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"The Religion of Peace and Mercy":

Here's what Iranian Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani — "one of the dozen or so Grand Ayatollahs in Iran, who has a large following" — wrote on Sept. 16, 2006, responding to the Pope's speech (the one in which the Pope quoted a Byzantine emperor who wrote, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached"):

We can easily prove for [the Pope] that Islam is the religion of peace and mercy. One of Quran's most glorious verses is the verse 12 of Al-An'am chapter which says[, ']He has ordained mercy on Himself[']. Pope Benedict XVI should spend several years to understand this verse.

His statements about Jihad, holy war, emanate from his lack of knowledge and understanding from the reality of Jihad. Obviously he has erroneously taken the Islamic Jihad for what the US government has created and named as 'terrorism'. We wonder why he who is considering himself leader of a divine religion denies God's will outright under the pretext of intellect and logic.

Now here's what Grand Ayatollah Lankarani did a few days ago, with regard to a writer who reprinted the Mohammed cartoons; I quote the BBC account:

One of Iran's most senior clergymen [Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani] has issued a fatwa on an Azeri writer said to have insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

The call on Muslims to murder Rafiq Tagi, who writes for Azerbaijan's Senet newspaper, echoes the Iranian fatwa against Indian writer Salman Rushdie....

The Iranian media is reporting that Grand Ayatollah Lankarani's followers inside the republic of Azerbaijan wrote to him asking for advice about what they called "the apostate writer".

They accuse the Azeri writer of portraying Christianity as superior to Islam and Europe as superior to the Middle East.

They allege that he has ridiculed all the sanctities of Islam and done it knowingly, fully aware of the consequences of his action....

I'm sure there are many Muslims whose Islam is a religion of peace and mercy. But I feel comfortable saying that Grand Ayatollah Lankarani's version of Islam is not.

I thank Ali Eteraz, who is organizing a Muslim remonstrance against Lankarani's fatwa, and to InstaPundit, who linked to Eteraz's work, for the pointers to the Grand Ayatollah's statements.

UPDATE: I initially thought that the fatwa was issued because of several actions on the writer's part, but rereading the article makes me doubt that, and suspect that it might have been based just on reprinting the Mohammad cartoons; I've therefore deleted the "among other things" before "reprinted the Mohammed cartoons." If any of you have more precise information on this, please let me know.

jvarisco (www):
I don't know the details, but I think it is worth remembering that in Islam, as with most other religions, being an apostate is much worse than simply not being a member of the religion at all; it's seen as something akin to treason. Thus it is quite possible that the Ayatollah has nothing against non-Muslims (and in fact supports mercy for them) while advocating a harder line toward apostates.

The War on Terror aside, most of the time you let POWs go after the war is over - but if they happen to be citizens of your country, that does not happen.
12.1.2006 5:54pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
Both Christian extremists and Muslim extremists besmirch their respective religions whether it was the Crusaders of the 12th century or the Jihadists of the 21st century.
12.1.2006 6:16pm
Fub:
One of Iran's most senior clergymen [Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani] has issued a fatwa on an Azeri writer said to have insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

The call on Muslims to murder Rafiq Tagi, who writes for Azerbaijan's Senet newspaper, echoes the Iranian fatwa against Indian writer Salman Rushdie....
But no doubt he intended it to be understood in the nicest possible way.
12.1.2006 6:23pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
This is the standard Muslim argument. "Of course our women have many rights. The Koran says so." "Of course we are a religion of peace. The Koran says so." Color me unconvinced/

David, you may want to read up on Crusaders before you accept the conventional wisdom about them. What are called The Crusades were a primarily defensive war by Europeans against violent expansion by Middle-easterners for a thousand years. The Romanians and other Balkan nations bore the brunt of this, and do not record that it was Western Europe that was the aggressor. Their complaint was that Western Europe barely helped out.
12.1.2006 6:27pm
DK:
It is a contradiction in terms for anyone to say that "my religion is THE religion of peace and mercy". I wonder if that is a mistranslation or if the Ayatollah was simply mistranslated.
12.1.2006 6:38pm
ajftoo:

I'm sure there are many Muslims whose Islam is a religion of peace and mercy.

What evidence do you have which leads you to be "sure?"

Having been born and raised in Iran, I have no reason to even suspect that there are many Muslims whose Islam is a religion of peace and mercy.

Persians have surrvived (just barley) 1386 years of Islam, today there are fewer than 300,000 of us left in the world. We've had just about enough of the Muslim version of "peace and mercy," thank you very much.

And all you need to know about Eteraz' letter to the scumbag in question is that it starts off with this:

As Salam O Alaykum, Grand Ayatollah (May God Lengthen Your Life):

I hope this letter reaches you in the best of health and faith.
12.1.2006 6:51pm
Ali Eteraz (mail) (www):
reply to aftjoo,

i'm sorry that you had to grow up in iran. my father went there for business in 1989 and booked it.

however, as to your concern regarding why i titled the letter i did, is because it is the pragmatic thing to do. larankani is one of the top 12 aytollahs in the world. his website is translated into more languages than can fit in this comment box. he has, whether we like it or not, real power. one does not beseech powerful people to change their course by calling them scumbag or douchebag. you wouldn't even do that in this country. so get over it.

thank you mr. volokh for recognizing these events.
12.1.2006 7:29pm
Vovan:

An Azerbaijani court sentenced the writer Rafiq and his publisher to two months in jail for an article which was illustrated by the same cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad originally published in Denmark that caused outcry in the Muslim world.


Damn, it's like the wall never fell eh? Straight to the camp...
12.1.2006 7:40pm
jvarisco (www):
ajftoo) 300,000 what? Zoroastrians? Persians make up half of the population of Iran (35 million or so), and are predominantly Muslim. Sure, Islam has destroyed Zoroastrians, monotheism tends to stop people from being pagan. But I'm not sure what else you are suggesting.

"The Crusades were a primarily defensive war by Europeans against violent expansion by Middle-easterners for a thousand years."

