An Outsider’s Perspective

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

I am very interested in early Church history…it is sort of an “intellectual hobby” of mine. In keeping with this interest, I am currently reading the book, Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years. It is a very interesting read.

And as I was reading, I came across this section – “Christianity and Islam” – and I was blown away. I wanted to reproduce part of it for you:

Out-of-control clergy, religious demagogues with their consecrated militias, religious parties usurping the functions of the states…It all sounds like the worst stereotypes of contemporary radical Islam, in Iran and Somalia, Iraq and Lebanon. And then, as now, the problem lay not in any characteristics of the religion itself, of its doctrines or Scriptures, but in the state’s inability to control private violence. Just a century after the conversion of the Roman empire, Christian churches were acting precisely on the lines of the most extreme Islamic mullahs today. This in itself suggests that none of the violence or intolerance commonly seen in modern-day Islam is, so to speak, in the DNA of that religion but just reflects particular social and political circumstances. (p. 30)

This is precisely what Muslims have been saying ad nauseum, but it is frequently dismissed as “Muslim taqiyya.” The Islamophobes are constantly saying that the violence seen in some Muslim areas and communities is indicative of Islam’s DNA, to use Philip Jenkins’, the author of Jesus Wars, term. But an outsider, a scholar of Christian history, says the same thing.

Bill Maher, in his film “Religilous,” had a number of Muslims in his film, and when he asked them about the violence done in the name of Islam, they all said, “Politics.” He made it seem like they were all conspiring to say the same thing, that there are political and other motivations behind the violence done in Islam’s name, in order to “hoodwink” non-Muslims. Well, Jenkins seems to vindicate the notion that in many cases, the violence done by Muslims is not because of Islam, per se, but of “particular social and political circumstances.”

This is not to excuse the acts of violence done in the name of Islam…far from it. Islam demands that I stand up against any evil and speak out against any wrong, even if it be against Muslims. And I have tried to do so consistently. But, it is just interesting to read this perspective in a context that is wholly divorced from the issues of Islam and violence: namely the book Jesus Wars. And it further confirms in my mind that those who are constantly attacking Islam as “violent” and “evil” are either completely ignorant of Islam and its history, both ancient and modern, or intellectually dishonest.

Definitely check out his book and buy it. I am loving it already, and it is not because of this paragraph about Islam. It is a genuinely excellent read…and I’m not even done yet!


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