On my class list-serv (class of ’71), we’ve had a discussion of the relationship of Muslim demographics to aggressive behavior. I posted these remarks based on two remarkable pieces, one by Raymond Ibrahim on Taqiyya and Islam, and one a video made by a exceptionally courageous Parisian of the take-over of some public streets in Paris every Friday for 2 and a half hours.
As everyone who’s spent some time with the Quran knows, it’s full of contradictions, especially on the subject of the use of violence. “No coercion in matters of religion” (sura 2) vs “Fight against the infidel till they either convert or submit” (suras 8, 9). The Muslim commentators came up with the principle of abrogation, in which the later passages (the suras are not listed chronologically, but the later Medina suras are the more coercive) abrogated the earlier ones.
However interpreted, the standard view [among Muslim scholars] on Qur’anic abrogation concerning war and peace verses is that when Muslims are weak and in a minority position, they should preach and behave according to the ethos of the Meccan verses (peace and tolerance); when strong, however, they should go on the offensive on the basis of what is commanded in the Medinan verses (war and conquest). The vicissitudes of Islamic history are a testimony to this dichotomy, best captured by the popular Muslim notion, based on a hadith, that, if possible, jihad should be performed by the hand (force), if not, then by the tongue (through preaching); and, if that is not possible, then with the heart or one’s intentions.
In a study of tolerance in the Protestant Reformation, Andrew Pettegree came to the conclusion that “tolerance was a loser’s creed” (p. 198), that when they began, Protestant movements were in favor of free speech and dissent (protest), but as soon as they were in a position to take power, then they argue that God gave them their strength because they are right, and imposing their belief is what God wants. Thus, the US constitution is the first time in the history of Christianity that tolerance is a winner’s creed.
Now how that happened, and how it can happen in Islam is not something we will figure out by making arguments about moral equivalence (we were just as bad) or moral inversion (we’re worse).
I strongly recommend the Ibrahim article for many reasons, not the least being the problem it sets before us on this issue: while in Christianity there is no hint of the principle that drove so many Christians to seek power to impose their beliefs on others — on the contrary, everything “argues” against it — the Quran has actually embedded in its collection of suras that very argument, formalized by later commentators across the board (all four schools of jurisprudence). If libido dominandi (the lust to dominate) can have that affect on Christians whose texts are against these principles, a fortiori, will it be difficult for Muslims to confront them… especially if we don’t confront them about these matters.
Before 2000, virtually every book on Islam argued that it was overwhelming a fatalistic religion (inshallah — if God wills it), an attitude that permits many today to argue that the “vast majority of Muslims are moderate.” In the 1960s and 70s sociologists, working on the “secularization model” were depicting its imminent demise.
1979 marks the beginning and 2000 marks a key turning point in Muslim attitudes globally (aided by both media and the second intifada/9-11), in which allahu akhbar as a war cry became more and more widespread. This “awakening” has changed many Muslim attitudes towards both themselves and their neighbors.
There is a territorial battle going on that we are losing because we don’t/won’t even recognize it.
I recommend watching the video full screen in order to read the English subtitles.