2016-01-13

Islamic Radicals and Christian Cults: Cut from the Same Cloth

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

radicalIslamRising
Dr. Quintan Wiktorowicz works with CEOs and senior leaders to leverage high impact outreach and engagement, partnerships, and innovation to create opportunities and manage risk. He is an internationally recognized author and expert on national security engagement and counter-terrorism and served in two senior positions at the White House, where he led efforts to advance national security partnerships and innovation at home and abroad. Prior to joining the White House, Dr. Wiktorowicz developed ground breaking counter-radicalization initiatives for the Intelligence Community and the Department of State. Before his government service, he was a social movement theorist and one of America’s leading academics on the Muslim World.
Extract from The Huffington Post biography

Over my end of year break as I was catching up with Quintan Wiktorowicz’s Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West(2005) I was somewhat amazed at the extent to which my own personal experiences as a member of a Christian cult many years ago overlapped with what I was reading about the factors that lead people into extremist Islamic movements.

Wiktorowicz’s case study was the British based and now banned Al-Muhajiroun (= “The Emigrants”). My own experience was with the Worldwide Church of God and has since been further informed through a wide reading about other religious cults, the comparable experiences of others and some of the research into why people join them, why they remain and why they leave.

Similarity #1

On page 47 Wiktoriwicz has a section headed REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COMMITTED ACTIVIST. It begins (with my own bolding):

Al-Muhajiroun activists participate in a dizzying array of required weekly activities, and the tempo of activism is fast-paced, demanding, and relentless. Activists commit to an assortment of lessons, public outreach programs, protests, and countless movement-sponsored events, all of which consume tremendous amounts of time, energy, and resources. They center their lives around the movement and in the process frequently sacrifice work, friends, family, and leisure time. To put it simply, al-Muhajiroun participation is an intense experience.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan; Wiktorowicz, Quintan (2005-07-21). Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (p. 47). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Oh yes! That is very much a mirror of what one finds among religious cults. Mid-week evening Bible Study meetings (the family, children included, generally expected to attend); all day sabbath services and related activities; day of preparations work to be sure everything is in place for the sabbath “rest”; daily minimum of half hour prayer and half hour personal bible study — but with the constant message that the servant who does only the minimum expected is an “unprofitable servant” destined to be “cast out” in the final judgment; active participation in other social events and promoting of “the work” — e.g. letter box drops, maintaining stalls, local fund-raising; volunteering to work at youth camps; setting aside (in Australia) two tenths of one’s gross income for donations to “the work” and compulsory holy day festival attendance in addition to “voluntary offerings”, and twice in seven years setting aside a third tenth of one’s gross income ostensibly for “the poor”. Two magazines and a lengthy co-worker letter were produced monthly and were required reading. Other self-improvement activities were constantly promulgated: a regular speaking club for men; fitness and diet schedules; dress codes; correct habits of speech; the requirement to keep up to date with current news.

The Church or “Work” is one’s whole life. Birthdays, Christmas holidays, Easter, — these were all shunned as “pagan” so one necessarily withdrew from family and former friends. If sabbath and holy day festivals clashed with job requirements then so much the worse for the job.

The details of what keeps members busy and committed varies from cult to cult, but the effect is the same. Such a routine functions to immerse the member in the thought-world of the organisation. There is no time for serious, independent reflection.

Religious training lies at the core of activism: committed activists must master religious doctrine and movement ideology so that they can effectively promote al-Muhajiroun’s ideological vision of an Islamic state and society. To ensure that they are intellectually equipped with “proper” (i.e., movement) religious beliefs, formal members are required to attend a two-hour study session held by the local halaqah (circle) every week. Attendance is mandatory, unless the individual cannot make it because of travel constraints, a sick family member, or an emergency. In each country where al-Muhajiroun is active, the country leader may excuse absences for additional reasons deemed acceptable under Islamic law.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan; Wiktorowicz, Quintan (2005-07-21). Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (p. 47). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Reminds me of our mandatory two-hour weekly Bible Study sessions. Members who regularly absented themselves from weekly Sabbath services and also failed to have a good reason for skipping mid-weekly Bible Studies were noted (a few trusted members were assigned the surreptitious maintenance of attendance sheets) — and paid a visit by the ministry.

