Friday 16 January 2015

Tolerance In Arms

Asserting The Right: To say 'I am!' When all around you are saying 'You are not!', is the true definition of power. As Thomas Mann so rightly said: "Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil."

IT HAS BEEN a hell-week for Tolerance. Tragic events in France and unspeakable atrocities in Nigeria have tested her followers’ fidelity to the limit. The temptation to condemn; to lash out in righteous anger; has been overwhelming.
“What kind of people”, we ask, “can justify gunning down a roomful of grandfatherly journalists and cartoonists? Or strap a bomb to the body of a ten year old girl and send her into the middle of a crowded marketplace?”
In responding to such questions others demand to know what kind of people could crowd grandfathers and ten-year-old girls into “showers” and drop deadly poisonous pellets of Zyklon-B on their heads?
Such responses are intended to remind us that cruelty and violence are not the sole preserve of Al Qaida, Islamic State or Boko Haram jihadists. That, within living memory, highly-educated Europeans set a bench-mark for cruelty and violence that has yet to be exceeded.
They should also remind us that fighting for and defending Tolerance is no job for pacifists.
Our fathers and grandfathers did not hesitate to condemn or lash out in righteous anger against the Nazi regime. On the contrary, they made war upon it until little was left of its German birthplace except bloody piles of rubble. At Nuremburg, in the name of Humanity itself, they put Nazism on trial and hanged its guilty leaders by their necks until they were dead.
There are some (thankfully a small minority) who compare the Islamic religion in toto with Nazism and demand from the nations of the West the same uncompromising determination to rid the world of a malign influence that was displayed between 1939 and 1945.
Fortunately, Tolerance’s grip upon the vast majority of Westerners is still strong enough to reject such annihilationist solutions. Simple common-sense tells us that the murderous jihadists whose crimes have dominated the headlines for the past ten days have as much to do with Islam as the cross-burning members of the Ku Klux Klan had to do with Christianity.
Every bit as much. Because isn’t it true that even though only a handful of white southerners actually wore the Klan’s hoods and robes, its terrorist exploits (most of which, right up until the late 1960s, went unpunished) could only take place in a social environment that made both the moral condemnation and/or legal conviction of the perpetrators unthinkable?
Those southern towns were as full of churches as the cities of the Middle East are filled with mosques. The hard truth remains that the Klan was only defeated as a powerful terrorist force when the people among whom it operated were no longer willing to justify its crimes or shield its members from the claims of justice. When those churches finally stopped turning a blind eye to terrorism, and their congregations finally stopped turning up to lynchings.
Tolerance is a militant goddess – never to be confused with acquiescence or clever apologetics. To end the reign of the Ku Klux Klan required not only the courage and sacrifice of Dr Martin Luther King’s non-violent civil rights campaigners; not only the steadfast support of defiant African-American communities; not only the solidarity and assistance of progressive Americans from all over the USA; but also the relentless interventions of the Department of Justice and the covert operations of the FBI.
Tolerance rejects the racist suggestion that the Islamic peoples are incapable of responding to the moral challenge of terrorism in the same manner as White Christians in the South eventually responded to it.
Tolerance charges us to not only familiarise ourselves with the fundamental tenets of Islam, but also to challenge openly the ways in which the message of the Prophet has been distorted and defiled by the murderous blasphemers and heretics who dare to march beneath his banner.
Tolerance knows that it is only when the body of the faithful rises in revolt against the Kings and Ayatollahs, the Presidents and Generals, whose personal and profane interests are served by the dissemination of a creed that knows nothing of submission or penitence or charity, that the true voice of the Prophet will once again ring out clearly across the lands of the faithful.
But, most of all, Tolerance knows that her great enemy, Intolerance, only ever triumphs when ordinary, decent people confuse doing the right thing with doing nothing.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 16 January 2015.


Brendan McNeill said...


Egypt’s Muslim President Sisi recently called upon Imam’s for a ‘revolution’ within Islam, saying it’s intolerable that it should be the cause of terror in the world.

We will see how well that goes.

The Koran is like the Bible in reverse. It has its violent verses at the end of Mohammed’s rule with the peaceful ones at the beginning. To resolve the conflicts between the peaceful and the violent, the four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence give precedence to the most recent revelations over the former.

To make things more complex we have the Prophet’s example. Mohammad personally ordered the beheading of more than 600 captives at Banu Quraiza. These were people who had surrendered without resistance. He then proceeded to take sex slaves from the female captives.

