Six Scenes of My Interactions with Muslims: The Good, the (Mostly) Bad, and the Ugly

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I’m an equal opportunity critic of religions. But when it comes to human rights, I’m far more concerned about Islam.

I'm a liberal, but not a knee-jerk one. I’m an atheist, but not one who thinks all religions are equally problematic or that they should be judged by the violent behavior of religious extremists. I think the Bible and Quran both contain ridiculous passages and reasonable passages. Religious fundamentalists can quote portions of their holy books to justify loving their neighbor or killing their (infidel) neighbor.

But at the risk of being called Islamophobic, I think Islam is the worst and most dangerous religion by all human rights standards.

I’ve been more critical of Christians than Muslims because I live in South Carolina, where politicians try to meld public policy with Christianity and worry about sharia law being used in our legal system. If I lived in a Muslim country, I’d be more openly critical of Islam and sharia law — unless I had good reason to fear for my life. The threat of death is part of the problem, but it’s not what I think is the root of the problem — the real issue is their pervasive commitment to reading the Quran literally.

I’ll illustrate with six memorable events in my direct and indirect dealings with Muslims and ex-Muslims:

1. In 1987, a math colleague from India asked me for a letter recommending him to teach at a university in Saudi Arabia. Though the school’s math department recommended him, its administration said no. He later learned that he was rejected because of my Jewish name. He didn’t even know I am Jewish.

2. In 1990, I visited Egypt and met with a math colleague. When he took me to his home, his wife ran from the room because her face was uncovered. After she served us tea, he suggested that we go sightseeing. When I asked if his now-covered wife would join us, he said no because he feared people might throw rocks at her for being outside with two men. (Egypt was one of the more secular Middle Eastern countries at the time).

3. After meeting Dr. Taslima Nasrin at an atheist conference in 2002, I invited her to give a couple of talks in Charleston sponsored by the College of Charleston and the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry. Since 1994, this courageous human rights activist has been living under a fatwa issued by Bangladeshi Muslim clerics calling for her death because she criticized Islam’s repression of women in her novel, Shame. Our secular humanist group roundly applauded Taslima. However, College of Charleston officials, primarily some members in the Religious Studies program, criticized me for recommending her as a speaker because she was so negative about Muslims. My response was, “Duh! What did you expect from someone under a fatwa?” I understood their post-9/11 concerns because of harassment of Muslim students on campus — I, too, want to avoid stereotyping, but not by hiding the truth.

Written By: Herb Silverman
continue to source article at faithstreet.com

64 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting that you met such extreme form of Islam in Egypt. I was there several times in the 1990s. The majority of women on the street were uncovered. I saw maybe one woman in three with hijab, but NO ONE with a covered face. And I met many Egyptian women — unveiled, of course — active in public life. I certainly do not dispute your aversion for Islam. I share it completely. I am only surprised you use pre-revolutionary Egypt as an example. We obviously had very different experiences.

  2. I think It’s imperative to distinguish between the individual and religion.

    The former being unique and pristine at birth, and bursting with potential, while the latter is a human construct designed to employ emotional blackmail to control the former.

    Which raises the question, designed by whom?

    I submit, by weak individuals who recognize their limitations and need to curtail the potential of others.

    A person with self respect and dignity knows and accepts their limitations, is able to respect, and indeed enjoy, the qualities they see in others, and has no need for the props, trinkets and blandishments of religion, or to bring others down.

    My suspicion, and by force of reason it can be nothing more, is that for the most part the founders of the sundry religions were what would today be recognized as manipulative neurotics, but who at the time were thought of as visionaries.

    And so it’s not surprising that Emperors and their ilk, recognizing religion’s manipulative potential, have, down the ages, hijacked them for their own purposes.

    Be that as it may, I think Herb Silverman’s contributions to the party are perceptive and amusing; long may he continue to percieve and amuse.

  3. stafford Gordon, No 2 I think It’s imperative to distinguish between the individual and religion.

    Don’t see how you can. I was brought up within Catholicism and I’d have a real job constructing an image of my parents, or my teachers or my schools, without Catholicism informing everything. It’s much the same as the Christian cliché, about loving the sinner but not the sin. That depends on the sin being a one-off, rather than a “lifestyle choice,” or pathological behaviour pattern.

    • In reply to #3 by eejit:

      stafford Gordon, No 2 I think It’s imperative to distinguish between the individual and religion.

      Don’t see how you can. I was brought up within Catholicism and I’d have a real job constructing an image of my parents, or my teachers or my schools, without Catholicism informing everything. It’s…

      I take your point, but I always try to separate the two.

      Just yesterday, I bumped into an acquaintance who’d met his wife when they were both at Oxford, and she was a “lapsed” Catholic and fervent freethinker.

      Now, after twenty seven years of marriage, she having reverted, sent him to Coventry and caused their daughter to do the same, – she won’t even answer him when he asks her how her day went at school, – he’s finally realized, that much against his profoundest wishes and needs, he’s simply got to live somewhere else; It’s heart breaking!

      On one occasion his daughter actually said to him, I wish you were a Catholic dad.

      Okay, perhaps his wife has simply stopped loving him, and he’s just making excuses, but all the evidence points to it being otherwise.

      Now, I bow to your superior knowledge of the subject and ask, who, or what is to blame?

      I don’t think it’s her, and it is certainly not the daughter.

      • In reply to #7 by Stafford Gordon:

        I don’t know how to begin to answer your question. Of the five of us, me and my siblings, two practise, three are more or less non-believers. I went back to it when my children were small, thankfully that only lasted a year or two, and it showed me two things, firstly how deeply ingrained it is, and secondly how truly incredible it is, in the literal sense of being unable to be believed.

        I still have an abiding interest in religion, and whenever I enter a medieval cathedral, hear sacred music, or dip into the King James Version, I often wish that I could believe, and thus merge my spirit with the sacred stone, solemn words and sonorous music. But, it ain’t going to happen, the trumpet won’t sound again.

        I don’t suppose that I have actually clarified anything, but then, the byways of the human mind, are crooked, narrow and mysterious.