Omar Bakri Mohammed, founder of Al-Muhajourin

Omar Bakri Mohammed, founder of Al-Muhajourin

The Islamic circle described here is different from larger Christian cult meetings. But the latter does stress the importance of ideological conformity and education. Members were forbidden from holding group Bible studies without an ordained minister to take the lead. In fact, one could never even become a member until one proved one had mastered the fundamentals of the doctrinal system. This was accomplished through a correspondence Bible course; scriptures and their interpretations were inculcated through repetition and written exercises; answers to monthly tests were sent to the cult’s “headquarters” for checking; ministers would interview prospective members to assess their knowledge and “attitude”. Attitude was always paramount: the pliability or submissiveness of a prospective member was essential given that more extreme and costly doctrines were to be introduced up ahead.

A constant message for all members was that one always had to “be prepared to give an answer” to anyone who inquires about the faith and practices. Regular study was a constant of cult life. I have already mentioned bible study courses but there was also a plethora of additional study material coming out in glossy booklet form.

Members are prohibited from eating or drinking (apart from water) during the lesson and cannot hold any kind of social gathering after the session is completed. Although the halaqah is scheduled for two hours, many last much longer. The Thursday evening lesson at the movement’s headquarters in London, for example, typically runs from 9:00 P.M. until early Friday morning (some marathon sessions go until 5:00 A.M.). 

I can’t recall if our weekly Bible studies were two hour meetings but our sabbath services certainly consisted of two hour services. On holy days and at festivals there would be two two-hour services each day. A special guest speaker would be permitted to go well overtime. I heard of three-hour sessions but nothing going through until 5:00 am!

In addition to the administrative requirements for religious training, members are also expected to learn about the social, cultural, and political environment in which they operate. This is seen as necessary to facilitate public outreach, communication, and recruitment. Take, for example, the following dictates, as outlined in a section of the movement constitution tided “The Requirements of Every Member of Al-Muhajiroun”:

Wiktorowicz, Quintan; Wiktorowicz, Quintan (2005-07-21). Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (p. 47). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Yes. That, too. Special publications would supplement the monthly Plain Truth magazine in inculcating the “correct” understanding and “way to discuss” social, cultural and current international and political affairs. Feminism, drugs, youth culture, crime, famines, earthquakes, the energy crisis, as well as political and economic developments that were considered relevant for understanding prophecy and the end times, were all included. We were really confident that we were some of the most well-informed people around.

Our studies also informed us of why our beliefs and interpretations were correct and those of rival groups were wrong. Our experience is mirrored by Al-Muhajiroun:

Membership also necessitates understanding the ideology of other Islamic groups. This primarily functions to equip activists with tools to effectively debate and refute alternative ideologies. Although members are educated to refute moderate Muslims, a great deal of time is devoted to understanding the ideologies of rivals within the fundamentalist community. 

Wiktorowicz, Quintan; Wiktorowicz, Quintan (2005-07-21). Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (p. 48). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The very purpose of our lives was to “do the Work” — that is, to support the Church with money and personal time (and prayers, whose effect was keeping our thoughts focused on the task and building defences against rival interests). This support was all about getting the message of our gospel out to the world. We would help out with distributing flyers in letter-boxes, assisting and attending special public campaign meetings:

In addition to movement education, members are required to participate in a variety of public outreach events. . . . The public circles are intended to disseminate the movement ideology and draw in new recruits. Other public outreach programs include movement-sponsored public talks, tafsirs (explanations of Qur’anic verses), and community events.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan; Wiktorowicz, Quintan (2005-07-21). Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (p. 48). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Al-Muhajiroun gatherings were smaller than most Christian cult assemblies but both were compulsory and involved rituals of sorts:

Every Saturday, members are required to set up a da‘wa (propagation) stall in their local community from 12:00 P.M. until 5:00 P.M. In reality, these tend to start a bit later (usually a half hour or an hour) but generally last at least four hours. They are held outside local tube stops, public libraries, municipal buildings, and other public locales. The stalls reflect an activist da‘wa, which centers on raising public awareness about the plight of Muslims and responsibilities in defending the global umma (Muslim community). Activists put up posters, chant slogans, shout through loudspeakers, and interact with observers and passing pedestrians. In effect, these are small protest rallies, usually attended by as many as twenty local activists.