The First Crusade: 1100
Birth of Islam: 610
1100-610: 490
Clearly Islam had been on a thousand year offensive in 1100. You can argue the Islamic Empires were attacking the Byzantines, but they hardly count as Europe; if you read your history, you will find out that in the fourth crusade they actually attacked the (Christian) city of Constantinople. Saladin was also hardly the leader of a unified Muslim Empire, which had split quite a few years earlier. It was not until the Ottomans (who came from Turkey quite a while later) that an Islamic Empire actually threatened Europe.
12.1.2006 7:50pm
Vovan:
I believe that ajftoo is referring to the Baha'i faith

They had it the toughest for a long time
12.1.2006 8:00pm
ajftoo:
jvarisco,

Your ignorance is astounding. Zorastianism is the original monotheistic religion.

The arab-muslims in Iran do certainly claim to be Persians, but that is a lie. To be Persian is to be Zorastrian. It has been so for over 5000 years, and so it shall always be.

Ali,


larankani is one of the top 12 aytollahs in the world.


Whose fault is that? Exactly. Muslims. Point made.
12.1.2006 8:08pm
ajftoo:
Vovan,

Bahais are muslims. And certainly not Persian.
12.1.2006 8:11pm
Vovan:
heh, compared to Baha'i Zoroastrians have it pretty sweet over there, which isn't saying much
12.1.2006 8:51pm
anonVCfan:
I suppose the peace and mercy are subject to certain conditions. Just like the guy who robs a bank comes in peace and mercy, so long as you hand over the money, don't make any sudden movements and do exactly as he says....
12.1.2006 9:08pm
jvarisco (www):
ajftoo) My point stands. Zoroastrianism is dualistic, you can call it monotheist if you like, but the fact is that either of the two modern religions, Christianity or Islam, would have wiped it out. And there is no reason you should have a monopoly over the word Persian; the ethnic group of people with a Persian culture, who are ancestors of those who lived in the Empire, are currently in Iran. And there are 35 million of them. You are just bitter that most Persians converted to a more appealing religion.

And your math is about as good as the other person. Zoroaster was born c.1600 BC. 2006 + 1600 = 3606. That's not quite 5000.
12.1.2006 9:24pm
Phineas Pegler (mail):
As someone who grew up (but is no longer) Baha'i:

1) In my experience, Iranian Baha'is refer to themselves as Persian.
2) Baha'is do not regard themselves as muslim, but as an independent religion.
12.1.2006 9:25pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
So, Eteraz, if your polite letter does not turn the Iranian Islamic revolution around, what next?

And speaking of politeness, as an American, I'd appreciate it if ayatollah's boys and girls would stop gathering every Friday to chant 'Death to America' and calling America a 'Great Satan.' It hurts my feelings.

You are a fool. A polite fool, but still a fool.
12.1.2006 10:50pm
CWuestefeld (mail) (www):
Anyone who can say "We can easily prove" anything about a religion has quite a lot of temerity.

For one thing, as most muslims keep reminding us, there are many different flavors, both on the macro level (with sunnis, etc.) and on the micro (each individual has their own differences). It's simply impossible to say anything in the absolute.

More importantly, religious tenets are simply not subject to proof. Religion is effectively at right angles to logic, such that nothing observed in the "real" world can prove or disprove religion, nor the converse. If these clerics want to bring logic into the picture, they'd better hold onto their hats.
12.1.2006 11:03pm
pst314 (mail):
The test of whether Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace will be whether large numbers of Muslims rise up to denounce and fight against oppression of non-Muslims.
12.1.2006 11:14pm
Freddy Hill:
jvarisco:


Clearly Islam had been on a thousand year offensive in 1100. You can argue the Islamic Empires were attacking the Byzantines, but they hardly count as Europe


You are so wrong it is almost comical. The Muslim invasion of Spain started in the year 711 under the authority of the Caliph of Damascus, only a century after the birth of the Islam. By 722, they had conquered practically all of the Iberian peninsula. It was 732 before Charles Martel stopped them in Tours. Check a map to find out where that is (hint: it is in Europe). It would be 30 more years before they were driven out of France, and 800 before they were driven out of the Iberian peninsula.

The Crusades started as a direct reaction to the Muslim invasion of Europe.

In his fitful sleep, Bin Laden dreams with the restoration of the Caliphate and the resurgence of a Muslim Spain. The way things are going, he may get his dream.
12.2.2006 12:01am
Lev:

The test of whether Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace will be whether large numbers of Muslims rise up to denounce and fight against oppression of non-Muslims.


That might be the non-Moslem test, but it is not the Moslem test, at least not in the way non-Moslems might think about it.

I have been reading on the matter, and it seems that Islam is a religion of peace, in a manner of speaking, in those areas where Islam, and Sharia law, have been established and are in control - The Land of Peace, Saudi Arabia for example. What non-Moslems would call Moslem oppression in such a place is not oppression, it is behaving properly according to the Koran. Moslems, being believers in The One God, The True Faith, as passed on by Allah to the people through Mohammed The Messenger and Prophet, have, rightly, as given by God, as stated by God, superior rights in The the Land of Peace. All others have rights only at sufferance of Moslems because they have not accepted The True Faith. Of course, to allow other religions to be practiced in The Land of Peace would be the worst sort of blasphemy and heresy, if not apostasy.

People of the Book, meaning Jews, Christians, and, it seems Zoroastrians, may be allowed to exist in The Land of Peace, at the sufferance of Moslems, and provided and so long as, they pay a head tax and comply with rules and laws set for them, determined by the Moslems...in lieu of converting to Islam or being executed - Dhimmis/Dhimmitude. All others, convert or die.

Repeating, this is not, from the Moslem viewpoint, oppression of non-Moslems, it is simply what Allah requires and the proper order of things.
12.2.2006 12:17am
John (mail):
EV, this is not the first post where you just don't seem to get it. There is nothing inconsistent between (a) being a religion of peace and mercy and (b) issuing an order to kill some one--any more than it is inconsistent to say Americans are peaceful, and yet treason is a capital offense.

