Who are the true Muslims in these scenarios?

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by Neil Godfrey

Jews flee the Old City of Jerusalem, August 1929 (Wikipedia)

Scene One:  

At least two thousand worshippers, proclaiming, “There is no God but God; the religion of Mohammed came with the sword,” attended the rally and then descended from the Noble Sanctuary [Temple Mount] to the wall, setting fire to Jewish prayer books and other devotional items. . . . .

Friday prayers [the following week] began inauspiciously. The khatib, or preacher, entered. He was attired, as usual, in the traditional green cloak worn by Muslim prelates in Jerusalem. As was also typical, he was preceded by a kavass (guard), who loudly struck the ground with his stave to announce the start of the service. What was atypical was the drawn sword that the khatib ostentatiously displayed. Sheikh Sa’ad el Din mounted the pulpit. After praising and thanking God, he called upon the faithful to defend Islam from the Jews and their plots to seize the Noble Sanctuary. “If we give way an inch to the Jews in regard to their demands at the Wailing Wall, he inveighed, 

they will ask for the Mosque of Aqsa; if we give them the Mosque of Aqsa they will demand the Dome of the Rock; if we give them the Dome of the Rock they will demand the whole of Palestine, and having gained the whole of Palestine they will proceed to turn us Arabs out of our country. I ask you now to take the oath of God the Great to swear by your right hand that you will not hesitate to act when called upon to do so, and that you will, if need be, fight for the Faith of the Holy Places to death. 

The packed congregants raised their hands in unison and swore this pledge. “Then go,” the sheikh instructed them, “pounce upon your enemies and kill that you in doing so may obtain Paradise.” . . . . 

Shouting, “The country is our country and the Jews are our dogs,” and, “The religion of Mohammed came with the sword,” the Arabs descended on the quarter with sticks, clubs, swords, and a handful of rifles. The Arab police again mutinied to join the onslaught, at the end of which twenty-nine Jews lay dead and forty-three injured. . . .

(Hoffman 2015, pp. 29-30)


Scene Two: 

For at least four hundred years, the small Jewish enclave in Hebron had lived in peace with its Arab neighbors. . . . The five-hundred or so Orthodox, apolitical and mostly non-Zionist, Jews who lived there had remained blissfully aloof from the nationalist ferment that had gripped Palestine for most of the preceding decade. Indeed, according to two Jewish survivors, even as news of the violence that had convulsed Jerusalem reached Hebron on Friday afternoon, the anxious Jewish community took comfort from the assurances received from their Arab neighbors that “there could never be a pogrom” in Hebron because the city had remained so quiet during all prior disturbances. Hebron’s Arabs had told Raymond Cafferata [Hebron’s only British police officer] the same thing. . . . 

Friday afternoon in Hebron was tense but quiet. News began to trickle in of the violence in Jerusalem. Groups of Arabs were reportedly roaming Jerusalem’s streets and had beaten several Jews. Cafferata, accordingly, instructed the Jewish community to stay inside and lock their doors. “Suddenly, just one hour before candle lighting” [quoting a survivor’s letter to his children only days later] “pandemonium broke loose. Window panes were smashed on all sides. In our building, they broke every window and began throwing stones inside. We hid ourselves. They were breaking windows in all the Jewish homes. Now we were in deathly fear. . . .

Early Saturday morning, cars packed with Arabs brandishing long iron bars, big knives, and axes, and screaming that they were going to slaughter Jews in Jerusalem, raced up and down Hebron’s streets. . . . “On to the Ghetto,” [they shouted simply rushing past the meagre handful of police] . . . . 

The carnage went on for another two and a half hours before Cafferata and his men were able to restore at least a semblance of order. Hebron would account for the largest Jewish toll of Jewish deaths and injuries in the violence that continued another week. Sixty-four Jews lay dead, and fifty-four others were wounded. Only one had been killed by a bullet; all the others had variously been stabbed, hacked, bludgeoned, or stoned to death. 

Had some Arab families not hidden or protected their Jewish neighbors, Cafferata later reflected, “not a Jewish soul in Hebron would have been saved.”

