FB, Muslims, and Islamophobia

To: Jon Barnes & Jon Michael Philip

I saw your thread and couldn’t resist adding my two cents because I cannot, in good conscience, allow such grievous misrepresentations of truth, religion, and reality go unchecked. Nor can I allow such unbridled Islamophobia to go unchallenged.

I read the link “POLITICAL ISLAM” referenced in your lengthy back-and-forth thread and found one statistic strangely absent — i.e., the number of Muslims killed by Jihadists/Terrorists/ISIS. I realize that the purpose of this link is to give “a rough estimate of the death of non-Muslims by the political act of jihad.” But the question is: Why? Why limit deaths by Jihad and/or Radical Islamic Terrorists to non-Muslims?

Might I suggest that the reason is because the author of the page is seeking to push an Islamophobic “Us-vs-Them” scenario. And such a scenario can only be legitimaized by omitting a tally of Muslim deaths due to Jihadists/Terrorists. In other words, if this website were to show how many Muslims have been killed by other Muslims, then such a statistic would reveal that there apparently exists sides/divisions WITHIN Islam that allow radical Muslims/Jihadists to murder other Muslims that they consider enemies. (I’ll get back to these divisions shortly and expand on the significance.) 01.jpg

The fact is that more Muslims than non-Muslims are killed by terrorists/ISIS/Jihadists. According to the US State Dept.’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism for 2015 (released June 2016), there were 11,774 terrorist attacks in 92 countries in 2015. Of the 28,328 people killed in these attacks, 6,924 (24%) were the perpetrators, which leaves 21,404 victims worldwide. Where did these attacks happen? Records for 2015 show that more than 55% of all attacks took place in just five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria); and 74% of all the deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria). And who comprises a majority of those killed? Muslims.muslim peace.jpg

This is simply an issue of math as it relates to the Muslim-majority countries where most terrorist attacks occur. It has been the case for many years. “Between 2004 and 2013 about half of all terrorist attacks, and 60% of fatalities due to terrorist attacks, took place in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan — all of which have a mostly Muslim population,” according to a spokesperson for the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) at the University of Maryland. And according to a 2011 report by US government’s National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC), “In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years [i.e., 2007-2011].” These are facts.

muslim2This reality is significant. There is apparently one brand of Islam wherein its adherants will not hesitate to slaughter both non-Muslims and Muslims. They see no differentiation. Moreover, we are confronted daily with over 1 BILLION Muslims, nearly ALL of whom are practicing Islam in peace,while simultaneously hating ISIS/Terrorists/Jihadists. This, once more, shows that there is one brand of Islam at odds with another brand of Islam. So, at the very outset of any discussions, people must understand that it is NEVER accurate/appropriate to say “Islam” or “Muslims” across the board is/are the enemy. Nor is it proper to say there is a war between “Islam & America,” “Islam & the West,” “Islam & Christianity.” The enemy is not Islam, as if it were some monolithic, centralized, religious belief system. And to assert otherwise is flat wrong. It’s also dangerous and prejudiced. Inaccuracy helps NO ONE. muslim1.jpg

Everyone’s enemy today is one factional/fractional cult-like minority of various kinds of fundamentalist, radical, violent, criminal, thug-like, murderous barbarians who fly the banner of Islam to justify their actions. They do not represent the prevaling, contemporary understanding and interpretation of the Koran or the faith system known as Islam that is embraced by 1billion+ Muslims. This brings us to a very CRUCIAL question: How is it possible for there to be such diametrically opposed understandings/interpretations of the same religion based on the same Holy Texts? Herein lies the problematic point being ignored by various persons who present websites, articles, videos, lectures, etc. etc. etc. that claim “Islam” in general is the enemy. Before answering this question/issue, I want to say a little something about the website link in your discussion that kicked off my response: Politicalislam.com.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

billfrenchTo be blunt, this website is BS. The author of the site, a man named Bill French, aka Bill Warner, is an anti-Muslim propagandist. The “info” he offers is a skilled mixture of truths, half-truths, and non-truths, all designed to convince readers that Islam, as a religion, is the enemy. He also heads the for-profit “Center for the Study of Political Islam” (Nashville). French is a former physics professor with NO training or credentials in the area of religion, Islam, or issues relating to Islam (e.g., Shariah Law). He promotes himself by his videos/writings as a sort of expert and authority on Islam when he is actually neither. In reality, he’s someone who hates Islam and looks at it from a highly Americanized, nationalistic, Christian viewpoint. For example, in 2011, he declared “The two driving forces of our civilization are the Golden Rule and critical thought. … There is no Golden Rule in Islam. … There is not really even a Ten Commandments” (Daily Times, March 4, 20). And in 2010, at a meeting of fellow opponents to a new Mosque in Murfreesboro, TN, he pointed to an American flag and said, “This offends Allah. You offend Allah.”