Insulting Mohammed, in the view of some -- perhaps many -- muslims, is far worse than mere treason to a state, because an actor of greater power than the state is involved, viz., Allah.
12.2.2006 12:49am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I'd suppose when one group was expanding you could characterize any actions of the other group as either defense or attack. Islam expanded over this period, so we could class the crusades as an attack, or as defense intended to recover Jerusalem, or as a more general counter-attack.
12.2.2006 12:52am
jvarisco (www):
Freddy) You might get that in an old history book. But anything in the recent past would realize that Tours, while perhaps a big deal to Europe, was merely a raid to the Caliphate. It was not attempting to annex large swaths of land, and there was certainly no threat to the rest of Europe.

It might also tell you that in 750 the Umayyads were overthrown, and the Abbasids (their successors) never controlled Spain. In fact, the Muslims in Spain fought with their co-religionists in North Africa much more than against other Europeans. By the time of the Crusades, there was no real Caliphate - note that the Mongols destroyed Baghdad in 1258, and it had been disintegrating steadily before then. As I pointed out before, the first sustained offensive by an Islamic Empire with the intention of conquering significant amounts of Europe was under the Ottomans in the 15th century, well after the Crusades.

CWuestefeld makes a good point; religion is not rational, and there is no "right" answer as to what a religion is. Any religion can be made to support just about anything. If the Middle East was another religion, it would be no different. As history has shown quite well, people can (and will) justify just about anything in the name of religion.
12.2.2006 2:45am
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
Jvarisco seemingly makes a good point when he objects to folks arguing that the Crusades were primarily defensive in origin, noting that the initial Muslim conquests were many centuries over with by the time of the Crusades. It's rather as if Britain, surviving remnant of the old British Empire and mother country to the United States, were to seek to motivate Anglo-America to come to her aid today against (say) "Papist aggression"... by denouncing outrages dating back to Spain's conquest of the Americas, the Spanish Armada, and the Thirty Years War! Think anybody'd come?

Nor, despite the sympathy Europeans no doubt felt for the plight of the fellow-Christian Byzantines, were medieval western European knights any more inclined to sail off in their thousands to (what was then, from their point of view) the ends of the Earth, for what were by even their day ancient causes, than is anybody else. No, the proximate cause for the 11th century western European military challenge to Islam must be sought much closer to their own era.

Moreover, jvarisco's right when he says that Islam wasn't at that point an immediate threat to western Europe from the East; however, the reason that was true is precisely because Byzantium -- the old, surviving Roman Empire -- geographically blocked the way. Had the City fallen to the earlier Arab attacks of the 7th and 8th centuries, as it might well have (especially without the advent of the Byzantines' secret superweapon, Greek fire), Europe would have been in extremely serious danger. By the later time period under consideration, the 11th century, Byzantium was once again threatened by a Muslim power, in this case the Seljuk Turks. It's true the Turks were not yet in a position to conquer Constantinople, and wouldn't be close to that for centuries -- but a major reason, indeed, is a result of the advent of the Crusades, which threw back the Turkish Muslim threat for a quarter of a millennium.

Beyond that, as for jvarisco's apparently excellent point about the Crusades following too long (several centuries) after the initial Muslim conquests for them to be "defensive" in nature -- despite its seemingly flawless logic, it's quite wrong. As Prof. William B. Stevenson writes in The Cambridge Medieval History, it was, "[t]he Muslim attack on *southern Europe*, from the eighth century to the eleventh, [which] called forth the counter-stroke which is known as the First Crusade." (Emphasis added.) The Muslim assault on Europe thus didn't end in the 8th century (when Spain was lost) but rather intensified over subsequent centuries. Prof. Stevenson describes the situation:
After the Muslim conquest of North Africa, Spain (eighth century), and Sicily (ninth century), all the southern coast of France and the western coast of Italy, with the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, lay at the mercy of hostile fleets and of the forces which they landed from time to time. The territories and suburbs of Genoa, of Pisa, and of Rome itself were raided and plundered. The Italian cities of the north had as yet no fleets, and the Muslims held command of the sea. In the south of Italy and in southern France Muslim colonies established themselves and were the terror of their Christian neighbours.

During the 10th century, the tide began to turn. Muslim colonists were expelled from southern France, for instance, by 975. As late as 1002, however, Bari (in eastern Italy) could still be besieged, and the southern coast of Italy ravaged, while Pisa (in northwest Italy) was sacked in 1004 and again in 1011 by Saracen fleets. ("Sacked" -- what a tidy euphemism for the indescribable catastrophe such an experience is for a city and its inhabitants.) In 1015 Muslims from Spain seized the sizable island of Sardinia (larger than Palestine) outright, driving Genoa and Pisa into an alliance to evict them (at which they were successful within a couple years).

Thus the incentive for organizing a military counterstrike by the Europeans. (Nor is this a particularly biased portrait of what occurred; the great Arabic historian Ibn Khaldun's depiction of those same events doesn't differ significantly in my view.)

Stevenson considers when Europe first became capable of undertaking the Crusading effort:
The date at which Europe became ready for a united attack on the Muslim East cannot be put earlier than the last quarter of the eleventh century. The enemy were then at last driven out of the home lands, excepting Spain, and the Western Mediterranean was again a Christian sea. As long as the struggle in the West was proceeding, schemes for the conquest of Palestine were impracticable.

As Stevenson says, "The recovery of Italy and Sicily and a large part of Spain from Muslim rule gave an impulse to the victors which could not fail to carry them to further enterprises."

The biggest signpost of shifting strategic balances in the western Mediterranean during the 11th century may be regarded as the attack by Genoa and Pisa on the port of Mahdiyah in what is now Tunisia in 1087, signaling acquisition of naval supremacy by the Christian powers. Without superiority at sea nothing else was really possible. Even if some Crusaders could, and did, march overland as far as Constantinople and thence over to Asia Minor, they could not be supplied in their destination of the Holy Land without seaborne support.

Notice by when the First Crusade was actually underway: 1096. Thus, by the standards of the time, western Europeans launched their counterstroke of the Crusades essentially as quickly as they could after it first became possible for them to do so (and not several centuries after the insult).

