[Fourth in a series of 4 posts about “Freedom of Speech”]
[Trigger warning – this post contains a few modest proposals and references to terrible religious incitements (don’t blame me I didn’t write them), those of a sensitive disposition are advised NOT to read this post.]
In this post I am going to take a look at the 3 Abrahamic religions to decide whether any of their religious texts should be considered as direct and credible incitements to violence according to the framework that I set out in the previous post. In so many debates that I have listened to about whether these religions encourage violence, historical acts carried out supposedly in the name of each religion have been used as “arguments”. I regard these “arguments” as non-arguments because often the historical acts were carried out in opposition to the actual religious teachings, and so instead I am here going to focus purely on the religious texts.
The only “history” that is relevant in this discussion is the story of the actions of the main characters in the religions, as told by the religious texts. The actual historical truth of the religious texts is also not relevant, because it is the religious texts that form the basis of the religions, not what may or may not have actually happened. The truth about the events described in the religious texts is at best either historically disputed or unverifiable in any case.
Note – when I refer to apologists here I am referring to all those who try to excuse the incitements in the Islamic texts, both Muslims and non-Muslims.
AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE?
One of the central ideas in the Islamic religion is that the life of the man that Muslims regard as the last prophet was an excellent example for Muslims to follow. This is stated for example in this Koranic verse:
YUSUFALI: Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.
SHAKIR: Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much.
Apologists have claimed that this pattern of conduct does not include the violent deeds of Mohammed. However there is nothing in this verse to suggest that those violent deeds should be excluded. This claim becomes particularly ridiculous when you look at the immediately preceeding and following verses which are clearly referring to a warlike campaign that Mohammed was involved in at the time. Consider this following verse particularly, which is almost certainly supposed to be Allah’s blessing for the Banu Qurayza massacre or at least a very similar event, where Mohammed’s forces executed hundreds of defenceless prisoners and enslaved their women and children:
YUSUFALI: And those of the People of the Book who aided them – Allah did take them down from their strongholds and cast terror into their hearts. (So that) some ye slew, and some ye made prisoners.
SHAKIR: And He drove down those of the followers of the Book who backed them from their fortresses and He cast awe into their hearts; some you killed and you took captive another part.
In the modern world such an action would be considered a war crime – the execution of defenceless prisoners who had surrendered without a fight at the end of a siege. This is the sort of thing the Nazis used to get up to in occupied Europe in WWII. The apologist defence of this massacre is that the people of this settlement had helped Mohammed’s enemies in violation of an agreement that they had with Mohammed. Even if this was really the case however, it could scarcely excuse the execution of all the men of the settlement, including adolescent boys, and not just the leaders of the settlement. As for the enslavement of the women and children then again this is a criminal act in the modern Western world, by the example of his conduct the Islamic texts incite Muslims to enslave civilians captured in war, another direct and credible incitement which encourages slavery (including sexual slavery, some of the captives were taken as wives).
Note also the reference to terror – “cast terror into their hearts”, which flies in the face of those who claim terrorist acts have nothing to do with Islam. There are other references to terror in the Koran as well, for example:
YUSUFALI: Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): “I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.”
SHAKIR: When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.
You see – “strike off every fingertip”, its not really very nice is it?
The second half of Mohammed’s career, known as the Medina period, was essentially a campaign of war to establish Mohammed’s rule and consequently to establish the Islamic religion. Apologists have tried to claim that this war was purely defensive, but this is also an utterly ridiculous claim in light of the fact that Mohammed went from having just a small band of followers to ruling the entire Arabian peninsula by the end of his life. Clearly it was an expansionist campaign designed to establish Mohammed’s rule.
There are numerous incitements to violence in the Koran, supposedly Allah’s encouragements to Mohammed to wage war against the unbelievers, for example:
YUSUFALI: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
SHAKIR: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.