        PS How dreadful for your friend, and how tragic that a woman with the brains and determination to get into Oxford, and the benefits of an Oxford education, should in middle age fall back into primitive atavism. Wish him well, I’m sure, from everyone on this website.

        • In reply to #12 by eejit:

          In reply to #7 by Stafford Gordon:

          I don’t know how to begin to answer your question. Of the five of us, me and my siblings, two practise, three are more or less non-believers. I went back to it when my children were small, thankfully that only lasted a year or two, and it showed me two things, f…

          Thanks for your sentiments regarding my friend.

          Thanks also for telling me about your experience and insights concerning the phenomenon Catholicism.

          I say phenomenon, because I don’t think anyone really understands the effect religions have on people, other than that they perhaps tap into deep rooted needs of some sort which we all share; well, may be not all of us.

          However, in my experience, it’s unusual, and indeed refreshing, for someone with your background to be able or willing to talk about it with such alacrity; thanks for that too.

          But I’m still none the wiser with regard to where the blame lies for my friend’s predicament; all I can do is hazard a guess. And guess what…

  4. The sayings and actions of the Prophet Mohammed are found in the hadith. This directive is found in Sahih Al-Bukhari 9:57: “Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him.” Can someone please find just one Muslim scholar who disagrees with the Prophet?

  5. Most Christians and Jews don’t believe the Bible literally. The root of the problem with Muslims is that they do take the Quran literally. Herb Silverman

    The problem is not taking the Holy Book literally, in the cases mentioned. The issue is taking it seriously, whether for good or ill.

    Did the commands to ‘love your neighbour’ and ‘turn the other cheek’ prevent Christian nations from waging the most murderous wars in the history of the world? The prejudice shown by a university administration in Saud Arabia is not quite on the scale of the Holocaust in Christian Germany.

    The ability of Christians to impose Judaeo-Christian values on Americans is not restrained by any inherent superiority of these values, but by the strength of secularism in keeping them in check. The similarly barbarous and superstitions traditions of Islam persist to the extent they do because of the political and economic circumstances that allow them to flourish. What Herb should thank for Americans having a more tolerant society than Saudi Arabia is secularism, not the supposed lesser virulence of Christianity.

    • In reply to #5 by aldous:

      Most Christians and Jews don’t believe the Bible literally. The root of the problem with Muslims is that they do take the Quran literally. Herb Silverman

      The problem is not taking the Holy Book literally, in the cases mentioned. The issue is taking it seriously, whether for good or ill.

      Did the co…

      Your example of Nazi Germany is flawed. While Germany may have defined itself as a Christian nation, the Holocaust was not motivated by Christian teachings. In other words, it may have been self-identifying Christians carrying out the actions but killing Jews is not a tenet of Christianity. I was raised by fundamental Baptist parents and I struggle not to be spiteful towards that religion but I was not brainwashed to murder non-Baptists.

      Also, horrible violence has been done in the name of Christianity (the Crusades, among other examples) but the past isn’t a threat. Organized Christian religions today are not calling for widespread violence. Silverman is speaking about religions in existence right now and I would completely agree with him.

      • In reply to #43 by Cybrarian:

        In reply to #5 by aldous:

        Your example of Nazi Germany is flawed. While Germany may have defined itself as a Christian nation, the Holocaust was not motivated by Christian teachings.

        I don’t think so

        On April 26, 1933 Hitler declared during a meeting with Roman Catholic Bishop Wilhelm Berning (de) of Osnabrück:

        “I have been attacked because of my handling of the Jewish question. The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc., because it recognized the Jews for what they were. In the epoch of liberalism the danger was no longer recognized. I am moving back toward the time in which a fifteen-hundred-year-long tradition was implemented. I do not set race over religion, but I recognize the representatives of this race as pestilent for the state and for the Church, and perhaps I am thereby doing Christianity a great service by pushing them out of schools and public functions.”
        

        >
        The transcript of this discussion contains no response by Bishop Berning. Martin Rhonheimer does not consider this unusual since, in his opinion, for a Catholic Bishop in 1933 there was nothing particularly objectionable “in this historically correct reminder”.[24]
        >
        The Nazis used Martin Luther’s book, On the Jews and Their Lies (1543), to claim a moral righteousness for their ideology. Luther even went so far as to advocate the murder of those Jews who refused to convert to Christianity, writing that “we are at fault in not slaying them”.[25]
        >
        Archbishop Robert Runcie has asserted that: “Without centuries of Christian antisemitism, Hitler’s passionate hatred would never have been so fervently echoed…because for centuries Christians have held Jews collectively responsible for the death of Jesus. On Good Friday Jews, have in times past, cowered behind locked doors with fear of a Christian mob seeking ‘revenge’ for deicide. Without the poisoning of Christian minds through the centuries, the Holocaust is unthinkable.”[26] The dissident Catholic priest Hans Küng has written that “Nazi anti-Judaism was the work of godless, anti-Christian criminals. But it would not have been possible without the almost two thousand years’ pre-history of ‘Christian’ anti-Judaism…”[27]
        >
        The document Dabru Emet was issued by over 220 rabbis and intellectuals from all branches of Judaism in 2000 as a statement about Jewish-Christian relations. This document states,

        "Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon. Without the long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence against Jews, Nazi ideology could not have taken hold nor could it have been carried out. Too many Christians participated in, or were sympathetic to, Nazi atrocities against Jews. Other Christians did not protest sufficiently against these atrocities. But Nazism itself was not an inevitable outcome of Christianity."
        