First, contrary to his assertion, there is NOTHING in any Islamic Holy Text that would suggest Americans and/or the American flag are offensive to the Muslim deity known as Allah. The charge is ridiculous and groundless. Second, Warner/French is pitting Christianity against Islam in a way that elevates Christianity to a place of ethical/moral/social/political superiority over Islam simply because there is no “Golden Rule” per se in Islam. Not only is this prejudiced, but it’s incorrect (as is most everything else Warner/French says). The Golden Rule appears in the following Islamic texts, albeit in slightly different ways:

• “Serve God, and join not any partners with Him; and do good – to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess [the slave]: For God loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious” (Q:4:36).

• “Return evil with Kindness.” (Q13:22, 23:96, 41:34, 28:54, 42:40).

• “Whoever wishes to be delivered from the fire and to enter Paradise…should treat the people as he wishes to be treated” (Sahih Muslim).

• “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself” (Forty Hadith-Nawawi).

• “Do unto all men as you would wish to have done unto you; and reject for others what you would reject for yourselves” (Abu Dawud).

Clearly, there is indeed a Golden Rule within the foundation of Islam. But accepting these aspects of modern Islam do not fit into the anti-Muslim narrative that Islamophobics want to spread. This must stop. The inaccuracies and broad condemning strokes that French/Warner and his ilk use to create fear, distrust, anger, and hatred for Islam/Muslims is only going to make things worse. It’s EXACTLY what ISIS/Jihadists want. They WANT a theological/ideological war with the West.

THE BIG QUESTION

Now, back to the question previously noted: How is it possible for there to be such diametrically opposed understandings/interpretations of the same religion based on the same Holy Texts?

The answer is relatively simple for anyone who is interested in truth and who wants to see the truth. Like many religions, Islam (founded in the year 610) has gone through a lengthy period of splits, factions, and re-interpretations. It has evolved. It cannot be denied that Islam was indeed founded as a rather war-like religion. The year 610 was a war-like era, much like the days of ancient Israel when tribes/nations were in a constant and violent struggle for land, wealth, power, and political domain (take a moment now to go read a bit of the Old Testament).

Originally, Islam was a national faith that went hand-in-hand with the political/military control that Muslims leaders sought (both offensively and defensively) throughout it’s earliest years. This is a matter of history. And any well-educated Muslim will admit this fact. For example, thanks to numerous military campaigns, Syria, Egypt, and Persia/Iraq fell to Muslim control in 638, 642, and 644 respectively. So, yes, bluntly put, there was a great deal of fighting, death, and destruction involving Islam AND their enemies over political/geographic disputes and goals. (And a great deal of militaristic language can be found in the Koran.) Hey, it was 7th century! Remember the Crusades? Yeah, Rome/Christianity got involved, too, and launched some rather massive campaigns. Basically, everyone was fighting everyone back then for hundreds of years. Get the picture?

Interestingly, Muslims actually had a number of rules to follow during warfare, as outlined by Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam:

“Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone” (see Aboul-Enein, H. Yousuf and Zuhur, Sherifa, Islamic Rulings on Warfare, p. 22, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, Diane Publishing Co., Darby PA).

There also seems to have been a prohibition against forced conversions. After the Muslims captured Jerusalem, for instance, a treaty that was signed included the following provisions:

“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety which the servant of God, Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves  for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted. No Jew will live with them in Jerusalem” (quoted in The Great Arab Conquests, from Tarikh Tabari).

