I intended to write this as a reply to a comment on my article ‘Islamist’ Terrorism in Nigeria”; but my reply was so long that I decided to post it as a blog article instead. First I’ll give the statement of the commenter; then my reply.
To answer your question, unfortunately, it’s quite easy.
We see in the Koran a dehumanization of unbelievers like a beating drum; verse after verse deconstructs non-Muslims or those who reject the prophet.
Then there are the verses that call for actual violence against unbelievers:
8:35 – And their worship at the (holy) House is naught but whistling and hand-clapping. Therefore (it is said unto them): Taste of the doom because ye disbelieve.
9:29 – Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden — such men as practise not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book — until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled.
So it’s no surprise that those who read the Koran most carefully are also the world’s most violent terrorists.
Unfortunately, this violent mindset is deeply rooted in Muslim texts and teachings. As Robert Spencer has shown, Jihad warfare against unbelievers is a normative Muslim belief. These groups are simply an extension of what past Muslim armies have done to non-Muslims. Today, without a centralized Caliphate, disparate groups operate in their own way by waging war against unbelievers as per 9:29.
Muslims need to be open about what their religion has historically taught and re-interpret their religious teachings in order to peacefully co-exist with the non-Muslim world. That includes repudiating militant, mainstream Muslim teachings on Jihad and also the discriminatory laws and behaviors non-Muslims are subject to in Muslim majority nations that feeds intolerance and fills the ranks of Muslim hate supremacist groups such as Boko Haram and al-Qaeda.
Now my reply:
It’s hard to tell whether or not you actually read my article – perhaps you just read as far as the question I asked about how anyone calling him/herself a “Muslim” could bomb churches and kill the worshipers in those churches.
You wrote: “So it’s no surprise that those who read the Koran most carefully are also the world’s most violent terrorists.” I say on the contrary that it’s only those who do not read the Qur’an carefully who would be involved in violent terrorism. I gave reasons for that contention in the article, showing that the Qur’an explicitly prohibits seeking to prevent worshipers from using churches, synagogues, and mosques – and most emphatically prohibits seeking the ruin or destruction of such buildings dedicated to the worship of God. It even calls on Muslims to fight against anyone who seeks to destroy such buildings and/or the worshipers.
The way you used a couple of verses from the Qur’an to attempt to show that Islam calls for violence against unbelievers shows that you certainly are not a “careful reader” of the Qur’an. Robert Spencer knows better; he has a deliberate agenda to twist and distort the teaching of the Qur’an. I give you the benefit of the doubt that you simply have not read the Qur’an yourself and are just using Robert Spencer and his ilk as your sources.
Each of the verses you quoted has a context. Let’s just see 8:35 in its context then and see if it says what you quote it to prove (I’m using the Abdel Haleem version):
(8:30) Remember [Prophet] when the disbelievers plotted to take you captive, kill, or expel you. They schemed and so did God: He is the best of schemers. (31) Whenever Our Revelation is recited to them they say, ‘We have heard all this before – we could say something like this if we wanted – this is nothing but ancient fables.’ (32) They also said, ‘God, if this really is the truth from You, then rain stones on us from the heavens, or send us some other painful punishment.’ (33)But God would not send them punishment while you [Prophet] are in their midst, nor would He punish them if they sought forgiveness, (34) yet why should God not punish them when they debar people from the Sacred Mosque, although they are not its [rightful] guardians? Only those mindful of God are its rightful guardians, but most of the disbelievers do not realize this. (35) Their prayers before the House are nothing but whistling and clapping. ‘So taste the punishment for your disbelief’ (36) They use their wealth to bar people from the path of God, and they will keep on doing so. In the end this will be a source of intense regret for them: they will be overcome and herded toward Hell.
So who were those “disbelievers” whose punishment God had proclaimed? They were those who sought to capture, kill, or expel the Prophet. They sought to prevent those who worshiped God alone from using the “Sacred Mosque”, and would continue to do so. They even mockingly invited God to punish them if what His Prophet said was true. So when God says taste the punishment for your unbelief, He is saying “taste the punishment which you foolishly called on Me to send to you”. And that punishment was punishment from God – ultimately the judgment of “Hell” – not a call for the Muslims to viciously attack “innocent” unbelievers. That punishment might imply that the unbelievers would be defeated and subdued when they waged aggressive warfare against the Muslim believers; but it was most certainly not a call for the Muslim believers to wage aggressive warfare against people whose only ‘crime’ was that they weren’t convinced that the Prophet was actually speaking God’s Truth.
By the way, when verse 35 says Their prayers before the House are nothing but whistling and clapping, doesn’t that remind you quite a bit of what the Christian apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:1 – If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal?
