Islam: a Religion of Peace

I have seen some members of the Church express concern over the fact that Islam — as a religious faith — is not being recognized for the violence that it leads people to commit. There is a sentiment that Islam, as a religious system, should be treated with suspicion as a catalyst for violence. I just wanted to address this briefly.

On the Numbers

I don’t have numbers, and I don’t really know where to find them. But I do know that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. I also know that there are around 15,000 or so known members of Al Qaeda, perhaps 60,000-100,000 members of ISIS (exact numbers are in dispute). That’s just two groups, sure — so let’s be super generous, and assume that there’s about a million known members of violent groups who use their religion as the primary pretext for terrorist violence (the real number could be a lot more, and my analysis here would be largely unaffected, so exact values are not at issue). If that’s the case, perhaps .06% of the Muslim population is part of these groups — or, in other words, 1 in 10,000. Now, my numbers could be WAY off. But even if we doubled the numbers, or tripled it, I don’t feel like my analysis here is completely off-base.

However, the daily behaviors of the 10,000 never make the nightly news. Only the behaviors of the 1 do. And so it’s easy, without realizing it, to get a lopsided impression of Islam as a faith. Many, many people say that driving is safer than flying, because every plane crash is plastered on the news for weeks at a time. But in reality, when the statistics are done, mile for mile, flying is far, far safer than driving. But our impressions, our perceptions, are sometimes skewed by the media reporting. Similarly, our perceptions of Islam have been twisted by this lopsided representation of Islam in the media. Stories of violence get more viewers and sell more advertising spaces. And so we begin to associate Islam and violence in our minds, forgetting the fact that we live and work among Muslims every day and often don’t even know it, because they are — by and large — a peaceful people who condemn violence just as much as we do.

The purpose of this mathematical exercise is to talk about ratios and scale. Perhaps its true that there are more violent extremists per 10,000 Muslims than any other religious group. But I think what has happened is that we’ve let our entire impression of Islam be influenced solely by the 1, and ignore the protests and deeply seated beliefs of the 9,999. They do not want to be defined by the actions of the few among them, and condemn those actions vociferously. Some news networks in the U.S. are leading people to believe that the majority of Muslims are standing by without speaking out against violent attacks and terrorism. But this is simply not true. (Check out here, here, here, here, and here for just a few examples). These people deserve to have their voices heard. They deserve to be acknowledged — and not just acknowledged, but acknowledged as representing the vast majority of adherents to Islam. 1.6 billion people is not a small number, especially when compared to a million or even a few hundred thousand.

A Comparison: The Homophobic LDS Church

But instead of being acknowledged, they are often treated as if they cannot scream “sorry!” loud enough to our satisfaction. Can you imagine what that must feel like? Let’s use an example.

Imagine that a Mormon were to murder someone with same-sex attraction, or bomb the offices of some LGBT advocates, and claim that it was act prompted by his religious faith. Would you feel the need to apologize to the world, on behalf of your faith, for that act of violence? I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even consider said person a representative of my faith (except in name only). I would condemn it vociferously, but I wouldn’t feel that myself or my faith system were in any way responsible. It was just some crazy guy who went insane and did something, delusionally thinking that the LDS religion required it.

But I also suspect that despite whatever outcries of LDS members and leaders against such violence, the media would nonetheless focus on the “homophobic” doctrines of the LDS Church that facilitated the worldview of the murderer. The media would still try to hold the LDS Church and its beliefs accountable, despite the fact that the vast, vast majority of its members (to my knowledge, all) condemn such violence. And the media narrative would be spun such that whatever condemnations we give to such violence look “meager” and “unsubstantial,” since the “homophobic” doctrines supposedly responsible are still taught and practiced.

This is not a one-to-one comparison, since there is little substantial history of Mormons murdering members of LGBT population in religious retribution, while there is a history of extremist Muslims engaging in violence. But my point remains the same: some media narratives often ignore the fact that the vast, vast majority of Muslims condemn the violence (and openly), and focus instead on the few parts of the Muslim faith that (when twisted) have been used to justify it. The narrative is that the whole of Islam is in some way responsible and accountable for these acts of violence. And the articles, speeches, statements, and protests by Muslims against such violence are often ignored by some networks, and treated as if they are non-existent. Their voices are muted, as the focus entirely on how violent extremists interpret (or misinterpret) the faith, rather than how the ordinary member interprets the faith.

Problems with Islamic Belief?

But let’s be real, it does seem more likely that a Muslim will engage in violent extremism than a Latter-day Saint. There are, indeed, strands of Islam that seem to legitimize this violence. And someone might acknowledge that 1.6 billion adherents to Islam don’t adhere to these violent strands of thought, but believe that Islam itself nonetheless legitimizes it. And to be sure, there are some elements of Muslim sacred writ that could be interpreted in just that sort of way. But who gets to say which interpretation of Islamic scripture is true? Let’s use another comparison.

There is evidence that in some FLDS communities, young girls were coerced into marrying older men, as part of their religious tradition. Most Americans rightfully condemn this, and I would say that (to my knowledge) most or all Latter-day Saints do too. We would claim, rather vociferously, that we acknowledge age of consent laws, we promote and preach the need for consent, we strongly discourage marriages of that sort, just as strongly as we (currently) discourage polygamy. We would excommunicate someone who did such things, even. We do not see it as required by our faith, or legitimized by our faith.

