Saturday, April 19, 2014

Is Islam a religion of peace? - Debate

Off topic a bit from what we have been discussing lately, but here is a very interesting debate about whether Islam is a religion of peace or not. I found it quite insightful around several issues including:

- How Muslims interpret the Quran
- How should paradigms be judged
- The effects of social contexts on beliefs
- Contextualising versus plain reading
- Social change

It is long, but a good watch. I started out as unsure, but for me the opposition to the motion won this debate. It sounds like (though I have never read it) the Quran can easily be misinterpreted. The ones putting forward the motion seemed to suggest that you need to be a scholar to interpret the Quran correctly and that plain reading could lead to violence. However, an important point made by both sides is that it is possible to be a peaceful Muslim, but as pointed out evidence suggests that the Quran is not easily interpreted in a peaceful manner.


  1. Hi Daniel, I thoroughly enjoyed the debate on Islam.
    Islam a religion of peace?
    In my informed opinion, blind Freddy can see that Islam is a murderous religion.
    In fact the Lord Jesus told them that murder is all what thy can do, because they have learned it from their father the devil (John 8:44).

    Their religion started from the beginning when Cain murdered his brother Abel, that is because Cain's religion wasn't acceptable to the Lord Jesus Christ because he (Cain) was born of the evil one (1 John 3:12).
    Islam is not acceptable to the Lord Jesus Christ and neither is it to every believer in Jesus Christ.

  2. Really useful debate Daniel! Though frustrating as these debates often are.

    I was frustrated that the opponents refused to acknowledge or explore THE SINGLE major component of the proponents argument - that MANY Muslims DO practice Islam peacefully, so there must be a way to interpret it peacefully. Can such an peaceful interpretation become the 'definition' of Islam? I don't think it can, but I wish they had tackled this instead of talking past each other.

    In my mind, the crux of the matter is that a religion is defined by the intentions of its founders (both divine and human). This definition is important because it will always saturate the religion, despite the efforts or desires of its many 'pious' followers who disagree (in a variety of ways). It saturates because, for anyone seeking to explore the religion, this is what is universally available (in terms of Scriptures, etc), and also what is universally appealing because it cuts through the confusion of the varied contemporary disagreements and arguments. It is relatively easy and decide what Muhammad was thinking. Isalm is saturated by its violent intentions, which is why (although many pious Muslims are peaceful) Islam produces more violent 'pious' followers than other religions.

    I'd like to explore an issue with you guys that was touched on briefly by one of the opponents. We may criticise orthodox Islam (as intended by its founders) because it is violent, and I agree that it is remarkably violent. But many Muslims reply with the argument that either 1) we overstate the violence and misinterpret their Scriptures, or 2) God's prescribed behaviour has somehow been 'updated' to be non-violent today, although there are 'spiritual' principles to such passages which continue to apply. This might seem stretched, but we use exactly the same arguments about the violent Old Testament passages. How is this different?

    Personally, I think its different because we have ALWAYS had an underlying message of grace in the Scriptures (rather than violence), and we have actual revelation from Christ confirming an updated 'fuller' revelation in Him, which HE Himself (and the Apostles) state should fundamentally changes how we behave - to be more focussed on love and grace, and to be multi-ethnic and missional. Incidentally, this is why we can deny the repeated statements made by one of the opponents - we CAN be monotheistic and NOT be 'violent' (although we are missional).

  3. Hey Josh,

    ---"I was frustrated that the opponents refused to acknowledge or explore THE SINGLE major component of the proponents argument - that MANY Muslims DO practice Islam peacefully, so there must be a way to interpret it peacefully. Can such an peaceful interpretation become the 'definition' of Islam? I don't think it can, but I wish they had tackled this instead of talking past each other. " ---

    It is definitely beyond the scope of this debate to go into whether it was possible to interpret the Quran in a peaceful manner. Obviously it can be interpreted peacefully which the opponents didn't deny. But as I mentioned above, the debate was addressing the facts relating to the unrelenting widespread use of Islam for violence... up to 7 percent of Islam is still a huge number of people. Sad they didn't explore what it meant for the minority to be "politically motivated".

