The teddy bear scandal put Islam on the front pages again as a religion whose practitioners are so insecure that they cannot accept anything that they might perceive as critical or demeaning. As have most conservative bloggers, I’ve written periodically about Islam’s misogyny, its cultural insecurity, its intolerance, etc. I’ve quoted my cousin the prison chaplain, who says that Islam is a huge sell in prisons because it doesn’t demand of the converts any change in behaviors. Instead, it allows them to justify and continue with their original criminal behaviors on the ground that they are appropriate acts towards non-Muslims.
I’ve also slowly been coming to the conclusion that Islam is not a moral religion as we in the Judeo-Christian West understand religion-based morality. The Old Testament is both a history stretching back to prehistoric times (since most Biblical scholars believe, for example, that the Bible’s telling of Noah’s Ark is the last act in an oral history stretching back hundreds, if not thousands, of years), and it is also a book of moral precepts that dictate man’s behavior towards other men. There is no doubt that men in the Bible slipped from the path God set before them, there is no doubt that some of God’s commands were frightening and violent (so much so that we still struggle with them today), and there is no doubt that many since the Bible have used the Bible to justify base behavior, not best behavior. The same holds true for the New Testament. While Jesus’ message is overwhelmingly one of love and compassion, there was certainly enough in it for those who sought a militant, aggressive Christianity to use the New Testament as their guide.
Nevertheless, almost from the moment the Bible, both Old Testament and New, became fixed, Christians and Jews of good will have struggled to analyze the morally questionable parts of the Bible in light of the overwhelmingly moral parts. (See, for example, the link I gave in the preceding paragraph, as well as this link.) As we move further forward in time, both Jews and Christians try ever more to tone down the passages that, instead of stating abstract moral principles, insist upon certain now-antiquated aspects of tribal law (such as killing witches or gays).
It’s been different since the very beginning with the Koran. As I pointed out in this post, the nature of the man behind the Koran is very different from the nature of the men behind the Bible. Moses sought freedom for his people; Jesus sought salvation for man kind. And Mohammad — well, Mohammad sought converts and tribal control. The Koran also shows someone very, very sensitive to rejection. More significantly, contrary to the Bible, Mohammad’s personal feelings on a given subject did not end up merely as narrative, they ended up as controlling doctrine.
What I just said is very abstract, so let me make in more concrete by talking about one of the Koranic stories and wrapping up with Robert Spencer’s conclusion about the larger implications of that story.
The story, as retold in Spencer’s masterful The Truth About Muhammad, is that of the Nakhla raid, which took place when Muhammad felt he had enough military power to take on his old enemies the Quraysh (who were enemies because they would not convert to Islam). Preliminarily, in connection with the Quraysh, it’s worthwhile remembering that it was as to them that Muhammad announced that the women and children of enemy tribes were to be defined by their tribal status, not their youth or sex, making them fair game for slaughter. As Spencer says (p. 98) “[f]rom then on, innocent non-Muslim women and children could legitimately suffer the fate of male unbelievers.”
As for the Nakhla raid itself, Muhammad did not participate. Instead, he instructed a lieutenant to spy on the Quraysh. Once the lieutenant got within range of the Quraysh, however, and decided it would be a shame not to kill as many of them as possible, despite the fact that any slaughter would occur on the last day of a holy period during which there was not supposed to be any killing. So, the Muslims killed and robbed.
Once the slaughter was complete, the lieutenant and his band headed home with their booty, having specifically reserved a fifth part for Muhammad himself. Muhammad was at first upset, both because he had not ordered a killing during the sacred month and because other Quraysh were pointing out that Muhammad’s prophecies seemed mostly geared to justifying banditry. However, as Spencer explains, when confronted by this discomforts, “another helpful revelation came from Allah,” this time saying that the Quraysh were so offensive in God’s eyes, that this trumped the holy month. Having received this useful ex post facto revelation, Muhammad was free to take the booty reserved for him.
Spencer’s take on the subject (p. 99) wraps back around to the point I made at the beginning of this post:
This was a momentous incident, for it would set a pattern: good became identified with anything that redounded to the benefit of Muslims, and evil with anything that harmed them, without reference to any larger moral standard. Moral absolutes were swept aside in favor of the overarching principle of expediency.
I am not saying, incidentally, that there are not millions of Muslims who behave morally in the way that we, living in the Judeo-Christian faith, understand morality. Whether they pull that morality from the Koran, from Judeo-Christian influences, or from their innate goodness and humanity, I do not know. I just know that there are enormous numbers of good people out there. However, unlike other religions, Islam encourages behavior that both the Bible, and Bibilical scholars, have tried to quash. And unlike other religions, Islam seems to have fewer scholars trying to explain or defend those passages in the Koran that seem to demand or justify immoral, rather than moral behavior (if moral behavior is understood as demanding the highest and best from man, towards himself and towards others).
As to the bad behavior that seems to be an inherent part of Islam, I’d like to give the last words in this post to Ian O’Doherty, writing for an Irish paper. (H/t: RD.) After giving a laundry list of Muslim outrage which has morphed into outrageous behavior, O’Doherty states a declaration of independence for those of us classified as Islamophobes:
And, of course, anyone who writes about this [“this” being the laundry list to which I referred] is immediately accused of being Islamophobic and racist.
Well, I am Islamophobic in the sense that I’m phobic towards the notion of treating women as third-class citizens, flogging people and killing them for having an independent thought.
I’m phobic towards the idea of killing Theo Van Gogh because he made a movie they didn’t like. I’m phobic towards killing a Japanese translator because he worked on the Satanic Verses.
I’m also rather phobic to the notion that the Muslim world has the right to riot and kill each other because of a few unfunny cartoons in an obscure Danish publication.
As regards the spurious accusation of racism which is bandied about against anyone who criticises Islam, let me make this clear — you cannot change the colour of your skin. Pigmentation is irrelevant. But you can dislike someone’s superstition and in Islam’s case, even among other superstitions, they are particularly horrible.
No, my Muslim friend, it’s your religion and your Sharia law I am criticising. It has nothing to do with the colour of your skin. And you know what? In a free democracy we still have the right to say things like that.