I certainly get that impression with the never-ending news stories of jihads and fatwas, not to mention the daily news stories that always seem to make the connection between “muslim” and "terrorist"in one way or another. Is there any truth to that impression? I know that most major religions have a certain amount of absolutism and intolerance built into them in regards to competing religions (our religion is one one real truth), or even other denominations of the same religion. I’m also well aware that Christianity doesn’t exactly have a sterling history of tolerance for other beliefs. Is my impression of Islam appearing more violent than other religions a product of my imagination from the nightly news, or is there some validity to that impression?
I think it is important that you separate the radical fringe from the religion. I do not believe your normal Muslim/Christian/Jew is going to endorse violence. It’s the ones that misintepret the words of their Holy books, the ones that believe they are doing God’s work, that you need to look out for.
It’s two things, I think.
First, yes, it’s a product of Western, especially U.S., news coverage. The media DOES tend to paint an us-versus-them picture with regards to foreigners and minorities; it’s subtle, but it’s there.
Secondly, it’s an accident of history. You just happen to be living in a period of time when the Islamic core countries are going through a lot of political upheaval; it’s not really a product of the religion, it’s just than in the 20th century the powers that be created a nice little nexus of imperialism, dictatorship, economic inequality, elitism and the like that made those states, well, violent and unstable.
Had you been alive between, say, 1618 and 1648, when Christian Europe killed approximately fifteen to twenty percent of its entire population in a religious war, I would imagine Christianity would have looked very violent indeed. But as it happens, you didn’t; you lived in the late 20th and early 21st century, when Christian internecine wars are rare. Two hundred years from now the tables may be reversed again, or maybe it’ll be Hindus killing each other.
Unless I’m very much mistaken, Islam is also a younger mass religion than Christianity, and hasn’t had the inital ‘help’ of the Roman army in stomping out some of it’s more extreme offshoots. Plus these things go in ups and downs anyhow. Give it a couple more generations and see how it works out…
I always describe Islam as being in its awkward violent adolescence. Christianity had its period, Judaism too.
Islam is a religion of peace the same way medieval Christianity was. Part of the problem is that there is no Pope-like head honcho so each Imam is free to issue his own fatwah and doctrinal interpretation. The other part of the problem is Muslim unwillingness to call the radical elements to the carpet.
One hundred years ago the Anarchists were the Al-Qaeda of their day. While they didn’t commit anything as large-scale as 9/11/2001, Anarchists did kill the King of Italy, The Empress of Austria/Hungary, the former governor of Idaho, The President of the United States; detonate a bomb outside of the NY Stock Exchange and inside the LA Times; as well as a few other stunts that don’t as readily come to mind.
These outrages led the leaders and punditry of the day to rightly demonize the Anarchists, but also to view the industrial working class as a powder keg, since the Anarchists claimed to be doing these acts on their behalf.
You can look for the average Moslem to be a clitorectomizing, suicide-bombing bigot, and find plenty of evidence; but in 1905 plenty of people viewed the working class as a bunch of dirty, drunken brutes. In neither case is this accurate or constructive.
Congratulations on a spectacular self-contradiction. What you describe is the same issue, identified in two different ways - the autonomy of localised Islamic structures, and the inability (not unwillingness) of the majority to prevent radical elements from emerging.