(Hoffmann 2015, pp. 30-31, my bolding)

Who were the “real Muslims”? Those who went on murderous rampage or those who risked their own lives by hiding and protecting Jews? Or is not that a rather pointless question if we are seeking to explain these events? If the question has any meaning at all it is an entirely apologetic or theological one: each side will say “they” represent “true Islam”! Maybe some politicians and community leaders would seek to pour oil on troubled waters and insist that only one side represents “true Islam” but of course that claim is just as apologetic and politically motivated.

The historian’s quest is not to defend or condemn either apologetic claim. It is to understand the reasons for these events. The British government did not rely upon media reports but sent out a commission of inquiry to find out the underlying causes. If Islam accounts for both the murderous mob and those who protected Jews then it is useless as a historical explanation.


Hoffman, B. 2015, Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947, Alfred and Knopf, New York.


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40 thoughts on “Who are the true Muslims in these scenarios?”

        1. Coulda been Hindus, too, or Mandaeans. Maybe the Jews they targeted were Christian converts. Maybe the Arabs shouting the slogans were proselytes trying to give Muslims a bad name. Lot’s of details like that missing. Though I would expect to see evidence pointing in such unexpected directions (and that would have a distinctive significance in their own right) to be noted if true.

          The author happily does not identify the actants by their religious affiliation, but for some reason he consistently leads readers to understand what they know from all their other reading and world view — that on the whole the Arabs were Muslims and the Jews were on the whole affiliated as observers or non-observers with Judaism.

  1. What is a “true” Muslim? How about this (on this website, tentative) suggestion, for a start – “someone who believes that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger”?

  2. What is a “true” Christian? someone who lives peacefully with other Christians who do not accept exactly his beliefs? I have never heard of catholics massacring protestants, or the reverse…

    What is a “true” Muslim? a Sunnite, a Shiite, or someone of another sort?

  3. Who were the “real German Christians” between 1930 and 1945? Those who went on murderous rampage or those who risked their own lives by hiding and protecting Jews? Or is not that a rather pointless question if we are seeking to explain these events?

  4. Who were the Real Muslims? All of them.

    “The British government did not rely upon media reports but sent out a commission of inquiry to find out the underlying causes.”

    Q: Now what was the real cause of the massacre?

    A: Look no further than the Balfour Declaration.

    If there is a God of the Book, I wish he’d just show up in the Israeli-Palestinian sky and tell the Muslims and Jews to just knock it off! And the Christians, too.

  5. Historical “paradigms”.

    Old 1. The Jews can do no right, Arabs can do no wrong.
    Old 2. The Arabs can do no right, the Jews can do no wrong.

    New. The British can never do anything right, and have always done wrong. That’s the ONE thing Arabs and Jews can agree on, Anglophobia + Antisaxonism.

  6. Ah, guys, some of us have missed the point of the post.

    Correct answer: They are both Muslims. The historian is not interested in apologetics and pronouncing which side has “the true faith”.

    The historical question is to explore what causes some people to act violently. A religion that explains both the violent and the non-violent is useless; it is a non-explanation.

    The British government sent out a commission to enquire into the causes of the violence. Their report nowhere blamed the Muslim religion but it did identify a range of other factors, most prominent among which were British controlled immigration policies and land purchases from absentee landlords leading to dispossessed Arabs. Coyne would have been outraged at the report’s oversight of the “most important” of the causes! 🙂

  7. Coyne would have been outraged at the report’s oversight of the “most important” of the causes!

    Very amusing, though, I’ve seen government commissioned research which stated completely seriously that a lack of intern positions (among other things) makes muslim youth radicalize. Many of the determined causes read to a lay public as excuses that are selectively being applied to muslims, and no other (immigrant) group, yet no other group in society exhibits this radicalization problem.

    Combine that with so-called secular politicians who put on their wizard hat, peer in their crystal ball, and proceed to solemnly declare ridiculous sweeping platitudes concerning all of Islam… The general public is understandably confused and annoyed given that this issue has been festering for decades, and has been taking up a lot of time and money that could be spend on people who would actually be receptive to help.

    1. Many of the determined causes read to a lay public as excuses that are selectively being applied to muslims, and no other (immigrant) group, yet no other group in society exhibits this radicalization problem.