Every Friday afternoon, members must participate in demonstrations that last approximately two hours (barring reasonable excuses, such as employment requirements or an inability to get to the location of the event). The particular topic of the protests varies from week to week, depending on the “pressing issue” of the day. Examples include demonstrations against India and its role in Kashmir, the government of Qatar’s role in hosting a U.S. military base, President Mubarak’s “un-Islamic” rule in Egypt, and Pakistani President Musharaf’s cooperation with the United States in the war on terror. Generally, protesters stand across the street from an embassy, chant slogans, and wave placards denouncing any number of “enemies” of Islam.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan; Wiktorowicz, Quintan (2005-07-21). Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (pp. 48-49). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Herbert Armstrong, founder of Worldwide Church of God

Herbert Armstrong, founder of Worldwide Church of God

Compare the compulsory religious assembly every Sabbath. The service proper lasted two hours but members were expected to “fellowship” prior to and after that. Members would be careful how they dressed for these meetings, would sing hymns, pray, listen, take notes, perform assigned duties such as directing traffic, setting up the meeting hall, leading in prayers, and so forth. Our cult insisted that only the head honcho, God’s “end-time Apostle”, and his deputy evangelist, be the main face of public evangelism, although there were times in the later years of my involvement when lesser ranked ministers were assigned the task in smaller cities. All members were nonetheless inculcated with the importance of setting the right example in speech, presentation, behaviour, at such functions.

Movement members are expected to promote al-Muhajiroun’s ideology outside these movement events as well. General principles for community outreach and activism at the individual level include:

  • To combine one’s Belief (Iman) and sayings with action
    • Ditto the cult life
  • To be present among the masses: to interact with them, to address them and to always be in an interactive environment
    • Cult members were to always “be prepared to give an answer” — I recall times I should have been embarrassed to have spoken the way I did about political and social and personal issues to others
  • To always be in contact with Muslims whatever difficulties, obstacles and inconveniences one may face
    • This does not have a strict cult parallel. We saw all other Christians as “false brethren”. But we were always to be fellowshiping with one another. Fellow cult members were our entire social circle of any note. We saw ourselves as “a family” and would sacrifice for one another regularly.
  • To receive Islam intellectually and to carry it as a Mujahid [a Muslim engaged in a jihad] not as a preacher, clergyman, MP or a philosopher
    • Well, we did avoid religious sounding jargon. We even used to boast that we were “not religious”! We were pioneering a new “way of life”.
  • To understand that he/she is the voice, the eyes and the ears of the Muslims
    • We saw ourselves as “the one true church”; the “pioneers” of a new civilization that was about to take over the earth. We were the “watchman” work, warning the world of impending disaster and the only way of escape.
  • Every member must make the people and the society feel their presence as an ideological Muslim who defends Islam and Muslims all the time
  • Every member of Al-Muhajiroun must struggle against (kufr) i.e. all man-made law, thoughts and concepts and if he/ she loses any battle they must organise themselves for the next battle until they win the war
    • Our daily life was consumed with guarding every thought, every word, every emotion, that might “exalt itself” against God’s Word in the Bible. We went to prison rather than allow ourselves to be conscripted into the army to fight in Vietnam. We left jobs if they required we break the sabbath or holy days. We left families, even wives and children, when that was “necessary”. We let ourselves and our loved ones die rather than commit the idolatry of relying on “man-made medicine”.

