Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is there actually a problem?

By Hos
The issue of FBI's surveillance of terror suspects has received new attention in the media with this article in Wired. The crux of the controversy concerns the concept that the more "pious" muslims are the likeliest to turn violent. The article goes on to some detail to point out that practice of a faith, which is perfectly legal, may lead to scrutiny and harassment. Moreover, again according the article, "depicting Islam as inseparable from political violence is exactly the narrative al-Qaida spins — as is the related idea that America and Islam are necessarily in conflict".
But is there really so much to complain about here? I understand that this is a delicate matter, and opinions are diverse, even among atheists/humanists. Profiling on the basis of national origin alone without taking into consideration the expressed views and actions of a single individual is also quite unacceptable and is a form of racism. And certainly, the claim that all devout muslims are violent is absurd-there are many who aren't. On the other hand, I think there can't be much doubt that secular muslims, who do not regularly go to mosque and do not perform the daily prayers, are not all so likely to fall for "jihadi" preachers' propaganda, hence the idea of focusing on the more religious ones doesn't strike me as so outrageous as the article make it out to be. After all, jihad is not considered as important an Islamic duty as prayer and fasting. The jihadis who do not appear to be so observant are likely just trying to "blend in".
The other thing the article finds highly controversial is this graph.



According to the graph, Judaism and Christianity, as a result of reformations, have become less and less violent with time, whereas Islam has not gone through such a transforming phase and remains fully as violent as it was at its inception.



While the graph may be considered too simplistic, and there are other criticisms that can be made (for instance, separately considering the "Meccan period" and "Medina period" makes little sense in this context because, if anything, the Medina period was more violent than Meccan period), the broad message here can hardly be challenged: most Jews and Christians no longer consider the bible as being literally true, whereas Islamic orthodoxy maintains that the Koran is the word of God transmitted to the prophet via angel Gabriel and there is no room for metaphorical interpretation or selective suppression of parts of the Koran. Openly questioning this orthodoxy in many Islamic nations can have grave consequences.



So in a nutshell, what I see here is a controversy created, where there need not be one.



For completeness sake I would like to point out this survey by the Pew Forum, according to which, "very few Muslim Americans – just 1% – say that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are often justified to defend Islam from its enemies; an additional 7% say suicide bombings are sometimes justified in these circumstances." However, I consider these numbers to be an underestimation, because it is hard to imagine that people responding to such questions would be perfectly truthful with the pollsters.

8 comments:

Don Wharton said...

Hos, this is an intersting post, however, I recall a radio news piece about these materials claiming that the training materials have been withdrawn from use. It does seem as if the person putting the materials together is not any reasonable expert.

Gary Berg-Cross said...

Can we at least agree that the graph is more than simplistic but misleading? It should be at least labeled notional and devoid of real data.

Hos said...

I don't think the graph is misleading. The Islamic death sentence for "crimes" of homosexuality, apostasy and adultery still stands, whereas even the craziest of fundamentalist Christians are not advocating them openly.

Hos said...

I don't think the graph is misleading. The Islamic death sentence for "crimes" of homosexuality, apostasy and adultery still stands, whereas even the craziest of fundamentalist Christians are not advocating them openly.

Gary Berg-Cross said...

The graph has long linear portions. It shows something like a 45 degree line steadily increasing. Could this misleading? We might have more of a step function, but one that plateaus for example at a higher rate for Muslims. Or we could show the level of Jewish violence being high in earlier times and declining and then holding a steady pattern or having a slight increase recently. Or perhaps we would distinguish various Christian groups and show high violence at times such as the 10o years war and decline afterwards. Any number of patterns seem possible to reflect some historical thinking....

Don Wharton said...

There are crazy Christians who are advocating the death penalty for the crimes of homosexuality and all other cases where the Bible dictates a death sentence. These people are called Dominionists. They are deadly serious about making our society consistent with Biblical insanity.

lucette said...

Islamophobia is reaching a dangerous level.

lucette said...

"According to the graph, Judaism and Christianity, as a result of reformations, have become less and less violent with time, whereas Islam has not gone through such a transforming phase and remains fully as violent as it was at its inception."

Where is this graph coming from? Is there any data? (Note,the relevant graph can be seen on the blog.) Don't we need a little more skepticism?