To be sure, there are MANY passages in the Koran that involve warfare, killing, enemies, infidels, etc. And these were certainly applicable in a rather literal way during the early days of Islam. However, as time passed, these verses became re-interpreted into passages that dealt not with real/literal warfare, but with personal/spiritual warfare occuring within the heart, mind, and soul of each Muslim! A “Jihad’ against infidel nations, for example, eventually became a holy war against the internal self. “Death” the the enemy gradually came to mean death to the sinful soul. But for radical Jihadists/Terrorists/ISIS such re-interpretations are rejected. Moreover, they not only selectively pick Koranic verses to conveniently justify their evil deeds, but they also ignore prohibitions/restrictions against harming the innocent (see above war rules by Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam). Today’s radical Islamic terrorist represent neither modern Islam, nor even the original Islam that was indeed somewhat warlike. They have taken aspects of early Islam, perverted them, and added to them their own concepts born of hate, then gone out into the world believing themselves to be the righteous, empowered, Allah-serving, warriors of the Koran. They are, in essence, a cult of Islam — in the same way that the murderous Jim Jones group or the child-abusing Branch Davidians were cults of Christianity.

Islam today, when it comes to most Muslims in the world, is indeed a religion of peace. To equate ISIS/Jihadists/Terrorists with the broad category of “Islam” is reducing a complex, multi-faceted, religion of great variance down to the worst of the worst examples of it — i.e., murders, riots, assorted crimes, terrorist attacks. The comparisons are not justified. It’s like condemning Christianity by reducing it down to backwoods snake-handlers, suicide cults, “Christian Identity” white supremacists/Klansman, and a myriad of other nasty “churches” that have committed all kinds of atrocities, including murder/violence, in the name of Jesus. It’s factually wrong, ignorant, prejudiced, and dangerous.

SPECIFIC RESPONSES TO…..

At this point I need to reply specifcially to comments made by a FB poster named Jon Michael Philip (JMP). If you’re reading this JMP, I do hope, sir, that you’ll not be to offended at my bluntness. But given your tone of posts, it appears that being blunt is acceptable to you. I shall address your posts in the order they appeared.

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JMP: Islam is an evil totalitarian ideology. It is not a religion.

REPLY: Actually, Islam is a historically, socially, culturally recognized by academicians and religion experts as a world religion that is, in many ways, similar to Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. It is a faith-based system into which are embedded concepts of God, heaven, hell, salvation, right/wrong, and other facets of belief/life that fit both the “substantive” and “functional” definition of religion as noted within multiple fields of study. I offer the following references as an extremely small represenation of the vast number of sources that thoroughly contradict your patently false assertion:

1. “‘A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices about life and the world relative to the supernatural that unite the believers or followers into a social organization or moral community.’ This definition includes four essential elements of a religion: (1) a belief in the supernatural; (2) a set of beliefs regarding life and the world; (3) a set of ritual practices manifesting the beliefs; and (4) a distinct social organization or moral community of the believers and practitioners” (“A Definition of Religion for the Social-Scientific Study of Religion,” Oxford Scholarship Online, 2011).

2. “Drawing from these aspects of the academic study of religion, we can now turn to some of the characteristics of religion. . . . The list includes the presence of beliefs, concerns with community, myths, rituals, ethics, emotional experiences, material expressions, and ideas of the sacred’ (Religious Studies Course, 2110, “Religions of the World,” online lessons, University of Missouri).

3. “In United States v. Meyers, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, navigating the unsettled waters surrounding what is and is not a religion, adopted a test composed of a variety of religious factors that various courts have identified. These factors include ultimate ideas, metaphysical beliefs, a moral or ethical system, comprehensiveness of beliefs; and the accoutrements of religion, which includes a founder, teacher or prophet, important writings, gathering places, keepers of knowledge, ceremonies and rituals, structure or organization, holidays, diets or fasting, prescribed appearance and clothing, and propagation.” (Jeffrey Omar Usman, “DEFINING RELIGION: THE STRUGGLE TO DEFINE RELIGION UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND THE CONTRIBUTIONS AND INSIGHTS OF OTHER DISCIPLINES OF STUDY INCLUDING THEOLOGY, PSYCHOLOGY, SOCIOLOGY, THE ARTS, AND ANTHROPOLOGY,” North Dakota Law Review).

Islam fits well within the criteria outlined here and elsewhere, which is why Islam is always referred to as a religion, not as you falsely claim, a “totalitarian ideology.” Consider, too, the following references to Islam as a religion.

1. “This entry provides an overview of the topics and discussions in science and religion. Section 1 outlines the scope of both fields, and how they are related. Section 2 looks at the relationship between science and religion in three religious traditions, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Religion and Science,” published Tue Jan 17, 2017).

