Muslims Killing Muslims

imagesIn the news: Over 700 killed in a human stampede at the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

A presidential candidate was recently asked whether something about Islam makes its adherents prone to violence. The politically correct answer, of course, is “no;” George W. Bush flattered Islam as a “religion of peace.” My answer is different.

A greatly disproportionate number of the world’s violent conflicts involve Muslims, and it’s not because non-Muslims are picking on them. Most victims too, of movements like Al Qaeda and ISIS, are Muslims.

thOne might say it’s a matter of culture, not religion, but the two are inextricably intertwined. It’s dangerous when a religion claims a huge cosmic truth, inspiring condemnation of anyone not with the program. Thus Christianity too has a blood-soaked history; but Christians have mellowed out, finally recognizing the desirability of coexisting with other opinions. That’s a maturity still eluding the Muslim world, much of which still holds the outrageous doctrine that apostasy gets the death penalty. And that can apply even to narrow doctrinal disagreements within Islam.

I refrained from using some of the stomach-churning images I found

I refrained from using some of the stomach-churning images I found

Quite simply, Muslim culture does not respect human autonomy. That’s a recipe for violence not only with other cultures but within Muslim communities themselves. Just one manifestation is “honor killings.” What else can we make of fathers killing daughters for (perceived) misbehavior? (And often by horrific methods.) Yes, there is indeed something about Islamic culture making people prone to violence; and if it’s not exactly a matter of religion, certainly religion does not inhibit it.

So now we see Muslims killing each other on a religious pilgrimage. Okay, yes, it was accidental, and similar things have occurred elsewhere. But over 700 deaths? And, I’m sorry, but “accidental” doesn’t quite cover it. For it to happen, many people in those crowds had to behave a certain way, they could not have been – in that moment at least – in a reverent, love-your-Muslim-brother state of mind. How easily they forgot their religion, even while on a pilgrimage.

images1This kind of thing is why religion, to me, is a cruel joke. People don’t need religion to be good. Human beings are naturally good, most of the time, and when they’re not, religion doesn’t help. It tends to be more an exacerbating factor than a mitigating factor.



11 Responses to “Muslims Killing Muslims”

  1. On the Realization that My Father Thinks Islam is a Violent Religion | Everything Ahead, Everything Behind Says:

    […] quote directly from his recent blog post on the subject, “Yes, there is indeed something about Islamic culture making people prone to […]

  2. Lee Says:

    Lots of groups of people do bad things to other people. If we focus on violence among the many horrendous things that are done then that will limit which groups that we are talking about, since not all these groups doing bad things are violent. If we further limit groups to religions then that will further narrow the field, for now we need not consider neo-Nazis, drug dealers, non-religious groups of racists and sexists, etc. If we further restrict religious categorization to the level of Islam, then we can smear all the subcategories at once … much like a blanket statement about Fundamentalist Christians, might be used to inappropriately smear Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Latter Day Saints.

    So, yes, in the small, murky pond you have chosen to focus on — as in biggest fish in a small pond with widespread guilt by association — you can make the statement that Muslims are more violent. Or can you? There are more than 100 times as many Muslims in the world as Jews. Are the Muslims killing 100 times as many people as, for example, are killed by the Israeli government in Palestine? Maybe the answer is still Muslims — I don’t really know — but the margin doesn’t seem as big, does it? (Making all Jews responsible for the policies of the Israeli Likud Party is a nice smear campaign, eh?) If we fail to statistically control for things like poverty and (non-religious) oppressive governments that makes it even easier to smear a group.

    If we are willing to consider bad things other than violence, such as abject poverty, then things also change. Once it was natural for the stronger to exploit the physically weaker, but we have evolved socially to a point where we now consider this inappropriate. Rolling forward to the present, many consider it natural for rich people to keep the things they own from the poor. Some day we may be looking back at the 2 billion people who are living at under $2 per day and consider that akin to violence against the physically weak. We can note that 2 billion victims is bigger than the violence caused by the Muslims and ask which group is responsible? We might have to conclude that Capitalists (not a religious group, so we’ll smear the atheists too!) are more violent than even the Muslims. Did I mention the railroad barons, the S&L crisis, or the mortgage-backed securities? Grouping all capitalists into one group is as fair as grouping all Muslims, yes, even though the vast majority of both groups are very good people? Yes, I think we should ponder whether “something about Capitalism makes its adherents prone to financial violence.”

    In case that is too tongue in cheek for some readers, please note that I do not feel that capitalists or Muslims are especially prone to financial or physical violence.