Although these incitements are quite enough evidence on their own, readers unfamiliar with the Islamic texts should understand there are many more in the Koran and Hadiths, as well documented here:
In summary then the Islamic religion incites its followers to wage war against the non-Islamic people of the world until they submit to Islam, because Mohammed did the same, according to the instructions he claimed to have received from Allah which are recorded in the Koran, and Muslims are supposed to follow the example of Mohammed’s conduct. This is not only a direct and credible incitement to violent propagation of the Islamic religion, it is also an incitement that has been heeded through the ages, and continues to be heeded in the present day. We should be glad that most Muslims do not act on these incitements most of the time, but we cannot escape from the fact that the Islamic religion incites violence against the unbelievers, and that it does so in a direct and credible manner. I therefore rule that the preaching of the Islamic religion, and construction of mosques should both be illegal under my legal framework.
It appears that the Reverend Gavin Ashenden, a chaplain to the Queen, agrees with me that Islam incites violence:
Reverend Ashenden said in response: “If they are offended by my quoting the Koran they are not offended by me, they are offended by the Koran.”
This is a good way to answer those who try to suggest that telling the truth about Islam somehow “radicalizes” vulnerable people. No, its the Islamic religion that radicalizes people. It appears that a former “Islamist” also agrees that Islam incites violent conflict with the unbelievers. The fact that he now claims to interpret the texts in another way does not alter the fact that the texts clearly CAN be interpreted in this way, and that he DID once interpret them in that way. Quote:
“In the Koran and the Hadith (the compiled sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), I found an abundance of verses that I believed justified heinous violence in support of the establishment of an Islamic state for the whole world.”
The full article is here:
The fact that many Muslims somehow manage to interpret their Islamic texts differently does not alter the fact that those texts contain direct and credible incitements to violence that can be interpreted as such.
CURRENT LEGAL SITUATION
It is my belief that the preaching of the Islamic religion is currently in violation of UK law against incitement to violence. The failure of the UK law enforcement authorities to prosecute those who preach the faith should be a matter of the gravest concern to all UK citizens. This failure is in fact an act of appeasement of the religion. This failure is an act of cowardice by the UK authorities.
I do not believe that the preaching of the Islamic religion is currently in violation of US law because of the requirement established in Brandenburg v. Ohio for the incitement to be likely to lead to imminent unlawful action.
I humbly suggest to the people of the USA your current law is misguided. The failure to use the law to act against the Islamic religion is simply inviting more bloodshed for example in the Orlando gay nightclub massacre and Fort Hood massacre and San Bernandino massacre.
The danger of escalation of conflict can most probably be seen in the arson attack that occurred against the local mosque in the Orlando case. Armed militias are also now staging protests against mosques in the US. Surely it would be better for the law to intervene and close down all the mosques before any more incitements to violence can be made within them.
A PROPOSAL TO “BAN” ISLAM
Obviously it would be impossible to ban religious thought. We can scarcely start arresting every person who declares themselves to be a Muslim either, this would be impractical.
What we could do however:
- Make it illegal (at least publicly) to preach the Koran as the word of a supreme being, on incitement grounds. I don’t think the Koran should be banned as a book however, because for one thing people need to be able to see for themselves WHY such a “ban” on the religion became necessary. It would also be practically almost impossible to achieve and in any case the Koran is widely published on the internet. Also, it is not the Koran that directly incites violence on its own, but rather the preaching of the Koran as the unquestionable word of Allah.
- Withdraw planning permission for mosques and force existing mosque closures. Mosques that clearly bear the hallmarks of mosques – domes and minarets could be closed and either modified for other uses or demolished.
- Make it illegal to wear face veils. I personally think bans on hijabs and the other headgear and burkinis would be impractical to enforce. For one thing women in Europe used to wear headscarves of a non-religious kind not so very long ago, and some even still do.
- All legislation for example on employers and schools should be removed to allow employers to discriminate against hijab etc. wearing candidates if they wish to. A recent suggestion that UK police forces might incorporate the hijab into police uniforms is of course entirely ridiculous and should be overturned.
- Allow employers to sack any worker for taking time out of the working day for prayer.
