Quran, Bible — both are powerless without interpretation

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by Neil Godfrey

Scott Atran wrote the following four years ago in response to Sam Harris’s insistence that Islam per se, the Quran in particular, were to blame for terrorist violence. I think such views expressed by Harris are seriously misinformed and potentially harmful.

Context-free declarations about whether Islam, or any religion, is inherently compatible or incompatible with extreme political violence – or Democracy or any other contemporary political doctrine for that matter — is senseless. People make religious belief – whether Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and so forth – compatible with violence or non-violence according to how they interpret their religious beliefs.

And how people interpret religious injunctions (e.g., the Ten Commandments), as well as transcendental aspects of political ideologies, almost invariably changes over time.

For example, on the eve of the Second World War, political and Church leaders in Fascist Italy and Spain claimed that Catholicism and Democracy were inherently incompatible, and many Calvinist and Lutheran Protestants believed that God blessed the authoritarian regime. As Martin Luther proclaimed, “if the Emperor calls me, God calls me” – a sentiment that Luther, like many early Christians, believed was sanctified by Jesus’s injunction to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Nevertheless, the principles of modern liberal democracy first took root and grew to full strength in The European Christian and Colonial heartland. As Benjamin Franklin expressed it in his proposal for the motto of the new American Republic: “Rebellion against Tyranny is Obedience to God.”

Or, as the Coordinating Council of Yemeni Revolution for Change put it, an Islam of “basic human rights, equality, justice, freedom of speech, freedom of demonstration, and freedom of dreams!” (National Yemen, “The Facts As They Are,” Youth Revolutionary Council Addresses International Community, April 25, 2011).

That there is a cruel and repugnantly violent contemporary current in Islam, there is no doubt. Factions of the Christian identity movement, the Tamil Tiger interpretation of Hinduism as necessitating suicide attacks against Buddhist enemies*, Imperial Japan’s interpretation of Zen Buddhism as a call to a war of extermination against the Chinese, all have produced cruel and barbarous behavior that has adversely affected millions of people.

(Bolded emphasis is mine)

* Since 2013 we have seen the rise of murderous violence by Hindus and  Buddhists against Muslims in India and Myanmar/Burma.





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24 thoughts on “Quran, Bible — both are powerless without interpretation”

  1. “For example, on the eve of the Second World War, political and Church leaders in Fascist Italy and Spain claimed that Catholicism and Democracy were inherently incompatible, and many Calvinist and Lutheran Protestants believed that God blessed the authoritarian regime. ”

    Well yeah, what is heaven if not a tyrannical monarchy?

  2. Hi Neil, some time ago I have finished reading Alfred Guillaume’s reconstruction (‘The life of Muhammad’) of the biography of Muhammad written by Ibn Ishaq. Ibn Ishaq’s work is considered to be reliable by Muslims in general.

    You can find Guillaume’s work online:


    In my opinion it is clear that Islam does call upon Muslims to fight non-Muslims and to subjugate them or kill them, at any place at any time. All Islamic sects support this principle (Sunni, Shia, Sufi, etc… and the sects within these sects). There is no room for different interpretations.

    I will quote some passages of Guillaume’s book. On page 213: “Then God sent down to him: ‘Fight them so that there be no more seduction,’ i.e. until no believer is seduced from his religion. ‘And the religion is God’s’, i.e. Until God alone is worshipped.”

    Here Quran 8:39 and 2:193 are quoted. It basically says that merely the presence of non-Muslims is a seduction towards Muslims to leave their religion and this already is a casus belli, and that Muslims are ordered to fight them until the non-Muslims worship God.

    On page 363: “Meanwhile there was the affair of the B. Qaynuqa’. The apostle assembled them in their market and addressed them as follows. ‘O Jews, beware lest God bring upon you the vengeance that He brought upon Quraysh and become Muslims. You know that I am a prophet who has been sent―you will find that in your scriptures and God’s covenant with you.'”

    So, this Jewish tribe just had to convert to Islam, just like that, or else something bad happens to them (referring to some Muslims raids on the Quraysh).

    On page 629 there is some kind of poetry contest going on between some non-Muslims and Muslims, in the presence of Muhammad. One of the Muslims (Thābit) says: “We are God’s helpers and the assistants of His apostle, and will fight men until they believe in God; and he who believes in God and His apostle has protected his life and property from us; and he who disbelieves we will fight in God unceasingly and killing him will be a small matter to us.”

    This reflects several hadith, for instance 1:24 by Bukhari: ‘Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle said: “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah.”‘

    Muhammad was a military expansionist, for instance, on pages 652-653 (of Guillaume’s book): “The apostle had sent out some of his companions in different directions to the kings of the Arabs and the non-Arabs inviting them to Islam in the period between al-Hudaybiya and his death.”

    This is important, because it means also non-Arabs had to convert to Islam.

    Abu Bakr says on page 669: “God sent Muhammad with this religion and he strove for it until men accepted it voluntarily or by force.”

    On page 672 Muhammad sends some Muslims on an expedition. He says: “Take it [the standard], Ibn ‘Auf; fight everyone in the way of God and kill those who disbelieve in God.”

    1. Dear The Bomb,

      To begin with, I will have to inform you that I am not interested right now in reading a 1955 life of a figure who may never even have existed, certainly not as the founder of the religion we recognize as Islam today.

      Next, I believe you have misunderstood the nature of interpretation and how it is necessarily applied to everything we hear and read. But before I explain why, I would like you to address why you disagree with Atran’s evidence that indeed Muslims do have different interpretations of the Quran.

      But here is where the misunderstanding arises. . . .

      Every text is interpreted and multiple interpretations are always possible, I believe, even if we are reading the text on a label of a bottle of medicine.

      But let’s keep the focus simple and in familiar territory relevant to sacred texts. I think most Christians are aware that the Bible unequivocally says “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” That verse (probably in Leviticus, but it can be checked easily enough) is literally very clear and unambiguous. You are commanded to not let a witch continue to live. That means you cannot even put them in prison where their life can be extended. You have to do something to end their life. You have to find a way to kill them. No room for interpretation, right?

      So why don’t Christians and Jews kill witches. There are plenty of them (witches and wizards) around in this day and age. They even advertise and boast about their identity as witches.

      The reason, I suggest, is that Bible believers “interpret” that verse so that though they believe it in some vague principled sense, they do not really believe it in the sense that they will act on it. I suggest many interpret the text to mean that it only applied to a particular historical setting and is no longer relevant today; I suggest some will find excuses in other passages in the same Bible that gives them an escape route from having to obey the command and go out and murder someone claiming to be a witch.