    Another interesting comment by one of them, was the comment stating that monotheism had to be violent because it creates an "us" and "them". True to a point but it comes down to what they mean by "violent". Do they mean physical or does it incorporate many other meanings which is often equated with violence. If violence means being militant to cause harm, then I strongly disagree that monotheism is naturally violent. Christianity is a good example of this. We are called to love our neighbour, not to abuse them. We don't seek to cause harm. If we ever do so, it is because we mistakenly grab one or two scriptures (with a personal agenda) and run with them and ignore the whole message of scripture where it is actually about peace and self sacrifice.

    ---"1) we overstate the violence and misinterpret their Scriptures, or 2) God's prescribed behaviour has somehow been 'updated' to be non-violent today, although there are 'spiritual' principles to such passages which continue to apply. This might seem stretched, but we use exactly the same arguments about the violent Old Testament passages. How is this different?"---

    It is worthwhile that you raise these two issues. The first comes down to contextualisation and interpretation which is valid, but I think the second is more relevant and more challenging to Christians today. The violence in the OT comes in two variations, 1. at a universal level and 2. At an internal more specific level. I will attempt to cover the first and then the second.
    Yes the Bible does have an underlying theme of grace but I don't think that it can be used as a sole defence of the violence found in the OT. The "us" and "them" concept of monotheism (raised in the debate) causing violence is not really found in scripture. When God chose a people (Israel) it was to demonstrate who He was, it was NOT to use them to conquer the world and force people into submission to Himself. If war was created by God, it was created to judge people for evil doing, even His own people! It was about a consequence of evil actions not dissimilar from our justice systems today. When Israel took the Promised Land it was not because Israel was somehow more special than the occupants, but because the judgement of the occupants had at that time come upon them from God Himself. God merely used Israel as tools at the same time as honouring His commitment to Abraham.

  4. There is no universal right for the people of God in the OT to wage war against all who dishonour God. Rather war is seen as instigated by God generally speaking to judge evil in the world. In Ecclesiastes this is referred to as a TIME of war and a TIME of peace. There is no militaristic war that is ONGOING against all those who do not submit before God. Probably the only world-wide public responsibility God has placed on general society (that I can currently think of) is Noah's covenant about capital punishment. So, I see that war in the scriptures was always for a time and for a particular purpose rather than an ongoing war against those who do not submit to God. God only allowed war to judge rampant evil, and always preferred mercy. Sometimes Israel was a tool and sometimes other nations were used by God as a tool. But there is no mandate to anyone to conduct a Holy war against all those who don't submit to God. Nor a law to establish God's kingdom world-wide. God's kingdom is about mercy and at times judgement, and it is NOT of this world. He seeks people who chose Him, not under compulsion but through love. However this does not negate His commitment to judgement on evil once His mercy has been long over extended.

    Just as hard to answer is the issue about violent actions taken against sinners in the Mosaic Law from within the people of God. It is important to note that this happened with people who have submitted themselves to God’s laws, and was not placed on those who were not under them. God seemed harsher on those people that He chose to reveal Himself too, because they knew better and knew what He required of them (Jesus, mentioned this). In a way, violence was used in the beginning to bring about the kingdom of God, but was used for non-compulsion reasons. What could those reasons ultimately be? I believe the violence came down to a necessary way of expressing that the wages of sin is death and then ultimately violence in the OT was an example of the need for a redeemer, which later came in the form of Christ. So there is no denying that the OT was violent internally and the explanation points towards an expression of a need for a redeemer. It is not that Christians have “updated” the OT but rather the OT has been made complete through Christ and He has taken the violence of the OT on Himself. This was always planned and intentioned by God to ultimately bring about a kingdom of peace. So God’s kingdom is not created ultimately by violent compulsion, but by seeking to express a need for justice, and then in the end a kingdom created by sacrifice and love.

