a historian, and in such capacity I feel qualified to answer the following portion of Johne's lengthy post at Redstate:

To every non-Muslim I ask: do you comprehend this shape of the conflict? Can you guard as your own the liberty of the Muslim who will likewise guard yours? Do you understand the enmity toward non-believers born out of externalizing to the social order the idea of submission to Allah through Muhammad - that first pillar of Islam? Do you comprehend the history that shows the David-vs.-Goliath power of this system of ideas to rearrange the socio-political order to a procrustean form of tyranny? Do you believe that, for the good of all mankind, our social order rooted in liberty must prevail over Muhammad's social order rooted in submission? What will you not do - as a matter of principle - in order to achieve this? In the Cold War with communist regimes, we were willing to deter their dominance by the will of mutually assured destruction in nuclear war; are you willing to go that far against an enemy who is clearly willing to sacrifice innumerable lives for the triumph of their ideas?

The historical crux of John's argument -- that Islam is a historically intolerant religion -- is a historical fallacy opposed by literally millennia of accrued evidence.  Across the flip, I present some of that evidence, and discuss the consequences of perpetuating this dangerous historical myth.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob


Late Antiquity: People of the Book

If what ever those books mention anything involving the Qumran, we do not need them, you can burn them; and if this those teachings are not in our Holy book, then you must burn them like you would burn an infidel!

-- Falsely attributed to Caliph Omar

The above quote, whose authenticity has been debunked by no less an authority than Edward Gibbon, has been used for centuries to tar Muslims as a historically intolerant, ignorant people whose leader burned the famed Library at Alexandria.  (In truth, the Library was long gone by the time Omar got there.)  But those who view this false quote as proof of Omar's intolerance might like to know how the great conqueror treated those whom he conquered.

Omar was the greatest military genius among the Rashidun, or rightly-guided Caliphs.  When he attained leadership of the Muslims, they controlled an area covering approximately the territory of Saudi Arabia; when he died, Islamic forces stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf, covering all of North Africa and the Middle East and expanding across the Strait of Gibraltar into southern Spain.  (The Muslim forces were eventually checked in Spain by the armies of <s>Charlemagne</s> Charles Martel, at which point they ceased their attempts to further invade Europe.)  To conquer these territories, the Muslims had to subjugate a number of defeated peoples.  Most of these peoples were Christians or Jews.

In the past, when an empire had extended its web across a vast landmass, the conquered peoples of different religions were terribly persecuted.  Pagan Rome threw Christian martyrs to the lions before Constantine's reign; Constantine converted to Christianity and persecuted the pagans; his successor Julian the Apostate converted back to paganism and persecuted the Christians again.  For several centuries before the Muslim invasion, the Catholic Church had been attempting to violently stamp out several popular heresies, including Arianism, Monothelism, Monophysitism, Manichaeanism, and Gnosticism.

No matter who reigned supreme over the Mediterranean, the coreligionists of the losers had nothing but blood, torture, and forced conversion to look forward to -- until Caliph Omar presented the conquered peoples of the Islamic Empire with the following pact:

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate!

This is a writing to Umar from the Christians of such and such a city. When You [Muslims] marched against us [Christians],: we asked of you protection for ourselves, our posterity, our possessions, and our co-religionists; and we made this stipulation with you, that we will not erect in our city or the suburbs any new monastery, church, cell or hermitage; that we will not repair any of such buildings that may fall into ruins, or renew those that may be situated in the Muslim quarters of the town; that we will not refuse the Muslims entry into our churches either by night or by day; that we will open the gates wide to passengers and travellers; that we will receive any Muslim traveller into our houses and give him food and lodging for three nights; that we will not harbor any spy in our churches or houses, or conceal any enemy of the Muslims. [At least six of these laws were taken over from earlier Christian laws against infidels.]

That we will not teach our children the Qu'ran [some nationalist Arabs feared the infidels would ridicule the Qu'ran; others did not want infidels even to learn the language]; that we will not make a show of the Christian religion nor invite any one to embrace it; that we will not prevent any of our kinsmen from embracing Islam, if they so desire. That we will honor the Muslims and rise up in our assemblies when they wish to take their seats; that we will not imitate them in our dress, either in the cap, turban, sandals, or parting of the hair; that we will not make use of their expressions of speech, nor adopt their surnames [infidels must not use greetings and special phrases employed only by Muslims]; that we will not ride on saddles, or gird on swords, or take to ourselves arms or wear them, or engrave Arabic inscriptions on our rings; that we will not sell wine [forbidden to Muslims]; that we will shave the front of our heads; that we will keep to our own style of dress, wherever we may be; that we will wear girdles round our waists [infidels wore leather or cord girdles; Muslims, cloth and silk].

That we will not display the cross upon our churches or display our crosses or our sacred books in the streets of the Muslims, or in their market-places; that we will strike the clappers in our churches lightly [wooden rattles or bells summoned the people to church or synagogue]; that we will not recite our services in a loud voice when a Muslim is present; that we will not carry Palm branches [on Palm Sunday] or our images in procession in the streets; that at the burial of our dead we will not chant loudly or carry lighted candles in the streets of the Muslims or their market places; that we will not take any slaves that have already been in the possession of Muslims, nor spy into their houses; and that we will not strike any Muslim.

All this we promise to observe, on behalf of ourselves and our co-religionists, and receive protection from you in exchange; and if we violate any of the conditions of this agreement, then we forfeit your protection and you are at liberty to treat us as enemies and rebels.

The Pact of Omar was a landmark document of religious toleration.  It essentially created two classes of citizens within Omar's empire: Muslims and "people of the Book," or those who believed in the Bible in some form.  People of the Book would be disadvantaged in several ways, notably subject to an additional tax and unable to serve in government or official roles; but beyond this, they were not to be harmed, persecuted, forcibly converted, or put to death.