Sura 9:29, which Islam bashers love to quote, also has a context; and part of that context is 9:13: How could you not fight a people who have broken their oaths, who tried to drive the Messenger out, who attacked you first? The whole of this first portion of Sura 9 refers to those from both the polytheists and the “people of the Book” who had violated their oaths and covenants, and aggressively attacked the Muslim believers over and over. God, through His Prophet, proclaimed that the covenants which the unbelievers had already violated were henceforth rescinded. A state of war henceforth existed – following 4 months of leniency during which the unbelievers had opportunity to repent and return to keeping the terms of the covenants. However, it was explicitly stated that this rescinding of the covenant did not apply to those unbelievers (polytheists and “people of the Book”) who had not themselves violated the terms of the covenant. It only applied to those who had first attacked the Muslim believers.
When verse 29 refers to those who did not follow the “religion of Truth” despite the fact that they had been given God’s Book (in the Torah and the Gospel) – they did not forbid what God had forbidden – what did this mean? God had enjoined upon His people in all ages that they keep their oaths and covenants, and the Way of God forbids the breaking of oaths and acts of aggression. It was these 2 things (breaking of oaths and acts of violent aggression) which these “people of the Book” were specifically accused of doing, thus failing to forbid what God had forbidden. And they had no excuse because even if they didn’t believe that Muhammad (peace be with him and his family) was a true Messenger, they themselves had a portion of God’s Book.
You also wrote: “We see in the Koran a dehumanization of unbelievers like a beating drum; verse after verse deconstructs non-Muslims or those who reject the prophet.” Now if you are an atheist or an agnostic – or a deist who believes in God but not in prophets – I can see how you would be offended when people calling themselves God’s messengers would pronounce judgment against those who do not believe and obey their messages. But if you are either a Christian or a Jew, you have no basis to criticize Muhammad for supposedly “dehumanizing” unbelievers and “deconstruct[ing]” them. The Hebrew prophets of the “Old Testament”, as well as the “apostles and prophets” of the “New Testament” were also constantly proclaiming God’s judgment against unbelievers.
I won’t bother inundating you with Biblical quotations; just consider a couple from the “Prince of Peace” Jesus Christ (God’s blessings upon him) and a couple from the “apostle of love”, John (peace be with him). From Jesus’ “sermon on the mount”: (Matthew 7:26) And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; (27) and the rain fell, and the floods came,, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it. And verses 13 and 14 of Matthew 7 say: Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. (14) For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
From John, the “apostle of love” we have this (1 John 4:6): We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 5:19 says this: We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one. (My Bible quotations are from the Revised Standard Version).
So don’t jump on the Qur’an as if it is unique in criticizing and denouncing unbelievers. If you’re not willing to apply the same standard against the Bible, you shouldn’t say anything. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged.
I acknowledge there is some truth to your last paragraph. There is a verse in the Qur’an that says this (31:6): But there is the sort of person who pays for distracting tales, intending, without any knowledge, to lead others from God’s way, and to hold it up to ridicule. There will be humiliating torment for him! The word rendered “tales” here is the Arabic word “hadith”. I believe strongly that much of the Muslim community has indeed strayed far from God’s path by paying attention to “distracting hadith”, rather than concentrating on “Our verses” in the Qur’an. I see far too often one or two token quotations from the Qur’an, and then a multitude of quotations from the hadith. Many of the hadith flatly contradict the Qur’an, and ‘scholars’ seem to think it’s okay to ‘interpret’ the Qur’an in a way which is compatible with those hadith rather than either repudiating the hadith or interpreting the hadith in a way which makes them compatible with the clear teaching of the Qur’an.
Those hadith are the sources for such abominations as “death for apostasy”, stoning of adulterers, and refusal to permit churches and synagogues in Saudi Arabia. Just as Jesus Christ (God’s blessings on him) repudiated the “traditions of the elders” (what we know as the Talmud) because they – in many cases at least – rendered void God’s Law; so I and many Muslims are willing to repudiate those many hadith which render void the clear teaching of the Qur’an. We say such “tales” are falsely put into the mouth of God’s Prophet Muhammad; he most certainly never said them. This does not mean that we repudiate ALL hadith; but we insist that for a hadith to be accepted as “authentic” it must not only be able to meet certain rigid standards called “chain of transmission”; it must even more importantly be clearly and unquestionably fully compatible with the clear teaching of God’s Qur’an.
The teaching concerning “Jihad” (“struggle”), though, while certainly in the Qur’an, is always in that holy Book (particularly when it refers to actual physical fighting) defensive in nature; it never has anything to do with waging war against people merely because they don’t believe the “right doctrine” or practice the “right rituals”, and it never condones the killing of noncombatants. I’m sure no Muslim will be willing to renounce the true teaching concerning “Jihad” just because certain “extremists” who call themselves “Muslims” – and certain Islam bashers – distort its meaning and “cause the name of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles” (hold [God’s way] up to ridicule).