IS NOT TO BLAME
Religion From The Bombings
JNV Anti-War Briefing 85
1 August 2005
shortened version of this briefing is available as a pdf
Posted: 1 August
A poll in the Daily
Telegraph in the aftermath of the London suicide
bombings found that 19 per cent of those polled felt that Islam
itself ‘as distinct from Islamic fundamentalism’
posed ‘a major threat’ to Western liberal democracy.
A further 27 per cent felt that Islam itself posed ‘some
In Oct. 2001, the corresponding figures were 10 and 22 per cent.
Now, one in five people believes Islam as a religion poses a
‘major threat’, and nearly half the people of Britain
believe that it is some kind of threat to liberal democracy.
This is unjustified fear.
When nine young Muslim men carry out, or try to carry out, brutal
atrocities, Islam is blamed. But when small groups of Christians
carry out brutal atrocities, Christianity is not. Why this double
Between 1993 and 1998, seven people (doctors, receptionists,
police officers) were killed in shootings
and bombings by Christian anti-abortion activists in the
US. This was religiously-motivated terrorism, but no one blamed
When Christian anti-abortionist James
Kopp admitted shooting dead Dr Barnett Slepian in 1998,
was there a cry for all Christians to condemn him?
When David Koresh’s heavily-armed
Christian fundamentalist sect resisted the FBI siege at Waco
in 1993, did non-Christians rush to the Bible to understand
what could have motivated this kind of apocalyptic survivalism?
When 800 or so members of the Christian
‘Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments
of God’ group died
of suicide or (mostly) murder in March 2000, did non-Christians
refer to the Christian record of violence culminating in the
development and use of the atomic bomb, as part of the cultural
background to this tragedy?
When people see violence in, say, Democratic
Republic of Congo, torn by savage civil war—and with 42m
Christians making up 70% of the population—are they entitled
to blame Christianity itself?
Do non-Christians scour the New Testament to pull out the most
violent and frightening verses, linking them with the “Christian
terrorism” of James Kopp and his colleagues?
For example, do they endlessly repeat the words of Jesus when
he criticised the Jews of his time for not putting to death
children who spoke evil of their parents, as the Law commanded?
[Mark 7:9-10. Check all references online]
Do they trumpet the passages when Jesus exults in the prospect
of destruction? For example: ‘I came to bring fire on
the earth, and how I wish it were already set ablaze!’
[Luke 12:49] Do they keep repeating that when he drove the moneychangers
out of the temple, Jesus didn’t just overturn tables,
he actually used a whip? [John 2:15] In one famous parable,
Jesus does not seem to have any problem with the idea of owning,
beating, or indeed killing slaves. [Luke 12:46-48]
What about Jesus’ call to his disciples to sell their
possessions in order to buy swords? [Luke 22:35-36] And his
ominous warning, ‘Don't assume that I came to bring peace
on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.’
Here are some frightening quotations: ‘You shall destroy
all the peoples... showing them no pity.’ [7:16] ‘All
the people present there shall serve you as forced labour.’
[20:12] ‘You shall put all its males to the sword. You
may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, the
livestock, and everything in the town—all its spoil—and
enjoy the use of the spoil of your enemy which the LORD your
God gives you.’ [20:14-15] ‘You shall not let a
soul remain alive.’ [20:16]
This is from Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, the Jewish Torah,
which both Jews and Christians consider sacred.
What if someone said these verses of Jesus
and Deuteronomy were the essence of Christianity? It would be
absurd. But with the Qu’ran/Koran, non-Muslims feel free
to pull the most aggressive verses out of context. All major
religions can be used in this way.
THE QU’RAN: RESTRAINING WAR
Christians focus on Jesus’ peaceful words, not his violent
curses on unreceptive towns such as Chorazin, Bethsaida, and
Capernaum [Matthew 11:21-24].
Ex-Catholic nun Karen Armstrong explains,
‘Like the Bible, the Qur’an has its share of aggressive
texts, but like all the great religions, its main thrust is
towards kindliness and compassion. Islamic
law outlaws war against any country in which Muslims are allowed
to practice their religion freely, and forbids the use of fire,
the destruction of buildings and the killing of innocent civilians
in a military campaign. So
although Muslims, like Christians or Jews, have all too often
failed to live up to their ideals, it is not because of the
religion per se.’ (Guardian,
MUHAMMAD: NONVIOLENT ACTION
After largely winning a war against his old tribe, who had driven
him out with violent persecution (nearly killing him), and successfully
blockading them, Muhammad could have destroyed the Quraysh militarily.
Instead he led his followers in an unarmed, nonviolent, pilgrimage
into the hands of the Quraysh, signed a peace treaty with them,
and abandoned the blockade, paving the way for peace in war-torn
Arabia. (Karen Armstrong, Muhammad,
Karen Armstrong comments: ‘It is not true that Islam preaches
a total intransigence and inspires a mindless fanaticism. Instead
the Qu’ran evolves a complementary theology of war and
peace, which most Christians would not find difficult to accept.’
EXTREMISM AND SOME YOUNG BRITISH
If Islam itself is not to blame, how is it that young British
Muslims could carry out the London bombings? The British Government
carried out a secret study of precisely this topic—‘Young
Muslims and Extremism’—in 2004 (leaked to the
Sunday Times on 10 July, p.
This joint report by the Home Office and Foreign Office (with
intelligence input) put together a list of factors causing ‘extremism’.
First on the list was British ‘Foreign policy issues’:
‘It seems that a
particularly strong cause of disillusionment amongst Muslims
including young Muslims is a perceived “double standard”
in the foreign policy of western governments...
in particular Britain
and the US. This is particularly significant in terms of the
concept of the “Ummah”, i.e. that Believers are
‘This perception seems to have become more acute post
9/11. The perception is that passive
“oppression”, as demonstrated in British
foreign policy, eg non-action on Kashmir and Chechnya, has given
way to “active oppression”—the
war on terror, and in Iraq and Afghanistan are all seen by a
section of British Muslims as having been acts against Islam.’
‘This disillusionment may contribute to a sense of helplessness
with regard to the situation of Muslims in the world, with a
lack of any tangible “pressure valves”, in order
to vent frustrations, anger or dissent.’
In other words, British Muslims see themselves as part of a
global Muslim community, and when they see the British government
waging violent war on other parts of that global community—against
ordinary civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, it hurts them.
It is their anger over violent civilian deaths at the hands
of the US and UK, and their despair at the possibility of changing
these foreign policies, which make some young British Muslims
vulnerable to recruitment by al Qaeda. This is the Government’s
NOT ISLAM, BUT OUR POLICIES ARE TO
Michael Scheuer, the
CIA’s bin Laden expert from 1996 to 1999, says we must
understand that ‘the motivation
for the people fighting us has to do with our policies...
it’s a mistake to think
the Muslims don’t understand our policy... we need
a shot of democracy inside the
United States... If... the decision is to keep those
policies kind of as they are—well, I think that might
be a mistake. But... at least the country would be going into
the war against Islamic militancy with its eyes open, knowing
that those policies, more than
anything else, motivate our enemy. We would go into it
with our eyes open. We’d
be expecting a very long war,
and a very bloody and costly war.’ (January 2005)