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Is Islam inherently violent?

The question in my mind isn’t ‘Are Muslims bad?’. Clearly that is not the case. The real question is ‘Is Islam bad?’

london-muslim-extremist-1-2-09It’s impossible for me to analyse Islamic doctrine with any accuracy given my general ignorance on the topic.

But it seems as though it is also impossible for Muslims to come to an agreement on what Islam really teaches. So if the experts themselves differ markedly on what Islam teaches, is it possible to make a judgment on the inherent goodness of Islam? I think it is.


Does the Islamic religion truly support peaceful coexistence with ‘infidels’? My best guess at this point is ‘No, Islam (not Muslims!) is inherently violent.’ Clearly there is enough in their scriptures for some Muslims to embrace violence. However what is more persuasive for me is an analysis of the way in which Islam began.

Muhammad began his new religion when he was 40. He died some 20 years later. For half of that time, between the ages of 50 and 60, he ordered around 100 military expeditions. That is almost one a month for 10 years! Some of those were defensive, some aggressive and some were born out of poverty. Either way, this is an unusually violent start for a ‘peaceful religion’. Islam was born out of war where it was oft times the aggressor.

The comparison with Christianity couldn’t be more stark. The early Christians were persecuted like the early Muslims. But the early Christians did not take up arms with the Apostles leading the charge. The opposite happened. The Christian leaders gave up their lives to the aggressors.  The early Christians followed their example.  And Christianity flourished.

Islam flourished too – but under the cover of military aggression and military success. Christianity flourished as a result of ‘turning the other cheek’.

“For more than thirteen hundred years Muslims have modeled their lives after their prophet Muhammad. They awaken every morning as he awakened; they eat as he ate; they wash as he washed; and they behave even in the minutest acts of daily life as he behaved.”

If Muhammad is the role model for faithful Muslims, is it surprising that we see a continuation of military violence? I am not arguing that Muhammad was a terrorist or that he committed war crimes. I am arguing that Islam was born in violence and spread throughout the world through violence. Christianity was born in persecution and spread throughout the world through peaceful preaching and self sacrifice. I understand both to be historical facts and not an issue of doctrinal dispute.

I am not sure how much to read into the many wars that were conducted by Muslims in the following centuries. Certainly Muslims were sometimes the aggressors. Were these ‘religious wars’ or where they simply political wars with power hungry men seeking more power and wealth? Christian countries conquered much of the world usually at the point of a sword or gun. Perhaps there is not much difference between the two.

What should be our response if Islam is inherently violent? On a personal level it is simple. We do what true Christians have always done – love others and turn the other cheek. At a government level it is a little more complicated. Banning Islam is wrong. Persecuting Muslims is wrong. Punishing violence is a must. And we have laws already that do that.

As for immigration, that is even more complex. If Islam is inherently violent then there can be no question that allowing more Muslims into one’s country is likely to result in more violence. And it seems very difficult, even for those within the Muslim community, to determine which Muslims are presently or will become radical extremists.

I don’t think it is unreasonable for countries to take extreme measure like greatly limiting immigration options to Muslims. I would liken it to the recall of baby formula when some lunatic has said he has poisoned one bottle. Thousands of tins are recalled and eliminated because we do not want one child to be hurt by the tainted bottle. This is what is now happening for Muslim immigration. It is possible, perhaps probable, that one extremist is hiding among 100,000 immigrants. If that one person can kill 40 with a suicide belt, is it not prudent to guard against that?

I don’t see this as racism. At least it is not for me born out of a dislike for Muslims. It is simply acknowledging the reality that Islam (rightly or wrongly understood) has been shown to spawn some very violent adherents and was itself born in violence.

It is unfortunate for the many peaceful Muslims that their global opportunities are eroded by their brothers and sisters who hold a violent ideology. This is a very unfair outcome for the 100s of thousands of peaceful and now dislocated Muslims around the world. But the blame should rest on the shoulders of extremists who claim to be Muslim. Perhaps this unfairness will motivate peaceful Muslims and their leaders to strongly defend peaceful Islam. That is what I think is needed.

Or perhaps it will turn more peaceful Muslims into extremists and make the problems worse.

Interestingly, such persecution and exclusion of Christians in the past has actually caused Christianity and the peace it embraces to spread around the world. If the collective actions of the nations of the world to limit immigration to Muslims results in more violence in the name Allah then I think we have further evidence that Islam is indeed inherently violent and peaceful Muslims are peaceful in spite of their religious beliefs.

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