      Ditto the “good verses”. Jesus said one had to sell everything one owned to inherit the kingdom of God but very few obey this command even though they “believe” it as Christians. That is because they interpret in the light of other passages or in the light of historical or personal circumstances to allow them to avoid obeying that command.

      And so on.

      Now back to Atran — what was his evidence that Muslims have very different interpretations of the Quran? Do you still disagree with Atran and the evidence he supplies?

      When you insist that “there is no other interpretation” other than the one espoused by the terrorists you are in fact falling right into the propaganda hands of the terrorists and helping to advance their narrative.

      Strictly speaking, you should be charged in court for support for terrorism.

      1. Why are you not interested in Ibn Ishaq? Read a biography, just any biography about Muhammad, and it turns out that it is largely based on his work. If you want to know something about Islam, you cannot get around Ibn Ishaq. I have to admit his book is boring and difficult to follow.

        I think it is not so important if every Islamic source is historically reliable. Ibn Ishaq wrote the biography more than 150 years after Muhammad’s death. The reliability of the Hadith collections cannot be ascertained. I have read for instance about the hypothesis that not even the Quran can be proven to have been written or recited by Muhammad. It is supposedly a forgery ordered to be written by Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf (the governor of Iraq), at the end of the seventh century. Before that, the Quran is allegedly never mentioned (see Robert Spencer’s ‘Did Muhammad exist?’).

        I notice many miracle stories in Ibn Ishaq’s work, that simply couldn’t have happened. Angels fought alongside Muhammad at the battle of Badr, and there are even eyewitness reports of it mentioned in Ibn Ishaq’s work! Muhammad could even multiply food, just like Jesus did.

        But all of this doesn’t matter. According to Muslims themselves, these traditions are reliable. They believe in it. They believe that God spoke through Muhammad, and that we can read his words in the Quran (see Quran 29:48 and 2:23). These words are eternally true. What’s even more scary is that the God of the Quran orders Muslims to imitate Muhammad’s behaviours. Quran 33:21 says: “Indeed in the messenger of Allah you have an excellent pattern (of conduct) for him who hopes in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.” Muhammad kept sex slaves. Read Quran 4:24: “You are forbidden to marry married women except your slave-girls. This is the decree of God.”

        I think Muhammad actually existed. I see the schism between the Sunni and the Shia as proof. The Sunni and the Shia had a big difference in opinion about who is the rightful successor of Muhammad, right after he died. The Shia believe it is Ali. It all wouldn’t make sense if Muhammad didn’t exist. Then you would have to believe that not only Muhammad is made up, but also his successors, like Abu Bakr and Ali. Then somebody has made up a story about Muhammad, how he died, and how several claimants to the throne fought a civil war, who also didn’t exist. And then later Muslims believe this fake story, and actually started to quarrel who is the rightful successor of Muhammad based on this story, and then split into different sects. (Actually, such a thing has actually happened with the disciple Peter, who might actually have lived, but was not one of Jesus’ disciples, that is a story made up by the gospel writers. There is a possibility that Ali never knew an historical Muhammad, but that later Muslims made Ali into one of Muhammad’s companions. But that is complicated as I will explain later.)

        Both Sunni and Shia acknowledge the authenticity of the Quran, which means that it at least existed when Muhammad died, or not shortly thereafter. And I see the fact that both Sunni and Shia acknowledge the principle that Muslims should fight and subjugate the infidels, as proof that the concept of offensive Jihad has been there since the very beginning. It is a foundational principle of Islam. Ali Sina has written a nice piece about how it is very likely that Muhammad actually lived:


        A good argument Ali Sina makes is that Muhammad had a great many companions who absolutely have lived, and who have lots of descendants. An example is Abdullah ibn Sa’d, a companion of Muhammad and who later became the governor of Egypt. If Muhammad didn’t exist, later Muslims must have made up ties between all these companions and Muhammad. And the Sunni and Shia then quarreled about who is the rightful successor of this fictional character.

        You talk about the Old Testament. Isn’t the fact that the Old Testament orders the killing of witches, proof that Judaism is a very violent religion? Christians have the Old Testament incorporated into their Bible, I think because they believe the coming of Jesus is announced in the Old Testament. Jesus didn’t exist. The early Christians put words into the mouth of a fictional character. But it seems to be very clear to me that the early Christians rejected the stoning of adulterous women as the Old Testament commanded (see John 7:53-8:11, which was a later interpolation by the way), and Jesus supposedly said that people should turn the other cheek and not hit back like the Old Testament commands (see Matthew 5:38–5:42). You don’t have something similar in Islam. Muhammad died when he was in the middle of a military campaign against the infidels. His last commands were to fight the infidels and force them to convert, to die, or to pay the poll tax. The Jesus figure is peaceful, he believed God’s Kingdom is in heaven.

        I honestly don’t know how Jews solve the problem of violent Biblical texts, perhaps they see it just as stories about the struggles of their people in ancient times. But I know that many Jews believe that Israel is their rightful land as promised by God, and this is an idea from the Bible. This is partly what is causing so many trouble right now in Israel and the Palestinian territories (and the other problem is that Muslims simply cannot accept land once conquered by Muslims being ruled by non-Muslims, and not ruled according to sharia law). There is even a Jewish after-dinner prayer which says: “Have mercy, Lord, our God…on Jerusalem, Your city; and on Zion, the resting place of Your glory; upon Your altar, and upon Your Temple. Rebuild Jerusalem, the city of holiness, speedily in our days. Bring us up into it and gladden us in its rebuilding and let us eat from its fruit and be satisfied with its goodness and bless You upon it in holiness and purity.”

        Religious people surely don’t carry out everything that their religion commands, but if they carry out some of it, it could become very scary (like Muslims keeping sex slaves or extorting non-Muslims). Some things are just not practical to do, like the chopping off of hands, that would generate so many permanently dependent disabled people. I’m sure even hard-line Muslims and Jews would think so. And somebody has to do the hard work in order to live, so Christians just had to ignore Jesus’ command to live the life of an ascetic. Only some can do that with the help of others. And I surely believe that there are many people who are only religious in name, and never read the scriptures. Some Muslims really don’t know. But they have the right to know. Shouldn’t they be informed about how violent Islam is?

        And should I be prosecuted for exposing hate speech in Islamic writings?

      2. You said: ‘When you insist that “there is no other interpretation” other than the one espoused by the terrorists you are in fact falling right into the propaganda hands of the terrorists and helping to advance their narrative.’