But outsiders might not agree. They would point to the fact that Joseph Smith married a young girl would was 14, and perhaps even used coercive language (implying that her salvation was in jeopardy if she refused). There’s interpretations of the Doctrine and Covenants that seem like it could legitimize these actions, as legitimize violating state and federal laws (and lying about it too). We would treat those interpretations of LDS scripture and history as wrong-headed and contradictory to everything that Latter-day Saints teach and practice, but fundamentalists nonetheless interpret it that way, and outsider might insist they have good reason to. It may be claimed that those sorts of crimes are built into the fabric of the faith, as much as the 15 million+ members of the LDS Church try to deny it.

Would it be fair of them to dismiss the teachings of Joseph Smith, and the scriptures of the Restoration, because of how a few bad men have interpreted them? I don’t think so. I think we would insist that we have a right to claim that Mormonism does not legitimize such actions, and that our understanding of our own faith is just as legitimate. And we would take offense at the implication that Mormonism was broadly responsible for such crimes, since Mormonism — as understood by the vast majority of its adherents — do not practice such things.

I propose we give the 1.6 billion peacefully living Muslims the ability to define their own faith, instead of defining it for them based on the actions of those that they (and us) despise.

With Whom do We Side?

So there’s this internal debate amongst Muslims. Let’s say a million Muslims (again, even much higher numbers wouldn’t change the analysis that much) believe that violent behavior is required by their faith. 1.6 billion Muslims disagree with this group, and believe that violence is *not* required by their faith. So we have this internal debate/division amongst Muslims, with a small minority believing that violence is intrinsically required by their faith, and a strong majority believing that it is not.

If we come along and tell the 1.6 billion Muslims that, “No, you are wrong — violence IS required by your faith!”, which party are we siding with? With which company does our opinion on Islam place us? Onto which side in this internal, doctrinal debate are we casting our vote? And to which side do we WANT to cast our vote? For me, I’m going to work with the vast majority of Muslims to convince the minority that violence is not actually required by the Muslim faith. To insist that Islam is an inherently violent religion does not help that cause — to do so is to side with the extremists, and to tell the 1.6 billion others that the extremists are actually right about their faith, and they (the peaceful ones) are actually wrong. That seems deeply counterproductive.

Instead of telling 1.6 billion Muslims that their religion is inherently violent and that they should leave it behind (good luck with that), I propose we help the vast majority of Muslims convince the rest that violence is actually not an intrinsic part of their faith, and in fact contradicts it in many important ways. That is, that it’s possible to be a good Muslim and to live peacefully (as the vast majority do). Why not legitimize peaceful Islam, instead of delegitimizing it?

Emulating the Church

I also propose that we emulate the way in which the LDS Church, its leaders, and its publications have talked about the Muslim faith. The Church has been thoroughly respectful, and has (to my knowledge) never said a disparaging thing about Islam. Here are two examples found in Church publications: here, and here. In the first article, we find this quote from Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who said (after reading a verse from the Qur’an:

“God is the source of light in heaven and on earth. We share the belief with you. We resist the secular world. We believe with you that life has meaning and purpose. … We revere the institution of the family. … We salute you for your concern for the institution of the family. … Mutual respect, friendship, and love are precious things in today’s world. We feel those emotions for our Islamic brothers and sisters. Love never needs a visa. It crosses over all borders and links generations and cultures.”

The author of the article goes on to say:

I was grateful to state that we belong to a church that affirms the truths taught by Muhammad and other great teachers, reformers, and religious founders. We recognize the goodness reflected in the lives of those in other religious communities. While we do not compromise revealed eternal truths of the restored gospel, we never espouse an adversarial relationship with other faiths. Rather, in accordance with modern prophetic counsel, we seek to treasure up that which is virtuous and praiseworthy in other faiths and to cultivate an attitude of “affirmative gratitude” toward them. As Latter-day Saints, we believe that it is vital to respect and benefit from the spiritual light found in other religions, while seeking humbly to share the additional measure of eternal truth provided by latter-day revelation.

Let’s emulate this generous estimation of our Muslim brothers and sisters. Let’s treat their faith with dignity and respect, even as we condemn horrible acts of violence. Let’s help them disassociate these acts from Islam, by treating the religious beliefs of violent extremists as separate and distinct from Islam as a faith system (or, at worst, a twisted version of it). Nearly a quarter of God’s children on earth are adherents of Islam. Let’s give them the space they need to condemn violence as against the foundational principles of their faith, rather than tell them that the extremists are right.


I do not advocate doing nothing about violent extremism. I believe that someone could fully agree with everything I’ve written, and still support military responses to ISIS, for example. I believe we should work as smartly, prudently, and devotedly as we can to root out and destroy those that seek to kill innocent people. This post has nothing to do with the desire to be politically correct (that is so not my style). It has everything to do with seeking out the truth, responding as Christ would respond, and following the example of the Church and its leaders.

Each and every time we disparage Islam as a faith, we are departing from the example set by the Church and its teachings, and we are in fact exacerbating the very problem we claim we are trying to solve. Instead of addressing the problem of violent extremism, we have just (in our minds) added 1.6 billion more problems to our pile. And that’s just not fair to anyone (least of all ourselves). Let’s not darken our hearts towards an entire quarter of God’s children or their religious beliefs, because of the wicked actions of a few thousand. We would, after all, ask the same of others in regards to us.

Note: I think U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that something like 15% of Muslims are “extremists” and potential threats. But I wanted to address this with a comparison: let’s say that something like the above scenario happened, where a Latter-day Saint bombed an LGBT advocacy center, or something. The FBI decided that it needed to keep tabs on Mormon extremists, in order to protect the LGBT population. Who would it monitor?