How does that look any different from the example of ISIS and Boko Haram we see today?

The leader of ISIS has a doctorate of Islamic Studies from Bagdad University. He is fully able to justify theologically all of their actions.

Sure, not all Muslims follow the prophet’s example, or the latter dictates of the Koran, but Scripturally, they are the apostates and the hypocrites.

And that is the problem we face.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The latter is sung by a group called "The Men They Couldn't Hang." Which is sorta neat. I wouldn't suggest listening to the 1st however, because the words are incomprehensible. Just as my dad said about the Beatles and the Rolling Stones :-). My God – I'm becoming my dad.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Sorry, meant to say in spite of what TNTCH say in their song the 2 groups never actually met. Certainly no one clobbered Mosley at that particular time.

Brewerstroupe said...

Thanks for this balance Chris. The Ku Klux Klan example is most apt in all but one small detail. The Klan were reacting to a perceived threat that had no basis in reality. Muslim fanatics, no matter how reprehensible their methods, are not deluded as to the source of their reaction - millions of lives shattered during invasions by non-Muslim states.

So what is Islam actually doing to check fanaticism? I see the following sentiment expressed daily on blogs and comments:
"Though it is not the majority of Muslims who believe in such slaughter and insanity and are not to blame, it would be in their best interest (I feel) to speak out publicly, decrying this madness – yet I hear nothing. My tolerance has run out"

In view of the fact that virtually every major Islamic institution has condemned the fanatics (see: )
....including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbullah, the chief mufti of Saudi Arabia, Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i, et al, the sentiment would surely better be phrased: "Why is the widespread condemnation of violence expressed by Islamic institutions not more widely reported?

Brewerstroupe said...

I am no Koranic scholar but I believe that those who interpret the Koran as you describe rely on those passages that permit such behaviour only in the event that the faithful are attacked. Initiating war is proscribed.

I can understand how some among them might think that condition fulfilled. I suggest that is part of "the problem we face" - as do they.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Assuming that you are correct about the Quran being violent towards the end of Mohammed's life and teachings Brendan shouldn't it be obvious that once in a position of power Mohammed was free to deal with his enemies in a more vigorous way than at the beginning of his rise, when he was politically quite weak.
Jesus of course 700 years or so before Mohammed was never in a position of strength, because he was living at a time and in a place run by the Roman Empire, which reacted very violently to any threat, perceived or real. It's quite possible that Jesus's message of peace and nonviolence (with an exception or two) was making a virtue of necessity.
On the other hand Mohammed never behaved like anything except what he was, a mediaeval tribal leader and politician.
The Bible hasn't stopped Christians from undertaking all sorts of violence against non-Christians or differently flavoured Christians however. After all, wasn't a Christian who said "Kill them all, God will know his own."? – How is that different from the Rwandan examples that we see today -ish? Millions of people slaughtered, the slaughterers led by priests.
Perhaps you should read an expert on the Quran. Here is a start.

pat said...

the logic is irrefutable and the case well presented....and the chance that it it will be discounted and ignored extremely high.

Davo Stevens said...

One thing that most westerners don't understand is to a Muslim, Islam is a way of life, not just a belief system. They live it, breathe it 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.

How many of the so-called Christians who frequent this blog would be prepared to die for their religious beliefs? Not many I'd wager! But to a Muslim, that is the ultimate sacrifice they can make. Forget the bullshit about 75 virgins in heaven etc. that is a western construct and not applicable to them.

That kind of religious devotion can and is frightening to many non Muslims.

All religions are inherently violent and angry, especially to those who are perceived to be "Different".

Davo Stevens said...

So while we are on a link quest try this one. Read it through and maybe you will understand why the situation is the way it is.

The final paragraph says it all:
"It is dangerous to ignore this rage. But it is even more dangerous to refuse to examine and understand its origins. It did not arise from the Quran or Islam. It arose from mass despair, from palpable conditions of poverty, along with the West’s imperial violence, capitalist exploitation and hubris. As the resources of the world diminish, especially with the onslaught of climate change, the message we send to the unfortunate of the earth is stark and unequivocal: We have everything and if you try to take anything away from us we will kill you. The message the dispossessed send back is also stark and unequivocal. It was delivered in Paris."

Brendan McNeill said...