      My observation is that these sorts of sweeping claims break down when one gets to the details. Particular events can appear utterly banal when removed from their original context (e.g. lack of intern positions, having soccer buddies….) — but that’s the point: they are removed from context and ripped from the point being made by the research. The same applies in many social issues that various groups perceive as unjust, unfair, etc while in fact they are unaware of the full situations.

      In a recent post I referred to Tom Holland’s response to those leaders who attempt to stress the “unislamic” nature of terrorists — “they are not real Muslims, etc”. We can understand their well-intentioned motives. They want to build peace between the two communities while excluding the extremists. But as my post tries to point out, these are apologetics. They have nothing to do with historical explanations. Of course they are all Moslems — just as Christians range from Anglicans to toxic cults. Members of the toxic cults will say the Anglicans are not true Christians and many Anglicans will say likewise about the toxic cultists.

      1. My observation is that these sorts of sweeping claims break down when one gets to the details.

        I wouldn’t say i’m all on-board with Coyne, but I can’t ignore that we have other big immigrant communities whose circumstances are pretty much identical to those of the one community that produces radicalized believers. I don’t think there’s any circumstance substantially different between the Muslim and let’s say the Hindu communities in my country, besides their chosen beliefs obviously.

        We can understand their well-intentioned motives … these are apologetics.

        I think we can all agree that it’s blatant apologetics, if not pandering. It’s par for the course of the last two decades here where religion is carefully kept out of the picture when it comes to dealing with radicalization and general over representation in crime statistics. All the while pouring money and effort into every possible solution as long as it doesn’t point the finger to religious beliefs and practices.

        Possibly what we’re dealing with is the difference between academic thought, and the political positions and actions taken where the rubber meets the road.

        1. Politicians who have no “supernatural beliefs”, who incline to an economic explanation of events and to a vague universal liberal optimism, cannot fully understand the actions of religiously motivated militants, especially Muslims, or research their specific beliefs, and therefore take refuge in platitudes and wishful thinking, rather than grasping the nettles.

            1. In Britain there are criminal gangs of different immigrant ethnic background who sometimes engage in violence, and there have been inter-ethnic clashes often played down by the national media. “Faith” issues enter usually only in rare conflicts between Muslims and Sikhs or Hindus.

              “Perhaps we will conquer these lands [in Europe] without armies [but by] preachers and teachers who will present Islam in all languages” – Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Sunni head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (Al-Jazeera TV, January 24, 1999). There must now be well over 2 million Muslims in the UK.

        2. I can’t go past Dan Jones’ comment at the On how to be completely wrong post. The “academic thought” is actually “rubber meets the road” stuff where researchers trained in human and social behaviour go out and meet with terrorists and their close associates, sometimes risking their own lives to do so, to understand them. We’re talking about research that is grounded in the words and lives of the actors themselves — not armchair theorists or pundits reacting to mass media efforts to capture audiences for ratings and funding. The research these trained specialists produce is consulted by a range of national and international agencies.

          On the point about supposedly denying that Islam has anything to do with terrorism, I take this from Dan’s comment:

          In fact, the only times I clearly recall someone baldy saying “this has nothing to do with religion” are Barack Obama in reference to ISIS, and Francois Hollande speaking immediately after Charlie Hebdo. Is this what Coyne – and Harris and Dawkins – are reacting against? Obviously not. No one would seriously engage with these political soundbites as the major impediment to understanding or thinking clearly about Islamism and terrorism – would they?

          It’s transparently clear, to me at least, why Obama said ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It would be ridiculous to take Obama as making a profound theological point, or making the factually absurd – almost nonsensical – claim that the ideological core of ISIS has no genealogical link to Islam, and was essentially created ex nihilo with no input from Islam. He said what he said as he didn’t want people to equate the horrors of ISIS with Muslims in their community, simply by virtue of a supposedly shared set of Islamic beliefs. (Ditto for Hollande.)

          Why? Because that could feed anti-Muslim sentiment, and translate into anti-Muslim hate crimes, which have been on the rise in the US and elsewhere.

          The serious research into extremist violence that I addressed above does not discount the role of religion but helps us understand why certain individuals have chosen to justify their acts in the way they do.