        >
        According to American historian Lucy Dawidowicz, antisemitism has a long history within Christianity. The line of “antisemitic descent” from Luther, the author of On the Jews and Their Lies, to Hitler is “easy to draw.” In her The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945, she contends that Luther and Hitler were obsessed by the “demonologized universe” inhabited by Jews. Dawidowicz writes that the similarities between Luther’s anti-Jewish writings and modern antisemitism are no coincidence, because they derived from a common history of Judenhass, which can be traced to Haman’s advice to Ahasuerus. Although modern German antisemitism also has its roots in German nationalism and the liberal revolution of 1848, Christian antisemitism she writes is a foundation that was laid by the Roman Catholic Church and “upon which Luther built.”[28]

      • In reply to #43 by Cybrarian:

        In reply to #5 by aldous:

        Your example of Nazi Germany is flawed. While Germany may have defined itself as a Christian nation, the Holocaust was not motivated by Christian teaching

        Wrong. The holocaust was based on Christian bigotry going back at least to the inquisition. Based on the idea that Jews “killed Christ” see the movie Constantine’s Sword

      • In reply to #43 by Cybrarian:

        Organized Christian religions today are not calling for widespread violence.

        As we know, Christianity is the Religion of Peace. In theory, that is. The theory doesn’t have much effect on the practice. Hypocrisy is what enables them to talk peace and carry out war. George W Bush was a leader in that field.

        Islamists do some hopping up and down and shouting ‘Allah akbar’ but Christian drone pilots just have to keep their eyes on the screen and do the killing calmly and in cold-blood.

  6. I share Professor Silverman’s concerns about Islam and think he has been very restrained in setting out the experiences that have led him to become concerned about Islam as the currently most worrying religion in the world with respect to human rights. The bigotry, intolerance and arrogance of the adherents of this religion, especially its clerics, are the very antithesis of the qualities encouraged in a society enlightened by reason and science. It is sickening how an imam can preach the peacefulness of Sharia, which regulates the oppression of women, the assassination of apostates and of anyone who has “insulted” Islam, the stoning to death of gays and so on. It reminds me of that other world religion which, though distinctive for preaching love, regularly tortured and put to death those who were found to be at variance with its teachings when it enjoyed theocratic power during the Middle Ages. Surely a religion of peace and a religion of love would welcome each other with open arms and merge in the bonds of love and peace everywhere and for ever. The discrepancies between the words and the deeds are striking, are they not?

  7. The reason Islam poses a bigger problem for the world than Christianity is simple: There is not one Imam on this planet who believes the Koran is not an INERRANT revelation given by God to the Prophet. There are very few sophisticated Christian leaders who believe the Bible is a revelation from God.

  8. In large, I agree with what Herb Silverman is saying. One thing got me thinking, though.

    If Muslims want their religion to be viewed more favorably, they must forcefully and publicly condemn without qualification any violent strain of Islam regardless of what the Quran says.

    I know I have uttered similar statements in the past, but is this really fair? Isn’t this a form of guilt by association? Silverman does not phrase it exactly in that way, but often arguments like these at least insinuate that moderate Muslims have a duty to publicly protest and rally against Islamic fundamentalism. But, I can’t honestly find any rational reasons for why they would have a greater duty than anyone else to condemn fundamentalism. It’s not their fault if ignorant people associate them with fundamentalists just because they use the same religious label, is it? If atheists behave badly I feel no duty to publicly condemn these people. I think it would be equally absurd to demand that a liberal Christian in Europe would publicly condemn the Christian crackpots in USA. I consider myself a liberal but I don’t feel I have a moral obligation to publicly condemn left-wing lunatics (even though I often do exactly that). As said, isn’t this a form of guilt by association?

    That said, I think moderate and liberal Muslims (so far they even exist) are crucial in order to reform Islam into a religion compatible with modern western thought and morality. In fact, I think they are the only ones who have even a remote chance of making a change. Islam has to be reformed from within. Nonetheless, I think it’s irrational to demand or claim moderate Muslims have a duty to rally against fundamentalism. I mean, don’t we all have a duty to fight bad ideas? In my opinion, at least all people who claim to be moral human beings have a duty… While I don’t think moderate Muslims have a greater duty than anyone else to rally against fundamentalism, at the same time I strongly dislike moderate Muslims who dismisses Islamic fundamentalism out of hand. That is a logical fallacy as well. The “no true Scotsman” fallacy to be precise.

    EDIT: Although on the other hand, associating yourself with really bad people will inevitably cast a dark shadow on you as well. Imagine if a self-proclaimed Nazi, when confronted with the horrors of the Nazi ideology, would strongly oppose that this view of Nazism is the only viable one. He would claim Nazism can also be about peace, love and understanding. It would be very hard to take such a person seriously, and guilt by association would not be the first thought to hit my brain. But, where do we draw the line? When are belief systems “evil” enough for us to treat all people who associate themselves with such a belief system as bad people?

    • The only reason Islam still has a hold on the population is because it is the antithesis of peace and love. It rules by fear, threats, hate and murder- in many cases state sponsored.. It exemplifies to a tee all the shortcomings of the human animal, and illustrates just how thin the veneer of civilization actually is. It appeals to cavemen brute strength and dominating mentalities still within us and focuses power on a small group of men living off the toils of others, much like the monarchies of old, but with “magic”. There is nothing genteel about it, it is simply brutish. jcw

      In reply to #9 by Nunbeliever:

      In large, I agree with what Herb Silverman is saying. One thing got me thinking, though.

      If Muslims want their religion to be viewed more favorably, they must forcefully and publicly condemn without qualification any violent strain of Islam regardless of what the Quran says.

      I know I have uttered…

  9. after reading many articles in this website and watching many of Richards u-tube documentaries from the little I know about religion or evolution, evolution just happened by itself without intent, or intelligence,.
    Without any purpose, Evolution cannot create or control anything that has happened or will happen in the future .