        Yes, I agree with Isis, Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups that their version of Islam is very close to the core beliefs of Islam. I don’t advance their narrative. I make clear that Islam is a fascist ideology, and I am against this ideology. Muslims and non-Muslims should understand that there is nothing surprising about the actions of these terrorist groups. They just follow their religion literally. That’s why Scott Atran’s claim is so stupid that “Context-free declarations about whether Islam, or any religion, is inherently compatible or incompatible with extreme political violence – or Democracy or any other contemporary political doctrine for that matter — is senseless”.

        We wouldn’t understand anything. We are completely in the dark. Why do they do this? Where does it come from?

        And we would never make such an argument about western anti-democratic ideologies. Okay just replace Islam with nazism, and religion with ideology (in my opinion religion is just an ideology with supernatural beliefs on top of it), and repeat what Scott Atran said: “Context-free declarations about whether [nazism], or any [ideology], is inherently compatible or incompatible with extreme political violence – or Democracy or any other contemporary political doctrine for that matter — is senseless.” … “Or, as the Coordinating Council of Yemeni Revolution for Change put it, [a nazism] of “basic human rights, equality, justice, freedom of speech, freedom of demonstration, and freedom of dreams!”

        Impossible!!! Muhammad assassinated people who criticized him! (see Ibn Ishaq’s thick book) The Quran orders Muslims to attack people who ‘defame’ or ‘seduce’ them (Quran 9:12, Quran 8:39 and 2:193). Non-Muslims have to choose between conversion, death or paying a poll-tax (Quran 9:1-29). No freedom of speech, no equality, no justice, no basic human rights. Perhaps this group believes it, but it is not Islam.

        Scott Atran has to be consistent here. I see no reason that if “core religious beliefs do not have fixed propositional content” or whatever he means (I think he means that you cannot do anything with it), the same must be true for any other ideology. If a neo-nazi commits a terrorist attack on Jews you probably think he is inspired by his ideology, on top of other personal reasons, he knows what his ideology orders him to do.

        Scott Atran claims that religious beliefs are too absurd or too hazy to be put into practice. But this cannot be true for Islam. Islamic writings contain very clear-cut commands which could be very beneficial to Muslims when the opportunity arises. They are allowed to loot non-Muslims and keep a large part of the booty (Quran 8:41), rape of non-Muslim women is completely acceptable (Quran 4:24), and they are allowed to extort non-Muslims unless they convert to Islam (Quran 9:29, otherwise they are killed).

        It is undeniable that the old testament sanctions the execution of witches, gays and adulterous women (okay the Christians have an escape route through the Jesus figure who clearly rejects these things), and sanctions the idea that the Holy Land belongs to the Jews. And it is undeniable that Islam does advocate warfare against infidels at all times at all places, to loot them, to rape them. There is no room for different interpretations. For some reason, out of ignorance, or out of opportunism, people decide to ignore some teachings. But that doesn’t mean they give a non-violent interpretation to it, they just don’t give any interpretation at all. They ignore it.

        I can’t withhold this video from you (‘Why I left Islam’ by Converted2Islam on youtube):


        This man turned away from his religion when he discovered that the Quran actually does allow Muslims to marry their slaves who are already married (see Quran 4:24). Should we withhold this information from other Muslims? They have the right to know! Perhaps they will be set free.

        1. Nazism is to Socialism as ISIS is to Islam. Nazism and ISIS represent specific interpretations and applications of the broader idea from which they arise.

          It is as plain as the nose on your face, or should be, that millions of Muslims do not interpret the Quran the way ISIS does. Presumably you think they are wrong and are apostates from their faith. That is why I said you are supporting the ISIS narrative, the ISIS interpretation of Islam.

          I suggest you talk to more Muslims and try to learn from them how they interpret their holy text.

          Ditto for Jews and the Bible. And Christians and the Bible, including those ugly passages we all know about in the New Testament that only extremist cults interpret literally and as applicable to them today.

          You should ask yourself why you, an outsider, have come to embrace an extremist interpretation of the Quran that clearly most Muslims do not believe or live by.

          As for your video and your comment on it: you appear not to grasp the nature and significance of anecdotal evidence. It’s a bit like a Christian who never took his religion seriously suddenly reading late in life and saying, wow, I never knew the bible said that — and tossing it in the bin. Deep, very deep. Multitudes of other Christians had studied and learned how to interpret such passages without denting their faith. That’s how religion works.

          Religions change throughout history and places and circumstances and populations.

        2. I have heard this analogy with Nazism before and it surprises me that we can be so lacking basic knowledge about Nazism. Nazi is a contraction of National Socialist. It is a blending of nationalism and socialism — two popular movements that we might argue peaked around the turn of the century.

          Nationalism could be described as a single idea, but it came in many varieties. Some nationalists envisioned a brotherhood of nations and world peace as a result of their efforts; others anticipated war.

          Socialism likewise. It came in many varieties, many interpretations, from gradual democratic change being the primary agent to advocacy of violent revolution.

          One might say that Islam itself, like Christianity, has as many “schools” or varieties as did nationalism and socialism. The same sacred books have been used to preach peace and love on the one hand, and hate and killing on the other.

          Thank “god” we no longer live in the days when Christians interpreted the bible in a way that required them to execute those they deemed heretics, or that justified slavery, etc.

          To suggest that the terrorists’ interpretation of the Quran is the only correct one is indeed an act of support for terrorism. It does nothing to expose their hatred. We don’t need to Quran to see their hatred. But if we sided with their Muslim enemies and supported them, instead, we might begin to help undermine the appeal of their murderous ideology and interpretations.

          In fact, by siding with the Muslim enemies of terrorist ideology we would be engaging in an act of acceptance of Muslims and that would go one hell of a very long way to removing the sense of isolation and rejection that many young and second generation Muslim immigrants sense, and that makes them fertile ground for extremist groups.

          1. Aren’t these Muslims wrong when they say their religion is peaceful? I can point to their scriptures and clearly proof that Islam is violent and intolerant, like I did above by quoting from the Quran, Bukhari and Ibn Ishaq. I don’t see how the presence of Islamic terrorist groups could change that. There might be Muslims who are genuinely abhorred by these terrorist groups, but that doesn’t change the fact that their religion does preach what the Islamic terrorist groups practice. I don’t doubt the motivations of some of the peaceful Muslims, but they are telling a lie. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t argue with the peaceful Muslims, even when they themselves could be the victim of terrorist attacks. I see this as a part of our open and free society.

            You aren’t even willing to study Islamic scriptures, like Ibn Ishaq. Wouldn’t you want to know something about Hitler, when you have discussions with a neo-Nazi who claims Nazism is a peaceful ideology and who speaks out against Nazi terrorists? Won’t you try to argue with a neo-Nazi, even when radical neo-Nazis commit terrorist attacks against peaceful neo-Nazis?