One other thing: It's often characterized as if the Crusaders' determination to go to and emphasis on securing the Holy Land was strictly a matter of faith and religious conviction, which had and made no military sense. Disregarding the potent motivating factor such powerful symbolism had for medieval Crusader warriors (which armies do at their peril), from the Eastern Roman Emperor's point of view it probably would have made sense had the Crusaders concentrated on destroying the Seljuk Turk states that had so threateningly established themselves in central and eastern Anatolia (the heartland of the old Eastern Empire). The Crusaders, however, did not do that "sensible" thing; and there is another point of view by which attacking the Holy Land made eminent military sense.

During the half century that the Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem extended as far south as Elat and islands to the south in the Gulf of Aqaba (an arm of the Red Sea), the Islamic domain was strategically cut in two, at least by land. Had such a geographic severing been permanently maintained, in theory the remaining now-disjoint Muslim-controlled parts could over time have been subdued piecemeal. And for those who exclaim in horror at the very "imperialist" idea, note that many regions of the Middle East outside Arabia contained large Christian populations that still constituted majorities in many areas, while they were being dominated and repressed by a ruling elite that still, oftentimes, was just a Muslim veneer. Who exactly was in the right in that situation?

It's not well known but several of the later Crusading expeditions aimed at securing not the Holy Land but rather Egypt (conquering Egypt would have accomplished the same thing as seizing Palestine down to the Gulf of Aqaba: strategically, geographically splitting Islam), and at least once came close to achieving their goal; so close, indeed -- taking Damietta (modern Dumyat), fortress key to the Nile -- that they were offered Jerusalem if they would only abandon their incursion (which they didn't, and then failed, losing all). Long-term Crusader success at either of those enterprises would have constituted, of course, an alternate history far distant from our own.


Michael McNeil

Reference: Prof. William B. Stevenson, Chapter VII: "The First Crusade," Volume V: Contest of Empire and Papacy, edited by J. R. Tanner, C. W. Previté-Orton, and Z. N. Brooke, The Cambridge Medieval History, planned by J. B. Bury, Cambridge at the University Press, London, 1926; pp. 265-271.
12.2.2006 4:55am
Freddy Hill (mail):
jvarisco:


Tours, while perhaps a big deal to Europe, was merely a raid to the Caliphate.


A 800-year occupation of a a very large chunk of Europe was merely a raid? Like I suppose that Europe's (and its successor's) 500 year "occupation" of the Americas was just a picnic? By that historical standard, how would you describe China's annexation of Tibet? a friendly game of "king of the mountain"?

So the murder of hundreds of thousands of Europeans during the muslim occupation, their forced conversion (and we know what forced means in Islamic terms), their status as second-class citizens, forced to pay taxes for the "right" not to be murdered for the practice of a different religion; the taxes imposed on vassal Christian states, payable in money AND in virgins (infidel virgins, yes, but with all the necessary attibutes), all of this was nothing but "a raid to the caliphate." I suppose that we should be grateful that it wasn't a real war.

So, what is your argument? That because all this occupation, murder, rape and destruction were no more than a raid as far as the caliphate was concerned, the victims were unjustified in getting a bit upset?

You know, maybe the European Christians should have claimed to be *offended* instead and filed a grievance with the Caliph. Maybe then they would have had a fighting chance.

Boy, I'm glad it wasn't a serious.
12.2.2006 5:53am
Informed:

Both Christian extremists and Muslim extremists besmirch their respective religions whether it was the Crusaders of the 12th century or the Jihadists of the 21st century.


The Crusades are Exhibit A for the case that the current strife between the Muslim world and the Western, post-Christian civilization is ultimately the responsibility of the West, which has provoked, exploited, and brutalized Muslims ever since the first Frankish warriors entered Jerusalem. This view is common and widespread. However, the truth is a far different story. For the Crusades were fundamentally a reaction to the spread of Islam into Christian lands - namely the Byzantine empire - by force, which was set in motion 450 years before the first Crusade. Pope Urban II, who called for the first Crusade at the Council of Clermont in 1095, called for a defensive action - one that was long overdue. As he explained, he was calling for the Crusade because without any defensive action, "the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked" by the Turks and other Muslim forces. He says nothing about conversion or conquest. "The Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire." Ultimately, even though the Crusades failed, they bought Europe even breathing room for Islamic expansion northward to eventually peter out (because the Mongols invaded Arabia from the East).

Someone addressed properly Eugene's comments of Islam being a religion of peace and mercy: it CAN be considered so by Muslims such as Lankarini, but ONLY under lands controlled by Sharia. All non-Muslim lands are enemy lands that have yet to be brought under the umbrella of "peace and mercy".
12.2.2006 7:12am
VFB (mail):
If you want to see how easy it is get a fatwa places on someone check out the link below, where Australian filmmaker John Safran meets Sheikh Omar Bakri and Sheikh Abu Hamza and succeeds in getting a fatwa placed on Rove McManus for dropping Safran's scheduled appearance on Rove Live (the fatwa was later removed). It is very funny, but something tells me that Rove McManus wasn’t laughing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrEI5q1Iiic
12.2.2006 9:14am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Who cares who did what to whom a thousand years ago?

Does anyone believe that if the Muslims today were to live in harmony with their infidel neighbors that there would be 'crusades' to make them behave better?
12.2.2006 10:07am
Tom952 (mail):
Outright lying has become a familiar tactic of Islamic spokespersons, as recent exposures have revealed. They show no awareness of the revulsion to hypocrisy felt by outside observers.

Perhaps they are in their "end justifies the means" philosophical period? Or, put another way, the "we will do or say anything to get the bomb so we can rule the world" phase.
12.2.2006 10:12am
jvarisco (www):
"So the murder of hundreds of thousands of Europeans during the muslim occupation, their forced conversion (and we know what forced means in Islamic terms), their status as second-class citizens, forced to pay taxes for the "right" not to be murdered for the practice of a different religion; the taxes imposed on vassal Christian states, payable in money AND in virgins (infidel virgins, yes, but with all the necessary attibutes), all of this was nothing but "a raid to the caliphate." I suppose that we should be grateful that it wasn't a real war."