Many people falsely believe that "people of the Book" excluded large numbers of the Islamic Empire's people.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  An overwhelming majority of the conquered peoples were either Catholic, Jewish, or members of one of the prominent Christian heresies, all of which were covered under the term "people of the Book."  For example, the Visigoths in Spain, partially conquered by Omar's armies near the end of his reign, were followers of the Arian heresy.  A Visigothic knight captured by the armies of the Catholic Church would convert or be put to death as a heretic; but in the Islamic Empire, he could go about his business in relative peace, subject only to a tax and banned from public office.  A Gnostic in Egypt?  Covered under "people of the Book."  A Monothelist, Monophysitist, or Manichean?  Covered under "people of the Book."  A pagan?  You were screwed -- but you were probably pretty good at hiding it, since your religion had been illegal for the past three hundred years anyway.

Caliph Omar does not deserve to be remembered as an ignorant destroyer of knowledge.  Rather, he should be thought of as a leader magnanimous in victory, a man who promulgated the first widespread edict of religious tolerance in the Western world.  Omar is a prime example of Muslim toleration -- not the false intolerance suggested by those on the right.

The Middle Ages: Knowledge and Crusades

The Middle Ages are often considered the "Dark Ages," mostly because of the lack of scientific, literary, or political advancement in European countries.  The supremacy of the Muslims over the Southern Mediterranean during this time has often been cited as one of the causes of this fallow period in Europe, further burnishing the image of Islam as a foe of knowledge and learning.

In fact, it was the Islamic world that kept the fire of knowledge burning throughout the darkest time in the past two millennia.  Muslim learning was the torch that illuminated the Dark Ages.

The scholasticism of medieval Catholic Europe, focussed entirely as it was upon ancient authority, was unable to inform scientific inquiry until the revolutionary libraries of Islam were made available to the Catholic world.  All western advances in civil engineering, mathematics, chemistry, medicine and astronomy were founded upon the medieval sciences of Islam, which were themselves built upon the classical traditions lost to the west during the Germanic destruction of the Roman empire.

Among the prominent Islamic thinkers during this period were the physicians Ibn-Sina (author of The Canon of Medicine) and Al-Rhazi; astronomers Al-Battani and Jabir Bin Aflah (who helped disprove the Ptolemaic system of astronomy); physicists including Al-Kharazmi, whose pioneering work in algebra influenced later work on the subject; and chemists including the visionary Ibn-Hayyan.

The Muslim world was threatened by Europeans beginning in the eleventh century, when Crusader armies traveled to the Middle East in search of territory and glory.  These armies were brutal, sadistic, and heedless of human life, as a contemporary description of the Sack of Jerusalem during the First Crusade attests:

How many souls were slain in the reservoir of Mamel! How many perished of hunger and thirst! How many priests and monks were massacred by the sword! How many infants were crushed under foot, or perished by hunger and thirst, or languished through fear and horror of the foe! How many maidens, refusing their abominable outrages, were given over to death by the enemy! How many parents perished on top of their own children! How many of the people were bought up by the Jews and butchered, and became confessors of Christ! How many persons, fathers, mothers, and tender infants, having concealed themselves in fosses and cisterns, perished of darkness and hunger! How many fled into the Church of the Anastasis, into that of Sion and other churches, and were therein massacred and consumed with fire! Who can count the multitude of the corpses of those who were massacred in Jerusalem?

One would think that, after witnessing such wanton destruction perpetrated on their people, the Muslims would seek out an opportunity for bloody revenge.  Certainly this would have been the response of the Christian Crusaders, who massacred Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem on far less provocation than the Muslims had just received.

One would be wrong.

To understand what happened next, you have to comprehend the character of one of the most magnanimous, honorable and forgiving of all historical leaders -- Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria.  Saladin was a feared warrior who reclaimed the Holy Land from its Christian rulers.  But his prowess on the battlefield was matched by his integrity and honor toward his enemies.

Nowhere was Saladin's kindness more convincingly demonstrated than toward Richard I of England (known to popular history as Richard the Lion Heart), Saladin's main adversary on the battlefield.  After winning several critical engagements against Saladin, Richard fell ill with one of the many ailments that plagued his short life.  Saladin's reaction was to declare a truce until Richard recovered.  He even went so far as to send his personal physician to care for Richard.  And after Richard recovered, Saladin negotiated an exceedingly liberal peace with the English king, as documented by a contemporary:

As his illness became very grave, the King despaired of recovering his health. Because of this he was much afraid, both for the others as well as for himself. Among the many things which did not pass unnoted by his wise attention, he chose, as the least inconvenient course, to seek to make a truce rather than to desert the depopulated land altogether and to leave the business unfinished as all the others bad done who left the groups in the ships.

The King was puzzled and unaware of anything better that he could do. He demanded of Saif ad­Din, Saladin's brother, that he act as go­between and seek the best conditions be could get for a truce between them. Saif ad­Din was an uncommonly liberal man who bad been brought, in the course of many disputes, to revere the King for his singular probity. Saif ad­Din carefully secured peace terms on these conditions: that Ascalon, which was an object of fear for Saladin's empire so long as it was standing, be destroyed and that it be rebuilt by no one during three years beginning at the following Easter.[March 28, 1193] After three years, however, whoever had the greater, more flourishing power, might have Ascalon by occupying it. Saladin allowed Joppa to be restored to the Christians. They were to occupy the city and its vicinity, including the seacoast and the mountains, freely and quietly. Saladin agreed to confirm an inviolate peace between Christians and Saracens, guaranteeing for both free passage and access to the Holy Sepulcher of the Lord without the exaction of any tribute and with the freedom of bringing objects for sale through any land whatever and of exercising a free commerce.