  3. rationaloptimist Says:

    The “small murky pond” I have “chosen to focus on” is the whole world. I repeat: a very disproportionate share of the world’s violent conflicts involve Muslims. Very disproportionate. Why?
    You mention poverty, a familiar old trope. But poverty does not correlate with violence. There is, however, a correlation between poverty and bad, undemocratic government; and a correlation between such governments and violent conflict. (In fact, virtually EVERY violent conflict the world has seen involves a nondemocratic government.) And there seems to be a regrettable correlation between Islam and undemocratic government. Why is that?
    To suggest equating people living in poverty with victims of violence, and that those are the same things, is a shabby sort of mal-reasoning unbefitting to you, Lee. (And no, the rich do not get their wealth at the expense of the poor.)

  4. Lee Says:

    Some oppressive governments profess adherence to Islam and some do not. If you have evidence of a statistical association, please present it. As I recall, Russia and China have had a long string of oppressors who professed atheism. That means that atheists are more prone to be like Stalin and Mao, yes? Or perhaps you would argue that Russia and China are rather insignificant places or that the violence in those places over the last century is negligible? What about the oppressive governments in Africa, many of which do not claim divine rights from Islam? Another small place? North Korea is definitely small, but also definitely not Islamic. Central America, South America, …. You are correct that there are also some oppressive governments that claim that Islam backs their power.

    The “whole world” also includes the fact that several thousand children die of hunger every day. Whether or not the pond was designed to include the fact that people who own things get exclusive rights to those things, those rights can have bad side effects. A completely curable pandemic, which is based almost completely on a failure to share resources, results in the DEATH OF THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN EVERY DAY. The “violent Muslims” can only admire from afar a statistic like that.

    As I disclaimed before: I like capitalists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists, Russians, Chinese, Africans, Americans, etc. The vast majority of each of these peoples are very good people. Blaming these groups for the bad apples that are attracted to them is putting the blame in the wrong place.

  5. rationaloptimist Says:

    Nearly all nations that are Muslim-majority are dictatorships. The majority of all other nations are not.
    What Stalin and Mao did was never in service to “atheism” but rather in service to theories about economics and society. Much of the violence by Muslims in today’s world is professed to be in service to religion.
    Regarding poverty and disease, the rich world is not to blame (for “failure to share resources”), and indeed, is part of the solution rather than part of the problem, which is part of why poverty and disease have improved dramatically in modern times. See this column by Nicholas Kristof that one of my readers alerted me to this morning:

  6. Lee Says:

    We are in complete agreement that the rich world is part of the solution to the hunger problem. (That the rich could do even more, does not mean that the rich are blameworthy.) Where we are having trouble is the parallel statement, the extent to which Islam is part of the solution to oppression. (That Muslims could do more does not make them blameworthy.)

    Yes, some demagogues claim religious faith (or the atheist equivalent such as “natural order”) backs their evil acts. They are wrong.

    Is it your argument that the people of Muslim-majority nations want to be under a dictatorship or are especially incompetent at preventing dictatorship?

  7. rationaloptimist Says:

    “Want to be”? Surely not. “Especially incompetent”? I wouldn’t put it that way. For most of history, ALL nations had undemocratic government. It took a long time, and a lot of work, for the majority to achieve democracy. In that evolution, the Muslim world is clearly lagging behind. Why? And clearly that lag is related to a lot of other things bedeviling the Muslim world.
    Yesterday I heard a radio report about an Afghan saying the government is rotten, and people should go there and stone them to death. Well, okay, that hasn’t happened. But even saying it bespeaks, to me, a certain kind of mindset. For all the vitriol in American political life (you should see some of the vicious comments this blog post provoked on Facebook), nobody ever says the other guys should be killed. In our culture it is just simply unthinkable. There’s a difference there.

  8. Lee Says:

    When it came to King George’s legitimate government in the United States leading up to 1776, violence was on many a person’s mind. My experience is that the violent approaches are less efficient than aggressive diplomatic approaches, especially in the modern age, so you won’t find me joining that Afghan. However, “simply unthinkable” is stronger than I would go in a region where so many have lost so much.

    “And clearly that lag is related to a lot of other things bedeviling the Muslim world.” — yes!

  9. rationaloptimist Says:

    George’s government was legitimate only so long as it rested on the consent of the governed. That ended. I support violent revolution to replace illegitimate governments with legitimate ones.

  10. Lee Says:

    Is it “simply unthinkable” that the Afghan government does not have the consent of the governed?

  11. rationaloptimist Says:

    President Ashraf Ghani was elected in a democratic election (thwarting Taliban efforts to intimidate voters), whose result was disputed, but he agreed to share power with the runner-up. Between them they got the vast majority of the votes. That’s consent aplenty. Plus, both seem to be very good guys.

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