Now let’s imagine that 15% of the LDS population took a hard line stance on issues of homosexuality, and used disparaging rhetoric against homosexuals. The FBI might, in its internal memos, treat this 15% as their population of interest, because if there are dangers to the LGBT population, it is from this group that the danger will come. So it might classify the 15% as “extremists” and “potential threats,” even if the number of real threats is much less than 1%. Because this way, it knows at least where to look for them.

Anyways, just a tidbit or those who might reply with this number, to show how it may not actually mean that 15% of Muslims are prone to extremist violence. It may simply be that it is among this 15% that violent extremists are most likely to be found. Do we really think that nearly 1 in 5 Muslims (240 million people, nearly as large as the entire U.S. population) are poised at the edge of violence, ready to engage in terrorist acts against innocent people? That really IS a terrifying world to live in, and so I can fully understand it if those who have this impression treat Islam with a deep suspicion, and engage in disparaging remarks about the faith. I just think that such a perception is deeply skewed and, thankfully, untrue. Because were that the case, no army on earth (much less the U.S. military) could save us.

48 thoughts on “Islam: a Religion of Peace

  1. Islam, so far as I know, is the only major religion that calls for killing people who are not muslims:

    ” Quran (2:191-193) – “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief] is worse than killing…but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] ”

    The Koran orders muslims to be violent:

    “Quran (2:216) – “Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.” ”

    It also promises salvation for muslims who perish in the attempt:

    “Quran (4:74) – “Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.” ”

    32% of muslims in Britain say the killing for religion is permissible:

    “Although 53 per cent said that killing in the name of religion was never justified, compared with 94 per cent of non-Muslims, 32 per cent said that it was. Of these, 4 per cent said killing could be justified to “promote or preserve” religion, while 28 per cent said it was acceptable if that religion were under attack. ” from the Telegraph

    In their eyes those cartoons constitute an attack on Islam.

    In the US World Net Daily ran a poll that found:

    ““Almost half of those Muslims surveyed – an astonishing 46 percent – said they believe those Americans who offer criticism or parodies of Islam should face criminal charges,” said pollster Fritz Wenzel in an analysis of the survey’s results.

    “Even more shocking: One in eight respondents said they think those Americans who criticize or parody Islam should face the death penalty, while another nine percent said they were unsure on the question,” he said.”

    National Review noted that the actors in that Broadway hit “The Book of Mormon” feel completely safe from the millions of LDS members in this country. They would not be safe if the play was titled “The Koran”

    Only one major religion in the world is consistently involved in killings and other violence against non-members of their religion. And that is Islam. From Southeast Asia to the Americas and every they have brought death and destruction onto peaceful populations. This has occurred on every continent except Antarctica.

    Yes you can say that most muslims don’t become directly involved in this activity, but they do not act to stop it either. They seem to be silent partners in murder. The one encouraging sign that I have seen was a speech recently give by President Sisi of Egypt:

    “I am referring here to the religious clerics. … It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma (Islamic world) to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!

    “That thinking — I am not saying ‘religion’ but ‘thinking’ — that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world! … All this that I am telling you, you cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.

    “I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move … because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost — and it is being lost by our own hands.”

    He recognizes the problem, we would be fools not to do likewise.

  2. You raise important and thoughtful concerns. I appreciate the tenor, purpose and approach that you have taken in order to elucidate the issue that the West is increasingly grappling with: Islamic-tinged violence. (Islamic-tinged because anytime a Muslim slays another and yells “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great!) he is identifying his action as inherently Islamic; this goes back to the time of the prophet Muhammad.)

    We can hold two dichotomies simultaneously in our minds, I feel, with no embarrassment: Islam *is* in fact a religion of peace *and* that simultaneously it holds doctrines that are interpreted in such a way as to promote hatred and violence towards unbelievers.

    That doctrine is found in full plenitude among two primary sources: the Sharia, loosely translated as Islamic “law”; and the Hadith, a collection of purported teachings from the prophet Muhammad and various of his close associates and successors.

    I’d like to illustrate from my own personal life. I could be wrong, but I’m not aware of a regular reader of this site that is as fluent in Arabic as I am. My job involves Arabic, and I specifically work in the field of intelligence. I have actually read the Qur’an, in Arabic, and I understand what I read. I can turn on the talk shows on Al Jazeera, and I can comprehend what gets talked about. In addition, my Arabic skills came about by being taught by actual Arabs, over a period of years. One gets a very real sense of the culture when you interact with native Arabic teachers over a long period of time. So I think, just on the basis of professional cultural competency, my informed opinion has a certain value.

    The Muslims and Christians who taught me Arabic were all *moderates*, some even extraordinarily *liberal*. That’s the reason why they left the Middle East and came to the West. I gained many friendships with these good folk. They don’t go around waging terror, because they are oriented towards modernity and value the values of the West over that of religious fundamentalism.

    Another point. Most Arabs are Muslim. But most Muslims in the world are not Arab. But the Qur’an, Sharia, and the Hadith binds them together in ways that are most powerful. It is interesting that Indonesia has terror cells. Most of those Indonesian Muslim terrorists cannot really speak Arabic, yet there is something in the doctrine that compels a minority to wage jihad (loosely translated as “struggle”). Jihad is an Islamic concept that is rooted in 7th century Islam and has been interpreted and re-interpreted over the past fourteen centuries, often with disastrous consequences.