- Make Ramadan fasting illegal in cases where it potentially could endanger public safety.
The sheer number of Muslims already in the West means that this is going to be a very difficult and controversial position to adopt, but its better to have this conversation now than 10-20 years from now.
An exception could be made for example for the Ahmadi religion possibly as that religion does not incite violence. It would have to be established that the Ahmadi religion did not incite other crimes, from my current knowledge I don’t believe it does however. The “most perfect life” verse would have to be clarified, and it would have to be established that Ahmadiyya Islam does not condone child abuse.
Such an exception could equally be applied to any other sect where it can be shown that religious texts override the incitements to violence in the Koran. I don’t like these other “versions” of Islam but as long as something is harmless then of course we should tolerate it. Remember, we are trying to construct a watertight legal framework here.
There are growing numbers of voices across the “West” calling for such a ban:
There can be no doubt that the Christian bible contains incitements to violence. For example, in Leviticus 20:10 it says:
If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.
However in the New Testament, Jesus appears to implicitly contradict this ruling:
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
I think this demonstrates that the old testament is over-ruled by Jesus’s moral teachings, and since Jesus is the central figure in the Christian religion, I would say his teachings take precedence.
The only doubtful statement in the new testament is (Matthew 10:34):
“I came not to bring peace, but to bring a sword”
This statement seems not only ambiguous but also at odds with everything Jesus says elsewhere, for example (Matthew 26:52):
“But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword”.
(Jesus said this after Peter had struck one of the soldiers who were attempting to arrest Jesus. Jesus subsequently healed the soldier’s wound).
I therefore rule that the former statement in Matthew 10:34 does not constitute a credible incitement, it isn’t even direct but rather ambiguous.
In conclusion then, none of Jesus’s teachings meet the credibility test of inciting violence, and Jesus’s teachings can be regarded as over-ruling the Old Testament and so I would rule that Christianity does not overall constitute a direct and credible incitement to violence. The terrible events described in the book of revelations should be regarded I believe as God punishing the human race, not as any sort of incitement. I will deal with the old testament accounts of extreme violence in the next section on Judaism, as the old testament and Judaism are based on the same stories.
The Judaic religion is possibly much more problematic than Christianity, because it does not include the later moral teachings of Jesus against violence. I don’t have the knowledge of this religion to really be sure that Judaism does not constitute a direct and credible incitement. The fact that Jewish people have not for example been stoning people to death for adultery and other sins for over a thousand years (as far as I know) should be taken into account however.
Capital punishments generally could also be seen as only being applicable under the law of the land, rather than incitements to violence between citizens. Therefore, as long as the law of the land that is either secular or otherwise overrules whatever religions advocate, then any incitements to capital punishment in the religions can be ruled not credible.
The Old Testament accounts of violence, terrible though they are (including genocide), could be regarded as mere historical accounts of what took place, or at the most indirect incitement, rather than direct incitement. As far as I can determine there is no instruction to followers of the religion to repeat these acts.
Some claims have been made that the old testament was taken as justification of the treatment of indigenous peoples during the colonial era, but since these are at worst indirect incitements, they would not constitute a reason to make the religion illegal according to my framework.
In the first post in this series I called for an amendment to the First Amendment to remove all mention of religions. This clears the way for a rational evaluation of whether any particular religion incites violence. In the preceeding post I created a legal framework for types of incitement that should be deemed illegal and types that should not. Clearly there is much that is problematic in all 3 Abrahamic religions, particularly Islam and Judaism, however I am inclined to rule that Islam uniquely incites violence in a direct and credible manner and that therefore Islam should solely be considered in violation of this legal framework. Furthermore, there have now been a long succession of extremely violent terrorist attacks in Europe where the Islamic religion was known to be a major motivating factor. Such events should pragmatically carry weight in deciding that its time to ban a particular religion.
If European countries that have laws against incitement fail to ban the Islamic religion, then they are violating that most important principle of just societies, namely equality before the law.
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