            You said: “I have heard this analogy with Nazism before and it surprises me that we can be so lacking basic knowledge about Nazism. Nazi is a contraction of National Socialist. It is a blending of nationalism and socialism — two popular movements that we might argue peaked around the turn of the century.”

            I don’t really get you. I would say Nazism represent the ideas of Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, Herman Göring, and other figures, and not the combined definitions of nationalism and socialism. I you want to know something about Nazism, you read or listen to what they say. For instance, Hitler believed that Germans should expand their territory. At that time, Germany was really lacking in food and other resources, and he believed Germany should expand into Eastern Europe with its rich resources and fertile lands. But that’s where the Slavs lived so they should be annihilated or leave in his opinion. He was also against Jews who he thought should be exterminated.

            Similarly you have the ideas of Muhammad (whether in this case, he is fictional or not) and other early Muslims who believed Muslims should conquer the world, subjugate the infidels, and take bounty and sex slaves from among them. There is just no denying that.

            You said: “One might say that Islam itself, like Christianity, has as many “schools” or varieties as did nationalism and socialism. The same sacred books have been used to preach peace and love on the one hand, and hate and killing on the other.”

            I beg to differ. The funny thing about Islam is that all “schools” (Hanafi, Maliki, etc…) preach offensive jihad, even the Sufi. (I have to admit that I have read multiple times that this is so, I could always dig through all the documentation if you press me to.)

            You say: ‘Thank “god” we no longer live in the days when Christians interpreted the bible in a way that required them to execute those they deemed heretics, or that justified slavery, etc.’

            But in the meantime you believe I should be prosecuted because I try to honestly interpret Islamic scriptures? I hope you meant this sarcastically.

            You said: “Multitudes of other Christians had studied and learned how to interpret such passages without denting their faith. That’s how religion works.”

            I want to start a thought experiment. A group of neo-Nazis turn Nazism into a religion. They add supernatural things to it. They believe Adolf Hitler is the prophet of Nazism (and actually some Nazis did think Hitler was the new messiah), and sent by some supernatural entity. Mein Kampf becomes their main sacred text. Now, over many centuries this religion starts to grow, and has quite a big following. This is not a strange idea, and is something that actually could happen in the real world. And I bet that you would have this situation where many adherents of this religion do nothing violent, they go to work, go to school, live their daily lives etc…

            Do you honestly believe this new religion could change? I bet you would say that the Nazi religion can’t change, but you can have followers who choose to ignore certain Nazi teachings. And I bet you would be downright offended when the followers of this religion downright deny that the mass killings by Nazis didn’t happen, or that these hateful parts in Mein Kampf are misinterpreted and that these parts actually mean something peaceful, or that these crimes or teachings were just part of the past and not applicable today. I think you would be enraged!

            Now image that there would be some fanatics of the Nazi Religion who commit terrorist attacks, try to establish a Nazi state somewhere, try to expand their territory and murder people, all the while using Mein Kampf (and other Nazi writings) as their motivation. You wouldn’t say that people who claim that these Nazi terrorists’ interpretation of Mein Kampf is the only correct one, support terrorism.

            I’m sorry when I say that your ideas seem so preposterous.

            I also want to add to be careful what Muslims tell you. Muhammad said “war is deceit” (Bukhari 52:269). Muslims know the principle that you may lie to advance Islam. I don’t say that all Muslims lie, but you should be careful. This is not a far-fetched idea as Constantin Schreiber discovered when he visited German mosques. You can read an article here:


            He said: “Outside the talk is of integration, inside the opposition is the case,” he writes. “Mosques are political places. The majority of sermons I visited were against the integration of Muslims in the German community.”

            The Al Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El Tayyeb is also known to speak with a split tongue, as noticed by Robert Spencer:


            1. You say you do not “really get” my point about your Nazi analogy yet proceed to repeat and elaborate on your original assertion.

              My point was that your analogy is not valid. You concede that you fail to understand my reply and the reasons I present to argue that the analogy is invalid. A genuine discussion requires that the two parties seek to understand each other before simply repeating arguments they have made before.

              You say you “beg to differ” with a point I made but you do not say why you differ or demonstrate that you even understood my point. Your reply simply ignores what I said. If you “beg to differ” then a genuine conversation can develop if you attempt to point out to me what is wrong with the logic and evidence I pointed to.

              You say you “honestly try to interpret Islamic scriptures” but you nowhere indicate that you are trying to understand the different Islamic viewpoints of their scriptures. I can study the Bible to see what its various books “really say” but that will not tell me what Jews and Christians believe. If I want to know what Christianity believes and teaches then simply reading the Bible will get me nowhere. I need to ask the respective schools of Christianity — the Catholics, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Baptists, etc. And none of those will explain the Dave Koresh Waco cult. They will all frankly admit that the Bible contains some terrible commands but most of them will have their various ways of interpreting the Bible to say that those terrible commands do not apply to them today.

              Surely you can see the analogy with Muslims and the Koran?

              The reason I believe your arguments (and they are essentially the same as those of Sam Harris and other Islamophobes who scoff at serious research by specialists into terrorism) are falling right into the hands of ISIS and co is because I have read widely the various writings that the terrorists use as their core manuals and ideological justifications. I know what their aims are and why they murder other Muslims whom they consider apostates.

              ISIS and co do not believe that most professing Muslims think they are lying when they say they believe Islam is a religion of peace. Islamists (the extremists) hate the interpretations of the Quran held by most Muslims.

              The extremist violent version of Islam that you are sold on as the “only correct and true” interpretation was hated and feared by Muslims generally when it first made its appearance in the modern world. Through the material support of Saudi Arabia, however, that extremist political version of Islam has become a widespread force to be reckoned with and a serious threat to peaceful Muslims as well as Westerners.

              If you are serious about honestly trying to understand Muslims then I believe you would make an effort to learn from the different Muslim groups/representatives and not simply embrace one view and declare all others false without even hearing them out.

              What I think the Bible says, or what scholarly research tells us the Bible really says, is irrelevant to understanding the different groups claiming to be Christians. Ditto Muslims.

              And please do stop posting links to Islamophobic hate sites. I want this blog to be primarily a source for informed (scholarly) understanding.

              1. You say: “They will all frankly admit that the Bible contains some terrible commands but most of them will have their various ways of interpreting the Bible to say that those terrible commands do not apply to them today. Surely you can see the analogy with Muslims and the Koran?”