    So the liberal Muslims simply reject those militant aspects of Islamic thought in favor of modern sensibilities. Reactionary or medieval-oriented Muslims claim to be holding to the “true” Islam by favoring and glorifying those aspects of Islam that were dominant centuries ago.

    I think there is a vital nuance that needs to be understood anytime pundits and apologists get up and reiterate that Islam (which actually means “surrender [to Allah]” and *not* peace) is a religion of peace. Yes, Islam is a religion of peace *but* it is also a religion of violence. It all depends on which parts the adherents choose to valorize or sacralize by their specific actions.

  3. Although there has been two good responses, I want to add some more counter arguments.

    “What is a Muslim cleric? The dictionary defines it as a “ulema,” meaning, “Muslim scholars trained in Islam and Islamic law.“

    So now, directly from the mouth of a Muslim scholar trained in Islam and Islamic law, Choudry has confirmed that Islam is NOT a religion of peace. He has confirmed that believers in Islam are required to do what the Quran demands they do – protect Muhammad at any cost. This includes the beheading and murder of all those who refuse to convert. It means they feel justified in the murder of innocents, even children, who refuse to convert to Islam. How can this be ignored by our leadership. How could it be stated any more clearly? It stands in total conflict to the dialog President Obama and other world leaders continue to push to their citizens. A continued, misguided belief that puts every individual of the world in dire danger. It is a philosophy and ideology that, no matter how much they deny it, will eventually be the death of us all!

    When a leader of the Muslim community stands up and defends the murder of innocents in the name of Islam, we all need to listen, take him at his word, and respond appropriately. Stop the madness. Call a spade a spade and take action to stop the ideology – the religion of hate and murder – within our own borders.”

    “The contrast in headlines is astounding: At the same time the jihadists were carrying out their assault on a bunch of unarmed cartoonists — courageous souls that they are — Mercedes-Benz was showing off its plans for an autonomous, self-driving car, hoping to catch up with Google’s similar project. That’s where the world is: Stuff from science fiction coming out of Stuttgart and California, stuff from the Middle Ages coming out of Mecca, Riyadh, Baghdad, Tehran, Damascus, Karachi, Kabul, Cairo, Istanbul, Nairobi, Mogadishu, Lahore, Khartoum, Ankara, Algiers, Jakarta, Dhaka . . .

    “. . . But we are so intensely terrified of being thought of as bigots or rubes, so distracted by academic hand-wringing over the uppercase-O ‘Other’ and — linguistic barbarism — ‘Othering,’ that we cannot fully understand the difference between such fundamentalism as we experience — soppy, sentimental, and occasionally atavistic as it may be — and the cultural currents that produce such atrocities as the one perpetrated today in Paris. Unable to understand the difference, we are unable to act intelligently in response to it. It is not as simple as ‘Us and Them,’ but there is an us, and there is a them, and one or the other is going to prevail.”

    “Most Muslims are probably as horrified by what happened at Charlie Hebdo as the rest of us, but a sizable part of the Muslim world is not. Most Egyptians, Saudis and Kuwaitis consider it reasonable to execute a Muslim who converts to Christianity. Mockery of Mohammed is not something they can take lightly.

    We hear often that the Islamists who commit terrorist acts are not the true face of Islam, and they are not, but the problem is that Islam has no true face. It is not a church the way Roman Catholicism is a church, with a pope who can speak for the church and be its face. It is a culture. It can’t be reformed in a Reformation, as Christianity was. That requires a center that transmits change to the whole body. Islam can only change as Muslims change.”

    As pointed out Islam doesn’t mean “peace,” it means “submission” and as history has shown, that includes anyone and everyone.

  4. Agesilaus: “Yes you can say that most muslims don’t become directly involved in this activity, but they do not act to stop it either. They seem to be silent partners in murder. The one encouraging sign that I have seen..”

    The only reason that is the “one” encouraging sign you have seen is because you didn’t even bother to click on ANY of the five links above, or even Google the issue. Somebody (me) just claimed that Muslims are speaking out against the violence, and even provided five links for your benefit, and instead of clicking on a single one, you went on to assert, “They are silent partners in murder.” The ignorance, in that case, is on you. It’s not their responsibility to shout loud enough for you to hear in the comfort of your armchair, if you won’t even follow links provided or type something into Google. That kind of lazy information consumership makes it awfully hard to change your prejudices.

  5. There are always a few muslims who will express regret after one of these incidents. Reporters seek them out to validate their world view. But can you name one incident that was prevented by muslims going to the authorities and warning them about someone in their community?

  6. Also muslims are urged to lie to unbelievers, this is called taqiyya:

    “Muslims may appear very sincere; in fact, they are sincere, when they lie for their own protection or in the cause of Islam. They have permission to lie. Yes, Christians have also lied but never are they given permission to lie. However, a Muslim has no guilt since the Koran and Hadith permit his deception.

    Muslims have no hope for eternal salvation without their good works, so they must keep working to advance Islam. If a few lies will accomplish that goal, then lying is not bad but good. If they can get good publicity for Islam by lying, then lying is acceptable, even desirable. “

  7. Agesilaus, only a few? Really? And their voice is only heard because a few reporters seek them out? That’s awfully dismissive. Will nothing will change your mind? What if I provide a hundred links, instead of 5? Did you follow any of those links? Did reporters seek any of those people out? Again, I see no evidence that you even clicked. Lazy information consumership. Check out the last one:

  8. Agesilaus, that kind of bigotry is not wanted here, and precisely what this post is trying to address. If you a Latter-day Saint, I urge you to read what the Church has published about Islam, and tune your rhetoric towards their Christlike example. Until then, go elsewhere with these views.

