I know I spoke at length about the Cordoba House (the mosque/community center being constructed near Ground Zero,) the other day, but recently both Slate and Salon ran interesting articles on it, so I thought I’d revisit the topic again, though my focus this time will be a little different. One of the posters on the Slate article stated that anyone saying that Islam is a religion of peace is totally misunderstanding its purpose, that it is, at its heart a violent religion intended to bring people under the umbrella of its faith by the sword. I’d like to take a moment and unpack this post, to see what kinds of issues it raises.

First of all, I find it incredibly irritating when people, especially laypersons, take it upon themselves to make grave and potent pronouncements about the nature of a given religion. They often make sweeping statements that are, ostensibly, meant to clear the waters and make it absolutely clear what a particular religion stands for. My question is, who gives them this authority? I’m not saying that clerical folk should have more authority on religious matters than others, but I do think that they often have the sort of training that allows them to wrestle with these questions in a way that most laypeople cannot or do not (hence their positions as laypeople.) Even more importantly, making broad statements about any religion, be it Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or what have you, is folly, as they are almost all constituted by many different denominations and branches that inter pet things incredibly differently, thus making any generalization an out-right falsehood, and a dangerous one at that.

Second of all, I would like to just point out the foolishness of putting Islam into a contradictory position with Christianity. Yes, that faith has some bloodspots on its rap sheet, but so does Christianity. The Crusades, the Reformation (and the Counter-Reformation,) to say nothing of the conflicts in Northern Ireland and elsewhere between Christians. How many thousands, nay millions, of Christians have been cruelly and brutally murdered by other Christians? One need look no further than the Bible to see examples of violence. Although Christ once said turn the other cheek, he also said that he brought not peace but a sword. Which one are we to believe? Is Christianity a religion of peace or one of war? Should Christians go to war to ensure that everyone falls under their faith? Obviously those in the past have thought so (and not the not-so distant past, either,) and there are still some who do so today. Clearly, Islam is not the only religion whose foundations were splashed with the blood of “innocents.”

My point is, basically, that saying that Islam is a religion based on violence is yet another gross over-statement, designed to make everyone believe that Islam is somehow antithetical to American civilization and culture, which is supposedly so evolved and enlightened. Tell that to the Tea Partiers and the religions fanatics on the Right, who constantly advocate for the oppression of those who don’t fit into their notion of “values” or “holiness.” I’ll close with a brief paraphrase of one of Jesus’ most famous sayings: “Before you remove the splinter from your brother’s eye, remove the log from your own.” Those on the Right would do well to consider that.