  8. Hi Neil,

    The historical question is to explore what causes some people to act violently. A religion that explains both the violent and the non-violent is useless; it is a non-explanation.

    Sorry, but you seems to have a wrong conceptions about how explanations work in any situation where multiple factors are important (which is most of the time).

    Let’s adopt a simple toy model, which is that someone is a violent radical if and only if all of the these three factors are present:

    Religious-factor-A, social-factor-P and political-factor-X.

    That means that someone will not be violent given:
    Religious-factor-A, social-factor-P and political-factor-Y, nor
    Religious-factor-A, social-factor-Q and political-factor-X, nor
    Religious-factor-B, social-factor-P and political-factor-X.

    What you are doing is pointing at non-violent moderates with Religious-factor-A and saying, see that shows that religion is irrelevant, it’s a “non-explanation”.

    That’s simply wrong, since, in the toy model, even if all the relevant social and political factors are in place, the person would not be violent unless Religious-factor-A were present.

    Thus, Religious-factor-A is just as much a part of the explanation as the social and political factors.

    It is gross logical fallacy to say that if some people with Religious-factor-A are moderates, then Religious-factor-A plays no part in the explanation of violence.

    That is as fallacious as saying that if some smokers are cancer-free then smoking must play no part in the causation of cancer.

    All along you are trying to minimise the role that religion plays, instead placing the blame entirely on social-factor-P and political-factor-X. That is as fallacious as trying to claim that social factors and political factors play no role whatsoever.

    1. This is not an accurate interpretation of Neil’s point. He’s not saying that religion needs to account for everything in one specific circumstance (violence) in order to account for anything. Quite the contrary, he’s saying that if religion can conveniently account for anything in any circumstance then it is not useful towards explaining a specific circumstance (again, violence).

      Explanations don’t exist in vacuums but in relation to certain questions. If religion is just an ad hoc explanation that can be applied to anything it carries no more explanatory power than Goddidit.

      It’s about the right tool for the situation. Finding it most useful to pound the nail in with a hammer does nothing to minimize the role of monkey wrenches.

    2. Perhaps it’s better to explain it this way.

      Let’s say you were hired to research the causes of violence in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Your assembled data points to limited access to educational and advancement opportunities. Included in your reports are the inadequacy of local facilities, police stationed at them ready to enter kids into the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses, and low expectations of teachers as corroborated by questionnaires that indicate many participants were convinced that they were academic failures. You conclude that this inability to thrive due to their environments fostered the mindset of underachievement which caused many to turn to violent crime to manage their problems and put them in situations where they’d need to fight to survive.

      Your colleague takes issue with your conclusion saying that your explanation completely ignores the role of capitalism. You point out that not all neighborhoods suffer high rates of violence in a capitalist society to which he responds that of course there are other factors involved, but you are minimizing the role that capitalism plays by blaming schools and cops.

      How does your colleague’s attributed cause, “capitalism”, fit into the specific case you are studying and the data you’ve collected? How did “capitalism” drive violence in these neighborhoods?

  9. Back in the 80’s I asked an Iraqi Muslim friend of mine if he knew of any Muslims who did not believe in Allah or the prophet Muhammad. He replied that he knew of several but they were not willing to disclose their true feelings about Islam. On being further pressed he replied-” it would be bad for business, and you could end up losing your head “.
    As for the violent behaviour of some Muslims in varying situations I believe the following article by Raymond Ibrahim makes an awful lot of sense :-


    At least it did for me.

    1. The Nazism analogy is false. To see what one was signing up to on becoming a Nazi Party member read the 25 policy points of the Nazi Party. (There are other ways in which the analogy breaks down but for simplicity’s sake I address just this one here.)

      The author quite mistaken when he suggests that Nazis who did not like the idea of killing Jews could not possibly have been “truly committed” Party members.

      There is no such thing as an “essential Islam” that is an objective “thing” that people adhere to either in close “true” details or in “not so true” or lukewarm ways. Is there any such thing as a “true Christianity” or a “true Judaism” by which all of its adherents can be allocated places either close to or further away from its “reality”? Of course not — notwithstanding the fact that some Christians and Jews might say that “their interpretation” is really “God’s interpretation” and the “one true faith”.

