Monday, September 25, 2006

There's Just No Changing Some People's Minds

I had the fun experience of trying to convince someone that Islam is, in fact, not a religion of violence, unlike Christianity which is a religion of peace. This was all precipitated when someone made a comment, saying that the Muslim reaction to the Pope's comments the other week only went show the "violent and intolerant nature" of Islam. I agreed with this person when it came to radical Islam, but I took exception to the fact that they were generalizing this to the entire faith. I tried to make the point that it was extremists who had taken Islam and perverted it into something evil and destructive for their own purposes. I pointed out the fact that Christianity could also be called a religion of violence based on things like the Protestant/Catholic wars, the Spanish inquisition, the Crusades, and the carte blanche given to European explorers in return for spreading Christianity around the world. These things have lead to the deaths of untold millions of people. And they were all authorized, in their time, by various popes. (Talk about a conversational hand grenade!)

They countered with "that was all in the past" and that unlike the majority of the world's religions, Islam is the only whose scripture actively called for "conversion at the point of the sword." Despite what so many people seem to think, the Qur`an is actually quite clear on the point that there is "no compulsion in religion" when it comes to conversion (SAQ 2:256). When it does talk about violence against non-believers, the Qur`an says that Muslims are to never start it and should cease all hostilities as soon as their attackers do. I even went so far as to point out a number of occasions in the Bible that violence is urged against non-Christians. (Oops! Hear that? There's another pin being pulled!) They came back, saying that I didn't know what I was talking about and that regardless of what might be actually said in the Qur`an, Islam is not practiced that way. I pointed out that what we hear about Islam from the media is biased toward what will sell (i.e. - the violent extremists) and that they might want to actually talk to some Muslims and see if the violent side of Islam is practiced by a majority or not. And here came the lines about "yeah, but look at all the leaders who preach violence" and whatnot. Great - now we've reached the point of circular logic.

While I could have gone on with particular "discussion," I decided to let it go because they were not going to even admit that they might be wrong. And to be fair, I will admit it. I might be wrong. I don't think I am, and everything in my experience and my education (both in school and outside) tell that I'm right, but that is not an absolute. As much I might like to claim that I'm omnipotent and all-knowing, I simply can't. But I am willing to admit as much; they were not. I tried but there's only so much I can say to someone like that.


JanieBelle said...

"that was all in the past..."

um... yeah. Like, I dunno, Northern Ireland? Bosnia-Herzegovina? Côte d'Ivoire? Kosovo?


Funny how it's always the other guy's religion that's violent, and "ours is a peaceful religion that's just misrepresented in the media..."

JanieBelle said...

Oh, and I almost forgot the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. Nice chaps...