                Nope, I don’t see it. That’s why I make the comparison with Nazi ideology. If you are consistent you should also apply it to Nazis. If I want to know about Christian, Islamic or Nazi ideology I read about their doctrines. If a neo-Nazi denies the holocaust do I believe him or her? Nope. His or her opinion is irrelevant. Or even if he or she acknowledges Nazi crimes but trivializes these crimes away and he or she won’t personally murder Jews or Gypsies, I’m not impressed. But what I do know is neo-Nazis often deny the Nazi’s crimes. But that often makes people upset, especially survivors of the Nazi crimes.

                And that brings me to the next point. And that is the victims of the crimes in Islam and other religions. Some Nazi victims are still alive, that’s why it is very difficult to deny Nazi crimes nowadays, or to deny that Nazism preaches hatred or violence, because their victims will show up and make a big fuzz about it, even report the neo-Nazis to the police (I support freedom of speech by the way). These victims will be in your face. But the victims of the early Muslims, Jews and Christians (who were strictly applying their religious commands while murdering or raping) are hidden far away in the past, and they can never make their voices heard. Isn’t it an incredible insult if Muslims, or Jews, or Christians deny or trivialize what has happened to these people? And in the case of Islam I mean the victims of Muhammad and his companions. Or the millions of people who were murdered facing the choice between conversion, death or paying Jizya.

                You say: ‘You say you “honestly try to interpret Islamic scriptures” but you nowhere indicate that you are trying to understand the different Islamic viewpoints of their scriptures.’

                I have read several Muslim modern commentaries of how they whitewash Islamic scriptures, and frankly, they sound pretty silly.

                I once saw a comment pass by of a Muslim who asked what is the big deal about Jizya. He said, the Muslims pay Zakaat, the non-Muslims pay Jizya. Period. He saw it as some kind of fair deal. He completely ignores that non-Muslims were given the choice between death, conversion or paying Jizya, which often was a much higher amount of money (or other resources) than Zakaat. This must be a great offense to the victims of the practice. But, they are long dead now, so why should modern-day Muslims care?

                What I often read or hear is Muslims claiming that Muhammad and his companions only fought in self-defense. In their opinions, the Muslims were always the victims when they attack non-Muslims, again completely ignoring the fate of the victims of the Muslims. And they completely ignore their own traditions clearly showing that Muslims also blatantly attacked non-Muslims, without being attacked first.

                I have a new order for myself. I have checked out the Sira of Ibn Ishaq earlier, which clearly confirms that Muhammad and the very early Muslims indeed practiced and preached offensive Jihad. Now I’m going to study all the Islamic schools of jurisprudence. I have heard the claim several times that all schools support offensive Jihad. I haven’t checked it out for myself, but I want to know for sure. It will be a big task, so I will be away for a while. You will post something about Islam in the future, and I will show up in the comments again.

                One last question. Some Christians still believe the Crusades were benign, and were merely aimed at conquering back land that was stolen from Christians by the Muslims, or so they believed. Would you say that it is just their interpretation and that you respect it?

              2. Your comments are degenerating into trolling. You once again justify your argument with your Nazi analogy despite my attempting to point out to you, twice, that it is invalid. You say you don’t “get” my argument but then make no effort to understand it and merely repeat yourself. That’s not how reasonable communication works. That’s what trolls do.

                Your own comment betrays the fact that you have not sought out how the Muslims murdered by ISIS interpret the Quran and indicates you have no interest in doing so — except to read a few passages that you think serve as substitutes and then express your own intolerance, not to mention substantial ignorance, of their religious views.

                Stop repeating your murderous ISIS propaganda and religious intolerance and ignorance here. It is not welcome.

                I had hoped for a serious discussion but you are not interested in understanding, let alone engaging with, alternative viewpoints. You have only ever mocked and scoffed at alternative viewpoints and admitted you do not “get” them. That sounds like you are here to evangelize the viewpoint of the murderers and to belittle the beliefs of Muslims who oppose them.

              3. You wish to stop with this discussion, okay, I respect it.

                I want to say something about my study of the Sunni and Shia schools of jurisprudence. I could locate Robert Spencer’s claim that all the Sunni schools of jurisprudence support offensive Jihad, and he quotes from some Sunni legal documents (he skipped the Shia on this partical webpage). I found to my dismay that some of the documents apparently were never translated into English. Of the Hanafi school, there exists a translation of Al-Hidaya written by Burhan al-Din al-Farghani al-Marghinani, but it is very hard to come by. I read some desperate messages on forums of a 15 year old Muslim who wanted to study this manual in English, for he didn’t fully understand Arabic, and he couldn’t acquire this book, referring to a web shop where the book was out of stock.

                The Shia manual Tadhkirat Al Fuqaha doesn’t seem to have been translated into English at all (but there seems to be a Persian version). Apparently it contains this quote, which is an unofficial translation by somebody on a forum: “Al Allamah Al Hilli states: It is compulsory to wage Jihad on the Jews and Christians until they pay Jizya or convert or die, and compulsory on the rest to convert or die. This is with the presence of the Imam. (Tadhkirat Al Fuqaha vol.9 pg.15)”.

                But I cannot check it for myself.

                I am absolutely flabbergasted by it. And it seems that even for non-Arabic speaking Muslims it is very difficult to study the source documents of their religion or the particular sect they belong to.

                However, the Shafi’i legal manual ‘The Reliance of the Traveller” is easy to find on the internet in English.

              4. Robert Spencer is not considered the most objective commentator on contemporary Islam, quite the reverse. If I do research into a topic I try to get the full range of arguments and am especially careful to be sure my sources can be justified. I don’t read primary documents out of context but try to establish what the relevant parties have to say about them, the status they attribute to them, etc. If you want to read some horrific blood-curdling tracts by Muslims just go to the Management of Savagery, Dabiq, etc. But we also know of some murderous tracts by Christians, too. We don’t judge the entire religion by these, however.

                But what is relevant and important for us is to understand what contemporary Muslims say about their texts, their beliefs, and why they embrace the views they do. That means studying and talking with leading voices among Muslims in our communities in the West as well as gaining some context and historical perspective on what we read from elsewhere.

                There have been evil people in all religions, producing evil tracts. It is outrageous, however, to fear and be suspicious of the innocent, even those whom the extremists themselves hate and murder.

                I have attempted to read quite a wide range of views on historical Islam, Islamic kingdoms, and the rise of modern terrorism, the wars, etc. But I try to do so through a wide range of sources and giving priority to specialists in the field.

              5. You wish to stop with this discussion, okay, I respect it.

                Only because I have lost the sense that it is a genuine discussion. You seem to admit you don’t understand my view yet simply keep repeating your own without appearing to want to understand, let alone engage with, an alternative viewpoint.