When these conditions of peace had been reduced to writing and read to him, King Richard agreed to observe them, for he could not hope for anything much better, especially since he was sick, relying upon scanty support, and was not more than two miles from the enemy's station. Whoever contends that Richard should have felt otherwise about this peace agreement should know that he thereby marks himself as a perverse liar.

Things were thus arranged in a moment of necessity. The King, whose goodness always imitated higher things and who, as the difficulties were greater, now emulated God himself, sent legates to Saladin. The legates informed Saladin in the hearing of many of his satraps, that Richard had in fact sought this truce for a three year period so that he could go back to visit his country and so that, when he had augmented his money and his men, he could return and wrest the whole territory of Jerusalem from Saladin's grasp if, indeed, Saladin were even to consider putting up resistance. To this Saladin replied through the appointed messengers that, with his holy law and God almighty as his witnesses, he thought King Richard so pleasant, upright, magnanimous, and excellent that, if the land were to be lost in his time, he would rather have it taken into Richard's mighty power than to have it go into the hands of any other prince whom be had ever seen.

The conduct of this gracious and honorable leader puts the lie to any argument that Muslims are historically intolerant or cruel.  Indeed, in an analysis of medieval history, it is European Christians who emerge time and time again as the cruel and intolerant ones.  Saladin, like the Muslim scholars, is part of an ancient culture steeped in enlightened thought and honorable action.

Conclusion: A Dangerous False History

Like Johne, many of our friends on the American right who are upset with the recent actions of some Muslims would like to believe that Islamic peoples have been historically intolerant, crude, or ignorant.  Unfortunately for them, history does not bear out their arguments.  Indeed, a close assessment of just a few instances of Islamic history shows that tolerance, learning, and forgiveness are the historical hallmarks of Islamic civilization.

Such are the facts of history; and to pretend otherwise, given the precarious situation in which the world finds itself today, is the historical equivalent of yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater.  The misrepresentation of history does not often such With the world at war, it is important to understand that the religion many Americans view as an enemy possesses the historical virtues of peace.

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The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...

by Nonpartisan on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 01:12:03 AM EST
Fantastic diary, thanks for posting this here.

Going back a little further in history... In the library at St. Cathereine's Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, there is a letter sent from the Prophet Muhammad to the Greek Orthodox monks of St. Catherine's in the year 628 CE.

Here is an English translation of the Charter of Privileges:

This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them.

Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.

No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses.

Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.

The Muslims are to fight for them.

If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.

Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).

The original letter is not on display at the monastery, but an early Turkish translation of it is, and I've seen it.

I was planning to do a photo diary on St. Catherine's someday, as part of my as-yet-nonexistent series of photo diaries on Egypt.  Here's a shot of the church to tide everyone over in the meantime....

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 03:51:45 AM EST
An important piece of the puzzle that I had no idea about.  Thanks for adding this to the mix.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...
by Nonpartisan on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 10:13:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll be waiting for your diary. I hope you will tell us about the present situation of the Copts. One of the trips I would really like to take is to follow the traces of the early Christians around the Upper Nile - or Ethiopia, but it seems far fetched at the moment.

I was raised as a Christian in an Islamic country, with large Christian and Jewish minoriries. I never as a kid have been aware of inter-religious conflicts.

It certainly was a tolerant society, but today the atmosphere has changed. It seems to me today's Islam is leaning towards more intolerance - for reasons which I'll let more knowledgeable people explain.

by balbuz on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 10:37:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
People painting Islam as intolerant by using the inevitably dubious interpretations of centuries' old history are probably as silly as those who paint Islam as great or tolerant based on those same dubious interpretations of Islam's ages-old heydey.

Religions are as its adherants do; there is ample evidence among this particular religion's most fervent believers, as well as the current chief financiers of its propagation in Riyadh, who via pronouncements and writings, paint well enough a picture of Islam's tolerance (and lack thereof), that one need not resort to silly and loaded historical references.

We should ask ourselves, in places where Islam is the dominant religious ideology, what are the effective rights of minorities (in the main, not cherry-picking examples like Turkey - yes, Turkey). Is a woman's right to be able to walk down a street with a moderate-length skirt tolerated? What is the status of religious dissidents such as atheists? Can a Christian bible be brought into many countries? What is the amount of freedom of speech afforded people in such countries (again, on balance), and so forth.

And then we will have a good picture of Islamic tolerance, and lack thereof.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 07:32:42 AM EST
This diary was confined to the historical tolerance of Islam because history is my area of expertise.  I in no way intend to imply that historical interpretation is the only or even the primary valid method of divining the tolerance of contemporary Muslims.

As for your further point, while it's true that there are intolerant Muslims on the international stage, should we tar a whole religion because of the actions of some of its adherents?  In the same way, should we tar Christianity with the actions of George Bush, or atheism with the actions of Stalin?  I think not.  Religious toleration means an end to guilt by association; just because someone shares a religion with a murderer does not mean his own religion is equally suspect.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...

by Nonpartisan on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 10:16:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say that insofar as the most powerful and dominant Muslim voices today project intolerance, it's a fair target for being labelled intolerant.

I would say that the fact a woman, any woman (Muslim or not), cannot in public wear what she likes in many, if not most, Muslim nations, is a sign that there's a bit of an issue here. Not to speak of, to be sure, how a woman's voice is heard in civil court, how her civil rights generally match up with those of men, et c.

And I would further say that while you certainly have a point about Stalin representing atheism and Bush representing protestants, this isn't the same thing.

With Islam, we are talking about more than one figurehead, however powerful. We are also talking about the top, but in more than one country. By top, I mean the mullahs who run Iran, the autocratic and misogynistic rulers of Arabia, Hamas who are in power in Palestine, Jamiat-i-Islami who are the biggest party in Pakistan, and so forth.

But I am also talking about the middle, by which I mean the various Islamist parties, widely popular throughout much of the Islamic world, in addition to the average Islamic ngo.

