Are all religions equal in their capacity to inspire fanaticism and violence? In the wake of the Koran flushing scandal, Tom Regan of the Christian Science Monitor blog wrote a piece to that effect. Even though that scandal has faded from the headlines, the attitudes Regan expressed remain—and interfere with our ability to resist the global jihad. Taking issue with the assertion by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe that “Christians, Jews, and Buddhists don’t lash out in homicidal rage when their religion is insulted” and “don’t call for holy war and riot in the streets,” Regan wrote that Jacoby had made “an interesting point. There’s only one problem with it—it’s wrong.”
“Unfortunately,” declared Regan, “even a cursury [sic] scan of the headlines from the past few years, or even this past week, shows how wrong it is. Shall we talk about the religious leaders in Israel who have threatened violence and riots, and perhaps worse, to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his supporters, if he goes ahead with his disengagement plan?”
Did Ariel Sharon flush a Torah? Of course not. These people are angered because they think his plan threatens Israel’s survival, not because they think Sharon has insulted Judaism.
Regan goes on to mention the “Jewish religious zealot, who believed in 1995 that there was ‘a religious commandment’ to kill Yitzhak Rabin,” the “whole decades-long situation in Northern Ireland,” the “Christian militias who murdered hundreds of people in the Lebanese refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982,” and “Serbian Christians who murdered 20,000 Muslims in 1995.” Not one example, in other words, of Jews or Christians murdering innocents because they believed their religion had been insulted.
The question here is not whether or not Jews or Christians commit violence. Of course they do. Human nature is everywhere the same. The question Regan is obfuscating is whether or not Islam as an ideology exhorts people to violence. Manifestly it does, and violence committed by members of other religious traditions does nothing to mitigate that fact: Islam is unique among world religions in having a developed doctrine mandating violence against unbelievers. This has spawned in our day a global network of Muslims dedicated to jihad. Are Jews targeting non-Jews, or Christians non-Christians, on a global basis? Of course not. Until the Muslim and non-Muslim world are ready to acknowledge the role of Islam in inspiring people to violence, that violence will continue.
Regan goes on to invoke those who threatened death to Michael Schiavo, and the murderers of abortionists. Yet no violence actually occurred in the Schiavo case—except that done to Terri Schiavo—and the murder of abortionists has been condemned by all mainstream Christian traditions. Where are the mainstream Muslim traditions that condemn jihad violence? The Free Muslims March Against Terror drew 50 people. Fifty. Why?
Our need to answer this question is not just Judeo-Christian boosterism, a chant of “Yea, team! The West is Best!” The nature of jihad violence has serious consequences for the Bush policy of attempting to destabilize terrorism by establishing democracies across the Middle East. It shows how difficult it will be to export the live-and-let-live attitude necessary to make for a society that enacts the will of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. Thomas Jefferson said: “If my neighbor believes in one god, or twenty, is of no concern to me, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But is that exportable as a political credo to societies in which the legal tradition includes death for blasphemy and apostasy?
All religions are not the same, and do not have the same capacity to inspire violence. As un-PC as that is, it is the truth. It must be faced. Regan reflects conventional PC wisdom, to be sure—views that are held across the spectrum from Left to Right—and until this wisdom is seen for the hollow and deceptive thing it is, we are all that much more vulnerable.