    Quoting anti-Islamic sources, that twist and attack Islam as vociferously as anybody has ever attacked Mormonism (with similar rhetoric too — haven’t you heard that Mormons are allowed to lie for the Lord, to advance the interests of His kingdom? That’s plastered all over anti-Mormon sources), is again an example of just the sort of lazy information gathering that I think is deeply problematic.

  9. How come Agesilaus has been posted and mine is still in moderation? Its not as if what I have quoted is as negative of Islam as his.

  10. Ok I am looking at it and the some of the statements I see are untrue:

    “When we study Islam, we see clearly that the Quran condemns this kind of violence categorically.”

    “In an attempt to polish Islam’s image, Muslim activists usually quote verses from the Quran that were written in the early days of the Islamic movement while Mohammed lived in Mecca. Those passages make Islam appear loving and harmless because they call for love, peace and patience. Such is a deception. The activists fail to tell gullible people that such verses, though still in the Quran, were nullified, abrogated, rendered void by later passages that incite killing, decapitations, maiming, terrorism and religious intolerance. The latter verses were penned while Mohammed’s headquarters was based in Medina.”

    link The Quran’s Doctrine of Abrogation

    But as I already pointed, the doctrine of lying to non believers makes these statements unbelievable. Lets see some of these people turning fellow muslims over to law enforcement before the crimes are committed.

  11. Ldsphilosopher,

    It is, in fact, true that “taqiyya” is a doctrine in Islam. As in, explicitly taught, encouraged, and explained in great detail.

    In my thirty years as a member of the Church, I’ve yet to find “lying for the Lord” as an approved doctrine found in scripture, general conference addresses, or official church organs. You are comparing apples and oranges.

  12. Jetboy, comments with more than one link are automatically held.

    That peaceful 99.94 % of muslims has been pretty silent since Sept 11, 2001.

  13. Even though you have posited someone harming an LGBT person, I think it is more telling that there has never been an abortion clinic bombed or abortion practitioner otherwise damaged in Utah or (as far as I know) by an LDS person who is somewhere other than Utah.

    Clearly there have been some whack jobs, but the Mormon faith, celebrating as it does the status of all members of mankind as beloved children of God, who in a pre-mortal life accepted Christ as their Savior, we have a distinctively lessened religious imperative to harm others.

    The early history of the Church included such aberrations as the Missouri-era Danites and the 1857 murderers at Mountain Meadows. However Joseph’s reaction to the Danites was to call them to repentance. Though the details of Mountain Meadows were concealed for many years, there is no one who has ever (to my knowledge) celebrated the deaths of the members of the Fancher Wagon Train.

    As has been pointed out, there are aspects of Muslim scripture that call for death for infidels. Judeo-Christian law calls for death as a penalty for certain sins.

    Even though individual Mormons might act like stupids, Joseph Smith himself was incredibly willing to forgive and work with transgressors. That loving and generous spirit has continued among most leaders of the Church, which has contributed to the current climate where everyone knows it’s completely safe to make vicious fun of Mormons.

  14. “Muslims have no hope for eternal salvation without their good works” pretty much indicates he isn’t LDS, but I do agree with much of what he says. I even agree with the main OP, but I just don’t think it matters how much Muslims might express outrage.

    Those who are actually able to do something about it are part of the problem. If many major Muslim leaders said what the Egyptian president did, then the 100s or 1000s of voices would matter. That is the problem. From Hezbollah of Lebanon, the King and princes of Saudi Arabia, to the President and Imam of Iran there is only the sound of stoning and gunfire. Even those who we count as friends and allies against them (such as Pakistan and Syria) are actually deadly enemies. The voices that could change minds are silent and supportive of terror and anti-Western ideology.

  15. “That peaceful 99.94 % of muslims has been pretty silent since Sept 11, 2001.”

    Utterly false. A simple Google search will show you that it is false. So many lazy consumers of information here. Can no one even Google?

  16. “Those who are actually able to do something about it are part of the problem. If many major Muslim leaders said what the Egyptian president did, then the 100s or 1000s of voices would matter.”

    But many of the do say that. Many of them do condemn those acts, and in very public ways.

  17. I don’t trust that article one bit that you posted. That has nothing to do with proving Muslims condemning the violence and everything to do with condemning Fox News (oh, she says as an aside almost near the bottom of the page, I guess CNN too). I also stand by my statement, they are all examples of nobodies of importance to actual change.

  18. Well, I think I’m going to bow out of this before Godwin’s Law manifests itself. I was hoping for some intellectual discussion, particularly since I have real expertise on the topic. But I have better things to do than bringing my knowledge and experience to a conversation that isn’t really happening.

  19. Ah, so when you hear evidence of Muslim leaders actually condemning violence, you dismiss it as false, just because it doesn’t fit in your worldview? How loud must these people shout before you will hear? What must they do? Must they show up at your front door and personally tell you their views? Or will you even believe them then?

  20. I’d like to see your thoughts on Wahhabism. That one sect of Islam seems to be the source of much of this violence. Certainly 9-11 and probably this outrage in France.

    Arguing that most muslims who are not Wahhabists are non violent would be somewhat believable.

  21. Michael, I was hoping for intellectual discussion too, until accusations of chirping silence arose — at which a single Google search will show that, at the very least, there is not silence. Perhaps you can construct the case that public condemnations of the violence are hollow or not effective. But claiming they don’t exist is simply demonstrably false, and then still claiming they don’t exist after being presented with evidence — solely because the author of an article made a potshot at Fox news — is just downright bullheaded.