    So completely ignoring an intelligent creator version , and concentrating on evolution as we know it, I would like an explanation for why this world is in such terrible chaos? Apparently evolution went wrong somewhere, not by choice or on purpose that would be impossible .
    .. we mankind are absolutely not responsible for anything that we do..Free Will is an illusion say Sam & Richard , where did thoughts come from to draw pictures in caves ? when man became civilized where did thoughts come from to create the idea of many gods in our minds.. eventually whittling them down to just one..!!!! is evolution really the cause of man thoughts? the idea of “an intelligent God” .. when man wrote . Torah .. New Testament, and the Koran those books were written by man influenced by evolutionary progress where all ideas and thoughts come from?! Being a part of any religion is not mans choice, even believing in a God.. is not our choice ,it’s either hundred percent true that EVOLUTION is the cause of all choices .. what is the point of blaming a non-existing God .. for everything that is wrong on the planet, can evolution.. lacking intelligence or purpose.. change the course of our future OR … There is no OR and it is not looking good.. It would appear that people of all religions can NOT stop doing what they are doing .. no Free Will .. unless evolution suddenly decides to give us a choice to stop all the crazy inhumane things we are doing in the name of a none existent God , NO that won’t work , evolution would need to have intelligence or a purpose for that to happen. is there an answer ?

    • In reply to #11 by crzylmy:

      unless evolution suddenly decides to give us a choice to stop all the crazy inhumane things we are doing in the name of a none existent God

      “Evolution” does not care about whether humans are crazy or not. If we get crazy enough though, we are likely to go extinct as a species. That’s all that matters from an evolutionary perspective. You ask why we treat each other and other animals so badly and are cruel and “evil” in so many ways. The answer is basically that these traits (or some underlying traits) made us survive, or at least they did not give us a big enough disadvantage to go extinct. To discuss how people should behave or treat each other from an evolutionary perspective is a quite pointless task. As said, the only thing that matters from an evolutionary perspective is whether we die or not and that’s why only cruel and wicked people use the evolutionary process as a model for moral behavior. It’s the exact opposite of moral behavior. A model that lacks any form of morality.

    • In reply to #11 by crzylmy:

      after reading many articles in this website and watching many of Richards u-tube documentaries from the little I know about religion or evolution, evolution just happened by itself without intent, or intelligence,.
      Without any purpose, Evolution cannot create or control anything that has happened o…

      Perhaps I’m reading something into your comment that wasn’t intended, but I think I detect a lament for the current state of the world. Am I right? This always prompts a knee-jerk reaction from me as I hasten to add that things were sooooo much worse in the past! Seven billion humans struggling for a place is not the best scenario, but it’s bliss in comparison to the violence and brutality of our forebears.

    • In reply to #11 by crzylmy:

      after reading many articles in this website and watching many of Richards u-tube documentaries from the little I know about religion or evolution, evolution just happened by itself without intent, or intelligence,.
      Without any purpose, Evolution cannot create or control anything that has happened o…

      You are a little incoherent here and I’m not sure what you’re driving at. Are you trying to make the case for a divine intelligence “out there’? Please be more specific in explaining what your point is so we can respond to it.

      And one of your observations, “what’s the point of blaming a non-existing God for all the problems on the planet” is a reiteration of one of the dumber things that believers accuse us of. Atheists DON”T blame God for all the problems. We blame stupid people for insisting on a benevolent god in the face of all the problems of the world.

  10. Perhaps moderate muslims could re-write the Koran, and bring it up to date with more modern/moderate thinking about respecting other beliefs – including non-belief – equality of the sexes in the law and in society etc. etc. Remove the nasty bits about stoning and apostasy. Something that would broaden the appeal. You know, Koran-2015, they could call it. After all, the bible went through something very close to it……

    • It will NEVER happen, because it would suggest the Mo got it wrong- which is defined as apostasy..jcw
      In reply to #14 by rod-the-farmer:

      Perhaps moderate muslims could re-write the Koran, and bring it up to date with more modern/moderate thinking about respecting other beliefs – including non-belief – equality of the sexes in the law and in society etc. etc. Remove the nasty bits about stoning and apostasy. Something that would bro…

    • In reply to #14 by rod-the-farmer:

      Perhaps moderate muslims could re-write the Koran, and bring it up to date with more modern/moderate thinking about respecting other beliefs – including non-belief – equality of the sexes in the law and in society etc. etc. Remove the nasty bits about stoning and apostasy. Something that would bro…

      However in the wrong hands it could turn out worse than the original; we all remember Blues Brothers 2000 and Star Wars episode one, and no one would want that.
      My view is that you don’t have to be religious to be a psychopathic monster, but it helps. Keep up the good work Herb.

  11. Great observations about muslims. Herb points are very true. Problem with large number of muslims is taking quran literally. Moderate muslims play around with the meanings of arabic poetry. Islam is most harmfull for society when it is used for government policies. There should be a complete seperation between mosque and state. Mosques mulla’s should be controlled also and required to go through science education. All religions have same issue christians have advanced a lot. due to early seperation of religion from state and same education for everyone. Muslims still have a long journey a head of them before they could be called human. Herb is right 90% of muslims are disgrace to human species.

  12. In reply to Nunbeliever #13
    I was hoping that some one could explain ..
    why we none believers put all the blame on a god we don’t believe exists …
    what a waist of time and energy..
    we should be more like the like ants they don’t care,who created them.

    • In reply to #19 by crzylmy:

      Who exactly is putting all blame on gods that we don’t believe exist? I have never heard an atheist blame god for anything. As you said, it would be absurd to blame an entity you don’t believe in for the troubles of this world.

  13. The 56 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, some of which signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, unanimously revoked that Declaration in 1990 in favour of the ersatz, bowdlerised Cairo Declaration (promoted by Iran to promote their own theocratic revolution). That document makes all human rights subservient to sharia law (and therefore not rights at all). Today, to be a Muslim is to adopt a position whereby you oppose universal human rights. There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. If you support human rights, you cannot also be a Muslim.

    • In reply to #20 by Stevehill:

      …Today, to be a Muslim is to adopt a position whereby you oppose universal human rights. There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. If you support human rights, you cannot also be a Muslim.

      I don’t understand this. Are you saying that those Muslims who do support human rights, equality and all that other gay stuff are not true Muslims? It seems antithetical to the goal of wanting Islam to reform and undergo the same kind of change Christianity has experienced in the past few hundred years to define it within such narrow terms. Any attempts to liberalize the faith, to cherry-pick the okay stuff and eschew the misogynistic, homophobic parts, by Muslims like these guys (Comic Book Guy voice: “Best…video…ever”) will fall at the first hurdle if everyone, from Abu Hamza to Richard Dawkins, says that to be a Muslim is to be x; only ever x, not y or z, just x.