And I am also talking about the rank and file. Devout Muslims, which in percentage terms are higher as a proportion of those self-identifying as having a Muslim heritage than, say, comparable folks self-identifying as of Catholic heritage or of Jewish heritage, do not tend to be any more generally tolerant than their leaders of any level. To be an atheist is to be an apostate. To be a woman demanding equal rights is to be, at best, impertinent, and certainly not particularly "islamic". To write in a certain way about Islam is worthy of sterm condemnation (and fatwas such as that on Rushdie's head, while perhaps seen as "over the top," are nonetheless seen as "understandable" as well). To be a Christian or other abramaic religious minority is to be worthy of at best suspicion, and in most cases, second-class citizenship.

The closest thing to this is probably US protestantism, and probably the best survey comparison of the two was done 5 years ago or so by Tariq Ali, who knows a bit about being an apostate in Islamic society, in his   Clash of Fundamentalisms .

This is not simply a question of one man in Islam whose example is damning for his co-religionists on the issue of tolerance as Stalin damns the religion of Leninist dictatorship of the proletariat (and not, as you note, atheists in general). The problem runs north and south, east and west, from the top to the bottom and back up again.

Islam as practised today has many admirable traits. Tolerance, liberty and equality are not among them.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:13:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Islam as practised today has many admirable traits. Tolerance, liberty and equality are not among them.

It sounds as if you think it's only practiced one way.

Your descriptions are indeed accurate for some countries and some regions, but they are not representative.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 02:13:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I dunno if they are or not. They are certainly representative of the parts of the "Islamic world" I've been to and am familiar with, but I've heard that Lebanon, Morocco and most of West Africa are quite different.

Though I note that even in Morocco, where constitutional reform giving women equal footing in family law matters was quite controversial, and quite recent as well. Controversial, of course, for the Islamic opposition to the king, not to general society from what I understand.

One thing's for sure imho, if I am taking these highly backwards customs as inappropriately unrepresentative (and certainly this may be the case, I'm no expert on the matter, certainly less so than you, who live there), Islam has a bad case of extremely poor pr. And this is not all the fault of the West - look at the messages that the guardians of the holy places send to the world, by their way of rule, their extreme misogyny the highly repressive and regressive society they run, and their unabashed discrimination against non-Muslims. You don't need the Weakly Substandard's usual bile to get a (dis)taste of Islam - just look at regular Saudi life, and watch the rich fuckers at play in St Trop and Monaco for a taste of the hypocrisy underwriting it all.

My own personal view - religious people are by nature intolerant, with a tendancy to ram their mores down their fellow man's throat, to control those things they are insecure about. It's a power relationship denoting deeply personal foibles, straight out of Nietzsche.

Religious institutions are simply pathways to channeling this desire for control borne of insecurity. So it makes sense that it is strongest among those who are most powerless, as is the case in poor countries (whose rulers are quite adept at manipulating both the institution and those masses who are drawn to it).

Islam itself makes for an excellent resistance ideology as well, making it particularly well-suited to certain tasks in the part of the world where it is currently most excercised.

Doesn't make it any more palatable to me, though, I'm afraid. Repression of women and minorities are simply things I cannot accept, and I've seen it up front and personal, so it's not like I can simply wave it off as Western propaganda (like so much of the crap about Islam we are constantly bombarded with).
 

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 03:12:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think what's happening here is a conflation of culture and religion.  This happens often when people -- and not just Westerners -- discuss Islam and the countries in which it is the dominant religion.  (Actually, forget Islam for a moment... it happens when Westerners discuss their own values.)

Islam manifests itself very differently in different places.  The most populous Muslim nation is Indonesia, which is a more open and egalitarian society than the ones you describe.  Senegal, where 99 percent of the population is Muslim, is a very tolerant society where liquor stores operate unmolested and women can wear what they please.

Also, in poor, agrarian and tribal societies, regardeless of their dominant faith, it is hardly unusual for womens' rights to be constrained or nonexistant, or for perceived outsiders (or "heretics") to be harshly discriminated against.  These things, again, are not unique to Islam.

As I said, when it comes to Muslim countries, the conflation of culture with religion is not unique to Westerners.  Muslims do this themselves.  People convince themselves (or allow themselves to be convinced) that longstanding cultural practices (such as the niqab) are requirements of the faith, when they are no such thing.

Here in Egypt, for example, they have the world's highest rate of female genital mutilation (FGM) also known as female circumcision.  Something like 97 percent of all Egyptian women have endured this barbaric procedure, and there are indeed many who believe their religion requires it.

But -- and here's the important part -- the percentages are essentially the same for Muslims and Christians.  It is not a Muslim practice; it is not a Christian practice.  It was a Pharaonic practice that long predates the arrival of any of the Abrahamic faiths.

I share your distaste for the hypocritical Gulfies, and I don't have to go to St. Trop to see it.  These men who keep their own societies muffled and constrained within a web of Salafi and cultural restrictions on personal behavior -- I visit their countries and cannot have a glass of wine from my hotel bar, but they come here and frequent the casinos and bars and hashish vendors and poor prostitutes, earning in the process the everlasting resentment and disdain of ordinary Egyptians.  (And, in Beirut, bizubt, nifs haga, the same thing.)  If Shariah is truly ever implemented here, it may earn popular support if only to get rid of the Saudis and Kuwaitis.

Actually, as I've mentioned before, Shariah is already a major part of the legal system here, in this so-called "moderate" Arab state.