  22. I will give you the Bloomberg one and it is encouraging. However, the Lebanon response is disconcerting. As for the rest, its a step in the right direction. Now they must follow it up with some action to back those words; the more difficult task that will bring some trust that has been lost a long time ago. Its not just about Muslims required to police those who don’t believe they do, but to not express and act on the same kind of beliefs.

  23. Thanks, Jettboy, for that. Guess what? I found the Bloomberg article by typing into Google, “Muslims condemn Paris attack.” I found many more hits too. It was rather easy to find evidence of Muslims everywhere condemning the attack, including prominent leaders. Let’s take time and look before condemning people of inaction/silence, merely because we — thousands and thousands of miles away — haven’t seen it, or because Fox News chooses not to report it.

    It’s not their job to break our prejudices — it’s our job to challenge our own prejudices. It’s not their job to keeping shouting until we finally hear — it’s our job to listen.

  24. I applaud LDSP’s attempts to have a reasonable discussion on this subject, but I fear it may be impossible. There is (in my mind) an important lesson for us Mormons here: when we wonder how the people of Missouri possibly could have accepted an extermination order where it was legal for a Missourian to kill a Mormon, we should think back to all of the emotion people feel regarding Islam right now (and after Sept. 11). People get emotional and worked up and say and do things they wouldn’t do otherwise in such environments. (I am not saying that people on this thread want to go kill Muslims; I am simply saying that it makes us easier to understand anti-Mormon bigotry when we consider the emotions many appear to feel for another religion).

    Now having said that, it is nonetheless true that most (not all) religious violence these days seems to be coming from extremist Muslims, and it is true that these Muslims appear to have very little respect for the idea of free speech and free expression. It is also true that while many Muslims *have* protested against violence, many, many others maintain a strange silence on the issue. I have known Muslims myself who really go out of their way *not* to condemn terrorist acts even in personal conversations with me, and I find this very strange and difficult to understand.

    But at the end of the day, my models are modern-day prophets, and there is simply no record of them condemning Islam in any way. I would also point out that we Mormons are an often-misunderstood lot, and I would like to avoid criticizing another religion because it seems obvious to me that there is a lot more I don’t know than I do know. Disaffected, inactive Mormons love to make broad statements about Mormons that are obviously not true to anybody who actually goes to church, so I am very hesitant to make broad statements about another religion because broad statements have, in my experience, very often been proven wrong.

  25. What do you think of my statement, “Its not just about Muslims required to police those who don’t believe as they do, but to not express and act on the same kind of beliefs.”

    Lets get back to your Mormonism example. There are those who point to Joseph Smith and current offshoots who practice polygamy and lump them together. Good and all, but we do have polygamy in our history and scriptures. That we haven’t practiced it in over 100 years has given us some distance between the LDS Church and others. The problem is that most of Islam, no matter how much they condemn the terrorists, do the same themselves or speak the same rhetoric.

    Maybe killing a Western non-believer for the same thing will be condemned from now on if it happens again, but they will still do that to their own. Saudi Arabia is always stoning someone for this or that officially, and its one of the most pro-Western modern Islamic countries. Must I remind you of what the Iranian leadership, despite what it might have said about this incident, has said about Israel and the United States on numerous occasions? They might talk a good talk, but their actions speak louder than words. That is perhaps what is meant by “they are silent,” although that might not be truthful.

  26. Intellectually, Geoff, I know you’re right. But the elephant in the room, for me, is that we have entire nations–lots of ’em–that are officially run in accordance with the principles of Islam. For the most part, the Islamic theocracies don’t seem to be very nice places; and it seems to go beyond the run-of-the-mill disappointments one would expect to find wherever religion is forced into the game of realpolitik. If Mormons were running heckholes like Iran and Saudi Arabia and Syria and Pakistan and Lybia and the Palestinian authority and Somalia and Iraq and pre-2001 (or even today’s) Afghanistan, I’d expect us to come under pretty heavy scrutiny too.

    I’m not advocating for a police/surveillance state; but it all does kinda make me wonder what’s really being taught and believed in those places, and how we can be sure that the same tenets aren’t being incubated here.

  27. Agesilaus made a good point — the producers of the Book of Mormon musical have no fear of attack from Latter-day Saints — Latter-day Saints, after all, are peaceful — but if they did the same thing to the Koran, well, wouldn’t they be dead pretty soon afterwards? Murdered by a Muslim dutifully defending the honor of Mohammed? And surely the fear they faced while n hiding and waiting for the murders to occur could not be called anti-Islam bigotry? No, indeed, the fear would be entirely rational.

  28. I would really like to hear what Michael Towns thinks is the basic nature of “Islam” – whatever that might mean. It appears to me that he is likely the most informed person I have ever “met” on the subject of what is the nature of that religion/culture.

    In broad brush aspects the experience of the “nation/kingdom” of Israel after leaving Egypt supports a very violent “heritage” for the LDS view of Christianity (because we’ve embraced so much of the Old testament that many Churches just wish weren’t there). Also certainly the Crusades (and several other periods of European history) support the idea that Christianity can easily get interpreted as a “violence justifying” religion. However, Christianty has the teachings of Christ (which are very non-violent) which cause major changes over time. Islam seems to have no such moderating revelation – and in fact probably can’t ever have it.

