Islam is a religion of peace

I attended Leeds Atheist Society last week. At the event, they were screening the Intelligence Squared debate, “Islam is a religion of Peace”, which is available to stream online if you haven’t seen it.

Overall, though, I’m not sure I would bother. The arguments weren’t put particularly well on either side, although perhaps slightly better for the side against, which swung the audience from being slightly for the motion, to significantly against. I get the feeling that Ayaan Hirsi Ali, as great as she is, is primarily on there because she is an ex-Muslim who isn’t afraid to speak out, rather than the cogency of her arguments. Douglas Murray was a better speaker for against, but didn’t say too much. Despite the victory, I cannot help but feeling that if the late Christopher Hitchens had been with us, he could have delivered a simple unbeatable defence.

What was far more interesting was the discussion afterwards, in which I thought the arguments put forward were far stronger than those featured on the debate. I find arguments such as The Qur’an being directly the word of Allah and the fact that it’s very hard to misinterpret all 524 verses of intolerance in The Qur’an far stronger arguments than anecdotes about how a small minority of Muslims blew up the London underground or the Twin Towers.

Because of course, this is a very small minority. Yes, they were clearly Islamic extremists who perpetrated 9-11, but this was a handful of people in a country which has millions of Muslims – the majority of Muslims are peaceful people.

But it clearly isn’t because of Islam, it’s in spite of it. To understand this, you can’t judge the entire world population of Muslims by the actions of a small radical minority. You can only say this is accurate because when you go back to the core of the faith, you find facts like The Qur’an having 534 intolerant verses, and only 75 verses containing good stuff. Or look at Sharia law states which still have appalling treatment of women, homosexuals and non-Muslims.

It’s important to remember that when discussing such topics, we’re not talking about whether Muslims are peaceful. That is obvious – the overwhelming majority of them are, and although there is a radical minority, this is true of many groups. But the question of whether Islam is peaceful is a question and answer that is detached from the attitudes of the people that identify with it. Unfortunately, the answer here is far less reassuring.



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This entry was posted on Monday, February 6th, 2012 at 11:43 am and is filed under Humanism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.