Interesting tirade. Though I'm pretty sure none of it is actually based on any sort of empirical date. The Muslims generally were happy to stay apart from the local population; there was certainly no forced conversion from other monotheistic religions (Christianity and Judaism) during the early conquests. In fact, the Copts in Egypt found them much more tolerant than the diophysite Byzantines. For the times, they were remarkably tolerant. Non-Muslims paid a tax, which offered an incentive to convert, but that's all. Hundreds of thousands were certainly not murdered. Compare it to the reconquista and inquisition, where thousands were in fact killed because they were not Christian.

Michael) My point was that by the time of the Crusades, no defense was necessary. They did not actually split the caliphate, it had already split several hundred years earlier; that would also have required taking Egypt in any case. Nor did they fight a unified Muslim opponent; Saladin was merely a local leader, in this case of Egypt. And the limited gains almost certainly did nothing to prevent further aggression; after all, the raids you mention were not done by Saladin at all.
12.2.2006 11:59am
Edward Lee (www):
Insulting Mohammed, in the view of some -- perhaps many -- muslims, is far worse than mere treason to a state, because an actor of greater power than the state is involved, viz., Allah.

How is one supposed to rationalize the claim that insulting the holy prophet is worse than aiding a wartime enemy?
12.2.2006 12:22pm
MnZ (mail):
Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani actions should not be of surprise to anyone who is paying attention. The radical Islam of today engages in a level of doublethink that would have made Stalin blush.

The Grand Ayatollah likely took a relatively moderate approach to the Pope for two reasons. First, he knew that taking drastic steps such as issuing a fatwa against a person as important as the Pope was impossible. Second, he knew that the Pope was challenging him and other radical Islamists with his statements.
12.2.2006 12:59pm
SG:
jvarisco:

Let's assume arguendo that there was no rational justification for any of the Crusades. That justifies a death sentence on Rafiq Tagi how, exactly?
12.2.2006 2:20pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Lev: Good catch on noting that the Zoroastrians (as Magians) were included among the 'People of the Book'.

Can you also catch for me the vocabulary item we use to describe the state in which Muslims, living in Christian lands, had to pay additional taxes, were excluded from different trades and governmental positions, and generally enjoyed second class citizenship??

The words 'Dhimmi' and 'Dhimmitude' seem to apply only to those so encumbered by Muslims. I can't find a word in any European language I know to cover the factual concept.
12.2.2006 3:03pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
On the Crusades: I firmly believe that military actions of Western Europeans over 900 years ago fully justify the desires of some modern Muslims to chop my Jewish head off, on the internet.
12.2.2006 3:13pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I don't see why it should make any difference, because ancient history is a lousy basis for deciding present policy, but jvarisco's version of ancient history is full of holes.

There were numerous reasons for Christian Europe to want to topple the Muslim polities, not all of them religious or ideological. One was to re-establish contact with the Far East, which the Muslims had cut off.

Another was to protect Europe from slave raids.

You can say that latter one was hypocritical, but it was a powerful reason.
12.2.2006 3:17pm
PersonFromPorlock:

I can't find a word in any European language I know to cover the factual concept.

It's not one word, but the 'Nuremberg Laws' under the Nazis otherwise fit admirably (if that's the word).
12.2.2006 3:27pm
NickM (mail) (www):
According to the Ayatollah, Islam is a religion of peace and mercy because "[, ']He has ordained mercy on Himself[']." Now if "He" and "Himself" refer to Allah, it means that Allah has ordained mercy, not unto others, but unto himself!

That's an interesting new definition of mercy.

Nick
12.2.2006 3:30pm
MnZ (mail):
According to the Ayatollah, Islam is a religion of peace and mercy because "[, ']He has ordained mercy on Himself[']." Now if "He" and "Himself" refer to Allah, it means that Allah has ordained mercy, not unto others, but unto himself!

That's an interesting new definition of mercy.


Or could it mean that only Allah can commit acts of mercy? In other words, is it a "kill all the infidels and let Allah sort it out" view of the world?
12.2.2006 4:06pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Nick and MnZ,

to play Devil's advocate, (pardon the pun), The "Allah onto Allah" language is probably used in some combination with language compelling Muslims to emulate Allah, i.e., to ordain mercy onto themselves. I'm not sure such language exists in the Koran, but I would guess it does, being that these major religions are all carved with the same tools, more or less.
12.2.2006 4:31pm
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
Jvarisco writes:
Michael) My point was that by the time of the Crusades, no defense was necessary. They did not actually split the caliphate, it had already split several hundred years earlier; that would also have required taking Egypt in any case. Nor did they fight a unified Muslim opponent; Saladin was merely a local leader, in this case of Egypt. And the limited gains almost certainly did nothing to prevent further aggression; after all, the raids you mention were not done by Saladin at all.

We modern Westerners have far too great a tendency, in my view, to look at and categorize things purely from a "state" point of view. In the Middle Ages, where both Christian West and Muslim East (and South) were often highly fractured into innumerable de-facto polities (however de-jure they might theoretically belong to some great empire), that often makes no sense. Were the Muslims in no danger because the Christians who sailed to attack them were disunited and not under any one political banner?

Look at it from a WWII analogy, where we one speak of ideologies rather than the loaded word "religion." What if Nazi Germany's conquests had fractured into a number of successor states -- each fully, enthusiastically Nazi in philosophy -- which separately raided Britain and America for work-camp slaves and death-camp victims, while individually plotting and carrying out seizures and conquests of any momentarily relatively unattached territories they can find?

Applying jvarisco's argument, it would make no sense, according to his line of thought, for the Allies in opposing this (scenario of) Nazi menace to seek to strategically and geographically split the semi-independent Nazi regimes so they could not aid each other, nor unite when hard pressed -- which is absurd.

As far as jvarisco's point "And the limited gains almost certainly did nothing to prevent further aggression" is concerned, well yes -- that's how it worked out in the history that actually ensued, in which the Crusaders fell out in acrimony and discord (proving just how disunited they were), and the moment when a determined further push might have toppled the Egyptian and North African regimes, passed -- thus, the opportunity for eliminating in its relatively early stages one of the two pillar regions of Islam (leaving only the Muslim Far East) was lost.