2. “[T]his approach might also be fruitfully applied to portray the relationship between the three Abrahamic faiths. For Judaism, Christianity and Islam may be seen as diverging traditions within the extended family of Abrahamic monotheism” (Dr. Victoria Harrison [University of Glasgow], “The Pragmatics of Defining Religion in a Multi-cultural World,” The International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 2006).

3. “The actual timing and introduction of Islamic religion and religious practice to Southeast Asia is somewhat of a debate.” (Dr. Susan Russell, “ISLAM: A WORLDWIDE RELIGION AND ITS IMPACT IN SOUTHEAST ASIA,” Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University).

Clearly, sir, Islam is a bonifide, accepted, and well-established religion; as much of a religion as is Taoism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism. . . .

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JMP: They are mentally ill. They cling to delusional beliefs. They are no different that people who believe that elves live in their garden.

REPLY: Oh, you mean they believe things like:

• … there’s an invisible God who created everything?
• … millions of people walked through the Red Sea when it suddenly became dry land?
• … it once rained for 40 days and 40 nights, until the whole earth was covered in water?
• … there are mystical invisible beings we can’t see all around us called angels & demons?
• … a poor carpenter who lived 2,000 years ago was born to a woman who never had sex?
• … a messiah in Palestine could walk on water, heal lepers, and after he was killed he rose from the dead?

Wait….. hold on ….. that’s not Islam or Muslims… Sorry, my bad.

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JMP: Study the Hijra. Hijra always precedes Jihad. Always. It’s basic orthodox Islamic theology.

REPLY: Are you getting your information from the now disgraced Michael “I’m a kooky, unhinged, conspiracy-believing nutjob” Flynn? Cause that’s what it sounds like.kitchen-flynn-1.jpg

The truth is that Hijra is nothing but the ancient Muslim practice of peaceful migration away from dangerous territories to places where they will be safe. It originated when Mohammad fled from Mecca to Medina in 622 to avoid assassination. Recently, this term has been hijacked by Radical Muslims/ISIS/Terrorists to mean migration from one location to another for the purpose of Jihad. But this is a PERVERSION of the term that is being used now and is in no way connected to the vast majority of Muslims. You, sir, like so many others, are taking little bits and pieces of truth and merging/blending them with utter lies to sow hatred, fear, and anger. YOU are a far worse danger to society than any Muslim living down the block or around the corner. You relish false information, fake news, and alternative facts that can be used to divide and destroy. Your only reality is the one you create in your own bigoted, twisted, and dangerous mind. Your claim about Jihad-connected Hijra being “basic orthodox Islamic theology” is an absolute lie. Hijra in recent years has been, as noted, co-opted by the terrorists and militarized for their purposes. The average, rank-and-file Muslim does not understand Hijra in such a way. And, in fact, Muslims have spoken out against using the term Hijra in a militaristic fashion. Please stop lying to the world about this issue.

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JMP: I’ve been studying Islam for 20 years. I’ve read thousands of pages of Islamic holy texts.

REPLY: Forgive me, but if that’s true, then you’ve wasted a LOT of time and a lot of money. I suggest you start over again, under the tutledge of someone who knows the subject, maybe leave behind the likes of Breitbart News, Milo Yiannopoulos, Michael Flynn, and whatever other assorted nutjobs have filled your head with bad intel. But, to be honest, I have little hope for you. I’ve met people like you before. You’re not interested in truth. You hate what/who you hate. You believe what you believe. And you do not, under any circumstances, want to be confused by the facts. It’s very cult-like, to be honest. It’s sad and it’s dangerous.

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JMP: “Your ignorance and arrogance is outright dangerous.You are mentally ill. You are the equivalent of someone who thinks he is a pilot without ever flying a plane or studying piloting.Your arrogant ignorance will get people killed.It is disgusting that you think you are an expert on something you have never studied.”