  10. I do not see the point of listing the 25 policy points of the Nazi Party in view of the fact that there is no hard evidence to indicate that party members had to approve of them before being admitted to the party.
    Like other political parties the Nazi party needed voters to be elected. Like Islam , the Nazis looked to the philosophy of the leader as expressed in Mein Kampf and subsequent speeches/directives. Mass killing of Jews did not commence until after the Wannsee conference and although adopted as official policy it would appear that the
    majority of party members were not aware of it-at least in its initial stages.
    Oskar Schindler was no doubt aware of the killing of the Jews and, as suggested by Mr Ibrahim -“his humanity rose above his allegiance to Nazism “. I do not infer from the article that Mr Ibrahim suggests that Schindler and other Nazis who did not like the idea of killing Jews could not possibly have been “truly committed ” party members. That is your construct.
    I am somewhat unclear as to your comments on ” essential Islam “. Committed Muslims from all traditions are
    unanimous in believing that the Qur’an is ” essential Islam ” being the actual words of God sent down from above to the prophet Muhammad and are unalterable. This is likely to remain the overwhelming belief of the majority of Muslims regardless of the interpretation of Western commentators.

    1. There is no one unanimous understanding of the message of the Qur’an any more than there is of the Bible. We are trying to understand several things here.

      If we want to understand how people professing the same religion can act in such different ways then we need to try to understand what they (not us) understand by their religion and what it has to do with how they acted.

      We do not shut the door behind us and read the Qur’an as if that will tell us what we want to know just like some people read the stars to explain the world around them.

      Most Muslims don’t read the Qur’an the way you do any more than most Christians and Jews read the Bible as their commands to go out and kill apostates, witches, homosexuals, Amalekites, or sell all their goods and give to the poor or rely on God to heal or hate and leave their families or pray in tongues or follow the office of chief apostle Peter. Some of the more liberal Christians do not even believe the Bible is literally the word of God just as more liberal Muslims do not believe all passages in their edicts originally came from Muhammad.

      Religion is a social construct. It is whatever a social group makes it to be. The various shades of belief, interpretation, practices reflect social needs and interests of each group — expressed through their particular emphases and interpretations of respective passages.

      Of those Muslims who do believe that they are obligated to wage a literal murderous jihad — we need to ask why they have come to believe that given that most of their fellow believers do not. That’s where the specialist research of anthropologists and others have come in and provided some pretty consistent answers.

      (Your interpretation of Nazism per se is problematic, too, but that is another question and I’m trying to get away from attempts to argue by analogy and to understand the point in hand.)

      1. The NT depended on the “OT”, and the Qur’an “depended” on both.

        What do we find the Gospels and the Qur’an that might, just, have a bearing on modern events?

        “Turn the other cheek, love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, blessed are the peacemakers, whatever you wish that men do to you do to them, go the extra mile, &c” (Jesus).

        “Those that make war against Allah and his messenger shall be slain or crucified, strike off the tips of their fingers, fight them till there is no more disbelief, strike terror into the enemy, &c” (Muhammad).

          1. Total renunciation of family priority and attachment, not an instruction to put them to the sword. How many Christians have understood this hyperbolic idiom as a literal commandment to murder their mum and dad?

            “Slay the idolators wherever you find them” was Muhammad’s injunction (Qur’an 9.5) and this what his followers have done literally and on a large scale.

            1. Interestingly while skimming a recent book on ISIS I came across a passage that looked very familiar. Many religiously motivated youth are flocking to ISIS for religious reasons, seeing its activities as a sign of the end. Those same youth refuse to believe the stories of mass beheadings and barbarity, saying these accounts are Western propaganda.

              Now why would devout, religiously motivated Muslims not believe that ISIS is putting the infidels to the sword in the ways we read about in our media?

              1. I can only imagine the shock they feel once they join up with a cell and find out the “Western propaganda” is all TRUE, and THEY must slay the infidel to prove their Islamic bona fides. 😡

              2. Same as western communists didn’t believe the capitalist lies about Sovietopia – see e.g. Koestler’s “Yogi & Commissar”. (His books are mixed in quality – his Khazar=Ashkenazim theory was pretty dubious – but this one also has a mostly perceptive comment on Hitler’s appeal.)