But in Saudi and here, religion has been exploited in order to further extend the state's control over its own people.  The rulers, cynical as any in the world, do not pass these absurd blue laws out of religious fervor, nor do they truly do it because of "pressure from the Islamists."  The Islamists are a convenient excuse to weaken their societies and strengthen their own holds on power.  There were far more Muslim Brothers elected to parliament here than members of all of the secular liberal opposition parties combined; the reasons for this are complicated and not entirely what you might expect.  But the government has spent far more energy and resources in dismantling or undermining the secular parties.  This is not an accident; the Ikhwan today makes a much better scarecrow than a bunch of effete, upper class pan-Arab Socialists.  In truth, the Islamists can exert no real pressure, and have never forced a change in the government's policy that the government didn't want to change in the first place.  Nobody does.

But having a large Islamist bloc in parliament is very convenient for a government that wants more control over its already-heavily-controlled citizens' lives.  It can blame morality-related erosions of personal liberties and constitutional rights on "pressure from the Islamists," and other erosions on attempts to negate that influence.  It's the perfect storm, brought to you by Western paranoia about Islamists.

But this really isn't a new tale.  Religion has been used as a weapon (or, less martially, as a tool) in similar ways at various times in history all over the world: in Europe and China and India and... oh, everywhere else.  Part of the blame falls on the religions for allowing themselves to be exploited, if not for actually encouraging it; part of the blame falls on the people who fail to recognize it; and a large chunk of the blame falls on the cynical, selfish leaders who do it.  And there are many of them, Muslim and not.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 09:08:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and I think it's what Johne is trying to say, but never quite gets around to explaining.

I agree that there are negative aspects of Islam, but I believe these stem from Islam's position as the major religion of most of the world's poorer countries.  Poor peoples tend to be more repressive than rich peoples.  I'm not sure it has anything to do with religion per se.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...

by Nonpartisan on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 02:13:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just as the Crusades didn't have anything to do with the Christianity as such it's all a question of power and politics and authoritarian ways of behaving.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 10:39:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do agree with you that much of the intolerance shown in Muslim countries today is a problem that only the Muslims themselves can deal with, just as the  Christians had to try to deal with the intolerance and injustice done during the crusades.  

As I have said in a comment below I don't think it has something to do with religion itself, but that is little or no comfort to those people who are mistreated in the name of a religion.  That is why it is so important that when these things happen in the name of a religion that the congregation deal with these problems in a thorough and convincing way in order to hinder that a whole religion get labelled as intolerant.  

Christianity has now to live with a label of intolerance regarding some of its history because it didn't deal properly with its excesses in the Middle ages like the inquisition and the Crusades in the same way as Islam now has to live with a label of intolerance because of its inability to properly deal with intolerance in many Muslim countries and excesses done by religious fanatics in its name.

 

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 11:02:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Could we refer you to reasonably influential anti-gay movements in the US that are overwhelmingly "Christian" in character, to pick a random example. Christian intolerance isn't a historical issue. Intolerance is one of the tools of religion.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 11:12:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean godhatesfags.com and godhatessweden.com?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 11:14:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course it is not a historical issue.  Intolerance will happen as long as there are people on this planet, but that is not my point.  Since this is an historical diary I refer to history as one aspect of why different religions are labelled intolerant in a historical context.  

I do not deny that gay bashing is a favoured sport in many fundamentalist Christian congregations just as it is within many Muslim congregations.
   

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 11:21:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And to your first point, that was understood, I was refering to the redstate guy you were criticizing, not to you.

The refutation was quite good, and I understood it not to be a statement on contemporary Islam whatsoever.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:20:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm going to argue (without providing any evidence) that all religions are intolerant. This is based upon their core belief that they are the only ones in possession of the "truth". Being those in possession of this special role implies that they must bring their beliefs to others.

When religions have unquestioned political authority (say Spain during the Inquisition) then they exercise their intolerance in violent ways. When their political power is more constrained (say contemporary US) then they promote their agendas in less confrontational ways. In much of the Muslim world these days it suits the purposes of the ruling class to promote religious intolerance for political purposes. Usually the reasons can be found in the social structure. Not one of the major Muslim countries has a democratic government or if it has "elections" they are mostly window dressing.

When the religious factions do get political control, as happened in Iran, the degree of violent intolerance rises quickly. Not only does the religious police enforce dress codes by summary beatings on the street, but the government has had an explicit policy of discrimination against the historic Jewish community which has led to the emigration of all but a handful of Iranian Jews.

Coincidentally I just posted another of my "goals" essays which deals explicitly with discrimination as a politically motivated activity.

Religious "moderates" (especially liberal Christian denominations) like to minimize the bloody history of their own past and focus on the problems with contemporary Islam, but this is a convenient misreading of history.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 11:41:31 AM EST
All religions are intolerant in the sense that they believe they are right and everyone else is wrong; but how is that different from anyone with a strongly-held opinion?

I also question your final paragraph: I see no evidence that "liberal Christian denominations" have any interest in "the problems with contemporary Islam."  Most liberal Christians I know want to make common cause with contemporary Islamic Progressives.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...

by Nonpartisan on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 02:05:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to disagree that
all religions are intolerant

The Quaker, the Zoroastrian and Bahá'í religions are not intolerant. They (at least at their root) have the idea that ALL religions are relevent and important. The ones who practice, that I know personally, work very hard on their own intolerance because that goes against their faith.

The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

by deviousdiva (thedeviousdiva@gmail.com) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 07:31:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not quite. Ideologies provide a fertile ground for breeding and incubating authoritarians and narcissists. They're naturally attracted to pyramidal power structures which put them in positions of authority and give them attention.

This doesn't mean religious memes are inherently intolerant. It does mean that many religious memes contain enough ambiguity and have enough of an authoritarian slant to start with that they organise themselves into an authoritarian movement.

You cannot generalise about all religions because there are so many, and they function in so many different ways.

You also cannot generalise that it's only religion that works like this. The Nazis and the Soviets were authoritarian pyramids.

Neoliberal economics has similar properties. Some parts of the scientific community have similar properties.