                Simply disagreeing and stating something else is not engaging with the other party’s arguments and objections to your own.

              6. Wikipedia has a page about the opinion of Islamic scholars on Jihad. It also mentions the four main Sunni legal schools:


                Unfortunately, the Shia are skipped, but it is important that I don’t have to depend on Andrew Bostom or Robert Spencer anymore regarding the claim that all Sunni schools of jurisprudence support offensive Jihad. Andrew Bostom has also described how also Shia jurisprudence supports offensive Jihad. I try to find other sources.

                I have discovered that the Hedaya or Al-Hidayah (written by Burhan al-Din al-Marghinani) is also translated into English. According to wikipedia it is “considered to be one of the most influential compendia of Hanafi jurisprudence”. The Hanafi are Sunni. You can find the second volume of this work here (there are some segments about Jihad and Jizya in this part):


              7. What you have here is some good discussion starter points with the Muslims in your neighbourhood and their imams or leaders. Why not call a community discussion with them and raise these questions there with Muslims in your neighbourhood see what they have to say about the relevance of thirteenth century scholars and contemporary scholars who support Wahhibism and opposed the Muslims rising up against Syria’s Assad?

                And ask them how/if they see those scholarly views relating to beliefs and practices of the terrorist-hating and terrorist-fearing Muslims today. (Muslims have far more to fear from their Wahhabist and violent Islamist ranks within than we do.)

                I am sure one of the first things someone will point out to you is that neutrality of the wikipedia article is rightly disputed — as a notice at its very header alerts all readers. The views expressed certainly do not coincide with the views I have been reading by Muslim leaders and representatives of Muslim communities today.

                If you wanted to know what your Christian neighbours believed today would you bypass them and turn to articles that discussed scholarly views of points of theology or biblical criticism? I think not. Especially if those same wikipedia articles were deemed hostile to the reality of the viewpoints and practices of mainstream contemporary Christians.

                Would you go around declaring what all your Christian neighbours believed on the basis of a disputed wikipedia article citing names of scholars most of your Christian neighbours probably never heard of?

                Before warning me (as some do at this point) that the Qur’an tells its followers to lie, remember the Bible encourages lying for God’s cause, too — the ultimate conversion of all humanity to the one faith. It gives examples of saints lying with approval and even of God commanding his servants to lie.

  3. Well, I actually wanted to make the point that the Islamic views of offensive Jihad were largely uniform across the Islamic world and haven’t changed over many centuries. And I understood that technically, modern day Muslims still fall under one of these legal schools of jurisprudence (Shafi’i, Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, Jafari, etc…). I can see maps on the internet which give rough distribution of how the laws schools are spread across the Muslim world. See for instance here:


    The Wikipedia article is disputed? Then I will quote an undisputed Wikipedia page:


    A quote (I skipped some bits):

    “Within classical Islamic jurisprudence – the development of which is to be dated into—the first few centuries after the prophet’s death [skipped a reference]—jihad consisted of wars against unbelievers, apostates, and was the only form of warfare permissible. [skip] The primary aim of jihad as warfare is not the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam by force, but rather the expansion and defense of the Islamic state. [skipped two references] In theory, jihad was to continue until “all mankind either embraced Islam or submitted to the authority of the Muslim state.” There could be truces before this was achieved, but no permanent peace. [skip] One who died ‘on the path of God’ was a martyr, (Shahid), whose sins were remitted and who was secured “immediate entry to paradise.” [skip] Classical manuals of Islamic jurisprudence often contained a section called Book of Jihad, with rules governing the conduct of war covered at great length. Such rules include treatment of nonbelligerents, women, children (also cultivated or residential areas), [skipped two references] and division of spoils.[skipped a reference] Such rules offered protection for civilians.”

    End of quote. This article doesn’t give the exact details, but it does state that classical Islamic Jurisprudence defends offensive Jihad. It does mention an eighth century pacifist school of thought under Sufyan al-Thawri, but it doesn’t seem to have had much influence from what I understand.

    Yes, I think those Muslims who believe in offensive Jihad probably won’t admit their believes to non-Muslims. My father has some Islamic colleagues. One is an orthodox Muslim man who believed that under Sharia law everything will be alright. He also has an orthodox female colleague who is familiar with the Quran and the Hadith. I asked him if he could ask her what she thought about offensive Jihad and Jizya, and he answered that he could ask her, but he wondered if he would get an honest answer. And I would agree. He said that if you really want to know what Muslims think you should act as if you are a Muslim, and speak with Muslims. There have been some folks like Maarten Zeegers who did that (and he found out that Muslims are very segregated and internally divided in the Transvaal neighborhood in The Hague). I think it is a little bit unethical, and you need thousands of spies around the world to truly get a representative sample.

    What I understand from ex-Muslim Ali Sina (who is a horrendous homophobe by the way) is that many Muslims don’t read the Quran and other sources at all. They read apologetic books about Islam which portray Muhammad and the Quran in a very positive light! What he says might be true. I will refer to his article. Maybe you won’t like it that I refer to his website, because he truly is a bigot. His views on homosexuality are shocking! But here is his article about why he left Islam (and where he explains the views of Muslims on Islam):


    I give Muslims who truly don’t know about the violence aspects of Islamic theology, the benefit of the doubt. (But I think they should be informed!)

    1. I know you are trying, as you say, to work out what Muslims generically believe by turning to the Wikipedia article about selected scholars’ views of one topic and then looking at maps to show the spread of various law schools all on the assumption that you have covered the reality of what your Muslim neighbours believe and practice. —

      But then you do concede, if I understand you correctly, that most Muslims probably don’t read the Qur’an very much anyway and embrace the teachings of teachers who have and propagate a very positive form of Islamic faith.

      But you also say you think most Muslims will lie to you if they tell you they do embrace these positive teachings, and that to know the truth you have to do some pretty devious work to crack the conspiratorial silence of so many millions of them. That’s classic conspiracy theory thinking with its classic fallacy set up in lights. I haven’t lived for years in Muslim countries, but I have spent considerable numbers of extended periods of time in several of them — Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia — and it is very clear that most Muslims in those countries fear and want nothing to do with their extremist factions.

      Yes I know they are very segregated. I read books like Who Speaks of Islam, Inside Muslim Minds, Muslim Secular Democracy, The World from Islam, — alongside comparable research into the origins of the violent strain of Islam in recent decades, titles I’ve listed several times before. And I also have spoken with Muslims in my community, and their leaders, and helped arrange public meetings so we can all get a clearer understanding and opportunity to put hard questions out there.