@Brewerstroupe - Yes you are correct. Muslims also believe that any land that they have previously conquered belongs to the Islamic world. If infidels presently occupy the land, then it becomes a legitimate battleground. This takes in most of southern Europe including Spain, Italy, France, and Vienna.

In other words, they have their theological justification for war if they ever needed it. Keep in mind however that they first conquered these lands without this justification.

You will also note that Islamic scholars have recently been stating that Muslims first discovered America. Can you imagine why that is important given this context?

@GS – I often find it difficult to understand your primary point, but first up, there is little value in bringing Christianity into the discussion, because today at least, Christians around the world are not committing atrocities like those recently seen in Sydney, Paris, Boston, New York, London etc. We don’t have Christians murdering innocents in the name of their faith shouting, “Jesus is Lord” or quoting passages from the Bible with the blood of their victims still fresh on their hands.

Until that starts happening, perhaps we can desist with attempts at moral or theological equivalence?

If they were, I would call them out just as vigorously as I am the present day jihadist.

Since 9/11 I have sought to understand how people can slaughter thousands of innocent men and women, Muslim and Christian and those of no faith alike, in the name of Islam and believe they are serving God.

I have concluded that the issue is deeply theological, and if you look to understand it politically you risk missing the root cause. In some cases politics is a factor, undeniably, but the Jews of Europe are not suicide bombing German wedding parties, or launching attacks on Islamic schools, or Muslim businesses, so eventually you have to ask, what’s the difference? It’s their theology, and because we in the west have become theologically tone deaf, we instinctively look for other reasons.

President Sisi has identified the problem. He is a Muslim in Egypt, at the heart of the Islamic world. If he says Islam needs to re-think its understanding of its holy texts, and how to express their faith in the modern world, then perhaps we should listen to him?

Jamie said...

When you gonna give some column space to genocide Trotter???

Something for you to think about while you’re prancing about on your moral high horse

Genocide_Convention Article 3 defines the crimes that can be punished under the convention:

(e) Complicity in genocide. —

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 3

Oh yeah I almost forgot, if you object to mass immigration shut up you racist racism xenophobe

Jamie said...

And you forgot the Jews

Guess they don't count these days???

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Er... Brendan, that wasn't "Islamic scholars" suggesting Muslims discovered America, but the president of Turkey backed up by one so-called historian who has misinterpreted a primary source. Erdogan has been widely ridiculed in Turkey for this rather ridiculous statement. Even if it were true, it refers to the 12th century, when everyone knows that the Vikings discovered America long before that. And of course, as most Europeans ignore, it was actually discovered by the native Americans – the date of which is in some dispute :-).

My main point Brendan was that you can find theological justification for just about anything in just about any religious writing. Including the Bible. (Please don't use the no true Scotsman defence here if you deign to reply.)
Indeed, Brendan usually when someone says something like "X are not doing Y" 30 seconds of googling will prove them wrong. The usual one of courses that Muslims never protest about these atrocities. But in your case - Muslims have been massacred by Christians in a number of places. For instance there are multiple atrocities in the Central African Republic, and in 1995 there was ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, which you seem to be ignorant of. Whether these people were screaming "Deus Vult" when they did it or not I don't know. I don't think it adds a great deal to the conversation to be honest. Muslims have also been massacred in Southeast Asia by Buddhists, who don't seem to have much in the way of theology at all it seems to me :-). So if the issue is deeply theological as you suggest, and as I doubt, it is also theological for Christians.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jamie, thank you for your usual right wing newspaper references. The Daily Mail for Christ's sake! And a right wingnut - an uncritical apologist for Israel. Jesus Christ any 5th form history teacher would suggest that you widen your sources just a bit. You should also learn to be a bit suspicious when someone says something like "every Jew I know has left France." – That sort of statement is.
a. Meaningless, because how many Jews does he know in Paris? Probably not all of them. It could mean maybe 2.
b. Almost certainly not true, but impossible to prove one way or the other. So essentially meaningless again.
Truly Jamie, you are definitely one of the "ghosts of Cable Street." :-)

Brewerstroupe said...


"Muslims also believe that any land that they have previously conquered belongs to the Islamic world"

I would be more comfortable with the above phrased thus:
"There is a school of thought within Islam that holds previously conquered lands belong to the Islamic world"

Islam is not monolithic. In fact each Mosque is independent of central governance (except the Koran of course but that is subject to interpretation). Imams are not products of some theological college, the qualification being knowledge of the Koran and good character.