These principles create demands on movement members to spend time interacting with individual Muslims (and even non-Muslims) at work, school, the mosque, and other social settings. Thus members often go to the mosque and initiate discussions about Islam with others in an effort to open a dialogue and encourage “correct beliefs” (as part of da‘wa). Others have formed organizations at colleges. Many members propagate the movement ideology at work. Any social interaction is seen as an opportunity for da‘wa. As Janine Clark argues, this form of activist da‘wa differs from the general Muslim obligation to proselytize in that it entails a conscious attempt to encourage an understanding of Islam that links beliefs to behavior according to a movement’s ideology.  In other words, activist da‘wa is not just promoting Islam; it is the promotion of an ideologically inspired interpretation of Islam that demands activism by others. In the case of al-Muhajiroun, divinely mandated activism includes such things as support for military coups to establish Islamic states and jihad against Western militaries in the Muslim world.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan; Wiktorowicz, Quintan (2005-07-21). Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (pp. 49-50). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Cult members were required to give their lives for their beliefs. That sometimes happened literally when they refused medical care for terminal (but treatable) diseases. They gave up their jobs. They left their families and friends. They gave up all their surplus income, that is, whatever was not the absolute minimum for the essentials of getting by — which meant loss of so many opportunities in life.

Although some members may do the bare minimum, most tend to do more than is required.

Amen. Ditto the cult.

At lessons, for example, students tape-record the talk to review it later. And because they must come to the halaqah prepared, members must do homework. One student likened it to madrasa training (theological education at preuniversity Islamic schools for orthodox Sunni Muslims), which can be intense and time-consuming. For those who are students at universities, this creates an additional course of study (or more); and for those who are employed, this means studies in the evenings (when they are not already committed to specific movement activities).

Tapes were made of sermons and members would regularly borrow these if they ever missed a Sabbath service or Bible Study for some good reason (e.g. illness). But members would always take notes and consult biblical references in the various sermons and studies. These would be studied, pored over, digested, in the following week.

Despite these enormous requirements, members frequently expressed frustration that they could not do more because of other obligations, despite the fact that many attend al-Muhajiroun activities almost every day.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan; Wiktorowicz, Quintan (2005-07-21). Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (p. 50). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The screening process prior to becoming a member ensured we were nothing if not dedicated and willing to surrender all for the sake of “the Work” and the coming “Kingdom of God”.

For members whose commitment begins to slip, there are a set of disciplinary measures that provide sanctions for missing required activities. For example, if on three separate occasions in a single year a member fails to attend the halaqah or monthly gatherings or refuses to distribute movement materials or attend movement activities (without a good excuse), the disciplinary proceedings call for “complete expulsion from all Halaqah and closed monthlies and exclusion from all Administrative procedures of Al-Muhajiroun (including informing him/ her about Al-Muhajiroun activities) for a period specified by the Mu’tamad [the leader responsible for the country branch of the movement].”  In some cases, individuals might legitimately believe they have a valid excuse. If the leadership does not agree, however, the individual is temporarily excluded from all halaqahs and closed monthlies for a minimum period of one month. In this case, the leader can also levy a modest fine before readmitting the offender. 

I have already mentioned the practice of a select few being tasked with monitoring the attendances of members at Sabbath services and Bible studies. Further, because all our tithes and offerings were paid directly into the Church’s account it was easy for the powers-that-be to notice who was shirking in this area.

Temporary suspension or permanent disfellowshipping were standard penalties for those who failed to live by the expected standard. Such penalties were very harsh: recall that the member’s entire social life and identity was wrapped up in the Church so to be excluded for any length of time was not a light sentence.

There is some evidence that the bylaws are enforced. In February 2000, for example, Nadeem Amin and Abdul Rashid were prevented from attending the monthly gathering of members in London after being sanctioned for administrative discipline. The movement does not expel members per se, since such a move is seen as preventing an individual from fulfilling his or her Islamic obligation to join a group and implement Islamic beliefs (as seen by al-Muhajiroun). But as the worldwide leader (amir) of al-Muhajiroun, Omar Bakri is recognized as the authority when it comes to administrative rules (as opposed to the divine rules of God). He therefore has the power to change the halaqah rules or exclude someone from participating in movement activities to protect the group “for the benefit of Dawah, the Jama’ah [group], or his members.”  Interviews indicate, however, that disciplinary measures are rarely needed, since members willingly sacrifice time and alternative commitments for activism.

Here’s one point where the Christian cult is more severe. I myself was expelled from the Church. (I’ve told my exit story before so won’t repeat it here.)