    Obviously the vast majority of adherents aren’t running out killing people, and likely they just want to live peacefully with whoever their neighbors happen to be, but that doesn’t seem to invalidate the extremist doctrines – just push them out of sight/mind a bit. In contrast I’ve never heard any modern Christian Church claim that they can justify murdering every living thing in a given area before the body of the Church moves in to take over it based on the old Testament scriptures. (Of course the modern day Israel state has some very interesting views on pushing populations out of their way – but that’s a different conversation.)

    To reiterate I would really like to hear more from Michael Towns as to what he considers “Islam’s” fundamental attitudes towards the rest of the world to be.

  29. I would like to make it clear, I’m just a plain person with zero claims to intellectualism, even though I try to be well informed and I’m a semi news, or better said! information, junkie. But here is something that puzzles me, kind of what jettboy calls the elefant in the room, how is it that 99.94% of Muslims, who are so disgusted by the violence, which are numbered in the billions are totally incapable of doing anything to get rid of, or at least get under control the 0.06% that are causing the trouble?

    I have this passion for reading books written by Muslims who have converted to Christianity, including to Mormonism – won’t put any links right now, as I’m feeling a little “LAZY CONSUMER OF INFORMATION ” at the moment – who have miraculously scaped with their lives. Their tales of what happens in these Muslim countries regarding violence towards people who think different, even against their own people, is very inidicative of what’s been taught. Even their own family members were willing to kill them and the rest of the people around agreed, many of them silently, but agreeing nonetheless. Then, what’s really going on here, how can so many billions of “peaceful” people can do so little to overcome the violence of such a small number of them?. I tend to agree that the reason is because ultimately it’s part of their culture, their religion and their life. I maybe wrong!

  30. Tangential to the current point, but I seem to recall a young girl named Malala Yousafzai being shot for the horrific evil of daring to attend school and openly advocate for the education of females.

    Despite the fact that Malala obviously bears the residual damage from that gunshot, a large number of individuals in the country of her birth (Pakistan) believe the so-called shooting was fake. This was interesting as the fellow I heard interviewed on the topic was the editor of the leading newspaper in Pakistan, if I recall correctly.

    Almost everyone believes themselves to be in the right. For individuals who live in a world where all around them supports the idea of perpetrating violent acts in defense of their way of life, it’s easy to understand how these individuals might feel they are justified.

    Similarly, it is easy to understand how so many fear to raise objections.

    Additionally, it becomes harder to influence someone the further you are perceived to be from the reality in which they operate. Therefore it is not those who diametrically oppose who can produce the greatest effect, but those who are only different by a few degrees.

    Thus the rest of the Muslim world, seemingly silent to so many of “us,” may actually be able to bring greater suasion to bear than any amount of strident western criticism.

  31. Apparently a Muslim clerk hid 15 Jewish customers of the Kosher deli in a freezer to protect them from the terrorists. Part of the problem with any given Muslim regulating the behavior of extremists is the relatively unstructured nature of the religion overall. There are at least 73 different sects, many of which have a history of antagonism. Islam is 600 years younger than Christianity and it has pursued conversion of ‘infidels’ vigorously, however the number of Christians in the world is roughly 33% compared to Islam’s 21%. I am more concerned by the growing number of those who have no religion.

  32. I read that the Muslim clerk hid a number of people, and himself, in the freezer — customers generally, not just Jews… I suppose the attack on the store caught everyone inside by surprise, store employee and store customer, and they didn’t know their attackers were Muslim. So they hid in the freezer together, led by the employee. But four people inside the store were killed.

  33. Kareen, that wasn’t me, but I do admit to the same question. Its like the abused husband who beats the wife and then says “I’m sorry.” The wife defends the husband because “he isn’t really like that,” until the next time he beats her.

  34. John Swenson Harvey,

    You probably know it’s notoriously difficult to nail down the nature or essence of anything not a chemical element or compound, to say nothing of religion in general or a particular religion. Islam is, as I believe someone mentioned here, not monolithic in scope but you can make an easy argument for there being several Islams — the Shia and the Sunni divide go all the way back to Muhammad’s death when his cousin Ali was passed over in favor of the “consensus” pick Abu Bakr. Later tragedies ensued thus creating the great Shia-Sunni divide that exists today.

    Yet, remarkably, there are other “sects” or “currents” or “trends” of Islam. Dozens of them, although a few are predominant. You have Twelver Shiism in Iran, Zaiidism in Yemen, Ismailism of Man on the Mountain fame (the Hashishim or the Assassins), etc., etc.

    However the Sunnis are very much in the majority. Al Qaeda (which means “the base”) is based on what its adherents presume to be the pure teachings of the earliest phase of Islam, as exemplified in the lives of Muhammad and his immediate successors. It is also based on the writings of an Egyptian radical by the same of Sayyid al-Qutb, who can be considered the father of the post-modern terror philosophy of militant Islam. I have five volumes of his books, in Arabic, in my library at the house. He was a thorough-going totalitarian, which is really what the vast majority of the Islamic militants are.

    So the “nature” of Islam is difficult to pin down. Cultural accretions over the centuries, the collision with modernity, the collapse of their power (only recently having a revival due to oil revenues, which of course only accrue to the power elites), and their fundamental feeling of inferiority as compared to the techno-savvy of the West, the endemic poverty and lack of economic opportunity in the Arab world, etc., etc., all combine to make the analysis difficult.

    But, since my day job involves being finely attuned to the nature of violent, militant Islam, let me assure you that it does exists, that they quote scripture and Muhammad, as well as a host of other sources, to justify their murderous acts. It’s a serious problem, it exists, and it would be foolish for political leaders to pretend that Islam doesn’t contain within it the seeds of violence that some folk use to foster specific, political or cultural ends.