  11. From what I understand—Russia began expelling its Jews and many ended up in Palestine—from 1882-1923, wave after wave of Russian Jews arrived into the area. They were unfamiliar with the traditions and ways of the community and this contributed to tensions and misunderstandings—by 1921, Haganah the Jewish (terrorist/militia) organization was formed. From 1924-1928 Jews from Poland, Hungary and such places came further straining an already stressed community…1929 tensions boil over and the Hebron massacre occurs…but this does not stop Jewish immigrants from coming 1929-1939 another very large flow of immigrants come in from Europe—-the 1930 Hope-Simpson report finds that resources are stretched in the region, Palestinians are being expelled from their land…around 1935(?) Palestinians organize protests which are brutally put down by the British. By 1938 Irgon (terrorist organization formed in 1931) and British soldiers attack Palestinian villages. …1937-39—Palestinians revolt…..

    Looked at this way—there seems to be some repeat with the History of European-Americans and Native-Americans?

    (but there are other darker circumstance too…..Russian Pogroms against Jews started from 1821 to 1919, —1897(?) Zionist congress begins to meet)

    An intellectually lazy, and simplistic view of history might give us an illusion that there must be something inherently morally deformed in “Europeans” that they continuously go about stealing and destroying other peoples life and property…?….Such a framing leaves off the many factors (including group dynamics) that contributed to creating situations….It need not have gone this way for I/P—had grievances (of both sides) been dealt with fairly and justly from early on—-history may have turned out differently….particularly since both Judaism and Islam have a strong respect for the law (Halakha and Sharia)

    A fair and equal application of justice can often cool the flames of anger and aggression generated by injustice…When Justice leads to reconciliation, it can open the way to peace…..
    When Humans have the means to resort to systems that can dispense equitable justice, then there will be less need to resolve grievances, disputes by violence—-but when injustice or grievance is dealt with violence and oppression—it just adds fuel to fire and escalates into more brutal violence…yet, time and again, like a broken record—those in power choose violence over justice….

  12. I found the Khazar issue an unlimited ocean in which there is little time to paddle. A fond theme, especially of those who deny the claim of (eastern) Jewry to Palestine, from professional “anti-Semites” and even BIWF people to Shlomo Sand. I was always puzzled by the minimal presence to a Mongolid-Turkic facial phenotype among modern Jews. The DNA research already abundant is on-going, controversial and inconclusive. On the intellectual achievements of the Ashkenazim (among the four main divisions of Jewry) I would recommend e.g. Richard Lynn’s “Chosen People” (2011) qualified by Steven Pease’s “Debate over Jewish Achievement” (2015).

  13. “Slay the idolators wherever you find them” was Muhammad’s injunction (Qur’an 9.5)

    @ David

    How to read the Quran?

    1) read the whole Quran for context—
    — of the 114 Surah of the Quran–all except one begins with the phrase “In the name of God the most merciful, the most compassionate”
    except Surah 9. It does not begin with this phrase. The title of this Surah is Repentance/Remorse (Al Tawbah)

    2) look at the context/history of revelation—
    —The Prophet had made peace treaties with many tribes and territories (for example the treaty of Hudaibiya with the Meccans). When rumors arose of an invasion, the Prophet collected a force and left Medina—(the invasion never happened) but during his absence some peace treaties were broken.

    3) read ALL the verses of the Surah for context—
    The first verse of Surah 9 says:-
    A (declaration) of immunity from Allah and His Messenger, to those of the Pagans with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances:-
    —-In case it was not clear, let me spell it out—-Keep the peace with those who would keep the peace…..and this rule is repeated again in verse 4
    Verses 2 and 3 give an exception to this rule—those who have broken their peace treaty are to be given 4 months grace period to re-negotiate and re-establish peace—but after the expiration of the grace period, war can be declared.