Although nonmembers who are committed activists are not subject to the same disciplinary measures, they too participate in the array of activities, indicating that it is not disciplinary sanctions alone that motivate participation and prevent free riding. Nonmember activists attend weekly lessons, public events, da‘wa stalls, and demonstrations. In terms of activities, the only major difference between formal members and nonmember activists is that the former are allowed to attend member-only lessons. The latter can still participate in local halaqahs.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan; Wiktorowicz, Quintan (2005-07-21). Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (pp. 50-51). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Al Aqsa mosque fire, 1969

Al Aqsa mosque fire, 1969

The Church to which I belonged likewise had multiple tiers of membership. There were Co-Workers who contributed a little financially in return for our monthly letter and Plain Truth magazine. Chess champion Bobby Fischer and the arsonist responsible for the 1969 Al Aqsa mosque fiasco in Jerusalem were two of the more “notable” co-workers. Such non-members were always understood to be on the outside and not real members. They were not allowed to attend any of our Sabbath services, for example, although if memory serves me well they were permitted to attend mid-weekly Bible Studies.

Baptized members were the main body of believers. But even among these there was a gulf between the laity and the ministry, or even between the lay and those closely associated with the ministry, such as deacons and honoured individuals. This latter division was, I think, more about maintaining control over the ordinary membership.

Well, what began with the intent to be a comprehensive overview of the similarities between an Islamic extremist group and a California-based Christian cult turned out to be a more detailed comparison of but one facet of each.

What I have posted here is just the beginning. What especially intrigued me was the strikingly similar modus operandi of each for recruiting members.

Those details will have to be reserved for a future post.

Quintan Wiktorowicz

Quintan Wiktorowicz

21 Comments

  • David Ashton
    2016-01-13 11:35:00 UTC - 11:35 | Permalink

    Aren’t most Muslim children expected regularly to study and recite the Qur’an from an early age?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-01-13 22:01:54 UTC - 22:01 | Permalink

      “Most Muslim children”? Where does one read/hear rubbish like that? And of those who do encounter passages in school what on earth does that have to do with the sort of Islamic extremism addressed in this post? I’m getting tired of obsessive and gratuitous Quran bashing.

      • David Ashton
        2016-01-14 00:49:52 UTC - 00:49 | Permalink

        You read/hear this “rubbish” first and foremost from (moderate) Muslims themselves.

        See e.g. Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, “Islam – An introduction” [2010] (pp.138-139 &c).

        Google “Role of Quran in Education” & “How many Muslim children recite the Quran?” and all relevant entries.

        I never get tired of New Testament “bashing”. Take the Gospels out of Christianity and the Qur’an out of Islam, and what is left?

        • Paxton marshall
          2016-01-14 01:22:45 UTC - 01:22 | Permalink

          I grew up a Christan and we read and recited verse from the Bible. Presbyterian but I’m sure all churches do. And probably all religions. Oral recitation long preceded written documents. Of course they were highly selected passages that we read. Never the bad stuff, except maybe that “you’re going to hell if you don’t believe all this shit. But mostly it was good stuff. Love your neighbor and all that. Left out the more radical aspects of his teaching though, in deference to the sensibilities of the rich. Don’t you think there is some good stuff in both nt and Quran? As of course in the Tanakh. Sure, they’re all based on fantasy and superstition but that doesn’t diminish the wisdom being presented. We just have to distinguish the wheat from the chaff, the needs of the moment from the timeless insights into human nature and behavior.

          I think it’s fine for all Muslim children to read and recite Quran as long as appropriate passages are chosen.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-01-14 01:49:46 UTC - 01:49 | Permalink

          This post is not about Islam any more than it is about Christianity. It is not about the Quran any more than it is about the Bible. My sources are serious studies by sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, historians — those who actually study who is who and what is what in the world.

          A propaganda tract (even a good propaganda tract!) by an “evangelist” for Islam is useless as a source for knowing “what most Muslim children” in the world do and how they are brought up.

          Your reference is a generic comment about the madrassahs. The same book says many other things about what Muslims think and do that are clearly generic types and even says what “people” (generically) are “thirsting for”. I do not take such remarks as authoritative sources for the real world.