      We should be supporting moderate Muslims, not denying their very existence.

  14. In reply to # 18 Nitya

    perhaps I’m reading something into your comment that wasn’t intended, but I think I detect a lament for the current state of the world. Am I right?
    No , not at all I truly believe Richard when he says Free Will is only an illusion I don’t concern myself with a situation I can not change . If there is no Free Will and no god ,no one can change a thing .

    • In reply to #21 by crzylmy:

      In reply to # 18 Nitya

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the existence or non-existence of free will, just behave in a manner that involves making ethical decisions. That’s all anyone can do. Our expected lifespan is most likely going to be in the mid-eighties so it’s wise to make the best of it in my opinion. We are very fortunate!

  15. Herb’s statement that 1000 years ago, Christians were “the biggest culprits” (meaning the murderers of those of other faiths), is almost certainly untrue. Assuming the phrase “1000 years ago” is a shorthand for a lengthy period of European history, an examination of a similar period of Islamic history reveals the vastly greater scale of murder.

    Christians

    David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson, (World Christian Trends AD 30-AD 2200, William Carey Library, 2001, p. 230, table 4-10) estimate that the number of Christians killed by Islamic militias of one kind or another at 9 million. Raphael Moore in History of Asia Minor put the number of people who died in wars by jihad at 50 million, but this is almost certainly an exaggeration and/or covers all the civilians who might have starved to death as a result of the destruction of crops, forced migrations, etc. This latter certainly accounts for a sizable percentage of the 1.5 million Armenians who died during the Turkish genocide of 1915 – 1920.

    On the subject of Muslim destruction of others’ lands, see also Emmet Scott (2012) Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The history of a controversy.

    It is too frequently forgotten that before Mohammed’s existence, most of North Africa and the Middle East, and of course Spain, were substantially Christian. Your readers might like to contemplate what factors would have brought about such a huge change of faith and culture.

    Hindus

    Koenard Elst (in Negationism in India, Voice of India, New Delhi, 2002, p. 34.) gives an estimate of 80 million as the number of Hindus killed in the total jihad against India. The name of the Hindu Kush mountains means something like “the death of Hindus.” More information can be obtained from http://www.hindunet.org/hindu_history/modern/hindu_kush.html

    This figure in the tens of millions is supported by the work of K.S.Lal (1973) Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1000-1800).
    Further support for this order of magnitude is from Durant, W. (1935). The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage. “The Mohammedan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. The Islamic historians and scholars have recorded with great glee and pride the slaughters of Hindus, forced conversions, abduction of Hindu women and children to slave markets and the destruction of temples carried out by the warriors of Islam during 800 AD to 1700 AD. Millions of Hindus were converted to Islam by sword during this period.” (p459).

    Buddhists

    David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson, (World Christian Trends AD 30-AD 2200, William Carey Library, 2001, p. 230, table 4-1) give an estimate of 10 million Buddhists killed as part of jihad, Jihad killed the Buddhists in Turkey, Afghanistan, along the Silk Route, and in India.

    Jews

    Relative to the big numbers above, the number of Jews killed in jihad is too small to significantly affect the total. The jihad against Jews in Arabia was highly effective, but the numbers were much lower than the millions elsewhere despite the anti-Semitism (in the anti-Jew sense) of the Qur’an.

    Zoroastrians

    I have not so far found a scholarly estimate for the number of Zoroastrians killed in Persia. However, the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Zoroastrians gives a lengthy account of the centuries long persecution (slaughter, forced conversions and Jizya payment) of the Zoroastrians which began immediately after Persia was conquered in 637 CE, (only 5 years after the death of M). Over the period of nearly 1400 years since the conquest of Persia, one can reasonably suggest that those killed there number in the low millions. In the 19th century, most of those still remaining in Persia fled to India.

    Sure, the Christians killing in the Middle Ages was huge but Herb’s view of history is too Eurocentric.

    • In reply to #28 by Peter Clemerson:

      Sure, the Christians killing in the Middle Ages was huge but Herb’s view of history is too Eurocentric.

      You sound like quite a scholar, Peter. It does occur to me, though, that you may just have lifted the whole thing from some actual scholar or crank. Do you have a link?

  16. Silverman says “If Muslims want their religion to be viewed more favorably, they must forcefully and publicly condemn without qualification any violent strain of Islam regardless of what the Quran says.”

    That’s right! But THEY DON’T/WON’T do it. It is for this reason that I cannot bring myself to trust any Muslim at all–not a professor of marine biology, not a wrinkled arthritic great-grandmother, not a sixteen-year-old girl born in Minneapolis–none.

    • In reply to #29 by 78rpm:

      It is for this reason that I cannot bring myself to trust any Muslim at all–not a professor of marine biology, not a wrinkled arthritic great-grandmother, not a sixteen-year-old girl born in Minneapolis–none.

      The term islamophobia was discussed in an earlier thread. Some say that it does note exist, and is merely used as a political weapon to avoid criticims. But, the attitude you describe here is a very clear case of islamophobia. In other words, irrational fear of Islam.

    • In reply to #29 by 78rpm:

      …It is for this reason that I cannot bring myself to trust any Muslim at all–not a professor of marine biology, not a wrinkled arthritic great-grandmother, not a sixteen-year-old girl born in Minneapolis–none.

      Good for you. Most people would be too embarrassed to admit they were intimidated by nerds, old ladies and little girls.

  17. In reply to Aldous

    Yes, one fairly frequently comes across the claim on the internet that Muslims have killed 270 million or some such figure during the last 1400 years. One such site is at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/bloggers/2078144/posts and another is at http://skeptic-mind.blogspot.co.nz/2011/09/290-million-victims-of-islamic-terror.html. There are others.