Were the Christians wrong to attempt it, even though it didn't work out in history? Of course, one cannot know in advance whether things will work out in any proposed endeavor. And, as noted before, the Crusades did help give the Byzantine Empire an additional quarter of a millennium lease on life, after which time the European states were far better prepared to cope with the Turkish threat, and also much more philosophically inclined to welcome the corpus of Greco-Roman literary heritage, which migrated along with many Greek teachers and philosophers to Italy and the West during the final years of Constantinople and the old Roman Empire.

Moreover, the Crusades in the West (they were also considered such) -- in Sicily, in Spain, and across the Mediterranean -- were successful. Sicily alone is larger than Palestine, not to speak of relatively huge Spain. Those gains for the Christian West were lasting.
12.2.2006 5:04pm
Aleks:
Re: What are called The Crusades were a primarily defensive war by Europeans against violent expansion by Middle-easterners for a thousand years. The Romanians and other Balkan nations bore the brunt of this, and do not record that it was Western Europe that was the aggressor.

This is historically false. By the time of the Crusades Islamic civilization had fallen into decadence and was certainly not expanding. The Caliphate had shattered into several rival states and the caliphs themselves were powerless figureheads. In the West the Reconquista was gradually pushing the Moors out of Spain. The proximate cause of the Crusades was of course the Turkish victory over the Byzantine Empire and the attacks visited on Christian pilgrims by the Turks in the Holy Land. It is oen of the great ironies of history that it was the Crusaders who ultimately ended up destroying the Byzantine Empire and thereby prepared the way for the Turkish invasion of Europe. To this day many Greeks still bear grudge agaiunst Western Christians for the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

Re: You can argue the Islamic Empires were attacking the Byzantines, but they hardly count as Europe

The Byzantines were Greeks who identified themselves as Romans since theirs was the continuation of theRoman Empire in the East. They were indeed Europeans, culturally and religiously and to some extent even geogrphacally as both their capital city and much of the realm lay in Europe.

Re: Zoroastrianism is dualistic, you can call it monotheist if you like, but the fact is that either of the two modern religions, Christianity or Islam, would have wiped it out.

Before Islam came along Zoroastrianism was certainly holding its own in Persia. A Christian minority, mostly Nestorian, existed in the country but there is no evidence that it would ever have supplanted Zoroastrianism.

Re: The Crusades started as a direct reaction to the Muslim invasion of Europe.

Once again, no they did not. They were a reaction to the Turkish defeat of the Byzantines at Manzikert in Asia Minor (which is not in Europe), and the often brutal treatment by the Turks of Christian pigrims (whom the Arabs had usually treated well, if only because they enjoyed the income from this medieval form of tourism).

Re: Compare it to the reconquista and inquisition, where thousands were in fact killed because they were not Christian.

The early Caliphate was tolerant, but later Muslim rulers were considerably less so. The Berber rulers who supplanted the Umayyads in Spain were especially nasty, persecuting both Jews and Christians quite fiercely, causing even some Spanish Muslims to support the Christian Reconquista.
12.2.2006 8:21pm
jvarisco (www):
Michael) Your analysis has the same basis, but rather than states you suggest we use some sort of encompassing "civilization". I don't really see much cause for that; the history shows that the Muslims (and European Christians for that matter) fought among themselves just as much as each other. Up until the fall of Granada, Muslims in Spain were as likely to send armies to North Africa as against the Europeans trying to drive them into the sea.

Aleks) Turkey can be considered Europe, I suppose. But that's nitpicking; until the Ottomans, Constantinople was fine, and the Muslims did not actually gain any European territory. The lands at issue in the crusades were definitely not part of Europe.

The idea that the concept of excluding those of the non-ruling religion did not exist in Europe seems to me somewhat ludicrous. Of course, most of Christian Europe simply killed nonbelievers; one only has to look at the thirty years war, the Huguenots in France, the Inquisition, etc. Clearly Islam is uniquely intolerant.

I am not justifying this cleric, he sounds like an idiot. But every religion has idiots. There is nothing intrinsic to Islam (e.g. not based on geography, politics, etc.) that makes it any more prone to violence than other religions.
12.2.2006 11:11pm
Lev:
John Burgess


Can you also catch for me the vocabulary item we use to describe the state in which Muslims, living in Christian lands, had to pay additional taxes, were excluded from different trades and governmental positions, and generally enjoyed second class citizenship??



Second class citizens? Gypsies? Jews?

Dhimmi is built-in to Islam, an integral part of it in its application and practice. Is a similar concept built-in to Christianity?
12.3.2006 12:06am
Harry Eagar (mail):
'There is nothing intrinsic to Islam (e.g. not based on geography, politics, etc.) that makes it any more prone to violence than other religions'

Wrong. Islam and Christianity are universalizing, salvationist monotheisms and therefore violent. At the moment, Christianity has been tamed by secular ideas and (aside from Tonga) there are no states allied to Christian proselytizing. Islam today is, vis a vis the rest of the world, about where Christianity was 400 years ago, and therefore very dangerous.

Islam has the additional encumbrance, never part of Christian scripture, of a positive doctrine to bring all people into Islam; Christianity always allowed for the possibility that people like me would refuse conversion and go to hell.

There are many sects within Islam. None of them accepts a permanent division of the world into dar-al-Islam and dar-al-Harb.
12.3.2006 2:53am
Toby:
Varisco

Of course, most of Christian Europe simply killed nonbelievers; one only has to look at the thirty years war, the Huguenots in France, the Inquisition, etc. Clearly Islam is uniquely intolerant.

So what. We are not asked today to choose between living in today's sysrai or during France during the Albigensian Crusade. We are talking about here and now (the position you advocate repeatedly when advocating that the crusaders (or more properly, what was once referred to as Christendom) were not responding to its equivalent dar-al-islam).

Frankly, you argue for the short view whent it suits you (Crusades were unprovoked!) and long view when it suits you (Christians were meanies during the Inquisition!) You'd be more convincing if you picked one.