REPLY: The irony here is……. beyond belief. It’s as if you were looking into a mirror and for one brief moment were able to speak the truth. Your words here bring to mind a relevant, almost prophetic, comment by Jesus, as he stood before the Pharisees: “I tell you that men will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

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JMP: Islam does not preach peace. It preaches hatred of and war against non-believers, first through deception and then after infiltration through violence and outright genocide. . . . Muslims are SUPPOSED to infiltrate a society as refugees because that is what Muhammad did in Medina . . . . Muslims are SUPPOSED to lie to non-Muslims as to the true nature of Islam. . . . The punishment for truly befriending a non-Muslim as laid out in the Qur’an is eternal Hell, yet Muslims are commanded to be outwardly friendly to non-Muslims. . . . A distinctive characteristic about Islam is the absolute WORST person to learn Islam from is a Muslim because they either don’t know their faith (many don’t) or if they do they are commanded to lie to you about it . . . I would never befriend a practicing Muslim as I would never befriend a Nazi.

REPLY: I don’t know where to begin with this statement. You’re stuck in an extraordinarily literalistic, wornout, simplistic, non-contemporary, Crusader-era-like understanding of Islam from around the 7th Century. Even at that, you don’t get it completely correct. What makes you so filled with hatred? It’s tragic. To pick this apart would require pages upon pages of text. And that is the danger of lies, fake news, and alternative facts — i.e., most lies can be stated in a sentence or two, quickly and pointedly, while the unraveling and correcting of those lies often takes far more time, information, and documentation. Liars have the edge.

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JMP: I have a Summa Cum Laude degree from the top ranked Study of Religion program. . . . UCLA. . . . What do I know, right? I’m only a religious scholar whose personal mentor has institutes named for him across the globe and adviser for my 250 page thesis was the Director of UCLA Near East Studies program.

REPLY: Really? Now, this would be rather odd since even a cursory look at the materials put out by UCLA bear no resemblenace at all to your bizarre, inaccurate, conspiratorial, extremist, paranoid ranting about the horrors of Islam. The materials produced by UCLA present Islam as a respectable faith that fits into the greater field of world religions with its principle areas of influence/content/history being in the Middle East and Asia. I refer you to the writings of Professor Nile Green (Dept. of History, UCLA), Professor James Gelvin (Dept. of History, UCLA), and Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl (Dept. of Law, UCLA).

According to Gelvin, for example, “IS is an instance of a phenomenon that recurs in most religions, and certainly in all monotheistoc religions. Every so often militant strains emerge, flourish temporarily, then vanish.” He also compared IS to “some apolcalyptic Christian groups” (“UCLA faculty voice: Understanding Islamic State,” Feb. 23, 2016). Interestingly, as far back as 2002, an LA Times article had featued a wonderful article on the patient chaplancy program at UCLA, covering how so many different religions were already included:

“While the patient directory at UCLA is usually about 65% Christian, the number of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and members of other religions continues to increase. Training programs like UCLA’s, which is officially called the Clinical Pastoral Education Program, have been in place since the ‘50s. Many of them were designed to prepare seminary students to become part of a patient’s treatment. A Baptist minister named Janice Humphreys launched UCLA’s program in 1989. The first students were Christian seminarians, but this year the group represents an array of the world’s religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism and Islam as well as Judaism and Christianity” (Mary Rourke, “Spiritual Rainbow Coalition Ministers to Patients’ Needs:UCLA student chaplains reflect the city’s religious diversity,” LA Times, Mar. 3, 2002). This doesn’t sound like any school at which you became a “religious scholar.”

TBH, Mr. Philip, I think you actually have nothing but a SUM KINDA LAUGHABLE degree from your racist Islamophobic internet buddy Bill Warner/Bill French, who for some reason seems to be the only person I ever see you quoting. You never quote academic, respected, recognized sources/authorities on religion or Islam/Muslims. And, as for you being a “religious scholar”? Really? Ok, I’ll bite. Please provide links and/or the titles of articles (or books) that would qualify as scholarly works (or even popular works) on the subject. Also, please provide any link to academic institutions where your bio/resume as a “religious scholar” can be viewed/verified.…. clock is ticking….. This should be interesing. I’ll say it now. I don’t think you’re a scholar of any kind. Prove me wrong.

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****** CLOSING

At this point in the FB discussion, Mr. Philip simply began posting nothing but rantings and ravings against Islam/Muslims, calling my friend “mentally ill,” quoted various passages from the Koran, and repeating his hate-filled accusations and conspiracies against all Muslims (as if they were all a single, nice, clean, tidy “enemy” group). In other words, there was really not much left to say or do, except leave Mr. Philip in the miasma of hate, ignorance, and fear that has infected his mind. Tragic.

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