Barack Obama and Donald Trump are both wrong about Islam

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

by Neil Godfrey

Donald Trump is certain that “Islam hates us,” as he said in an interview with CNN host Anderson Cooper and repeated in Miami’s debate. “There’s tremendous hatred.” President Obama is certain that “Islam is a religion that preaches peace.”

Both men are equally wrong. Islam neither hates nor preaches — its followers do. Islam is what people make of it, and they have made it many different things.

I found William McCants’ The ISIS apocalypse : the history, strategy, and doomsday vision of the Islamic State very informative so I was interested to read his latest article:

Barack Obama and Donald Trump are both wrong about Islam: For better and worse, the faith is what people make of it

McCants begins with two contrasting historical illustrations:

Wine drinking is the “work of Satan” and should be avoided, says the Koran. During the reign of the caliph al-Mahdi in the 8th century A.D., government officials would burst into the homes of unsuspecting revelers to smash their jugs of wine. “Vintage wine is waiting, like a virgin, to be touched,” wrote Abu Nuwas, the favorite poet of al-Mahdi’s son Harun al-Rashid, Islam’s greatest caliph memorialized in “A Thousand and One Nights.” Muslims abstain and Muslims drink.

Followed by:

“Monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques” would have been destroyed had God’s people not defended them, reminds the Koran. God’s people defended Christian churches from rioters during Egypt’s recent uprising. God’s people also demolished St. Elijah’s Monastery, the oldest in Iraq, to further the cause of the Islamic State. Muslims defend and Muslims demolish.

And then by another:

“Kill the polytheists wherever you find them,” proclaims the Koran. Aurangzeb, who ruled India’s Mughul Empire from 1658 to 1707, purged Hindus from his imperial service and forced their coreligionists to pay a protection tax or face death. His great-grandfather Akbar the Great abolished the protection tax and treated Hindus as colleagues and fellow monotheists. Muslims kill and Muslims tolerate.

And then one with a contemporary sting:

Gaze on the ruins of past civilizations and contemplate the “fate of those who were before (you),” counsels the Koran. The 8th century poet al-Buhturi wrote the following lines as he gazed on the ruins of Ctesiphon, the fallen capital of the Sasanian Empire conquered by the Arabs: “Built to delight for a time, their quarters / Now belong to grief and mourning. / So it behooves me to aid them with tears / Inalienably bequeathed to them through love.”

Another ancient Iraqi palace, built by Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud, was detonated by the Islamic State to obliterate Iraq’s cultural connection with its pre-Islamic heritage. Muslims contemplate and Muslims obliterate.

And one more to settle the point:

“Do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies,” orders the Koran. The kingdom of Tripoli was one of the first nations to war with the fledgling United States. The kingdom of Morocco was one of the first countries to recognize the United States in 1778 and sought a peace treaty with it. Egypt and Israel are at peace. Muslims war and Muslims ally.

We will quickly empty the dictionary of verbs if Islam is defined by the actions of its followers.

I wish more people would understand the point Will McCants is making:

When we attribute human beliefs and behaviors to ancient, immutable scripture, we can’t explain change over time. Religiously justified wars once ravaged Christian Europe in the Middle Ages during a time of relative calm in the Middle East; today the reverse is true. Christian intellectuals once fled to Muslim lands to escape the persecution of the Church; today Muslim intellectuals flee to Christian lands to escape the persecution of the State.

The Arabian Peninsula was once home to mystics and music; today it is governed by an austere form of Islam that frowns on religious rapture and playing instruments. Turning to scripture to explain these reversals won’t get you very far.

Changes. McCants points out Pew polls informing us that in 2000 most people in Turkey liked the United States; now they don’t. In 2005 most Indonesians did not like the United States; now they do.

The message, of course, is the need to focus on what people do and to explain people’s actions and to evaluate appropriate responses. Simply putting all the blame on ancient writings and a single belief won’t get us very far.


H/T http://intelwire.egoplex.com/

Also linked on the same site: ‘Death to the infidels!’ Why it’s time to fix Hollywood’s problem with Muslims


The Fundamentalist Mind of the Historicist Scholar

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

by Neil Godfrey

Continuing the pots and kettles theme . . .

The Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University has posted the following under The Fundamentalist Mind:

Samantha Field has written an excellent post about the fundamentalist way of thinking. Far from being irrational, Field suggests, the fundamentalist might be called hyper-rational. There is a desire for absolute consistency and clarity, which is precisely why fundamentalist atheists who embrace mythicism, as well as fundamentalist Christians who embrace Biblical inerrancy, cannot tolerate the kind of uncertainty that historical inquiry, for instance, must treat as par for the course.

I think the Chair has missed some of the core points of Samantha Field’s article (an article that I largely agree with, by the way) and added some of his own elaboration (e.g. the reference to “clarity”) but it is interesting to compare his own dogmatic certainty about his opponents and his own absolute belief in the historicity of Jesus with the following passage from a mythicist who, I think, can be fairly considered to speak for Carrier, Doherty, Price and others:

All it [Bayesian reasoning in historical inquiry] does is indicate what theory is most rationally believed, at that time. Just like sound historical reasoning. There is a reason for that. Sound historical reasoning is Bayesian. Indeed, sound reasoning in general seems to be Bayesian. Bayesian reasoning simply symbolises and formalises what already takes place in the heads of logical people. In fact, we can take comfort by the fact that this probabilistic approach allows us to make judgements even when evidence is scarce, as it is with the issue of Jesus’ historicity. Bayesian reasoning informs us as to what is more reasonably believed, based on the currently available evidence. As we gather more evidence, our conclusions may change.

Even those that disagree with a scientific-mathematical representation of history can at least agree that history then becomes ambiguous and shall not give us certainty[ 545] – so that the inappropriateness of historicists claiming certainty is illuminated, and agnosticism over Jesus’ history is already justified. . . . 

While we may never know the truth with absolute certainty,[ 548] Bayes’ Theorem allows the scholar to objectively compare how revealed evidence and background knowledge fits various theories, and thus should prove to be very helpful in historical Jesus studies; more so than the popular Criteria.

Lataster, Raphael (2015-11-12). Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists (Kindle Locations 3068-3086). . Kindle Edition.

Would that the Chair could demonstrate the same tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. . . . .