    The credible sources do not justify a number quite this big in my opinion as it includes claims in publications I did not cite of collateral deaths (sorry about the phrasing) resulting from the capture of Africans for the Arab slave trade based in Zanzibar, now part of Tanzania, and the western slave trade to the Americas. The author at freerepublic combines them and places them all at the door of the Arabs, “Islam ran the wholesale slave trade in Africa.” and claims 120 million deaths. As I understand the African slave trade, this statement is wrong, in the sense that the transatlantic slave trade had little to do with Islam as far as I am aware. In my post, I avoided such questionable arguments and have not referred to the Arab East African slave trade even indirectly.

    The author of the freerepublic site refers to several other publications so a year or so ago, I decided to see whether the cited documents supported the other figures.

    As listed in my earlier post, the sources do exist although they are not always very easy to find and one is improperly quoted.

    1. David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson, (World Christian Trends AD 30-AD 2200, William Carey Library, 2001, p. 230, table 4-10.)
      You can follow up this citation via http://www.nsd.uib.no/macrodataguide/set.html?id=47&sub=1

    2. Raphael Moore. History of Asia Minor. The phrase “Raphael Moore in History of Asia Minor puts the number of people who died in wars by jihad at 50 million” appears on many sites but this figure, although it could be true as stated, is incorrectly used. The site at http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/memoryof.htm makes it clear that this figure, an estimate of course, includes millions of Christians killed by both Turkish Muslims and the USSR Communist regime during the 19th and 20th centuries. Moore’s figures cover the Armenian and Greek slaughters (yes, there was a Turkish slaughter of Greeks in the 20th century also although we do not hear much about it. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_genocide and its bibliography for a quick introduction) and Stalin’s. I was wrong to quote the Moore figure prior to making a better search for its source and meaning. Thank you for the stimulus.

    3. Emmet Scott (2012) Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The history of a controversy.
      I have my own copy.
      The consequences of the Arab conquest of North Africa (devastation of North African agriculture and piracy in the Mediterranean) appear to have been ruinous for European/North African trade and the people of both continents.

    4. Elst, Koenard (2002) Negationism in India, Concealing the record of Islam, Voice of India, New Delhi.
      I borrowed this from La Trobe University Library, Australia but have my own copy of the relevant chapter 2 “Negationism in India”. Negationism is used in the sense of denial.

    5. K.S.Lal (1973) Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1000-1800)
      I have my own copy.
      You can read about this book at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_of_Muslim_Population_in_Medieval_India

    6. Durant, W. (1935). The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage
      I borrowed this book from Massey University, New Zealand

    7. David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson, (World Christian Trends AD 30-AD 2200, William Carey Library, 2001, p. 230, table 4-1).
      See 1. above.

    Despite my carelessness about the Raphael Moore source, the other sources collectively and mutually support the view that religiously inspired Muslims must be regarded as responsible for deaths measurable in eight or more probably nine digits over the last fourteen centuries. Its only when this is recognised as fact, albeit reluctantly, that it becomes possible to understand why the slaughter continues today. The current rate of murders despite the world’s cameras and newspapers is approximately 50 per day (See http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/) This rate for 1400 years would result in another 27 million.

    I don’t wish this to be the case. It just is.

    Peter Clemerson

    • In reply to #32 by Peter Clemerson:
      An real tour de force, or rather tour de source! A little known part of Islam’s violent record is the slave trade it carried on in Europe from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Slaves were lifted from all over the Mediterranean, England, Ireland, Norway, Iceland and even the coast of America.

      I have heard estimates that 750 000 people were lifted. Many were used as galley slaves in the fleets of the Barbary pirates, the women often found themselves in hareems, and others were sold throughout the Ottoman Empire. Slave markets persisted in the OE until the 20 Cent. White slaves, particularly women, were apparently highly prized status symbols.

    • In reply to #32 by Peter Clemerson:

      It appears that the author of the article is ‘Dr Bill Warner’ “the nom de guerre of Bill French, a university professor, businessman, and applied physicist, previously a member of the Technical Staff in solid-state physics at the Sarnoff Princeton Laboratories in the area of integrated circuit structures.”

      Whether or not he actually wrote the article himself is not clear since he is elsewhere said to be merely an ‘agent for a group of scholars’.

      It seems to me that you are the victim of an American jihad conspiracy theorist (or his backers) who bases his ‘research’ on some crackpot definition of ‘jihad’.

  18. i think that the problem here in the Middle East is that we have more people taking the Quran literally than people taking the Bible literally in countries like America. That is why you find this much oppression in some countries in the middle east (I’m Lebanese we barley have any of that). But as a reader of both the Quran and the Bible I have come to the conclusion that the two religions are equally violent and oppressive. Imagine if America was ruled by the Klu Klux Klan, or lets say someone who took the Bible literally. We would see slavery and women being put to death for losing virginity before marriage or someone being put to death for working on a Saturday. But a religion that i should fear is the Jewish religion (applied literally). Since Christianity takes the New Testament (which is widely contradictory to the old testament) more into consideration the “rules” in the old testament are not being applied in detail. But a religion that has the Old testament as a religious guide is a religion to be feared. (not being antisemitic here im just anti religious :p ). Thank the almighty Thor the people who take religions literally are a minority.

  19. All the bigotry, oppression and intolerance I’ve experienced in 40 years and for a wide variety of completely unjustified reasons have been mostly from Jewish and Christian people of the catholic and protestant variety… and on the other hand I’ve always found Muslim people to be generally respectful in most interactions I’ve had with them and I’m atheist although I don’t wear a badge…I’ve experienced more prejudice from many – all people for being a free thinking ‘female’ but never from the Buddhist people I know….
    Herb sounds completely judgemental of ‘one’ religion in particular and tars all its potentially good people with the same brush….most atheists don’t agree with sharia law but what does it serve to hate Islam more than Christian zealots or Zionist Jews….The fundamental elements of 3 religions are bigoted, harmful and prejudiced and you know it Herb…..some people love to demonise one thing while not looking in their own back yards and focus all the hate on that….but that wont work…because its fundamentally missing a huge point…..