Islam, as it exists today is remarkably intolerant. It defines peace in terms of submission to Islam. The west, for good or ill, holds few principles important (at least in the sense that it would issue fatwas against , aand thus does not care what unimportant principles others have. The whole PEACE is SUBMISSION, Women are Free [from unwanted mail attention as they stay at home and live in a chadour] would be decried if any western polity attempted it. I believe the word is "Orwellian"

If and when Islam experiance an equivalnet to enlightenment, or if the west abondons the enlightenment, then we will have some sort of position for coexitence.

I believe that one of the most important quotes from the New Testament in terms of allowing the modern world is "Render Unto Caesar that which is Caesars, and unto God that which is God's" If I read my translated Q'ran properly, in Islam, there is only "It all is Allah's"

And that is no basis for Peace w/o cpomplete capitulation of all western ideals, including the ones you are arguing from.
12.3.2006 10:15am
jvarisco (www):
I am not arguing that Islam is not intolerant; I think it is clear that in many cases it is. My point is that nothing about Islam itself (e.g. in the Quran) makes it any more violent than any other religion. I think the causes rest not in Islam, but in the geopolitical situation in the Middle East. Without Islam, another ideology would be used to justify it. It's also wrong to define "Islam" as a whole; many Muslims are not intolerant, and many Christians are. But the problem is not one based in religion, and analyses fixated on the content of the religion, rather than the underlying issues, will not help to fix the problem. As was pointed out, Christianity became more tolerant because people became secular (and thus less Christian). So what you are attacking is not Islam, but religiosity.
12.3.2006 1:39pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
No, we're attacking Islam.

The Bali bombing had exactly what to do with political/social considerations in the Mideast? That's right, nothing.

There are 25 borders where a largely Islamic society abuts a largely infidel one. Every single one is subjected, from the Islamic side, to terrorism.

It doesn't happen the other way around. It's the religion.
12.3.2006 1:46pm
SG:
jvarisco:

Tha Dalai Lama is the religious leader of an oppressed people and an occuppied land, yet I doubt you would consider him to be morally equivalent to Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani, would you? Nor, I suspect, do you believe there is an moral equivalency between the actions of an observant Quaker or Mennonite and an observant Muslim.

So I disagree that with your claim that the problem is religiosity as opposed to Islam.

Now, if you wanted to relax your claim to something like the problem not being historically unique to Islam, well sure. Lots of religions (and more generally, ideologies) have been warlike and intolerant of others. Or if you want to assert that there are lots of Muslims who aren't terribly observant so they don't subscribe to those volent and intolerant aspects of their religion, well again sure. And lots of Roman Catholics use birth control in contravention of their church's teachings.

But if you want to continue to claim that there's no problem with Islam, the facts are clearly against you.
12.3.2006 5:53pm
Aleks:
Re: Turkey can be considered Europe, I suppose.

Before the country fell to the Turks it was culturally quite European, having been the homeland of a number of Greek peoples for millennia as well as fairly Hellenized speakers of Lydian, Phrygian, Thracian, Galatian etc, all Indo-European languages.

Re; The idea that the concept of excluding those of the non-ruling religion did not exist in Europe seems to me somewhat ludicrous.

Yes. Islamic dhimmi laws have their exact counterpart in the ghetto laws that applied to Europe's Jews.

Re: Of course, most of Christian Europe simply killed nonbelievers

A gross exaggeration. There are examples of such atrocities (the Teutonic Knights in the Baltic states were especially homocidal), but during the conversion period you will find only very small scale examples of this, if at all, plus a couple of larger instances where the murdered pagans brought their doom on themselves by their own viciousness (e.g., the Saxons massacred by Charlemagne, or the Magyars slaughtered by Otto I).

Re: Clearly Islam is uniquely intolerant.

Over the entire period of their respective histories I would suggest the two cultures have been about equally tolerant. We are less familiar with Islamic history than with European, so it's easy to recount the sins of the latter while we are ignorant of the former. And modern Christendom has by now pulled far away from Islam in this regard.

Re: Dhimmi is built-in to Islam, an integral part of it in its application and practice.

The dhmmi laws evolved over many centuries in Islam just as similar laws did in Europe once Christianity got its hands on the reins of state power.

Re: Islam and Christianity are universalizing, salvationist monotheisms and therefore violent.

I don't know that I agree with your "therefore". Religious violence has only occured in both cultures when the religion got its hands on state power and became accustomed to holding it so that any challenge to its authority threatened its wealth and comfort. Church or Mosque authorities were no more violent or intolerant than contemportary secular rulers when their rule was contested. Meanwhile there have been out-of-power sects in both faiths (the Nestorians for example, or the Sufis is Islam) which have been determinedly pacifistic. Some of them, like Pennsylvania's Quakers, even retained that trait when they gained secular authority.

Re: There are 25 borders where a largely Islamic society abuts a largely infidel one. Every single one is subjected, from the Islamic side, to terrorism.

Let's also remember though that the culture we call Christendom makes Islam look like a weak sister when it comes to expansionary tendencies. It was Christendom not Islam which won the imperialism sweepstakes, conquering, colonizing and converting vast regions of the globe. The borders of Christendom, exapanding rapidly after the early 1500s like some metastasizing tumor, were quite bloody for some centuries too.
12.3.2006 7:57pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
No, universalizing, salvationist monotheisms must always be violent. Rejecting the doctrine, under those circumstances, is equivalent to rejecting god, and that -- as the Roman Catholics tell us -- is the unforgivable sin. The punishment for the unforgivable sin must be worse than any other punishment. QED.

The Salafists are explicit about this, which is why 'people of the book' are to be allowed to live, while atheists are required by Islam to be killed.

You are of course right that the violent inspirations are usually expressed most when the religion also attains the civil power. But not always. The history of the monks of Alexandria in the 3rd-4th centuries shows this.

As for expansionism, the outcomes were different because techonology was different. The goals were about the same. As Kinross puts it in his history of the Ottomans, the northern reach of Ottoman power in southeastern Europe was not determined by the valor of the Poles and Hungarians but by the logistics of the Ottoman army. Similarly, the Mongols could not penetrate western Europe farther than the Hungarain plain for lack of forage.