Another aspect of Islam that most of us who are used to the separation of Church and State find difficult to grasp is that Islam is as much political as it is religious. Close study of the Iranian political set-up gives very worthwhile insight into how this works.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

And while I'm on the subject Jamie, we don't actually know why Jews are leaving. It could be the Islamist massacres, but it also could be your friends in the National front – as there seems to have been an uptick in anti-Semitism on their part. Anyway, here is a slightly more nuanced look at Jewish migration from France. Helps give you a more rounded picture :-).

Anonymous said...

Christians around the world are not committing atrocities like those recently seen in Sydney, Paris, Boston, New York, London etc. We don’t have Christians murdering innocents in the name of their faith shouting, “Jesus is Lord” or quoting passages from the Bible with the blood of their victims still fresh on their hands.

I suppose it's never occurred to you that Christianity has been de-fanged by the Enlightenment. Go back before then, to the Thirty Years War, the Crusades, etc, and you certainly see Christianity's dark side.

Anonymous said...

We in the West hate to acknowledge – and most refuse to believe – that our leaders have been flagrantly wasteful of Muslim lives for a century now, in countless wars and military encounters instigated by overwhelming Western power. What is the message to Muslims of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003? More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians – a very conservative estimate – died in a war that was based on utterly false pretenses. The US has never apologized, much less even recognized the civilian slaughter.

Or consider Syria, where an estimated 200,000 Syrians have recently died, 3.7 million have fled the country, and 7.6 million have been internally displaced in a civil war that was stoked in no small part by the US, Saudi Arabia, and other allied powers. Since 2011, the CIA and US allies have poured in weapons, finance, and training in an attempt to topple President Bashar al-Assad. For the US and its allies, the war is little more than a proxy battle to weaken Assad’s patrons, Iran and Russia. Yet Syrian civilians are the cannon fodder.

Long before there was Islamist terrorism in the West, the United Kingdom, France, and the US relied on diplomatic chicanery and launched coups, wars, and covert operations in the Middle East to assert and maintain Western political control over the region. Historians know this sordid story, but most Westerners do not (in no small part because many of the interventions have been covert). Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire a century ago, Western powers have sought to control the Middle East for a variety of reasons, including claims on oil, access to international sea routes, Israel’s security, and geopolitical competition with Russia in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The US now has more than 20 military bases in six countries in the region (Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Turkey) and large-scale military deployments in many others, including Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. It has funded violence for decades, arming and training the mujahedeen (in effect building the precursor of Al Qaeda) in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets; stoking the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s; invading Iraq in 2003; trying to topple Assad since 2011; and waging relentless drone attacks in recent years.

It is time for the West to allow the Arab world to govern itself and to choose its path without Western military interference. And there are heartening reasons to believe that a self-governing Arab Middle East would wisely choose to become a peaceful global crossroads and a partner in science, culture, and development.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.


jh said...

Tolerance charges us to not only familiarise ourselves with the fundamental tenets of Islam, but also to challenge openly the ways in which the message of the Prophet has been distorted and defiled by the murderous blasphemers and heretics who dare to march beneath his banner.
Oh bullshit! What is the penalty for apostasy?

Unknown said...

The Koran is like the Bible in reverse. It has its violent verses at the end of Mohammed’s rule with the peaceful ones at the beginning.
well put.

jh said...

Guerrilla S Says:
The Bible hasn't stopped Christians from undertaking all sorts of violence against non-Christians or differently flavoured Christians however.
that is true but is you take a text and analyse it for overt and covert messages extolling violence the Koran wins hands up.

jh said...

Of course you need to show that behaviour is maleable so everyone will jump through the hoop: "the lion will lie down with the lamb"

[ the lion wont eat the lamb and the lamb won't out breed all the other hoofed animals - we will all listen to the indelible logic of the Great Socialist Know-It -All in the sky (Wayne's Counterpoint)]

Anonymous said...

There's a lot that could be said about this tragedy and the context in which it has arisen. I'd concede that we'd be foolish to ignore the role Western foreign policy has played in the rise of Islamic extremism.

Be that as it may, I don't think our civil and political discourses should be influenced by the requirements and sensitivities of the Islamic faith. Ultimately, those who reject the reciprocal freedoms granted by constitutional democracy need to consider whether they would be happier living elsewhere.

In short, I'm not sure that you have put the duty of tolerance where it rightly belongs.