          (Studies have demonstrated repeatedly that those who are attracted to Islamic extremists are very often Quran illiterates at the time they became involved. Your same source even compares Islamic extremists with the same groups to which I have compared them — the Branch Davidians and the Jonestown cult.)

          • James
            2016-01-16 10:34:31 UTC - 10:34 | Permalink

            Please, can we drop the “all religion are basically the same, it’s just interpretation” nonsense. If we go back to the (alleged) origins of Islam we find that the Quran was verbally revealed and maintained by a process of recitation and memorisation for 40 years until it was compiled. You know how the gospels came about. This is why both religion have different approaches to education and scriptural study.

            Whatever your views about Islam, you’re not doing Muslims any favors by pretending their religion is a pseudo-Christianity.

            • paxton marshall
              2016-01-16 16:51:18 UTC - 16:51 | Permalink

              James, just how did the gospels come about? I don’t think we know who wrote them, or exactly when or where.

              And my reading of the Quran suggests that it is very derivative of Christianity and especially Judaism. Muslims accept both the Tanakh and the NT as revealed words of God, albeit corrupted by translators.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2016-01-17 20:18:35 UTC - 20:18 | Permalink

              James —

              Do you really think the Branch Davidians, say, are representative of Christianity, and to discuss their MO is to discuss Christianity? Can you not see the relevance of this question to my post with respect to Islam?

              If anything, I am addressing the sociological issue of cults, extremist fringe groups, no matter who or what they arise in response to.

              When I was in the Worldwide Church of God I and all of us believed in our uniqueness — we were so utterly unlike any other religious group on earth. Then when I left I studied at arms length the other cults, met with their ex-members, and saw how totally alike we all were.

              I see the same principles in action in political and other groups.

              Your other comments indicate to me that you take for granted as true certain myths about religious origins.

  • paxton marshall
    2016-01-13 14:46:19 UTC - 14:46 | Permalink

    I’ll bet the formula was much the same for groups that formed around Lenin, Hitler, and Mao.

    • David Ashton
      2016-01-13 18:24:41 UTC - 18:24 | Permalink

      Mao certainly and Hitler to some extent regarding youth indoctrination. Numerically, historically and geographically the Qur’an has had and is having greater impact, for good and/or ill.

      • paxton marshall
        2016-01-13 18:51:20 UTC - 18:51 | Permalink

        The Quran is primarily a reworking of the Tanakh, which is scripture for Muslims and Christians as well as Jews. As Neil points out, extremist cults are similar regardless of the doctrines they follow.

        • David Ashton
          2016-01-14 01:07:35 UTC - 01:07 | Permalink

          Modern scholarly studies of its sources do not agree on all the details. Muslims claim that the Tanakh and the Gospel were corrupted by Jews and Christians, and that Muhammad restored the true revelation of Allah in its purity (see e.g. surah 3.84).

          Neil is quite right about similarities between “extremist” cults and sects, and the origins of the terrorist mindset. He may wish to protect the Qur’an from allegedly “gratuitous” criticism, though fortunately not because he shares the Muslim view that it was revealed to the Messenger (PBUH) by the Angel Jibril.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2016-01-14 02:37:27 UTC - 02:37 | Permalink

            David, you have missed the point. I am not interested in “protecting the Quran” from anything. I am interested in relevance and evidence. Jumping in and reminding everyone at every opportunity that the Quran is a bad book and horribly influences good people to do bad things etc etc etc is more informative of your own personal obsession than it is of reality, evidence, and research.

            • David Ashton
              2016-01-14 11:30:32 UTC - 11:30 | Permalink

              There is much to admire in the Muslim way of life, but sadly it is a religious package. I admire JWs and Mormons in a similar way, but not their blinkered views of “Scripture”. You said my question about widespread “Qur’an school” recitations was “rubbish”, so I responded with “evidence and research”.

              The dreadful point I have tried to make at “every opportunity” has been that it is much easier to find pretexts for violence in the Qur’an (never mind the Hadith & Sunna) than in the Gospels. With equal respect, you could be accused of a “personal obsession” in demolishing the credibility &c of the New Testament, and I see no reason why the relatively more crucial Islamic holy book should not be similarly criticized, although you are perfectly entitled, of course, to exclude such criticism from your own personal blog.