      You fear and suspicion appears to have prevented you from taking this journey of understanding and knowledge. I can read any number of books by ex-Muslims and ex-Christians and ex-Atheists etc all telling the world how horrible their experiences were. But anecdotal testimonies are not the scholarly and more broadly based community research. Some of them, including supposedly ex-Mulsim ones, are written by frauds according to investigative research.

      I also suggest we demonstrate some sort of imperialistic arrogance when we think most Muslims “should be informed” about just how terrible their religion is — the religion they didn’t know they have because they have always all their lives only embraced the positive teachings of the positive version of their faith. We don’t need to tell them about jihad because I suggest they already have a belief that their extremist factions are off their rockers and need to be stopped and reconverted.

      We can say we believe the extremists are right because we have read their Qur’an and know they are right, but then we are going around in circles. Religious beliefs of any group are not decided by what we outsiders decide they believe when we read their holy texts. We instead need to ask them what they believe and practice and what they make of their holy texts in that context.

      We don’t declare Christianity is evil because the Bible says unbelievers have to be shunned, even if they are family, and that cults that practice this teaching are the true Christians because they follow what we know their Bible says. It might be what the Bible says, but obviously we know that’s not how most Christians accept it or believe it or apply it.

      1. I am aware there are probably many Muslims who are basically only Muslim in name. There are lots of Jews and Christians like that. They celebrate the religious festivals, practice some rituals, believe in some supernatural entity, and sometimes even pray to it. But they rarely or never read the scriptures. Exact numbers are hard to come by. I try to find some indirect ways, from insiders, ex-Muslims. Ali Sina has made a surprise admission on his website that apparently many Muslims he knows of don’t read the Islamic scriptures. I think he is honest here. He has said something very sinister about Muslims elsewhere:


        He says in this interview that Muslims practice taqiyya, and that their concept of peace is different. Peace in Islam is when Muslims have subdued the non-Muslims and they are the masters. He seems to speak as an insider, he knows how the Muslims really think, but he has admitted elsewhere that actually Muslims have a surprisingly romantic view of Islam. I think the latter is the truth in his case. (But, on the other hand, perhaps both of his versions are true. He met both types of Muslims.) But Ali Sina is only a small sample.

        I have read that even many ex-Muslims have never ever heard of the principle of taqiyya. Several examples can be found in this reddit post:


        And here:


        But, I need a bigger sample. Perhaps many of these ex-Muslims didn’t know anything about Islam to begin with, which made them more prone to leave Islam when they found out how evil it was, and that’s the reason why at least many ex-Muslims don’t know about taqiyya. From what I understand, Muhammad used deception in warfare or to assassinate opponents, and Muhammad is the big example Muslims should follow, so I think lying in the interest of Islam is acceptable to Muslim fundamentalists at least.

        My image from research (like that of the Pew Research Center or from Ruud Koopmans), is that there are also many Muslim fundamentalists. Ruud Koopmans labels almost half of European Muslims as ‘fundamentalist’. According to the Pew Research Center there are many people in countries like Egypt and Pakistan who believe apostates should be killed. Muslims in some other countries (like Albania or Bosnia) seem a lot more moderate. But, I have to grant that there are always methodological issues, and the questions are often superficial. If I meet a Muslim, and would dare to ask him or her about Islam (which I often don’t!), I would ask what they actually know about their religion. Do they know the famous Hadith compiler Bukhari? To which legal school do they belong? Do they know anything of these legal schools? Can they tell me something about Muhammad’s life? What is Sharia law? It wouldn’t surprise me if most don’t know of Bukhari, but I can’t prove it. It is information I can’t find.

        You say you meet Muslims who are shocked by terrorist groups. I am wary. Maarten Zeegers said that the Salafistic imams he met didn’t like ISIS either. But it is very clear to me that the salafists eventually want to subdue the non-Muslims, and don’t want a society where everybody is equal. I read some Dutch language article about Maarten Zeegers here:


        Erik Kaufmann and others have predicted that religious fundamentalism will grow because fundamentalists often have more babies. I am afraid that in the long term the Islamic fundamentalists will start to dominate the moderate Muslims, and eventually the Western world (or even the world). You see a situation in Israel where the Orthodox Jews are out-breeding their secular counterparts. Erik Kaufmann predicts Israel to have an Orthodox Jewish majority by 2050! Erik Kaufmann predicted for several European countries like Austria that they would have a significant Muslim minority (in the 25-33% range) at the end of this century, presumably mostly consisting of fundamentalists. I am afraid that the Islamic fundamentalists of Egypt, Mali and other nations with their high birthrates will leave their overpopulated nations and settle in Europe.

        I and other people (like my parents) watched the arrival of Syrians in the Netherlands with great anxiety. I can regularly see the heavily veiled Syrian women walk the streets. We are afraid that there will be a slow but sure increase of the influence of Islamic fundamentalists in our nation. We see the first tiny influences in the terrorist attacks. But Muslims are also making attempts to stifle criticism of Islam in non-Muslim nations. See for instance the attempts by the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation). I watch with great fear the universal Islamic call upon Muslims to subjugate the infidels. Muslims will have to make a very good argument why they don’t want to attack non-Muslims. I fear that many are simply biding their time, waiting until they are strong enough. They know that if they attack now they will be defeated. I also fear that Muslims will import their religious wars among each other to Europe, and we will be caught in the crossfire. I am afraid that in the future Europe will become like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon or Bosnia. It won’t work anymore with all these sects and ethnic groups who hate each other. I notice that I am not shocked anymore when a terrorist attack takes place in Belgium, Germany, Great Britain or France. It is becoming the new normal. I think the same situation exists for people in Iraq with its multiple terrorist attacks.

        1. Your fear is very deep and real. And of course the Muslim religion has its history and problems that are confronting many Muslims themselves today, especially those who flee the middle east for safety in the west.

          Integration for first and second generationers has been difficult for most immigrant groups and we have learned (or should have) lessons from the past, the reasons for gangs, crime, family tensions and clashes.

          (And I do know that Europe has problems far worse than those in countries like the US and Australia. Are you in Europe yourself? I ask because I have been speaking from a non-European perspective and what I have read of difficulties with assimilation in UK and Europe is extremely serious — and I know about the vicious right wing reaction to some of these issues. That is a shame and counterproductive.)

          Unfortunately I get the impression that your fear makes it impossible for you to see anything but the extremes and to impose realities that are true only for minorities on to much larger groups. You have not yet spoken about the majority of Muslims who do see themselves as religious but embrace the positive Islam you spoke about earlier.