  5. Yeah - I didn't expect them to tackle HOW the Koran can be interpreted peacefully, but rather what significance it has. Does it MATTER that many people interpret it peacefully? Can this be used to define Islam as a religion of peace? I don't think its relevant to the definition of 'Islam' that prompts this discussion. Any ideology is either defined by an agreed standards and descriptors, or it is not clearly defined (in which case the argument is pointless, because we don't know what we're arguing about).

    Self-ascribed 'Islamics' are not what we are considering - it is the fundamental flavour of Islam (upon which people then add their own interpretations). This flavour (I believe) is determined mainly by the founder's intentions, and is expressed (as you highlight) in the high proportion of violence which is empowered (in some way) by Islam. If all ideologies were broadly grouped and placed on a spectrum of violence, orthodox Islam (faithful to the founder's intention) is definitely at the most violent end of that spectrum.

    I really like your description of violence in the Old Testament. Very nicely explained! I'll save it and might use it in future posts... ;) I agree that monotheism is necessarily missional and exclusive (to a degree), but not 'violent' per se.

  6. A tree is always judged by its fruit, likewise is Islam judged by its deeds.

    I look at Islam and all I can see is murder and hatred against Israel and the west and even against their own Sunni and Shiite and there is nothing good in it, yes, absolutely nothing good or peaceful in Islam.
    The Lord Jesus said, that a bad tree cannot produce good fruit, or a dirty well cannot bring forth clean water.
    If at the roots of Islam is a sexual pervert and a murderer and a whore monger like Mohamed, what then can we expect his followers to be? Peaceful people?
    I think they and we are deluding ourselves to think so.

    The Islam religion is the offshoot of Abraham's illegitimate son Ishmael who was not the elect or the line of promise, but he was of the reject slave woman (Hagar).
    The Arabic nations have their roots in Ishmael and so is their religion. But the son of Gods choice was Isaac and then Jacob which became Israel the nation, considered Gods line of choice according to election.

    Between the Arabic nations and Israel has always been war and jealousy and hatred and they will NEVER, ever have peace, the sword will always be against both for their disobedience and unbelief.
    Only in Christ Jesus our Lord and God is everlasting peace for everyone, Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
    So, the question is, how does a Muslim, a Jew and a Christian get into Christ to have that everlasting peace?

    We know that everyone can join the Islamic, Jewish and Christian religion if they choose to do so, but NO ONE can choose to be in Christ Jesus our Lord, for that a man must be born again just as Jesus said, born not by the will of man nor the will of the flesh, but by the will of God.
    Perhaps you can see the dilemma, that all and every religion including Christianity would like to have PEACE, but no one will ever have peace till they are in Christ.
    Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you (John 14:27)"
    Jesus did not come to bring peace to this world but a sword, to take away the peace from every form of religion. Yes, I say it again, 'including Christianity'.
    Do we think that Christianity is a more peaceful religion than Islam?
    Tell me, which part of Christianity is peaceful?
    Are those who murdered and burned our brothers at the stake in Jesus Name more peaceful than Islam?

  7. Yeah. Those who 'interpret the Qur'an peacefully' are not really followers of Allah or Muhammad. As defined by the intentions of its founders, Islam can never be a religion of peace. And even when defined according to popular interpretation, Islam (and all other religious) can never fully remove the spirit which stems from its founders - in Islam's case, that is a spirit of violence.

    The idea that we should somehow ignore those who abuse Islam from political motivation, is nonsense. There is no distinction in people's minds between politics, religion, ethics, science, philosophy, etc. It is one worldview. The religion and the politics inform and rely upon each other. Sure, 'politics' (and/or ethics etc) may seem to be in the forefront in a particular person's psyche to us (although the person will usually deny it!). But this is also true for those who are 'peaceful' Muslims. It doesn't negate the validity of their religious interpretation.

    Christianity is different to Islam - it is a peaceful religion (according to my definition), although I don't deny that many have used it for violence. When we look at the intentions of its founders, we do not see such violence. Hence, unlike Islam, those who practice PEACE (and justice, as Daniel discusses above) are those who are true followers of God, Moses, the Prophets, Jesus, the Apostles, etc. Those who follow VIOLENCE are not true followers of Christianity's founders.