Lastly, I thought the KKK comparison was more provocative than this situation really called for. It doesn't seem especially relevant to the people of Paris (or the people of London, Sydney, Mumbai, Madrid and Bali before them).

Jamie said...

Read the report

Shut up racist

I.M Fletcher said...

Chris, really?
Comparing Islamic extremists to the KKK is disingenuous at best. The problem is Islam itself.

Those who were part of the Klan (who were a wing of the Democrat party, by the way) may have claimed to be Christian, but they were not. They were obviously not following the tenets of the Bible nor acting in a way Jesus would have acted or condoned. In contrast, Mohammed was a war lord who forced his ideology (I won't call it a religion) on others by force, slaughtering Jews, Christians, and anyone else who didn't convert to Islam. Even after he died his followers conquered North Africa, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Spain, and on and on. They were only stopped by the Crusades (see HERE for a comprehensive timeline). Were they not true Muslims as well?

They did this from the year 630 until the present day. This was no so-called "defensive war". There was no America invading them, and wouldn't be for hundreds of years. The Crusades hadn't even happened yet (and actually the first Crusade was a response to militant Islam).

I'm not saying all Muslims are violent. Some have been Westernised or secularised, but their founder sure was violent, and Muslims are exhorted to look to him as the perfect example. ISIS are only doing what he did.

It's too much to cut and paste here, but there is a consensus on the nature of jihad from all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (i.e., Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi'i), and also Shiite, that people have to convert to Islam or war must be made against them.

Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), Maliki jurist, renowned philosopher, historian, and sociologist, summarized these consensus opinions from five centuries of prior Sunni Muslim jurisprudence with regard to the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad: " In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.... The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense.... Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations" (Khaldun was the greatest Muslim writer who ever lived, and wrote the above in “Muqaddimah,” or “Introduction to History”)

If you really want an understanding of Islam, translated from the original sources, read Andrew G. Bostom's 'The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims'

pat said...

....i rest my case.

Anonymous said...

It is disturbing that the Muslim faith has out-worked itself in the formal laws of over 30 Muslim states to impose the death penality - often carried out- for apostacy and proselyting. Liberal democracy where we have both freedom from religion and for religion, freedom of expression including the freedom to hold as utterly false and myth the Gods of others - these freedoms and the Muslim faith do not mix.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I.M. Do you know nothing about history – for Christ's sake during the Middle Ages everyone forcibly converted anyone they could get hold of. Most of eastern Germany was converted to Christianity at the point of a sword. Not to mention Poland and points further east from memory. And not just them. Crusades weren't just undertaken to stop Muslims expanding, they were also undertaken to wipe out the wrong sort of Christian, such as Cathars. (Jesus, sometimes I despair at the ignorance about history shown on this site and others. Blinded by your own hatred of another religion.)
This was standard mediaeval practice. A government/king could only tolerate one religion in the kingdom. Christ even England barely tolerated Catholics from the 1540s onwards. Protestants were massacred in France. And there were years and years of religious wars in Germany. So I'm calling complete bullshit on this.

Jamie said...

A little off topic with this one Trotter but there's no time

jh said...

Just as you wouldn't want some people to come and live in your house, you wouldn't want some religions- haven't we all been looking for flatmates and found the prospect who has been rejected due to some behavioural issue? In this case it is not all Moslem’s but a certain behavioural type (a percentage)?
Is it not possible that belief systems can be dangerous (there can be dangerous belief systems)?
These days you don't hear much about population (drowned out by cries for social justice), could it be that in fact issues like this are forcing events (although unseen)? We see lots of people, but where do we see overpopulation other than in a petri dish?

Overall I see this issue as a panic point for the left. Marx(?) has taught that our view of an Islamic threat is illusiory "reification"?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The old Testament, which Jesus said he had not come to change, and never condemned,(Matthew 5:17-30) states that the death penalty should be given to:


Witches. (and I might say they are burning them today in East Africa)

Women who have sex before marriage.

People who work on the sabbath.

People who worship another God. (Now this is interesting considering Christians don't believe in other gods.)


So I'm not sure that the Koran wins hands down. Or even hands up.

Jamie said...

When are you bleeding hearts gonna get it through your thick skulls.

It's not immigration it's an invasion

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jamie, when are you going to get it through yours. All religions can be bad. :-)

Tell me Jamie – do you ever look at the stuff I put up there – I always look at yours :-). Even those mostly total shit.