Among the unknown ironies of the 21st century is that the highlands of Afghanistan remained pagan until the 1890s, when a lowland Islamic thug finally obtained enough European weapons to wipe out or forcibly convert the autochthonous peoples. The great grandfathers of the Taliban were not Muslims.
12.4.2006 12:17am
Sparky:
Point of information, re: "organizing a Muslim remonstrance against Lankarani's fatwa"

Does Islamic law recognize some kind of formal protest of a fatwa? Or is this just a bunch of people grousing?
12.4.2006 10:51am
Aleks:
Re: No, universalizing, salvationist monotheisms must always be violent.

Unfortunately, real world examples (I cited some) disprove your point. It is the addition of state power to these religions which brings about violence. Hence (to use a very large scale example) in the modern world the separation of church and state has all but defused Christianity’s violent tendencies.

Re: The history of the monks of Alexandria in the 3rd-4th centuries shows this.

An exception which actually proves the rule. (Note however: the time frame you mean is the 4th-5th century; monasticism was only founded in the early 4th century). But look more closely: The religious violence of that era was actually ethnic and ultimately political in character. Egypt had been ruled (and often misruled) by Greeks and Romans for centuries. The native Egyptians had been powerless in their own country, and they had also adopted Christianity at far higher rates than the Greco-Roman population in the cities. The Egyptian monks came from a native peasantry with generations worth of grievances. Their violence (which was frankly terrorist in nature, and not sanctioned by either the Roman state or the Greek Church) was directed primarily at pagan Greeks, not at the remaining pagans in their own society. These were angry men seeking to seize power from a hated elite, the analogues in some ways to our Al Qaida with its fierce anti-Western hatred.
12.4.2006 4:42pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I think we are talking past each other.

I grew up Roman Cathoic in the South. Where state power looked the other way, Protestants carved up Catholics, on the grounds that they were not Christian. Where state power was willing to intervene against religious terrorism, they didn't.

The desire of Southern Baptists to carve up Roman Catholics was, I thus take it, constant; the opportunity varied. (You will say, do I believe that, given the opportunity again, the Baptists would terrorize the Catholics, or vice versa, and my answer is, yes, of course. Once bitten, twice shy.)

As for Alexandria, the stated reason for the murder of pagans, most famously Hypatia, was religious. Even if you think that ethnic/social hatreds contributed to that, I don't see how you can simply ignore the stated reason. That was, after all, the major recruitment tool. They did not advertise that they were out to kill Greeks but to kill pagans.

Also, by the 4th-5th centuries, the violence was intraChristian, so the supposed ethnic/social inspiration either drops out or takes a back seat.

I don't know of any historical example where a universalizing, salvationist monotheism had the practical capacity to engage in religious terrorism and didn't do it.
12.4.2006 11:06pm
Aleks:
Re: Where state power looked the other way, Protestants carved up Catholics, on the grounds that they were not Christian.

Presumably in an alternate reality, as I have heard of no almost examples (with rare exceptions*) of religiously induced murders in the USA

Re; They did not advertise that they were out to kill Greeks but to kill pagans.

"Greeks" and "pagans" were almost identical to the perceptions of the time, in much the same way that "Jew" and "Israeli" or even European" and "Christian" (in Muslim reckoning) is today. You are talking about the actiosn of ignorant mobs, people who understanding of their purported religion verged on nothing more than bare superstition. Hypatia and her fellows made as convenient a target as Western tourists do for Islamic radicals in modern Egypt.

Re: I don't know of any historical example where a universalizing, salvationist monotheism had the practical capacity to engage in religious terrorism and didn't do it.

I've given you a number of examples. The Quakers in Pennsylvania. Roger Williams in Rhode Island. The Nestorians throughout the Middle East and China. Various pacifistic Sufi sects in Islam. Christianity almost everywhere today. The Jews throughout much of history and despite the awful things visited on them.


* The most significant exceptions involve the early history of the LDS, a number of whose memebrs were indeed murdered, including foudner Jospeh Smith. Other than that you need to go all the way back to the 17th century to find heresy trials and the like.
12.5.2006 2:00pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
No, I don't. A lot of people think the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which cost nearly 3,000 lives, were the most deadly religious terror in our history. Not so, they did not exceed the toll of Catholics killed by Protestants in one night in Cincinnati.

But you need to study more than school history to learn that.

When I said 'carved up' I was looking at a picture, from the 1920s, that depicted exactly that: a Catholic carved up by Protestants, in Texas.

My family also has the contemporary letters written by my great granduncle in South Carolina in 1876 to my great grandfather about how his nephew (my grandfather) managed to fight off a mob of Christians that was attempting to burn down his house with him and his family inside it.

Religious murders don't get much press in the United States, just like dogs eating babies don't get much press. Both happen pretty often, though.

As for the Quakers, you might want to investigate the response of the provincial government of Pennsylvania to the Indian raids in the 1750s and get back to me about terrorism.
12.5.2006 3:25pm
Aleks:
Re: Not so, they did not exceed the toll of Catholics killed by Protestants in one night in Cincinnati.

Was it Protestants against Catholics, or was it working class "natives" (those who had been in the country a generation or more) against poorer new-come immigrants they feared would steal their jobs, women, etc? If you look under all that so-called religious violence you will find good old class hatred and ethnic rivalry staring back at you. And most likely few if any in those mobs had enough theological knowledge to fill a thimble. They hated the Catholics not because the latter believed in Transubstatiation (could one in a hundred even have explained that doctrine?) but because they were some vague and threatening Other. And indeed, if you look around the world there is no shortage of examples of mob violence of that very sort in every country on Earth, including those which do not feature monotheistic religions (China, Japan, India, ancient Pagan lands etc.)
Your thesis about monotheism breeding violence collapses as badly as the old phlogiston theory of combustion when confronted with real world evidence: plenty of religious violence (both mob and governmental) in non-monotheist cultures; and a lack of such violence in monotheist cultures.
12.5.2006 8:57pm