What differs is the sophistication or crudeness with which people lower down the pyramid are dominated, and whether that domination is based on naked violence or more subtle narrative programming. Also whether or not there's a modifying Progressive tradition which keeps the violence in check and sets limits on how far the authoritarians are allowed to exercise their greed for power.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 08:53:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose we could get into a debate about religion, but this is a popular theme in the US these days mostly led by Sam Harris (the author of two recent best selling books). I suggest anyone interested in the topic of whether all religions are intolerant or have other bad aspects read one or another of his books. He does a much better job of making the case against religion than I can.

Many of his ideas appear in condensed form in some of the frequent editorial he publishes. A visit to his web site at samharris.org will provide links.

As to secular ideological hierarchies (such as those in Nazi Germany or the USSR) having many of the same problems with authoritarianism, I'm in full agreement and have criticized Sam Harris for overlooking this in his first book. He has now modified his position somewhat to include these types of social organizations. I call them cults of personality, since most of them seem to be based upon this: Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc.

The reason for focusing on organized religion is because it has such a long history of abuse, is so influential and has so many followers.

The only real social development of the past three hundred years was functional democracy and it has be troubled by many setbacks and the slow adoption outside of the UK and the US. I don't know if this is because most people prefer to follow strong leaders, or because those in power have the type of personality which favors authoritarianism or because autocrats naturally rise to the top where their disdain for democratic mechanisms can be turned into policy.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 09:11:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You have to read Veblen on this. His take is that there are two kinds of releigion. The primitive religions are all concerned with the elaboration of myths, legends, and local rituals. The second type is the religion that arises with "civilization", i.e. kings and armies. These religions are based on status and dominance and are the kind of religion which we experience today.
by bil on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 09:31:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nonpartisan on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 04:47:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary.  As a casual student of history myself, I state that what you have presented is what I was also taught. The historic Islamic society was indeed enlightened and tolerant of other religions and cultures as compared to it's predecessors.
Sadly, this tolerance was not frequently reciprocated by my own Christian religion.  I do not wish to dispute in any way the historic facts you present, and I am very hesitant to state my perceptions because I truly do not wish to start an us vs. them type of dialogue on religion.

I fear that an age of increasing intolerance may be upon us now and that those historic gestures made by Islamic society are on the wane in some countries.  I also believe that Islam has not always kept pace with modern concepts of religious freedom and human rights and that some of these conflicts within Islam are responsible for the violence and cultural wars we see today.  The same, of course, can be said of Christian societies.  The hallmark of such intolerance, whether Christian, Islam or any other religious based bias, I believe is ignorance.

From what I have seen and heard in some Islamic majority countries, Christians can do very well as long as they remain a small minority and do not play a significant political role.  An overheard conversation between two Muslim women went something like this.  "The Christians are OK as long as they remain less than 10% of the population."  As a case in point, there are very few Islamic countries that support large populations of non-Muslims and where they do occur, as in Lebanon, problems arise (not fixing sole blame on Islam in this case.)  The same can probably be said for countries with majority Christian (Jewish, Hindu) populations.  Thus, religious intolerance exists in abundance today and Islamic society is no exception.


I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:14:03 PM EST
An interesting diary and I don't dispute a large part of what you're arguing, but....

...there's always a but.

By halting your survey at the middle ages you miss out on the whole Ottoman era (which is a plus point for your thesis) and the rise of Wahabi'ism (which is a major minus point for your thesis and, actually, the crux of the matter WRT the modern situation we find ourselves in).

I agree with you that Islam is not, de fundo, intolerant but the Wahabi'ite substrand within Islam most definitely is and it's Wahabi'ism that's biting the world (islamic and non-islamic alike) in the arse just now.

Regards
Luke

-- #include witty_sig.h

by silburnl on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:14:32 PM EST
I don't feel comfortable with my limited knowledge of the Ottoman Empire, and I know NOTHING whatsoever about Wahabi'ism.

Good reason, huh? :)

Will you explain a bit about them, particularly about the latter?  You've got me curious now.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...

by Nonpartisan on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 02:07:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They KNOW it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.  

Robert Pirsig, from "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" hits the spot, I think.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 02:20:17 PM EST
I always have mixed feelings about these sorts of articles. They are a good way of countering the Islam is evil and always was folks. However, they are also simplistic, selective, and anachronistic. Islam has a long, long history spread out over a substantial area, with numerous states and societies over that space and time. Some were more tolerant, others more intolerant; certain groups were sometimes given better treatment than others.

Also what was tolerant by the standards of the time isn't by today's. Thus for example someone pointing to the quite tolerant early centuries of Andalusia is right that they were much more tolerant than Christian countries at the time, and can invoke that past as a counter to both the anti-Muslim bigots and hardline Muslim fundies. On the other hand if that person suggests that that should be a model for how religious minorities in Islamic societies are to be treated today, it's a very different, and not at all an example of tolerance. To repeat what I said in another thread, historical facts and traditions are what we make of them.

by MarekNYC on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 03:28:25 PM EST
I was contradicting what I thought was a rather outrageous historical claim by a right-wing blogger, a generalization that was easily broken down with a few counterexamples.  I wouldn't argue, however, that the history of the Islamic world was anything other than complex -- just like the rest of world history.  So it was simplistic and selective for a reason -- the point it was trying to counter was simplistic and needed to be dispatched accordingly.

Beyond that, good points.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...

by Nonpartisan on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 03:35:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the past, when an empire had extended its web across a vast landmass, the conquered peoples of different religions were terribly persecuted.  Pagan Rome threw Christian martyrs to the lions before Constantine's reign; Constantine converted to Christianity and persecuted the pagans; his successor Julian the Apostate converted back to paganism and persecuted the Christians again.  For several centuries before the Muslim invasion, the Catholic Church had been attempting to violently stamp out several popular heresies, including Arianism, Monothelism, Monophysitism, Manichaeanism, and Gnosticism.

