Islam, Christianity and Violence

I have heard it said that Islam is a violent religion. I have been told that the Qur’an legitimises violence and that the interpretation put on the message of the Qur’an by those called Islamic terrorists does not distort the message of the Qur’an.

I don’t know enough about Islam or the Qur’an to speak with authority. However, it seems to me that for every argument that Islam is a religion of the sword there are equally well constructed arguments that it is a religion of peace. Here are a few …..

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kabir-helminski/does-the-quran-really-adv_b_722114.html (cf: http://www.barakainstitute.org/articles/is-islam-a-religion-of-the-sword)

http://islam.about.com/od/terrorism/f/terrorism_verse.htm

http://www.islamicwritings.org/quran/peace/does-the-quran-teach-violence/

http://acc.teachmideast.org/texts.php?module_id=2&reading_id=62&sequence=9

There are also those who have made comparisons between the Bible and the Qur’an. Here is one example  …

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124494788

Ultimately, almost every argument has a counter argument. So, for example, this is a response to Patrick Sookhdeo’s Article (July 30, 2005) in London’s The Spectator , “The Myth of a Moderate Islam” …

http://www.islam101.com/terror/mythViolence.htm

I am no expert, but all I hear in these articles is argument and counter-argument which seek to portray Islam as violent, or non-violent. I cannot easily determine right from wrong.

I do know something, however, about the Bible and I have spent a lot of time studying it over the years. I am a Christian and I have something of an implicit faith that God speaks through the Bible. I am also convinced that the message that God wants us to hear through the scriptures is one of love, forgiveness, grace and faith and that God’s kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness and faith. I pray for that kingdom to become a reality here on earth.

However sure I am that this is the message of the Bible – both Old and New Testaments – I have to accept that the Bible is a book full of stories, many of which contain violence. It is a book which contains instructions, which it claims come from God, which speak of violent retribution. I believe that I have integrity when I say that God’s kingdom is a kingdom of justice and peace. But my scriptures contain a great deal of violence, some of which, even in context, appears to be justified by the writers of the text.

So, for example, there is the story of Samson who in Judges 16 kills himself in order to take out a large number of his enemies. His actions appear to be justified in the story, yet they are essentially the same as many of the suicide terrorists of today.

There are instructions from God – see Deuteronomy 7: 1-2, Deuteronomy 20:10-17 and Numbers 31:17-18.

Then there are Jesus’ own words in his parables … see for example, Luke 19: 26-27. Of course, this is only a parable, a story, and these are the words of a character in the story, but ….  there are also Jesus’ words: ‘I have not come to bring peace but a sword.’ (Matthew 10:34).

There are many more references to killing and violence throughout the Bible. It is possible, because of its relative length compared to the Qur’an, that there are considerably more references in the Bible to violence and killing than there are in the Qur’an.

If I believe that I have integrity when I argue that Christianity is not a violent religion, but a religion of peace and justice, forgiveness and grace … then surely it is possible that when a Muslim friend argues that Islam is not a violent religion, this is also the case – he or she is speaking with integrity.

There is much that is different between Islam and Christianity.

As a Christian, I am firmly convinced that, in Christ, God is reconciling the world to himself; that God, in Christ, takes into himself the sin of the world, my sin. As a Christian, I believe that, in Christ, God is with us, Emmanuel, not remote and ‘other’.

But I really don’t have any firm grounds for claiming that Islam is a more violent faith than Christianity. I need to listen to, and believe, the majority of Muslims who tell me that their faith is a faith of peace and not of the sword.

 

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