          I invite you to get to know first hand some of your Muslim neighbours and discuss your concerns with them, as many of them as possible. And try reading some of the works I have read, too, such as those by researchers and Islamic scholars representing and studying the overwhelming majority of Muslims, especially those who have settled in the West.

          I mentioned community meetings. Another activity I was involved in for some years were weekly dinners/discussions where the public was invited to a hotel and we’d always arrange guest speakers, usually from countries in the news, so we could learn something from the perspective of “people on the ground” there. That was also helpful. But even just one-on-one is good.

          But fear won’t make it easy at first. It never does help with establishing mutual understanding.

          (I mentioned books of the mainstream I have read but that appear to be missing from your lists of items you have cited. I have also read a lot of the terrorist and islamist literature itself, the stuff that is at the heart of many terrorist groups. I am not sure how much of that you’ve read, either, but you will see if you do how marginalized those extremists really are when they denounce their “fellow Muslims” who deplore violence.)

        2. I should add that I do strongly oppose Islamism. It is Islamism that is the real core of your fears. It is a mistake, though, to confuse Islamism — even “peaceful” Islamism — with mainstream Islam. The two are very opposed to each other.

          I believe it is helpful to understand where the real enemy lies and to target him with precision. Anything else will only make the problem worse, increase unnecessary division and alienation and hostility and more violence.

          1. Yes, I live in the Netherlands, in Ede more specifically. I must say, it doesn’t look like a warzone where I live. But you can clearly see Muslims. There are lots of women with veils or headscarves. Especially the women are very recognizable. The men and boys often wear regular clothes, and they could just as well be atheists or Buddhist. You can only see they are Arab or Turkish. I hope some miracle happens and Muslims turn away from fundamentalism or their religion altogether. I hope eventually Muslim nations will go through the same secularization process as the West. I have imagined a hippy revolution happening in Saudi Arabia, with Woodstock type of festivals, and naked men and women in the mud (with lots of sun cream), but I just don’t think it will ever happen there.

            You say that I haven’t read some books you mentioned. I have read ‘The Myth of the Muslim Tide’ by Doug Saunders, and he uses information from a book you mentioned by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, ‘Who Speak for Islam?’. My impression was that they leave out the awful statistics as much as possible. I’m more convinced by the Pew Research Center, because they dared to ask the awful questions. According to Wikipedia, Esposito received 20 million dollars from Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal! I saw a very cheap version of Esposito’s book on ibooks, I will try to pick it up.

            I am too shy to approach Muslims face to face. I could try internet forums or message boards.

            I wanted to say that it is very difficult for me to understand that people stay within their religion, while they acknowledge there are aspects of it they absolutely don’t agree with. I will take the example of myself. As a child I copied the ideas of my parents, and they were interested in Rudolf Steiner. My father bought dozens of his books. I read many of these books too, and I believed in Rudolf Steiner’s ideas. When I studied physics, I slowly began to see the contradictions between Steiner’s ideas and what physicists say. Steiner’s ideas of how the Moon and planets formed are totally different. According the Steiner Uranus and Neptune are not part of our Solar system, contrary to what physicists say. Steiner explains dead creatures formed an outer shell, a crust around the Earth, which later separated from Earth to form the Moon. I realized later it couldn’t be true. I also read how people criticize Steiner for his racist ideas. He believed in some kind of hierarchy in races, with the white people on top of course. And he thought black people shouldn’t migrate to Europe. I have to say that I had read some of these ideas in his books, but I never saw these ideas as demeaning. Perhaps my mind blocked it out at that time. It took a while, but I eventually had no other choice but to leave Rudolf Steiner behind. I had to reject all of his ideas.

            I read a Dutch article about how Muslim women experience Islam, here (‘De Koran vanuit vrouwelijk perspectief, Marije van Beek, 16 May 2017, Trouw):


            A Muslim woman says that she owns a Quran and that she deleted passages she didn’t like with a black pen. She advises other women to ascertain for themselves what the text means, and to have a relationship and a conversation with God themselves, instead of imitating others. I don’t understand this at all. In my case I would have rejected this religion altogether. There are ideas in the Quran, and Hadith, etc… which are more bigoted that Steiner’s ideas.

            1. I’m very pleased we appear to be understanding each other a little and talking like this. It does help me better understand your perspective when you point out you are in the Netherlands. It is some years since I visited your country but I can imagine our experiences are very different.

              I, too, pay attention to the mainstream surveys, Gallup and Pew and others. In fact one of Esposito’s books is devoted entirely to presenting and engaging with those stats. We all know that stats can be misused and that it is important to understand the methods that were used, their samples, the framing of their questions, etc. — and above all their interpretation. Expressing belief in X can sometimes be at an abstract level that actually bears little or no resemblance in practice or subjective sympathies or many contexts, so further analysis and data are often needed to know how to interpret certain data.

              Having said that, I was worried that I was reading the views of a white scholar who may differ from others more closely tied to the Muslim religion, so I can appreciate that several and varied sources are necessary for a proper comparison and evaluation.

              First generation immigrants from very different cultures as a rule never truly assimilate with their host country, unfortunately. The differences are too often for too many simply too challenging, and all their personal histories and ties are still with their countries of origin.

              Second generations as a rule find it very difficult, too, because they do not have the same strength of ties to their parents’ country, and they have not yet found stable ties with their new country and often experience racism. Often they are torn between the two, and often they are in conflict with their parents and their peers. Gangs typically result. Crime increases. It’s often in gangs that the second generation find an identity because they belong really to neither world.

              It is typically the alienated from the second generation, sometimes the first, who gets mixed up in criminal gangs, and some of them find their gang is an Islamist one that leads them to violence, terrorism.

              Unfortunately it takes typically three to four generations before assimilation begins to happen properly.

              That’s why I believe in the importance of doing our best to not alienate the immigrants any more than they already feel alienated. Falsely accusing them of sympathies with terrorists can only make the problem worse.

              I grant it is easier for me to approach Muslims in Australia than it might be for someone in a place where Muslims are a much larger presence and their different ways and close-knit congregations make them seem more threatening.

              I do accept that certain European countries (and certain places in the UK) have difficulties with assimilation of Muslims than as a rule we do in Australia or North America. I don’t think extremist right wing groups help, though.

              I also sympathize with your views on religion. Religion and religious belief is something I have been wanting to understand better over time and I am continuing to learn more about that. I hope to post again on more recent readings.

              But one thing: I don’t believe people just read a book and decide as a simple consequence to do something completely out of character. Socialization and lots of stuff comes into play. That’s not how religion works, or how human nature works.

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