True about Christian Rome, and while it is true that pagan Rome did trow Christian martyrs to the lions during limited time of persecution (in total around 10 years of persecution during a span of some 200), I believe pagan Rome was generally tolerant of religions. As long as their followers payed their taxes that is and did not become uppity about the emperors divine status. Then again polytheistic religions are philosophically more inclined to have space for other goods as they do not have the one-and-only-super-GOD TM of the monotheistic ones.

Good writing, all-in-all. Stories that does not fit the established public discourse of today needs to be repeated.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 09:31:25 AM EST
Thank you for taking the time to post this.
I am somewhat familiar with the history you brought to our attention, as well as the role of the Muslim in preserving and disseminating the knowledge of the world that was disappearing into the Christian darkness.
My great curiosity is simply this:

--What happened??

The Muslim world view of today seems to have devolved into something sadly different, though I doubt the accuracy of my "knowledge" of the real opinions of the Muslims of today as much as I doubt the prejudices that emerge in the histories adopted by the neocon and neoliberal to self-justify.
Still--- what happened to change that respect for learning and  tolerance that created the university at Padua??
Or is it still a significant element of the wiser in the Muslim world, just absent in the ravings of the Jihadist?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 12:21:23 PM EST
Well, I would say it started with this guy and his pact with this guy, which led an obscure desert kingdom to become the single most conservative country on earth.  Which would on its own have been of less significance, until this was discovered in large quantities in places like this, which meant that the conservative kingdom now had lots of this (while still very few of these), allowing it to aggressively export its particular brand of intolerance to the rest of the Muslim world.  Islam is growing so quickly that many countries find they have a shortage of imams; Saudi Arabia is happy to provide them.  They have opened schools, built and staffed mosques.  They are the evangelists; they have the resources; they have the organization.  And just like Christian evangelism today (and Catholicism in a different era) it is their version of Islam that is spreading, even to places that are historically and culturally more tolerant and open.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 01:06:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Diary!

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 01:09:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seriously?  I thought everybody knew this stuff.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 01:12:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know, but it's put so humorously, with the links and stuff.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 01:19:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Though I think it started earlier, with the Ottomans -- The Islamic world hasn't been the flower of learning for the past few centuries.  Not sure why, though.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...
by Nonpartisan on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 04:46:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd concur with a lot of what you are saying about Wahhabism and I'd say that there has been a fair amount of exchange between the Wahhabis and other so-called Salafist movements (originally called reformist movements) see the Muslim Brotherhood, and see the merger between bin Laden's al-Qaeda and al-Zawahri's Egyptian Islamic Jihad.  But if you are implying that Wahhabism is the only cause to the intolerant and often militant versions of Islam that we see today I'd say you are oversimplifying the issue.

The Muslim Brotherhood was a product of the thoughts of a pious man getting his impressions from Egypt and the city of Cairo and not a direct product of the Wahhabist religious thought.  He might have been influenced by it but the Muslim Brotherhood and its militant branches (many of them in direct disagreement with the Brotherhood over important religious issues) are an independent religious direction that many of the Wahhabists of today rejects.  

The Salafist term is today used by many different groups.  Qutbism, Sayyid Qutb's version of how Islam is to be, is also by many termed Salafism.  And Ayman al-Zawahris Egyptian Islamic Jihad is one breakout group from the Muslim Brootherhood that is termed Jihadist Salafis.  

Simply said you could say that the Wahhabist direction is a very conservative, and some would say, traditionalist version of Islam, while Qutbism was, and still is, regarded to be a movement for change.  They seem to have the same goal: The omnipotence of the Sharia Law in all aspects of life, but they are political rivals.  Another militant and intolerant Islamic direction is of course the Iranian version of Islam, even if it is the Shiite version of Islam.  
   

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 02:49:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, first of all, that post was deliberately short on details.  It was more an attempt at humor than a serious effort to address the question, which would probably require a dissertation and a life's research.  So yes, I was deliberately oversimplifying the details.  

Second, you don't have to tell me about the Ikhwan.  I live in Egypt.  I know about them, thanks.

Finally, I read the question as dealing not with how militant political Islam evolved, but with what happened to the Muslim tradition of tolerance, intellectual and scientific inquiry, quest for knowledge, etc.  This question, too, would require a thesis-length essay in order to really answer, but it is a process that started long before Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna.  Although I see your point in linking the Ikhwan to the growth of modern conservative Islam, the Ikhwan's early leaders could hardly be accused of a lack of intellectual rigor, which is connected to the evolution of the Salafi/Wahhabi ideology and to the fading of Islamic growth in science and philosophy.

If I'd really wanted to give a serious answer, I would have talked about closing the door of ijtihad in the 10th century.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 05:03:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, first of all, that post was deliberately short on details.  It was more an attempt at humor than a serious effort to address the question, which would probably require a dissertation and a life's research.

Ok, then I am sorry for misunderstanding your comment.  

Second, you don't have to tell me about the Ikhwan.  I live in Egypt.  I know about them, thanks.

I know you live in Egypt and are well acquainted with Egyptian history and culture, but you didn't mention the Muslim Brotherhood in your previous comment, which I find relevant in this discussion and that is why I mentioned them.

Finally, I read the question as dealing not with how militant political Islam evolved, but with what happened to the Muslim tradition of tolerance, intellectual and scientific inquiry, quest for knowledge, etc.

Well, I commented on you pointing to the development of the house of ibn Saud's reign and his partnership with the Wahhabis.  The evolving of political Islam is a part of that as you yourself correctly pointed out, but only a part of it.  It is also of relevance when people ask the question asked in a previous comment:

Still--- what happened to change that respect for learning and tolerance that created the university at Padua??  Or is it still a significant element of the wiser in the Muslim world, just absent in the ravings of the Jihadist?