    4) read the whole verse in full—verse 9:5
    But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
    —-In case this is not clear—War is to be fought fiercely and speedily but should stop immediately when the other side stops fighting so that peace can be established as quickly as possible……(as a note of interest—this strategy of a speedy end to war is also advice given by Sun Tzu (Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher) in “the art of war”)

    —Verse 9:6 goes on to say that Pagan asylum seekers must be escorted to safety.

    see for yourself—http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje/religious-texts/quran/verses/009-qmt.php

    Other places in the Quran speak about treating prisoners humanely, not destroying property during war, not harming civilians…etc…

    (note:–the Arabic word translated as “Pagan” is Mushrikeen, referring to a specific group.)

    It should be obvious that today’s extremists groups are following none of these things…..why?
    Bin Laden’s explanation was that the rules of the Quran do not apply because the enemy (U.S.) fights wars dishonorably and Muslims need to do likewise to make them stop….other groups probably have their own justifications…..including revisionist history/propaganda that biases history.

    How did it happen? Wahabism and other “Purists” groups began as anti-colonial movements.
    why are they called “Purists”?—because the core of their narrative apparently revolves around a notion of “Pure Islam” that supposedly existed during the early history of Islam… Utopia….(Real history is more complex and messy). This narrative is given substance by emphasizing the “Sunnah”–this body of work is easier to manipulate than the Quran. Islam is a practice and how “to do”(implement) Islam comes from the Sunnah—for example, how to pray. The development of these rules and laws (of implementation) is the Sharia (somewhat—if one is to simplify and generalize the concept of “Sharia”)There are many Sharia and the development of these Sharia happened with lots of differing viewpoints, contentions as well as overlap and agreements over a long period of time.

    Probably because these strains of Islam began as “resistance” movements(with a good dose of nationalism)—they have strong “us” vs “them” identity constructs. They are highly exclusivists. Some mainstream Muslims call them “Takfiris”(Takfirism). Of these types of movements, Wahabis are the most problematic because they have been more actively engaged in spreading their ideology. Not all Wahabists are violent extremists—but the component of strong exclusivity lends itself well to violent extremists movements. (and this is also the case for all ideologies…)

    What are Muslims doing about this?—Many scholars are emphasizing the pluralistic vision of the Quran. There are passages in the Quran that lend itself to a pluralistic paradigm. Leaders and scholars are also condemning the actions of the extremists groups, they are writing and speaking against the human tendency towards takfirism (exclusivity), they are clarifying, contextualizing and/or refuting particular claims about Islam/Quran/Sunnah/Sharia made by extremist groups.

    But…if we are to stop the destruction going on in that region, a solution to the power struggles and power dynamics of the various players needs to be found….this solution has to be from the ground up (rather then top down). There are 2 elements in Islamic tradition that could be used…ijtihad (thinking outside the box) and Shura (council of consultation) —along with Restorative Justice (a method to reconcile contending groups/people….)…then maybe…..

    1. We need to read and understand the Qur’an as (1) the main Muslim clerical schools interpret it, (2) Wahhabism and Salafism now propagate it, and (3) “terrorists” ab/use it.

      We need to consider (1) the use of textual abrogation, mansukh and nasikh; (2) dhimmitude (not just taxpaying) for captives who surrender or survive battle; and (3) the theocratic social totalitarianism, as reflected in e.g. the attitude towards apostasy.

      We need to encourage Hijrah, return to the House of “Peace”, to prevent sharia autonomy inside and hostile to western democracies.

      Reform must come from within, but is resisted when seen as corruption by the hedonism and usury of western society promoted by Jews who “abet disorder” on the earth and who are regarded, rightly or wrongly, as the instigators of military “crusades” against the Ummah in Iraq, Afghanistan, &c. The “democratic populism” of radicalized Muslims, in previously more secular Pakistan, Turkey, Algeria and Indonesia, is also a problem.

      Maybe a SOPHISTICATED “cold war” of ideas regarding the Qur’an and Hadith, in broadcasting, internet and leafleting would help. I leave that to experts in the field.

  14. How often I’ve heard people, of whatever religion, explain religion-inspired acts they don’t approve of as not coming from “real religion.” Religions survive and thrive precisely because they are inherently vague, even contradictory, and therefore forever open to interpretation

    …. p. 214 of Talking to the Enemy by Scott Atran.

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