  20. A great article. I feel it is time that people (mainly in the political sphere) took a serious look at the worth of Islam to a free and fair society. It would be great to be able to question without the usual tag of Islamophobia. How is it that we continue to let an ideology trump basic human rights?

  21. In reply to # 38 by Aldous

    Thank you for tracking down the likely identity of “Dr Bill Warner” from https://thejinnandtonic.wordpress.com/category/caliphate/page/4/.

    Now doubt he chose his nom de plume carefully. However, your choice of the term nom de guerre diminishes you. I am sure you will agree that he has killed nobody.

    I have watched several of his videos and I agree that he is very hostile to Islam. I accept your point that he is very probably the author of one, or possibly several, sites in which claims of 200+ million deaths by Muslims are made.

    However, this does not make me a victim of “an American jihad conspiracy theorist” unless the claims can be demonstrated to be false. It was precisely because of the size of the claims being made that I decided to find out if the quoted sources back them up. As I explained in post #32, the sources relating to the African slave trade are questionably interpreted (so I did not cite them) and another source, Raphael Moore, is being distorted so I said so.

    However there are several other sources which do make claims of huge numbers of deaths.

    The next obvious question is ‘Are the figures in these other source themselves credible’. Necessarily in works that summarise lengthy periods of history, they are secondary and in some instances tertiary. Here we come into a difficulty which could only be solved be each and every reader of these books obtaining copies of the primary texts which they reference and ascertaining whether these support claims of large numbers of deaths. This an impossibility, I am sure you would agree. We can not all become dedicated historians. One therefore has to make a judgement about the trustworthiness of the authors.

    One way to do this is to examine other texts completely unconnected with anything that Warner or the cited authors have written. I have done this and among others, I recommend books by the Egyptian historian Bat Ye-or, nee Gisel Orebi. She has her critics but in the works I have read, the primary sources she quoted support the view of Islam and its history as portrayed by the other writers.

    You might like to read Islamic Jihad by M A Khan or The Legacy of Jihad by Andrew Bostom who both quote numerous primary texts, including the Qur’an and Muslim scholars. Chapter 4 of the latter consists of 23 quotations from the Hadith justifying Jihad. The book is endorsed by the scholar and noted critic of Islam, Ibn Warraq.

    Even scholar Bernard Lewis, not a harsh critic of Islam, in his book The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, devotes chapter 2 The House of War to jihad, in which he writes “For most of recorded Muslim history, jihad was most commonly interpreted to mean armed struggle for the defence or advancement of Muslim Power…….The presumption is that the duty of jihad will continue, interrupted only by truces, until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule. Those who fight in the jihad qualify for rewards in both worlds – booty in this one, paradise in the next” (p27). He cites 6 verses from the Qur’an in support. I can see from my own copy of the Qur’an that his interpretation is valid.

    More primary and secondary sources are findable at http://www.Islammonitor.org/index.php?option=com_content&id=3312:islams-indian-slave-trade-part-i-in-islams-genocidal-slavery-

    One virtue of the Emmet Scott book Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The history of a controversy. is that it describes an academic dispute which draws on archaeology as much as on earlier texts. Thus, the evidence of the jihad is to be found in the ground.

    I accept your implicit point that we need to be on our guard against absorbing other people’s unresearched prejudices, but this is easily avoided by finding a variety of well researched works. They exist and should not be wilfully ignored if we want to understand what is happening in the world.

    Peter Clemerson

    • In reply to #48 by Peter Clemerson:

      your choice of the term nom de guerre diminishes you

      Peter,

      In post #38 the term appeared within a quotation (as the quotation marks might have told you). The biographical information is from Dr Bill Warner’s own website. If the ‘choice of the term nom de guerre’ diminishes anybody, it diminishes Dr Bill Warner himself. It was not chosen by me at all.

        • In reply to #59 by aldous:

          In reply to #50 by eejit:

          Superb scholarship, research and reasoning.

          You’ve had the wool pulled over your eyes.

          The wide range of sources, by no means drawn entirely from fundamentalist Christianity, and my own knowledge of history, lead me to believe that Peter is substantially correct in his assertions and estimates. Apart from rhetoric, and the trimming down of some figures,no one has produced any evidence to the contrary. It might not be nice to charactarise Islam as a violent religion, but as he says…it just is.

          • In reply to #60 by eejit:

            The wide range of sources, by no means drawn entirely from fundamentalist Christianity, and my own knowledge of history, lead me to believe that Peter is su…

            You show remarkable faith in accepting sources and quotations selected by ‘a businessman and applied physicist’ and his associates on the subject of the history of Islam. Wouldn’t historians be more qualified on historical subjects? Is’ Bill Warner’ an Islamophobic nutter? It’s the question he poses himself. As you might expect, he denies it. What do you think?

  22. To Nunbeliever Comment 37: Even granting that what I sense is, to use your word, “fear,” I don’t consider it to be irrational. Don’t jump on me with accusations, OK?

    And to Katy Cordeth Comment 39: I didn’t say I was intimidated; I just said I don’t trust them.

    • In reply to #52 by 78rpm:

      Don’t jump on me with accusations, OK?

      Well, don’t make stupid claims if you don’t want to be criticized. This is what you wrote: “I cannot bring myself to trust any Muslim at all–not a professor of marine biology, not a wrinkled arthritic great-grandmother, not a sixteen-year-old girl born in Minneapolis–none.”

      You can’t bring yourself to trust not only Muslim fundamentalists or Muslims extremists, but every single Muslim in the world. Clearly since you are offended by my comment you must have a really good reason for distrusting a billion people, who you know nothing else about than that they use the same religious label. Additionally, it would be one thing to talk about distrust with regard to a specific issue. For example, that you don’t trust that their view of reality is correct. But, you talk about them not being trustworthy in general. Or in other words, you don’t feel comfortable being around Muslims. So what is your really good reason? It’s because they don’t forcefully and publicly condemn all violence done in the name of Islam, and hence of course are not to be trusted. That is one very interesting illogical pathway. If that is not irrational, I don’t know what is.