If I'd really wanted to give a serious answer, I would have talked about closing the door of ijtihad in the 10th century.

Yes I agree, the closing of ijtihad is a very relevant point in that regard.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 06:19:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course you have.

One of those places I simply HAVE to visit before I die. :)

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...

by Nonpartisan on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 09:43:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, a zillion times.  But you could spend weeks in there and still not see everything.  They recently added a new mummy room.  I never get tired of the mummies.

Many people find the museum chaotic, poorly organized, etc., but I just love it.  It's just like Egypt itself -- a big mess, but fantastic anyway.

I'm dreading the day when they move it out of the old building and into some doubtlessly awful modern monstrosity out in the desert.  Which is how they plan to "upgrde and modernize" just about everything of significance here.

For the or the last year or so, they've been doing an actual excavation in their own basement, since they realized that the storage rooms are packed with artifacts that nobody's ever catalogued.  They really have no idea what's down there.  They decided they needed to do something after a few large artifacts were stolen out of the basement and nobody noticed they were missing for quite a while....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Jan 20th, 2007 at 03:56:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A very good diary. Thank you.

BTW, does anyone know what happenned to a diary from earlier this week on the banning of headscarves in Germany and France? It has disappeared. That is a shame: MarekNYC and I had an interesting exchange there about Hegel, and on whether there is a difference in how national identities are formed in the US compared to in Europe. Did a flame war erupt?

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 08:12:31 PM EST
No, it seems to have just scrolled off the recent diaries list.  (Although, weirdly, it does show up out of chronological order on my diaries page, below several of my older diaries.)

Anyway, the link is here.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Jan 20th, 2007 at 04:01:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's gone to premature archive status for some reason, meaning that the comments don't show up in your list when you click on comments.
by MarekNYC on Sat Jan 20th, 2007 at 02:22:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How strange.  I wonder why that happened.  Any site gnomes have an idea?
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Jan 20th, 2007 at 02:23:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So how would I find it, if I wanted to look up those references you mentioned? I've never looked at the EuroTrib Wiki before, but I did look through the various categories that came to mind, and I couldn't find it.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns
by Alexander on Sat Jan 20th, 2007 at 02:52:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You could find it by going to Stormy's user page and scrolling down the diary list, then clicking on that diary.
by MarekNYC on Sat Jan 20th, 2007 at 03:32:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
for posting an informative and accurate diary that refutes the myths currently being generated in an increasingly ignorant and barbaric west.

As Gahndi said on western civilization: It would be a good idea.

by observer393 on Fri Jan 19th, 2007 at 09:43:40 PM EST
LOL!

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sat Jan 20th, 2007 at 10:31:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks nonpartisan, very good diary.

any one see christiane ammanpour's special on islam in britain tonight on cnn?

engagingly entitled...'the enemy within'...

sigh

the show was really good, however.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jan 20th, 2007 at 06:32:58 PM EST
Nick Cohen, Don't you know your left from your right?: How the Left Lost Its Way

Here's the lead-in:

As a child of politicised parents, Observer columnist Nick Cohen followed in their tradition and became a trenchant voice on the liberal-left in the 1980s and 90s. But the Iraq War changed all that and forced him to rethink. In an exclusive extract from his incendiary new book about the failings of the modern left, he argues that anti-Americanism has left it blind to the evils of militant Islam.

The article concludes:

[Liberals] would have to maintain that the [Iraq] war was not an attempt to break the power of tyranny in a benighted region, but the bloody result of a 'financially driven mania to control Middle Eastern oil, and the faith-driven crusade to batter the crescent with the cross'.

They chose to go berserk.


Well, most Americans, not to mention Brits, are berserk then.

This guy is a columnist for the Observer and has been writing this kind of Islamophobic drivel for years now, apparently. What does the Observer think it's doing giving such prominence to rubbish like this, when no one believes in the war any more but Bush, Blair, and Bush's dog?

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Sat Jan 20th, 2007 at 11:20:57 PM EST
Nonpartisan wrote:

The Muslim world was threatened by Europeans beginning in the eleventh century, when Crusader armies traveled to the Middle East in search of territory and glory.  These armies were brutal, sadistic, and heedless of human life, as a contemporary description of the Sack of Jerusalem during the First Crusade attests:

How many souls were slain in the reservoir of Mamel! How many perished of hunger and thirst! How many priests and monks were massacred by the sword! How many infants were crushed under foot, or perished by hunger and thirst, or languished through fear and horror of the foe! How many maidens, refusing their abominable outrages, were given over to death by the enemy! How many parents perished on top of their own children! How many of the people were bought up by the Jews and butchered, and became confessors of Christ! How many persons, fathers, mothers, and tender infants, having concealed themselves in fosses and cisterns, perished of darkness and hunger! How many fled into the Church of the Anastasis, into that of Sion and other churches, and were therein massacred and consumed with fire! Who can count the multitude of the corpses of those who were massacred in Jerusalem?

But this passage you quote is not about what the Crusaders, or the Christians did.  It is speaking of what the Jews did in revenge to others.  The passage you quote is immediately preceded by:

When the people were carried into Persia, and the Jews were left in Jerusalem, they began with their own hands to demolish and burn such of the holy churches as were left standing....

(Nonpartisan's source)  

There isn't a religion or ideology that was not pestered either with human sin itself or inability to cope with human sin (communism, for example, still had to contend with corruption, the powerhungry, a tendency toward the mob mentality), sometimes to bloody effect, but please be careful about quoting sources and making sure you are reading them correctly when you purport to represent the "truth" about something you are saying has been misrepresented.

by z----- (pasdejunk AT gmail DOT com) on Sun Jan 21st, 2007 at 10:46:38 PM EST


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