    You bring up Judaism, the Old Testament, and Christianity. All fine and dandy. Atrocities have been committed by all people, everywhere. But I am not aware of any Christian group — explicitly Christian and nothing else — that goes around on murderous rampages while explicitly quoting scripture — Old Testament or New — in order to justify it. Militant Christianity hasn’t really been a problem for a long, long time. Militant Islam is roiling, boiling, and causing all sorts of problems, and has been for decades now. Pretending that “Islam” has *nothing* to do with it is mendacity of the highest order. Pretending that “Islam” is the *only* cause of it is also equally mendacious. The issue is highly nuanced and glib tweets from the pundits absolutely cannot do it justice.

  35. The one issue I have with the OP is that though his 1 in 10,000 figure may be correct, this does not mean all of the remaining 9,999 are good, and absolutely reject religious violence. There is a significant portion of the 9,999 that, while not belonging to a terrorist organization, do hold what we would consider to be extremist views.

    A couple of years ago, Pew Research did a series of polls on Muslims’ views on a number of issues. It can be found here:

    Some highlights:
    In the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and South Asia, very large percentages of Muslims support Sharia law. 80-90% in a lot of these countries. Among the Sharia supporters in these regions, over half believe Sharia should apply to non-Muslims. In the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, large percentages of the Sharia supporters favor executing those who leave Islam.

    Here are the percentages of Muslims in several countries who believe suicide bombings are often/sometimes justified:
    Turkey: 15%
    Malaysia: 18%
    Pakistan: 13%
    Bangladesh: 26%
    Afghanistan: 39%
    Jordan: 15%
    Egypt: 29%
    Palestinian Territories: 40%

    I acknowledge that the OP somewhat addressed this in the note at the end of the post, but I think his interpretation of the 15% is incorrect. I think the correct interpretation would be that while only a very small number actually participate in terrorism, there is a significant percentage of Muslims who accept religious violence and who we would consider to be radical. This creates a very large pool of potential terrorists.

  36. I wonder what the percentages would be of Mormons in several countries who believe it’s an acceptable to a friendship to invite their friend to a social event at Church.

    Might it be as high as 40%?

    I suspect not.

  37. Michael Towns

    Thank you. I appreciate you being willing to jump back in and respond to my request directly.

    The following may or may not be in your area of expertise – but as a thought exercise – if there were a way to dramatically reduce the oil revenues going to some of the countries where (at least some) of these extremist groups seem to be located (not saying anything about what we do or how we would accomplish that – just pretending it could be done) how much of the problem (in terms of terrorist acts occurring in the West) would be likely to go away? just curious if you have any thoughts on this.

  38. A religion which is totally intolerant with other religions acts as they do in countries that tolerate other religions including themselves.

  39. That’s a difficult question to answer. I hesitate to guess, but I think a significant reduction in oil revenues will absolutely have an impact on the region. But it will make radical Islam more of a problem, not less.

    The problem with the “Arab Spring” is that in most respects, the revolutionaries are, in their own way, just as insidious and ideological as the regimes they are replacing. In some instances, even more so. They are more fundamentalist.

    I hate to make dour predictions, but peace and liberty isn’t coming to the Middle East anytime soon, oil revenues or not. I could go on and on about it, but until certain notions like an independent judiciary and the rule of law become the norm over there, nothing is going to get better. It’s a very, very sad reality.

    The only bright spot I see is that many of the young people are tasting freedom via social media and they are not impressed with the stark, dour pronouncements of the ulema (religious scholars) and the muftis. The young folks want freedom to speak and write their thoughts. Classical Islam has never tolerated this, so the fact that so many young folk crave it bodes well for an eventual accommodation. Sort of like the accommodation that took place between Christianity and scientists in the Age of Reason and the Renaissance. There is precedent for a tolerant Islam: the Golden Age when Jews, Muslims and Christians got along swell in Spain. The Umayyads were liberal.

    I care a lot about the Middle East. There are many good people there, whether Jew, Arab, Christian, or Druze, among many others. Most just want to put food on the table and live their lives. But radicalism has deep roots over there, and has been exported elsewhere.

  40. Thank you again Michael Towns, I appreciate your taking the time to share your insights/knowledge.

  41. LDSP, I used to use your argument all the time, but I’ve since become more impatient with Islam. Why? Because of what is written about violence in the Koran.

    When a religion espouses violent scriptures from violent ages, there is always a big chance that the more fundamentalist element of the religion will interpret them literally.

    What about the Bible? Well we have Christ, who transcended the violence of the Law of Moses and taught us to love our enemies.

    What about the Jews? The Jews ARE violent, and they are violent today. Suppose that the Jews were suddenly put in the Palestinian’s place, having been driven out of Israel by the Palestinians into the West Bank and Gaza? Would they not also launch rockets and bomb places in Israel? Of course they would. They would be at war to free their homeland, a land that God gave them. If terrorism were the only way to accomplish that, they would be terrorists like their ancestors Joshua and Kaleb.

    Christ and secularism are the only hopes for lasting peace. The rest of the Judeo-Islamic world doesn’t have a chance, because there will always be fundamentalists interpreting ancient violent scriptures literally.

  42. In the center of the Islamic world, it is not a religion of peace unfortunately:

    In the US and Europe we have hoped that we could turn the tide and assimilate “them” to be more like “us”. But it would seem with the internet, it’s just as likely that the middle east is preventing assimilation into the west, and even going the extra step of contributing to radicalization.

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