              • Paxton Marshall
                2016-01-14 14:02:11 UTC - 14:02 | Permalink

                So why do you pick only the Gospels to compare the Quran with? Why not the whole Xtian canon of OT and NT. Far more violence than in Quran.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2016-01-14 21:20:42 UTC - 21:20 | Permalink

                my question about widespread “Qur’an school” recitations

                Okay, storm in a teacup then. I thought you were making a declaration about the practices of “most Muslim children” in the context of discussing the extremism of a very small handful.

                you could be accused of a “personal obsession” in demolishing the credibility &c of the New Testament,

                More rubbish. Would you say the same of any and every critical scholar of the NT? I think not. Understanding origins and nature of early Christianity is quite different from going out and trying to undermine people’s faith or attacking Christianity. People make up their own minds about those things as they also seek to understand. But you bring in the Quran and its malign influence at every mention of Islam just the way our proverbial friend brings up the subject of breasts every time a conversation involves a woman.

                If you treat Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood’s introduction to Islam as “evidence and research” for one detail of Islam then you clearly dispute her authority on the nature of the Quran and its influence.

                No more of your obsession with how “bad” the Quran is. That will be considered trolling. Recall comment and moderation statement.

    • 2016-01-15 16:00:15 UTC - 16:00 | Permalink

      Peru’s Shining Path is prime example. Or the Black Panthers handing out Mao’s Little Red Book. How many read the book first? A difference, particularly in China, Vietnam, revolutionary Russia, and the like, is that Marx expected participation based on self-interest, not on a close reading of Das Kapital. Revolutionary movements are predicated on grievance plus opportunity. As I have said before, ideology is mostly window dressing.

  • David Ashton
    2016-01-14 17:09:14 UTC - 17:09 | Permalink

    Reply to Paxton Marshall: the NT supersedes the OT in Xtianity and is still attacked by some Jews for this “anti-Semitic” impertinence. Biblical violence is mostly descriptive not prescriptive, unlike the Qur’an’s. NT violence relates to the Final Judgement, but then the Qur’an also insists on the Last Days and its descriptions of Hell are gruesome. I fully concede that Christians have not always turned the other cheek, gone the extra mile, forgiven and loved enemies, resisted not evil, and so forth, and add that Muhammad was a bit more realistic than Jesus, whose demands are so impractical that they leave people with guilt. Luther said that we are no more obliged to emulate the pacifism of Christ than his celibacy or carpentry. Personally I have little enthusiasm for the self-abnegating sentimental altruism of western clergy or the recent papal waffle about the “mercy” of God.

  • David Ashton
    2016-01-14 23:50:27 UTC - 23:50 | Permalink

    Re your chastisement, Neil. I have gained much from Vridar with regard to the New Testament, and have said so in the past. I don’t regard you actually as any more “obsessed” with critical analysis of the Christian scriptures than any other able scholars who similarly examine them, – OR ditto the Islamic scriptures. Critiques of the texts of both faiths are EQUALLY legitimate, and in practice the latter have some relevance to many regulated activities of Muslims, from Friday prayers to generous Zakat. Religious schooling of small children occurs throughout the Dar al-Islam and in a few areas of “England”. However, while I may hope in future to contribute, obviously with your consent, facts or comments on religion or even Middle-East terrorism, I promise never again to darken your web-step with any reference whatever, direct or indirect, to the Q*r*n.

  • Bee
    2016-01-15 21:43:56 UTC - 21:43 | Permalink

    To change the emphasis a bit: both extreme Christian and many Muslim religious practices reminded me of the military, and it’s very controlling environment. When I was with the military overseas, in Muslim countries, the call to prayer 5 times a day remained me of the old military bugle calls to various assemblies and actvities.

    The idea in all of them is to constantly control your behavior, and gain near total obedience. The word” Islam,” after all, means” submission.” And Mohammed after all, was a military man. Literally commanding an active army.

    Thankfully there were countering peaceful texts in the Koran. Especially the Princeton U. Press translation. Though the Hadith were a little more militant.

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