      Regarding the term islamophobia. If someone claimed that he could not bring himself to trust any gays, not a single one of them. Would you find it reasonable to call that person homophobic? Or would you find it crucial to point out that distrust is not necessarily the same thing as fear, and hence it’s absurd to call it a phobia?

      My original response was, in part, tongue in cheek. It’s easy to make stupid blanket statements when you’re angry with something. I’ve done it many times myself. But, the fact that you are actively trying to defend your statement makes me think you were actually being sincere. Which is quite troubling.

    • In reply to #52 by 78rpm:

      I thought your ‘ don’t trust Muslims’ joke was quite funny. It’s even funnier if you’re serious. Maybe you live in a Muslim country and ‘don’t trust the natives’. Otherwise, you could be ‘trusting’ people at the supermarket checkout, the banker, the bus driver without even knowing they’re Muslim. Doesn’t that make life very awkward?

    • In reply to #52 by 78rpm:

      To Nunbeliever Comment 37: Even granting that what I sense is, to use your word, “fear,” I don’t consider it to be irrational.

      You cannot bring yourself to trust a single one….

      This is rational because….?

      And this is not part of our whole problem with intractable beliefs because…?

  23. I have limited social contact with muslims. Of the ones I have had any ‘close’ dealings with I have always found them to be humorous, courteous and hospitable. How many of them could be considered moderate or fundamental I don’t know. Some criticised other muslims for being sanctimonious or for being unislamic, rather like some xtians do to each other I have naturally more contact with those who profess to be xtians and on a few occasions found some xtians to be boorish, inhospitable and insufferable. I suspect if I had equal interactions with both groups I’d find some unremarkable similarities. Despite the fervour generated by the Koran and its zero scope for permitting change, a surprising number of muslims in modern and secular countries don’t pay it the attention it demands. A trend we should encourage. Attacking the fundamental ideologies of islam is fine in a debate where you are dealing with someone equipped to handle it, where rules of civility apply and where reason can be applied to arguments. That is not the case with the muslim on the street any more than it can be applied to the catholic on the street. Attack their core beliefs and you only provoke angry responses. Atheists and secular movements need a game plan to wind down religious zealotry not stoke it up.

    • In reply to #54 by Vorlund:

      That is not the case with the muslim on the street any more than it can be applied to the catholic on the street. Attack their core beliefs and you only provoke angry responses.

      One of the ripostes you get from religious people is that it’s ‘intolerant’ to attack their beliefs. They don’t get the first principle of free speech, which is that you must be prepared to accept attacks on your core beliefs. That doesn’t mean being subjected to a verbal assault. It means discussion between consenting adults.

      • In reply to #56 by aldous:

        In reply to #54 by Vorlund:

        One of the ripostes you get from religious people is that it’s ‘intolerant’ to attack their…

        I agree entirely and there has to be some discourse. I am not advocating we don’t tackle religious intransigence to avoid accusations of being intolerant or islamophobic (I’m sure you aren’t either), The average religio is not open to reason and I’ve yet to find one that will keel over as the result of a rational and forthright attack on their beliefs. I’m all for freedom of speech even if it is inclined to antagonise a minority. I’m also inclined to think that we should encourage a gentle move toward secularism to inocculate the majority against the more radical beliefs.

  24. In reply to # 61 by Aldous

    Aldous, you seem obsessed with Bill Warner rather than the sources. I list a number of scholars below whom I have cited in earlier posts. All are historians of one type or another, some of whom have been cited by Warner and some who have not. They all tell the same tale.

    Barrett and Johnson look like historians to me. Visit http://www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/documents/wct_martyrs_extract.pdf and look at the tables 4.3 and 4.5 and the huge bibliography. Although we can assume these authors are Christians, in the interests of objectivity, they list the number of Muslim martyrs also and put them at 80 million, roughly an order of magnitude more than the number of Christians they believe were killed by Muslims. I was unable to find the perpetrators in the article. Some mixture of fellow Muslims, Ghengis Khan and his successors, Christian crusaders, and Communist regimes, I would guess.

    Bat Ye-Or; She is a historian who writes about the Middle East.

    Elst: He is a wide ranging scholar with a PhD in Hindu revivalism from the Catholic University of Leuven , Belgium, although he describes himself as a secular humanist

    Durant: With a PhD from Columbia University, he was the author of 11 books on various aspects of history. He briefly taught philosophy at Columbia.

    Ibn Warraq. He is a historian who researches the origin of the Qur’an among other subjects. He endorsed Bostom’s book.

    Lal, K S. He was a professor of history at Jodhpur University.

    Lewis, Bernard: Here is some of his wikipedia page “He is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Lewis’ expertise is in the history of Islam and the interaction between Islam and the West, and is especially famous in academic circles for his works on the history of the Ottoman Empire”

    Scott: He is described as ‘an historian specializing in the ancient history of the Near East’ on the cover of his book.

    I don’t doubt that Warner has searched diligently on the internet for sources to support as big a number as possible but that does not invalidate any research that these authors have conducted using primary works. Bernard Lewis’ description of Jihad, quoted in my post #48 is virtually identical to Warner’s understanding of it, one that you called “crackpot” in #38.

    .

    • In reply to #62 by Peter Clemerson:

      you seem obsessed with Bill Warner rather than the sources.

      What do you think of Bill Warner and his selection of citations, his motives for making the selection and his interpretation of them? He denies being crazy or being an Islamophobe. What do you think of his reasoning and his capability for assessing evidence in this area? If he can reasonably be called a ‘crackpot’ an ignoramus and a bigot there’s no reason to follow his ‘advice’ on a list of what he considers essential reading?

  25. It would be about as wise to accept the definition of ‘jihad’ by an American nationalist extremist as it would be to accept the definition of Darwinian evolution by German nationalist extremists. Since the drive-by ‘crusader’ has dumped his truckload of counter-jihadist lore and departed (it seems), let’s consider what Bernard Lewis has to say on the meaning of ‘jihad’.

    At no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder. At no point do they even consider the random slaughter of uninvolved bystanders. (License to Kill: Usama bin Ladin’s Declaration of Jihad)

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