So apparently some western leaders have been talking about the Charlie Hebdo massacre and saying stuff like: this is nothing to do with Islam.
And I think I kind of understand why they’re saying this – assuming they’re not just showing ignorance, I think I can understand the reasons why, for example, the French president might want to send out this kind of message. He has a large minority of Muslims in his country, and in the interests of greater peace and safety for the general population it probably seems a lot better to encourage that minority to distance themselves from the Jihadists – since there are Muslims who don’t believe in that stuff, why not encourage that moderate, peaceful element?
And before I go on, I want to repeat that: I’m well aware that there are Muslims who don’t believe in the Jihadi mindset, who don’t agree with killing people for blasphemy against Islam, and I was greatly encouraged to see such people speak out against the Charlie Hebdo massacre – so encouraged, that I posted a link to an article about it pretty immediately on Google+.
I posted that link because I found it encouraging that individual Muslims were daring to speak out against the atrocity. And also because I knew that, as night follows day, one reaction to the murder would be hatred towards Muslims, and I wanted to do my little bit in fighting against that. Because whatever I might think of Islam, I know that each and every Muslim is an individual human being, with their own thoughts and ideas, I know that they don’t all support the Jihadi mindset and they don’t deserve to be hurt in retaliation for something they didn’t do and that some of them don’t even support.
But to jump from “not all Muslims support this” to “this is nothing to do with Islam” is a huge leap, which shows either ignorance of Islam or a desire to pretend that things are not as they really are.
Not all Muslims support the concept of violent Jihad – some believe in a different variant of Islam, and obviously for those of us who would be targets for murder by the violent Jihadists, this is good news: it means there are less people wanting to kill us.
But the violent Jihadi guys? They’re doing what they’re doing in the name of Islam and no, they didn’t just make it up, it’s in the Quran. The fact that some Muslims interpret the Quran differently? That’s great, from where I’m looking, but it doesn’t mean we can pretend that violent Jihad just isn’t in there. We can’t pretend that the Quran doesn’t exhort Muslims, for instance, to “fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them” (Surah 9:5). That stuff is in there, and this is how Islam spread in the early days – by the sword. And since Muhammad himself led such battles, there’s not much room for claiming that he didn’t endorse this sort of behaviour.
The moderates tend to quote another verse, which says “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (Surah 2:256) – but Surah 9 is later and therefore, according to the rule of abrogation, it takes precedence.
Oops, have I just told moderate Muslims that they’re not following Islam properly and that they have a duty to kill me? It does feel kind of suicidal to say this out loud… which is why I don’t judge Hollande and Obama quite as harshly as the “ghost of Charlie Hebdo” in this video clip. (though I think it’s pretty spot on apart from that)
Of course once someone dares to say that this actually is about Islam, the next thing that happens is that someone else says: why pick on Islam? all religions are evil.
Which, just like the “nothing to do with Islam” stuff that Obama and Hollande have been saying, shows either naive ignorance or a desire to pretend things are not as they really are. Because no, not all religions are evil, and most religions don’t command their adherents to slaughter those who refuse to submit to them.
Sure, people have at times used their religion as an excuse for horrible stuff, even murder – we humans have a shockingly huge capacity for twisting pretty much anything and using it for evil, and people have managed to twist even the teachings of Jesus and use them as an excuse for the most vile stuff; but while Muhammad actually commanded people to kill those who wouldn’t bow to Islam, and would applaud the behaviour of those who murdered the cartoonists in Paris, Jesus taught a very different way and would be horrified at the behaviour of those who killed or hurt others in his name. When they came to arrest him and one of his followers wanted to defend him with a sword, Jesus said a very clear “no”. That wasn’t his way, and it wasn’t the way he wanted his followers to go.
Jesus commanded us to love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves. (“Neighbour” in that context is nothing to do with who lives next door – it’s a reference to all human beings, as Jesus made clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan, where, in reply to the question “who is my neighbour” he used an example of someone from another ethnic group which the Jews of his day didn’t get on with at all.)
Not only did he tell us to love our fellow human beings, but he also specifically told us that this includes even our enemies: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44).
There’s a lot of talk these days about “extremism” as though any religion at all, if taken to extreme, is dangerous – but if my religion is about imitating Jesus and showing self-sacrificial love to everyone, then I ask you: how is that dangerous to anyone except for myself? If I take my faith to the extreme, then I’ll end up giving a lot to others, and the only risk to life is to my own. I could, like many of his followers before me and many in some countries today, end up being killed for my faith – not killing others. Extremism in itself is not evil – only extreme evil is evil. Extreme goodness is good.
Extreme Christianity means extreme love, compassion, kindness, generosity, peace, joy – Jesus said he came that we should have life, and have it abundantly. He didn’t tell us to go around killing people. He came to bring us life.